New York Giants Draft History - Pt. 2: The George Young Years (1979-97)

Pro Football NYCSenior Writer IApril 21, 2009


In 1979, the Commissioner of the NFL, Alvin "Pete" Rozelle, seeing that the New York Football Giants, one of the league's flagship franchises, needed some outside guidance to become competitive again, decided to lend a hand.

Rozelle mediated a truce between the two owners of the Giants, Wellington Mara and his nephew, Tim. The outcome was that they would hire George Young to run their football operations. Young was seasoned front office man who held many positions with the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins.

He had the demeanor of a college dean and perhaps the best eye for talent in the business.

Young took the reins in 1979, hired a no-nonsense coach in former Colts player and Patriots' offensive coordinator Ray Perkins. Perkins assembled a talented staff that included Bill Parcells and a young Bill Belichick.

The Giants went 6-10 in 1979, but the structure and the outlook of the club changed dramatically. You could smell something good was about to happen, and it did.

Year-by-Year Drafts

1979 -

With the whole Giant community watching, Young chose Moorehead State QB Phil Simms with the 7th overall pick. No one knew too much about Simms at the time, except that he was highly regarded.

Even Bill Walsh admitted that he wanted Simms and thought he could get him in the 3rd round, but Young had snapped him up. Walsh "ended up" with Joe Montana in the 3rd round, instead.

That aside, Simms became all the Giants thought he could be after a few injury-tainted seasons, winning them a Super Bowl on his way to breaking almost all of the team's passing records. In the second round, the Giants chose Memphis State WR Earnest Gray, who would be one of Simms' favorite targets in the early 1980's.

1980 -

Young chose Colorado CB Mark Haynes with the 8th pick in the 1st round. Haynes was a solid player and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1982, '83 and '84.

The rest of the draft was not a very productive one. In the 6th round, Young selected Delaware QB Scott Brunner, who would came in handy during the seasons where Simms got injured. In 1981, Brunner would lead the Giants to their first playoff appearance and victory in 18 years.

1981 -

The gods were looking down on the Giants. The New Orleans Saints chose the Heisman Trophy winner, RB George Rogers of South Carolina, with the top selection.

That brought a sigh of relief from Young, who held the second selection. He quickly snapped up North Carolina OLB Lawrence Taylor, changing the fortunes of the franchise forever. LT would become one of the game's most feared defenders and revolutionized linebacker play at the professional level.

The Giants had now drafted 3 straight Pro-Bowl caliber players in three consecutive drafts. Later in this draft, they would select G Billy Ard, NT Bill Neill of Pitt and LB Byron Hunt. Cha-ching.

1982 -

This was a modest season for the Big Blue. After the season, Ray Perkins decided to leave to coach at Alabama, his alma mater.

Young toyed with many names to replace him, but settled on defensive coordinator Bill Parcells. In the draft the Giants took RBs back-to-back to augment their running game, which consisted solely of Rob Carpenter: Michigan's Butch Woolfolk and Syracuse's Joe Morris.

Woolfolk would never really hit his stride as a pro, leading the Giants to turn to Morris who delivered big-time. In 1985 and 1986 Little Joe rushed for a total of 2852 yards and 35 TDs—not including his monster post-seasons.

1983 -

Seeking a hard-hitting presence in their secondary, Young chose Clemson safety Terry Kinard with the 10th overall selection. Kinard was a solid player and was an integral part of the Giants' Super Bowl XXI run in 1986.

I would be remiss if I didn't say that this was perhaps the most talented draft in NFL history. The Giants ended up with Kinard, Leonard Marshall, Karl Nelson, Ali Haji-Sheikh, Perry Williams and Andy Headen.

Not bad, but could it have been better? Six 1st rounders are in the Hall of Fame: John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Jim Kelly, Bruce Matthews, Dan Marino and Darrell Green. Also in this draft: Roger Craig, Chris Hinton, Jimbo Covert, Joey Browner, Curt Warner, Gill Byrd, Gary Anderson, Henry Ellard, Darryl Talley, Keith Bostic, Wes Hopkins, Ken O'Brien and Dan Mosebar. Wow.

