New York Giants fans: Can you feel it in the air? Can you feel it?
Today is your Christmas.
80 days (but who's counting?) have elapsed since the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, and starting tonight, the Giants will look to add the prospects that will best help them win their fifth Lombardi Trophy.
Everything you've heard about the volatility of this first round is true. In my near decade covering the league, I've never come across so many conflicting opinions on the prospects themselves and where they might end up. The fact of the matter is, no one really knows what's going to happen, and that's what makes this particular draft so incredibly exciting.
I've been whispered many things about the New York Giants, and where they might go with the 19th overall pick. I'll share all of these thoughts, and then my own, before I get to my 7-round mock itself.
First, the team desperately wants to improve on the offensive line.
The rumors regarding the team's interest in Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker are legitimate. Problem is, I don't expect Fluker to be on the board. I'd be stunned if he made it to 19. I think it's more likely he goes in the top 15.
I know the Giants love Alabama guard Chance Warmack as well, but he's got no chance of being there at 19. Cross him off the list.
With Fluker and Warmack off the board, Florida State tackle Menelik Watson has been bandied about as a potential pick. I don't see it. The Giants are set at left tackle with Will Beatty, and James Brewer is the heir apparent to David Diehl at right tackle. I'm not sure Watson merits the 19th overall selection. Again, it could happen, but it's my job to provide you with the information, and in my opinion, they'll look elsewhere.
If Fluker and Warmack are off the board (and I believe they will be), I expect Big Blue to target another position. The question now becomes: Which one?
Believe it or not, but the interest in Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert? It's real. Eifert would be a tremendous weapon for the Giants' passing attack, and would form a devastating one-two punch along with fellow tight end Brandon Myers, signed by the Giants this free-agent period. But, the Giants love Adrien Robinson (selected in the fourth round a year ago), and, like Vaccaro, Eifert would represent a luxury pick.
Given the Giants' 31st-ranked defense a year ago, luxury picks on offense probably aren't the team's best bet.
Speaking of defense: The Kenny Vaccaro train is picking up steam, as I've heard the Giants would be interested in the safety from the University of Texas. But with Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown entrenched as starters at the position, I doubt general manager Jerry Reese would pull the trigger on a safety in round one.
When it comes to cornerback, the team will likely be staring at a few viable options (Desmond Trufant, D.J. Hayden, Jamar Taylor, etc.). While I think they'll look elsewhere, I acknowledge the possibility they go corner.
Giants fans have been clamoring for Reese to select a linebacker in the first round for years, but when you look at his history, he's only selected one linebacker in either rounds one or two, Clint Sintim in 2009, and look how that turned out. Even with the team's deficiencies at the position, linebacker isn't as important a position to the Giants as other teams. Why?
When it comes to Big Blue in the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era, the team wins with a simple formula: Quarterback and pass rush. The Giants already have their franchise quarterback in Manning, the proud owner of two Super Bowl MVPs.
That means that the pass rush is the next important facet of the team. And in 2012, the Giants pass rush was lackluster, as the team only accrued 33 sacks, their lowest total since 2009 (32). The common denominator there? Both iterations of Big Blue missed the postseason.
With Osi Umenyiora and his six sacks now in Atlanta, and Justin Tuck (4 sacks) and Jason Pierre-Paul (6.5 sacks) coming off down years, it's critical that the Giants address their pass rush. When you can get after the opposing quarterback, it lessens the need for elite players in the back seven.
So, with all of that said, here is my 2013, seven-round mock draft for the New York Giants.
As I wrote in the introduction, the Giants must fortify their pass rush if they are to seriously contend for their fifth Super Bowl championship. To me, that's their most pressing need.
With that said, I project the Giants' first-round pick to be Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner.
Werner finished his three-year career as a Seminole with 23.5 sacks, 13 of which came in 2012. He's powerful at the point of attack, and his upside is impressive.
The Giants need to add a pass-rusher. Werner will be the best available option at 19.
He's the pick.
The son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of Chris Long, Kyle Long (6'6", 313 lbs.) is an intriguing prospect, and I believe the Giants would be wise to snatch him up in the second round.
The Giants want to help their offensive line, and the versatile Long fits the bill, as he projects to both guard and right tackle at the NFL level.
Big Blue's offensive line is in a bit of flux. This is likely David Diehl's last year. Guard Kevin Boothe is on a one-year deal. The futures of Chris Snee and David Baas are murky.
That makes the offensive line a huge priority. I think Long would be a fantastic choice.
Ah, linebacker. The bane of the average Giants fan's existence.
Perusing Big Blue's depth at the position is an exercise in frustration. Keith Rivers, Dan Connor and Jacquian Williams are currently listed as the starters. That's a bit of an issue.
As I've written previously, the team can overcome issues in the back seven with a dynamite pass rush, so I think Big Blue waits until Round 3 to fill their pressing need at linebacker.
I'm a huge fan of Oregon ILB Kiko Alonso. He's been overshadowed a bit by teammate Dion Jordan throughout the draft process, but Alonso is a stud prospect in his own right.
The Giants need youth and athleticism in their linebacking corps, and Alonso can make the thumping hit.
I project him to be the Giants' third-round selection, and their second Oregon Duck off the board.
I know that the Giants selected David Wilson in the first round of last year's draft, and that Andre Brown came on in a big way last season. I don't care.
The Giants need another player at running back. I wouldn't feel confident going into the season with Wilson and Brown as one and two on the depth chart.
Florida's Mike Gillislee fits the bill. He rushed for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago for the Gators.
He has two factors working in his favor. One, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. And two—and more importantly—he can pick up the blitz, a necessary element for any running back on a Tom Coughlin-coached team to possess.
In Round 3, the Giants grabbed an inside linebacker in Oregon's Kiko Alonso. In Round 5, I project them to take an outside linebacker: Penn State's Gerald Hodges.
Hodges is a tackling machine (109 tackles last year as a senior) who has the coverage skills needed to succeed in today's pass-happy NFL.
While Hodges is more of a steady player rather than a star, the Giants don't need their linebackers to be all-world type players. Hodges is reliable, can cover the tight end, and would provide the Giants with sorely needed depth at the position.
The Giants have their two starters-of-the-future at cornerback on the roster already: Prince Amukumara and Jayron Hosley. With Aaron Ross back after a year in Jacksonville, Corey Webster re-signed and Terrell Thomas back in the fold, I don't believe the Giants will address the position in the early rounds.
With that said, Big Blue definitely needs to add a corner during the draft, and the sixth round is where I project it will happen, with Miami's Brandon McGee.
McGee has good size (5'11") and speed (4.38 40-yard dash at the combine), and while his cover skills aren't elite (hence his sixth-round projection), I believe he'd be a steal at pick 187.
With their first of two seventh-round picks, the Giants go back to the offensive line and take a player that I consider to be a major sleeper: Florida guard James Wilson.
Wilson (6'3", 320 lbs.) played well against tough competition in the SEC, and would provide depth in the interior of the Giants offensive line.
The Giants are pretty much set at wide receiver.
I expect the team to sign Victor Cruz, and he teams with Hakeem Nicks to form one of the best one-two punches at wide receiver in the NFL.
Add last year's second-round pick, Rueben Randle, along with free-agent acquisition Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan, and it's a pretty solid corps.
But the team can always use another receiver in case of injury. Syracuse's Alec Lemon was a consistent player for the Orange (201 total catches), and would be a value pick at this spot.