Which expert believes Manti Te'o is headed to the Giants in the first round of their latest mock draft?
The New York Giants have a lot of needs to fill in this year's NFL draft, which kicks off on Thursday, April 25. A review of the latest mock drafts by five of the top draft experts in the nation definitely supports this premise.
Concerning the Giants' first-round pick, defense is the primary focus, but which position will be addressed is up for much debate. And even a skill position on offense gets some love as well.
Who will Big Blue select when they are on the clock with the 19th selection?
Here are what the experts are saying in mock drafts conducted at different points throughout the month of March.
Along with Chris Berman, Mel Kiper Jr. is one of the best-known personalities associated with the NFL draft. He has been an analyst for ESPN's annual draft coverage since 1984. As the network has grown, his involvement has branched out into consistent TV and radio appearances as well as several annual online mock drafts.
Mel's Pick: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
In Kiper's most recent mock, published on March 11 (ESPN Insider access required), he has the Giants addressing a big need at linebacker with the Heisman Trophy runner-up. Here is his rationale for the pick:
The Giants could use an upgrade at middle linebacker, and Te'o offers a pick-and-play upgrade. Say what you want about his 40 time, when you roll the tape you see a guy that has football speed because he makes reads at a faster rate than so many others.
While addressing an area of weakness on defense makes sense, the player chosen does not. Kiper's claim that Te'o has "football speed" certainly wasn't true when he was exposed in the BCS National Championship game against Alabama. Actually, he didn't show anything in this game that validated him as a first-round talent.
A larger issue is that the head coach of Big Blue does not appear to be in favor of drafting Te'o. Here is what Tom Coughlin had to say about the former Fighting Irish standout in a March 6 appearance on the NBC Sports Network show The Crossover:
Just strictly football, strictly evaluating – I don’t really know the player other than looking at him on tape ... We didn’t interview him in Indianapolis. But he didn’t play well in the National Championship Game. Now anybody can have a bad game. He ran okay [at the combine], but it wasn’t great. So I’ll have to do more research on him. But at this point in time you’re asking me would I be surprised [if he’s available at 19]? No.
Coughlin's opinion may change as he studies and gets to know Te'o better, but his initial impression certainly was not a good one.
Even with the recent signing of former Cowboy Dan Connor, it would not be surprising to see the Giants draft a middle linebacker in the first round. It is highly unlikely, though, that Te'o will be that pick.
Daniel Jeremiah is a new member to the mock draft circuit, but he certainly doesn't lack NFL experience. Before joining the NFL media team (NFL.com, NFL Network and NFL Mobile) in May 2012, Jeremiah was a scout for three different NFL teams spanning seven seasons. He also started at quarterback for three years in college at Appalachian State.
Daniel's Pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Another linebacker choice but certainly a different level of athlete compared to Te'o. Ogletree brings an element to the Giants defense that has been sorely missing in recent seasons, as Jeremiah explains in his March 20 mock draft:
Ogletree is one of the best cover linebackers I've ever graded. He needs to get better at taking on blocks in the run game, but his ability to cover tight ends would give a huge advantage to any defensive coordinator. He'd fit perfectly in the Giants' scheme.
This pick makes a ton of sense for Big Blue. They desperately need a linebacker who can cover tight ends and running backs. They also lack speed in this unit to chase down outside and cut back runs. Ogletree provides help in all of these areas.
One major issue with Ogletree, and the reason he will probably be available at the 19th pick in the first place, is his inability to stay out of trouble off the field. His latest transgression was a DUI in February, which occurred right before the NFL combine.
Giants GM Jerry Reese is on record as being more focused with what a player does on the field than off it. He backed up this belief when he drafted cornerback Jayron Hosley in last year's draft. Hosley failed a drug test just weeks before the Giants selected him in the third round.
Reese certainly appears intrigued by Ogletree's talent since he attended Georgia's pro day on March 21. He could have also been checking out linebacker Jarvis Jones, another likely first-round pick from that school. You can bet, though, that if he had one eye on Jones his other eye was squarely on Ogletree.
We'll see how it plays out in late April.
Todd McShay is the ying to Kiper's yang as he provides an alternative mock draft perspective at ESPN.
He started working at the Worldwide Leader in 2006. Prior to his current gig, he was an integral part of The War Room, a start-up NFL draft publication, for seven years.