1984 -

Another solid draft. The Giants had the third pick overall by nature of their 3-12-1 record the previous year—Parcells' first.

They chose Michigan State LB Carl Banks. Later on in the first round, they selected OL William Roberts of Ohio State.

Both players would become Pro Bowlers. Also selected in this draft: QB Jeff Hostetler (3rd), LB Gary Reasons (4th) and WR Lionel Manuel (7th).

Hostetler led the Giants to a victory in Super Bowl XXV. Reasons was a stalwart playing in-between Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor on that vaunted Giants D. Manuel was Simms' main wideout for several seasons in the mid-'80's.

1985 -

Young missed with first-rounder George Adams, a RB from Kentucky. Adams couldn't stay healthy, opening the door for Joe Morris to become a star.

The Giants had 5 picks in the first 100, but only came away with one impact player—TE Mark Bavaro of Notre Dame. For those of you who never saw Bavaro play, I feel sorry for you.

What a warrior. He was one of the best TE's me or anyone else has ever seen.

1986 -

The Giants were knocking on the door of the Super Bowl. Having lost to the eventual SB champion Bears, they knew exactly what they needed to do.

Feeling good about players from Notre Dame, Young selected DE Eric Dorsey in the first round. Dorsey was a gigantic man but failed to dominate the way the Giants had hoped, even though he stuck around for seven years.

Other than that, the rest of the draft was a success. They had four picks in the second round: CB Mark Collins, DT Erik Howard, LB Pepper Johnson and S Greg Lasker. They all would contribute to the team's first NFL Championship in 30 years.

1987 -

This was not a good season for the Giants. A work-stoppage would derail their attempt at a repeat.

The draft yielded several useful players, who would end up as starters: WRs Mark Ingram and Steven Baker and T Doug Riesenberg.

1988 -

The Giants rebounded as a playoff team. The draft was not a good one overall, but the Blue did get two starters for their OL: Eric Moore of Indiana and Jumbo Elliott of Michigan.

Moore did not pan out as well as the Giants thought he might, but Elliott was a beast. He ended up playing 14 seasons in the NFL.

1989 -

The Giants had a monster draft, considering they went 10-6 in 1988. The first round choice was a center—Brian Williams of Minnesota. Williams gave the club everything he had for the better part of the 1990's.

Bob Kratch, the second round pick, was just as good before leaving for New England via free agency in 1994. The rest of the draft would re-stock the Giants for their second Super Bowl run: S Greg Jackson of LSU, RBs Lewis Tillman and David Meggett, TE Howard Cross and DB Myron Guyton.

1990 -

The Giants were ready to challenge for the title again after four years. Young grabbed Georgia RB Rodney Hampton with the 24th pick in the first round.

Hampton became the steady ball carrier the club had been craving. After an injury ended his rookie season, Rodney went on to become the Giants' all-time leading rusher until Tiki Barber passed him in 2004.

Mike Fox, the second round pick, was a 6'8" defensive lineman that was a solid performer for both the Giants and the Carolina Panthers. After the season, Parcells left the club. He was replaced by RB coach Ray Handley instead of Bill Belichick, who also left rather than work under the inferior Handley.

1991 -

The SB champs, in an attempt to augment their running game, drafted FB Jarrod Bunch of Michigan in the first round. Bunch did not have the speed nor the ability to compliment either Hampton or Meggett.

He was a bust. The second rounder, LB Kanavis McGhee of Colorado, was also not up to snuff. There were, however, some keepers from this draft: WR Ed McCaffrey, T Clarence Jones and LB Corey Miller.

1992 -

Another big miss for Young—in the first round, anyway. TE Derek Brown of Notre Dame was taken #14 overall by the Giants, and simply just could not put it together.

The Giants ended up placing 3rd rounder Aaron Pierce ahead of him on the depth chart. The second round pick was CB Phillppi Sparks, who became a starter for the better part of his eight year Giants' career.

In the 4th round, the club chose DL Keith Hamilton of Pitt. Hammer became a mainstay on the Giants' DL for 12 seasons. Other players taken were LB Corey Widmer, DT Stacy Dillard and QB Kent Graham.

