There are many contributing factors to maintaining the degree of excellence the Giants have attained through their 84-year history. Some of these factors are strong ownership, brilliant coaches, and a dedicated fanbase, just to name a few.
However, there is one factor a franchise simply can’t sustain success without: success in the NFL draft.
With three Super Bowl championships and four NFL championships, it is inferred that the Giants have been consistent in drafting strong players on a yearly basis. Conversely, those that work for the Giants are human and have made their share of costly mistakes.
Here is a list of the top 10 Giants draft day moments, which includes both their steals and their busts.
10. Second Round Studs
No. 10 isn’t directly pinpointed to a specific draft, but rather many drafts in the last 15 years. Typically, NFL franchises attempt to build their team around their first round pick.
For the Giants, things have been slightly more unconventional, with their superstar players coming in the second round.
This trend began in 1993 with the drafting of Michael Strahan in the second round. He was the anchor to a defense that would make multiple trips to the Super Bowl. He would annually assault the quarterback until 2007, the year in which Strahan simultaneously broke the Giants' all-time sack record, won his first Super Bowl, and then retired. In 2003, the Giants would draft his protégé in the same round, Osi Umenyiora.
Another second round pick on defense who appears to be poised for a very successful NFL career is Corey Webster.
On the offensive side, the Giants have maintained similar triumphs in the second round. That's where they drafted the Giants' all-time receiving and rushing leaders, Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber respectively. Chris Snee, drafted in 2004, attended his first Pro Bowl in 2009 and appears to be destined for many more.
Steve Smith, despite being a rookie, was a key contributor to the Giants' 2007 championship-winning squad and is emerging as one of the better receivers in the league.
9. Giants Trade Up for Jeremy Shockey
It wasn’t exactly a blockbuster trade. In fact, it was the most anti-climactic trade possible by draft standards. However, it was a key moment in Giants history.
With two solid receivers in Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer, plus a solid running attack in Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne, the Giants desperately lacked a sparkplug on offense, as well as a tight end. Jeremy Shockey, a raucous beast of a tight end, would cure both those problems in a New York minute.
With the Giants one slot away from being able to land the Miami tight end, nerves quickly set in to the Giants' war room. The Giants' interest in Shockey was no secret, and the Seattle Seahawks, sitting at pick 21, allegedly were licking their chops at the prospect of drafting Shockey.
The Giants, in fear that the Seahawks would leapfrog by trading up to the 14th pick, accepted a trade that would deliver the Tennessee Titans their fourth rounder and allow the Giants to secure Shockey.
In his rookie year Shockey was a tantalizing force, hauling in nearly 900 yards worth of receptions on an offense that had the potential for a playoff run, which was short-lived due to a historic collapse against the San Francisco 49ers.
After that year, Shockey was a disappointment. Shockey’s success quickly went to his head, and nagging injuries coupled with a problem with drops led to Shockey’s demise as a Giant. His porous attitude ultimately prompted a trade to New Orleans, where he failed to record a touchdown in the league’s most explosive passing offense.
Shockey’s impact will be felt in the 2009 draft for the Giants, as they have the Saints' second and fifth round picks from the Shockey trade.
8. Giants Make Mistake: Draft Cedric Jones
When one re-examines the first four selections of the 1996 draft, there is an immediate sense of admiration. In the first four picks, there are 18 Pro Bowlers and three Super Bowl rings.
Then there was the fifth pick, Cedric Jones.
Despite containing knowledge that Jones was blind in one eye, the Giants were still enamored with the Oklahoma defensive end’s ability. Jones was a bust of astronomical proportions for the Giants, recording merely 15 sacks in his Giants tenure, leading to his release.
The only positive from selecting Jones was that it prompted the Giants to shift Strahan from right end to left end, a position in which Strahan would dominate for the rest of his NFL career.
7. Blunder and Lightning: Giants Draft Ron Dayne
It was a no-brainer at the time. The 1999 Heisman Trophy winner represented everything the Giants craved in a running back.
Ron Dayne stood at a short and compact 5'10", 245 lbs. in the backfield. Dayne would be a workhorse that would supplement the elusive Tiki Barber.
After being selected 11th overall, before future MVP Shaun Alexander, Dayne was mediocre in his first two seasons. He rushed for a total of roughly 1,500 yards and compiled a mere 3.6 yards per carry.
Dayne’s biggest struggles came in short yardage situations, where he frequently bumped into his own linemen and fell backwards. As patience was running thin with Dayne, Tiki Barber was emerging into one of the league’s best running backs.
Despite a fumbling problem, Barber ran for almost 1,400 yards in 2002, while Dayne’s production dropped significantly. Dayne never received another chance to salvage his career with the Giants. He has had brief stints with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.
6. The 2007 Draft
Immediately following the 2007 draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. stamped the Giants' draft class with a label of C+.
After one year, it was clear Kiper was way off. The success of this draft can’t be overstated.
Aaron Ross, a cornerback out of Texas, was solid during his rookie campaign. Steve Smith missed the majority of the season but emerged as a clutch receiver in the playoffs.
