New York Giants: Examining GM Jerry Reese's Underperforming 2009 Draft Class

Kevin BoilardCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2012

New York Giants: Examining GM Jerry Reese's Underperforming 2009 Draft Class

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    Over the past few years, not many of the personnel moves made by Giants general manager Jerry Reese have made sense at the time of their inception.  Yet Reese’s nearly flawless track record for assessing talent, which gives him the ability to put together Super Bowl-winning teams, has led to the popular adage among Giants fans; “In Reese We Trust.”

    New York rarely makes a splash in free agency.  Reese usually targets low-profile players that he finds reliable enough to be plugged into the Giants’ system right away.  Last summer, Reese avoided big names and instead brought in punter Steve Weatherford and center David Baas.  They were not the sexy pickups fans wanted, but it helped the franchise earn its second Super Bowl in five years.

    When it comes to the draft, Reese is a firm believer in selecting the best player available.  Often times, if the team has a pressing need at a less important position, Reese will put that need on hold in order to pick up a promising, young talent at a position he places more value in.  That’s why the Giants believe you can never have too many defensive ends and cornerbacks.

    Reese’s tactics have paid off in the past.  He was criticized for selecting an unproven defensive end out of University of South Florida, Jason Pierre-Paul, with the No. 15 selection of the 2010 draft.  However, it was Reese who had the last laugh, as Pierre-Paul already has 21 sacks and an All-Pro selection in only two NFL seasons.

    However, Reese’s 2009 draft class has failed to meet expectations.  Despite having six picks in the first four rounds, the Giants have received little in return.

    Most of those draft picks are now entering the final year of their rookie contracts, and their lack of production has put their future with the team in jeopardy.  The 2012 season will be “make-or-break” for these fourth-year players.

Round 1 (pick 29): WR Hakeem Nicks, UNC

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    Career stats:

    42 games/33 starts

    202 catches, 3,034 yards, 24 touchdowns

    Hakeem Nicks may be the sole bright spot of the 2009 draft.  Since his rookie season, Nicks has emerged as a dominating threat on the outside.  He has caught at least 75 balls in his past two seasons and has averaged 1,000 yards per season since entering the league.

    More importantly, Nicks has slowly become Eli Manning’s most reliable target.  In the past few seasons, Nicks has filled the gaps left behind by sure-handed receivers Amani Toomer and Steve Smith almost seamlessly. 

    But that hasn’t affected his deep-play potential.  Last year, Nicks reminded defenses why he should always be accounted for with a 72-yard score versus the Falcons in the Wild Card Round and a 37-yard Hail Mary grab just before halftime in the Divisional Round against the Packers.

    However, even Nicks, the Giants’ most productive member of the 2009 draft class, has been bitten by the injury bug that seems to plague so many of his classmates.  Nicks has yet to play an entire 16-game season and his near future isn’t looking much brighter—Nicks will likely miss the entire preseason with a broken foot suffered in OTAs. 

    Although the team says he will be ready to go by Week 1 when the Giants square off against the Cowboys in MetLife Stadium, these foot injuries have a tendency to flare back up after they have apparently healed. 

    As a wide receiver, Nicks will have to do plenty of running and cutting on that broken foot.  Only time will tell if the repaired bone can handle the weekly stress put on by the physically demanding regular season.

Round 2 (pick 45): LB Clint Sintim, UVA

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    Career stats:

    24 games/one start

    33 tackles, 1 sack

    The Giants knew that Clint Sintim would not be a plug-and-play linebacker when they drafted him out of Virginia.  However, Reese saw potential in Sintim, and thought he could eventually become a valuable member of New York’s defense.

    At Virginia, Sintim was a 3-4 outside linebacker that specialized in rushing the passer.  Reese was confident that Sintim could make the transition to outside linebacker in the Giants’ 4-3 scheme.  Many expected New York to utilize Sintim in blitz packages, resulting in an additional pass-rushing threat from the linebacker position.

    For the most part, injuries have brought Sintim’s progression to a screeching halt.  Now, three years and two ACL tears later, Sintim hangs awkwardly in the final year of his contract.  He could be a starter in the NFL, but with 33 tackles and only one sack to show for it Sintim may want to focus on just getting on the field.

    The 2012 season looks just as bleak as the past three for the former Cavalier—the Giants are currently weeding through some stiff competition at linebacker and Sintim, who is currently on the physically unable to perform list, does not even appear to be in the mix.  Some team may take a chance on Sintim when he becomes a free agent in 2013, but it probably won’t be the Giants.

Round 2 (pick 60): OT Will Beatty, UConn

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    Career stats:

    34 games/16 starts

    The Giants thought they were getting a long-term solution at left tackle when they drafted Will Beatty out of Connecticut, but things have not gone according to plan.  Instead, over the past three seasons Beatty has struggled to become a core member of the Giants’ offensive line.

    Like most other players on this list, Beatty has dealt with numerous injuries in his short career, including a recurring back issue caused by a sciatic nerve.  In 2011, Beatty got his opportunity to prove his worth when he was given the full-time starting job at left tackle, but a detached retina cut his season short after 10 starts.