After drafting steals in the mid-to-late rounds in the previous draft, Young went back to reaching. In June of 1992, he used the team's 1993 #1 to draft Duke QB Dave Brown in a supplementary draft.

This turned out to be a huge mistake. Brown was not any better than Graham, who Young got in the 8th round in April.

It was true that Phil Simms was getting old and the incoming coach—Dan Reeves—wanted a young QB to develop a la John Elway. He released Jeff Hostetler (one of many poor choices Reeves would make as coach) which led to Young's drafting of Brown.

In defense of Young and Reeves, the 1993 draft was not a great one for QBs, but they miscalculated Brown's ability altogether. After New England and Seattle drafted Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer 1-2 in the first round, the pickings were slim with the exception of Mark Brunell (who went to Green Bay in the 7th) and Elvis Grbac (taken by SF in the 8th).

1993 -

With no first round selection on draft day, the team did not pick until #40 overall. Young made this one count.

He selected DE Michael Strahan with 40th overall pick. No need to elaborate on how this one turned out.

Third round pick LB Marcus Buckley would play 7 seasons for the Giants. The rest of the draft was basically a forgettable one until the last round when Young chose Miami's Jesse Armstead.

Armstead was considered a 'tweener', which meant he was too small to play LB and too big for the defensive backfield. He fooled everyone by playing linebacker for 12 years in the NFL (9 for the Giants) and was named to the Pro Bowl five times.

1994 -

Young was still determined to add a quality wideout through the draft. In the first round, he chose Indiana's Thomas Lewis, passing on such offensive players as Issac Bruce, Charlie Garner, Darnay Scott, Kevin Mawae and Larry Allen.

Lewis was rarely healthy in his four years with the club, making little impact. The second round choice was CB Thomas Randolph who briefly became a starter in the mid-'90's.

The jewel of the draft was their other 2nd round selection that year, USC's Jason Sehorn. Sehorn would play 9 seasons for the Giants.

He was a spectacular athlete that made memorable plays both in the secondary and on special teams. This draft also brought DE Chad Bratzke to the Meadowlands. He was a tough player for both the Giants and Colts in his 10-year NFL career.

1995 -

Looking to bolster the running game with an explosive player, Young jumped on Michigan's Tyrone Wheatley in Round 1. Wheatley, in fact, was explosive and had size, but not much durability.

He played four disappointing seasons for the Giants before becoming a star in Oakland for the Raiders. Second round pick Scott Gragg was a mountain of a man (6'8", 320) who started every game at OT from 1996-99 for the Giants before leaving for SF via free agency, where he also started for five seasons.

The late-round steal of this draft ended up being FB Charles Way of Virginia. Way was a devastating blocker and ball carrier for the Blur until his career was cut short by a knee injury in 1999.

1996 -

The Giants were in the 5th slot in the first round hoping that either LB Kevin Hardy, DE Simeon Rice or OT Johnathan Ogden would fall to them. They didn't.

Instead of trading out of the pick, Young used it on Oklahoma DE Cedric Jones. Big mistake.

Jones wasn't a bad player, but he was a bit of a dropoff from the other players in the top five. The team's next three picks would be WR Amani Toomer, T Roman Oben and QB Danny Kanell.

Toomer went on to become the Giants' all-time leading receiver. Oben left New York after only four seasons, but played for several other teams over a 12-year career. Kanell would unseat the shaky Dave Brown as the starter under both Dan Reeves and Jim Fassel.

1997 -

Dan Reeves was replaced by Jim Fassel as head coach. The Giants had the 7th pick overall and chose Florida WR Ike Hilliard to compliment Chris Calloway and Amani Toomer in the passing game.

Hilliard had eight very productive years with the Giants before leaving for Tampa, where he plans to line up for his 13th season this fall. Second round pick, RB Tiki Barber of Virginia was a smallish back who the Giants did not know how to use for the first few years of his career.

He was effective both rushing and receiving the ball out of the backfield. In 2000, he became an elite back, but he was also was prone to turnovers.

When Tom Coughlin took over the team in 2004, Barber responded with the best 3 years of his career before walking away from the Giants as the team's all-time leading rusher in 2006. Other players taken in this draft were punter Brad Maynard and S Sam Garnes.




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