Draft day is finally upon us, giving new hope and aspirations for 32 NFL franchises. By now the New York Giants are aware of their needs. In order to rebound from a disappointing 2012 season, general manager Jerry Reese must improve Big Blue's defense.
There are few, if any, positives that can be taken from the defensive performance New York put out on the field last season. Perry Fewell's unit ranked 31st in the league in total yards allowed.
The obvious move toward improving New York's defense would be to draft a linebacker. Georgia's Alec Ogletree was a stout presence on an elite SEC defense. The Giants struggled against both the pass and run in 2012. Ogletree has the tools to help Big Blue improve in both areas.
Which position should New York address on Thursday night?
Although the thought of Ogletree mercilessly tracking Robert Griffin III down for three hours is appealing, the Giants have not selected a linebacker with their first pick since 1984. Recent history shows this trend may continue. Reese and his cohorts very rarely have shown they believe linebacker to be a position of priority in the offseason.
Another position that could be addressed is cornerback. The Giants ranked 28th against the pass in 2012. Corey Webster experienced a meteoric drop-off in performance toward the tail end of the season. Specifically against Baltimore and Atlanta, Webster was abused in coverage.
There are also concerns in New York over Terrell Thomas' ability to return from a third ACL injury, along with Jayron Hosley's outlook as a nickel corner.
Despite numerous issues in the secondary, the Giants should hold off on selecting a cornerback too soon. Jerry Reese has used two early selections on cornerbacks in consecutive drafts. Both Prince Amukamara and Hosley are coming along nicely, and will have plenty of veteran help alongside them.
With New York's three-safety look expected to return in 2013, the team realistically needs just three cornerbacks to be reliable. Expect Webster to rebound next season, with support from the young tandem of Amukamara and Hosley.
When the Giants are on the clock at No. 19, their primary focus should be on improving a defensive line in transition.
New York's two primary pass-rushers heading into next season will be Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck. The two combined for just 10.5 sacks during the 2012 season.
While Pierre-Paul is expected to return to form this fall, the importance of Tuck's presence is questionable. At age 30, Tuck will continue to see his snaps diminish. New York has always relished the luxury of rotating one pass-rushing extraordinaire for another. They are seemingly due to replenish their resources this year.
The two best prospects New York can come away with to fill this need are UCLA's Datone Jones and Florida State's Cornellius "Tank" Carradine.
If either of these defensive ends are available at No. 19 this evening, expect the Giants to pounce immediately.
With veteran players already established on New York's D-line, a young pass-rusher has a great opportunity to succeed in Fewell's rotation. Jones and Carradine could be inserted on third downs during the early stages of their rookie campaigns. In these types of scenarios, you allow young players to simply pin their ears back and do what they do best: get to the opposing quarterback.
There are several directions New York can take when the NFL draft kicks off tonight. By drafting Jones or Carradine, the Giants would receive a prospect ready to contribute immediately and improve a transitioning defensive unit.