Jay Alford served as the long snapper for field goals and was efficient in his role. Additionally, he made the sack that essentially sealed the Giants' victory in their Super Bowl victory.
Kevin Boss replaced Jeremy Shockey when he broke his leg and made several crucial catches in the Giants' postseason run.
Lastly, Ahmad Bradshaw was the running back who contributed the most in the postseason, running ferociously against defenses worn down by Brandon Jacobs.
Has a draft class ever made this much of an impact in a season that culminated in a Super Bowl victory? I have a feeling most of the aforementioned players will continue to develop into better players as time goes on.
5. Dave Brown
With Phil Simms’ career winding down, the Giants were in need of a quarterback. Enter the product that grew up in New Jersey and played quarterback at Duke. Several other Giants quarterbacks got hurt in his rookie season and allowed Brown to strut his stuff.
Brown did little to impress, getting hurt in a 19-0 shutout against Arizona. For the next few years Brown was predominantly mediocre, and he failed to reach the heightened expectations placed on him.
The experiment came to an end after Jim Fassel’s first season as head coach, and the Giants proceeded to desperately search for a serviceable quarterback—that is until Kerry Collins resurrected his career with a stellar 2000 campaign.
The 1970s for the New York Giants may have been the worst decade for any franchise in history.
The most wins they compiled in a season after 1970 was six. There were glimmers of hope towards the end of the decade with Harry Carson and Brad Van Pelt emerging into two very good linebackers. However, the Giants failed to acquire a quarterback during this period that could enable the squad to attend their first Super Bowl.
With the selection of Phil Simms in 1979, the Giants brass hoped that would change.
Although the quarterback was highly touted by those involved with the Giants, fans were left in bewilderment after the pick. Morehead State, Simms’ college, was hardly a known football powerhouse. Additionally, Simms’ numbers there were simply mediocre, and he failed to take them to a bowl game in his four years.
Why were the Giants willing to pin their hopes on him?
Clearly, Giants fans were angered by the pick, as a loud chorus of boos followed after the pick was made. In his first few years the only thing Simms proved to be was inconsistent and injury prone.
It appeared to be over for Simms in 1983 when coach Bill Parcells named Scott Brunner his starting quarterback, but Brunner struggled, and Simms regained the job for good in 1984. After five long years, he proved the Giants made the right decision and went on to win a Super Bowl MVP.
3. Frank Gifford
Although the draft wasn’t nearly the event it has become today, the selection of Gifford in 1952 was critical for the Giants franchise.
In an era very few are familiar with, Gifford still remains a household name. He was a star who could do it all. He attained most of his success by carrying and catching the ball, compiling roughly 10,000 total career yards. He also played defensive back for the Giants.
Due to his versatility, he was employed in schemes devised by Giants offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi. The schemes allowed Lombardi to gain notoriety around the league, leading to his hiring for the Packers' coaching job. Undoubtedly, he will go down in Giants history as an all-time great.
2. Lawrence Taylor
With an emerging star in Harry Carson and the always reliable Brad Van Pelt, the Giants continued to bolster their linebacker corps with the selection of Lawrence Taylor.
Except this was more then simply adding to an already talented group.
Over time, L.T. became the face of the group, and soon after, the league itself. He played the game at a level very few have been able to match since. He was "the man” in Bill Belichick’s defense that frequently dominated the 1980s.
Despite dealing with self-imposed off the field issues, Taylor played for Giants for 10 years and was a key factor in the Giants amassing two Super Bowl victories in four years. He changed the way the game was played, but also led the Giants in a direction that they had been searching for since the concept of the Super Bowl came into existence.
1. The Franchise’s Defining Trade: Eli Manning
Ernie Accorsi could never keep a secret.
His infatuation with the youngest quarterback in a family of All-Pros and future Hall of Famers was as clear as day. The only problem was the reality of bringing Eli Manning to New York was as slim as the Giants' Super Bowl hopes that year.
The San Diego Chargers were the likely destination point for Manning, as they held the first overall pick. The Chargers appeared to be poised to take him, with one heavy obstacle to overcome—Eli didn’t want to be a Charger. The Mannings and agent Tom Condon fought equally as hard to not be a Charger as Accorsi did to make Eli a Giant.
Ultimately, both sides got their wish as Manning was traded to the Giants in a deal that sent the Chargers picks that would translate into Pro Bowlers Shawne Merriman, Phillip Rivers, and Nate Kaeding. Phillip Rivers likely would have had trouble adjusting to life in New York, as his inability to control his temper would have made him a target for the merciless New York media.
Some say the Giants should have stayed put and taken Ben Roethlisberger, especially given the two Super Bowl rings he has earned in only five seasons.
Meanwhile, Manning continues to be burdened by the seemingly unreachable expectations placed on him since day one in New York. This deal appears to have worked out for the Giants, however. Rivers has been erratic in the playoffs, while Manning has proven that he is at his best when the pressure is at its highest.
Although labeled as a game manager, the Giants would not have won Super Bowl XLII without him. The debate regarding the success of the trade remains a heated subject in New York, and regardless of what the answer is, this trade is the franchise’s most defining draft moment.