Todd's Pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
In his March 6 mock (ESPN Insider access required), McShay goes on the offensive, believing the Giants will try to bolster a passing offense that slipped from fifth in the NFL in 2011 to 12th in 2012. He explains his reasoning behind Big Blue selecting a tight end in the first round:
Eifert is a top tight end and would give Eli Manning another weapon in the passing game. Eifert's ball skills and ability to come down with the jump ball separate him from some other talented tight ends in this class.
To be fair, the Giants had not yet signed Brandon Myers when McShay submitted this pick. Even if Myers wasn't in the fold, this selection still doesn't make much sense.
The Giants need to fortify all three levels of a defense that gave up 383.4 yards and 21.5 points per game in 2012 before they can concentrate on offense. Even when they move to offense, addressing the right tackle and guard positions are more of a priority than tight end.
New York has also not put much emphasis on the tight end in recent years—either through big-money contracts in free agency or high draft picks.
Just in the last three years, it has let both Kevin Boss and Martellus Bennett walk instead of offering each a lucrative deal to stay.
The Giants have only drafted one tight end in the first round, Jeremy Shockey in 2002, in the last 21 years.
Everything McShay says about Eifert is true, but he won't be the Giants' pick at 19, nor will any other tight end for that matter.
Rob Rang gives all of us hope that we can one day be an NFL draft expert. He rose out of anonymity in 2000 after his strong online reviews of the draft gained notoriety. He currently covers the draft for CBS Sports, via The SportsXchange and NFLDraftScout.com.
Rang is also a full-time history teacher when he's not evaluating the best college players in the nation and predicting what team they will end up on at the next level.
Rob's Pick: Matt Elam, SS, Florida
Rob's mock is the newest of the bunch with a publish date of March 25. He addresses an often overlooked area of concern for the Giants in the first round:
The Giants solidified their secondary with the signing of free agent safety Ryan Mundy (Pittsburgh) and cornerback Aaron Ross, who played for the Giants from 2008-11 but was with Jacksonville last year. Nevertheless, more help is needed especially deep. The 5-10, 208-pound Elam may lack top-notch size but he's physical and has a knack for making big plays in critical games.
Elam is a special talent and widely considered the best strong safety in this draft. What is especially impressive about him is his ability to come up into the box and help out against the run and short passes. He is explosive in getting to the ball and has a knack for handing out momentum-changing hits.
While Elam should be a very good NFL safety, the first round is too early for the Giants to address this position. Danger does lurk in the near future with Antrel Rolle showing signs of slowing down and Stevie Brown potentially an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
Still, New York needs to address linebacker, defensive end, cornerback and even offensive line before it focuses on any other area of its team in the draft.
Selecting a safety in the later rounds, though, is a distinct possibility.
Our in-house NFL Draft Lead Writer certainly doesn't lack in the qualifications department.
Matt Miller is the founder of the NFL draft site New Era Scouting, and his work there has been utilized by NFL teams. He was a secondary and special teams coach for the Joplin Crusaders of the Central Football League for two seasons in 2007 and 2008. If all this isn't enough, he is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
Matt's Pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Giants love defensive ends, since getting a strong pass rush without blitzing is the core to their defensive philosophy. Miller fortifies this area of Big Blue's front four in a mock he released last Thursday:
The Giants need pass-rushers—which may sound odd with the household names they have on the roster, but they do. Justin Tuck has battled injuries and looks like a shell of his former self, while Osi Umenyiora hasn't been re-signed yet in free agency. That leaves All-Pro Jason Pierre-Paul as the only impact rusher for a team that loves speed at end.
Bjoern Werner is a complete, all-around 4-3 defensive end. He's likely to slip a bit in the draft due to his projection as purely a 4-3 end, but the Giants would love to pair him with JPP and give the front four a facelift heading into 2013.
If the Giants don't pick a linebacker in the first round, they will likely select a defensive end. Addressing any other position at No. 19 would be a surprise.
If Ziggy Ansah falls to the Giants, he would be a better selection than Werner simply because his incredible athleticism suggests a higher upside. Ansah, though, is currently a consensus top-10 pick after an impressive NFL combine.
Werner would be a fine consolation prize at this position.
He could immediately step in for Umenyiora, who is definitely not coming back, which would once again give the Giants four defensive ends that can effectively rush the passer (Mathias Kiwanuka is included here, along with Tuck and Pierre-Paul, since he tends to play on the line in passing downs).