    After Beatty went down, David Diehl bumped over to replace him and Kevin Boothe was inserted into the starting lineup at left guard.  The offensive line did not miss Beatty much—they created enough room for an improved rushing attack on the way to a Super Bowl victory without him.

    Beatty reassumed his starting job in training camp this summer, but the signing of veteran Sean Locklear might reflect the team’s uncertainty surrounding his health.  Beatty will need to have a solid season in 2012 if he wants to think about signing a contract extension with New York.  If he fails to perform again Reese and the team will certainly be exploring their options at left tackle.

Round 3 (pick 85): WR Ramses Barden, Cal Poly

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    Career stats:

    17 games

    15 catches, 174 yards

    It’s tough to come down hard on Reese for selecting Ramses Barden in the third round of the 2009 draft.  His 6’6” frame was enough to have any general manager licking their chops.  However, the Giants also realized that Barden would be an experimental pick given his level of competition at Division I-AA Cal Poly.

    So far it looks like the experiment has gone sour.  Barden has failed to make a significant impact on the Giants offense.  In three seasons Barden has only hauled in 15 catches for a meager 174 yards—that’s a far cry from the 4,203 receiving yards on 206 grabs he had in college.

    Barden was expected to replace Plaxico Burress’ scoring potential, and was advertised as a huge red zone target for Manning.  Despite catching 50 touchdowns during his time at Cal Poly, Barden has yet to catch a touchdown pass in the NFL.

    Barden, who usually shines during training camp and preseason but spends the regular season hampered by injuries, may be faced with a make-or-break situation in 2012.  Right now (assuming the Giants take six receivers), Barden is skating on dangerously thin ice.  He’s slated to make the team, but younger, hungrier wide outs like David Douglas and Dan DePalma are nipping at his heels.

    Even if Barden makes the team in 2012, he will find himself struggling to make an impact amongst a competitive pack of pass-catchers.  Luckily for Barden, if he is out of a job soon, he has the enticing size to lure another team into giving him a second shot.

Round 3 (pick 100): TE Travis Beckum, Wisconsin

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    Career stats:

    44 games/4 starts

    26 catches, 264 yards, 3 touchdowns

    Travis Beckum was supposed to be a match-up nightmare.  Bigger than your average receiver yet quicker than your average tight end, the Giants expected Beckum to torch defenses while coordinators shrugged their shoulders in perplexity.  Unfortunately, the ‘tweener has had a tough time finding a place to fit in.

    The Giants have done a good job utilizing Beckum’s skill set in situational roles—he’s played in 44 games since 2009—but with four career starts under his belt, Beckum has failed to establish a concrete role in the Giants offense.

    Beckum had his best chance to win the starting job last season when Kevin Boss left for Oakland during free agency.  The undersized tight end struggled when it came to run blocking and former undrafted free agent Jake Ballard beat him out fair and square.

    Beckum has remained relatively healthy in comparison to his draft classmates, but the torn ACL he’s currently recovering from could not have been more untimely.  He will probably have to start the 2012 season on PUP, and jumping right into the think of things midseason seems highly unlikely. 

    Beckum may finish out his Giants career completely unnoticed and quietly hit the free agent market in 2013.

Round 4 (pick 129): RB Andre Brown, NC State

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    Career stats:

    4 games

    2 carries, -1 yards

    Quite honestly, if you told Reese that after three years, Andre Brown would be more famous for his “I Got a Ring” Super Bowl song than his play on the field, he might reconsider spending the team’s fourth-round pick on the North Carolina State running back.  But then again, hindsight is 20:20.

    Brown has yet to play a snap with the Giants.  After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, Brown bounced around the continental United States, landing on various practice squads along the way.  Out of the four teams Brown spent time with in 2010 (Denver, Indianapolis, Carolina and Washington), the Broncos were the only one to hand him the ball in a regular season contest.

    Brown is now at the back end of a tough running back competition in 2012.  Veterans Ahmad Bradshaw and D.J. Ware are leading the pack while speedy youngsters Da’Rel Scott and David Wilson follow closely behind.  Brown finds himself somewhat lost in the mix, in danger of being cut.

Rounds 5-7

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    Round 5 (pick 151): QB Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State

    NFL stats: N/A

    Round 6 (pick 200): CB DeAndre Wright, New Mexico

    NFL stats: N/A

    Round 7 (pick 238): CB Stoney Woodson, South Carolina

    NFL stats: N/A

    Reese has struck gold in the past with late-round selections.  Tight end Kevin Boss (2007) and linebacker Jonathon Goff (2008) each stepped in and played pivotal roles after being selected in the fifth round of their respective drafts.  Ahmad Bradshaw, who ranks 10th on the franchise’s all-time leading rushers list, was a seventh-round compensatory pick in the 2007 draft—look at what he’s been able to accomplish.

    Unfortunately, the 2009 draft held no late-round surprises.  Instead, rounds five through seven cap off a lackluster draft with three players who have never recorded a stat at the NFL level.  Yet the underperformance of this class are not entirely Reese’s fault.  For most of these players, a few key injuries stood in the way of success. 

    While Reese has seemingly figured out a Super Bowl winning formula, he may not be opposed to forgetting all about the 2009 draft once some of these rookie contracts expire.