Ranking the 10 Most Valuable Players on the New York Giants Roster
Naturally, they're quite talented. But of their most talented players, who can they least afford to lose? This offseason saw more roster turnover than usual, so let's regroup and assess the front lines of Big Blue's depth chart by ranking the 10 most valuable assets on the team.
10. DE Justin Tuck
Outside of a series of clutch performances down the stretch as the Giants made their Super Bowl run in 2011, Tuck hasn't been himself the last two years. He had just two sacks in seven games heading into December that year and picked up just four in 15 games this past season.
And the pressure hasn't been coming either. Pro Football Focus (membership required) deemed Tuck to be one of the least productive pass-rushers in the NFL last season.
But because Osi Umenyiora is gone and Jason Pierre-Paul needs some support up front, Tuck remains one of the most important cogs on defense. He's 30 now and has been held to six or fewer sacks in three of the last four seasons, but the Giants need him to step it up if they're going to somehow get a derailed pass-rush back on track in 2013.
9. DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka
Kiwanuka's impact has fluctuated over the years, but with Umenyiora gone and Tuck a question mark, the veteran pass-rusher could have a chance to regain a major role at defensive end this season.
He had just three sacks while starting five of 15 games last year, mainly as a strong-side linebacker but with cameos up front. That versatility is nice, but Kiwanuka's best days took place when he was asked to put his hand in the dirt more consistently.
The Giants' pass rush has for years been the team's bread and butter, but their sack total in 2012 plummeted by 31 percent compared to 2011. In order to get back on track in that area, they'll need more from Tuck and Kiwanuka.
8. CB Corey Webster
Like Tuck, Webster is a veteran with two Super Bowl victories in New York and one hell of an NFL résumé. And like Tuck, he's trying to hang onto a key role merely because the Giants didn't have the ability to find someone better in the offseason.
At 31, he's coming off an abysmal season in which he was rated by PFF as the fourth-worst cornerback in all of football, surrendering an embarrassing eight touchdowns in coverage.
While he's never been a stud, Webster was considered to be a very solid No. 1 cornerback one year ago. Can he rebound? He'd better, because the Giants don't exactly have a lot of quality options in the secondary.
7. OT Will Beatty
Now we get to a player who is both valuable and on the rise. Beatty is coming off a breakout season protecting Eli Manning's blind side, which is why earlier this offseason he was handed a five-year, $37.5 million contract ($19 million of which guaranteed).
The 28-year-old finally started to live up to the expectations that came along with being a second-round pick in 2009, giving up only three sacks while remaining in the lineup for virtually the entire season. That last point is big, because Beatty had been plagued by injury concerns earlier in his career.
Manning is a magician in the pocket, but as he ages the Giants will have to keep bolstering the protection for their franchise quarterback. Securing Beatty at left tackle was critical in that regard.
6. RB David Wilson
Ahmad Bradshaw arguably blocks and picks up blitzes better than any running back in the game. But Bradshaw is no longer a Giant, and Wilson is first in line to take over as the No. 1 back in New York. The 2012 first-round pick has game-breaking speed, but criticism has been directed at his all-around game.
I debated putting the Virginia Tech product lower because this is still a pass-first offense, and Andre Brown is there to cut into his carries, but I'm expecting Wilson to make some big plays in his second season.
Guys like Chris Snee, David Baas, Antrel Rolle and Linval Joseph might play roles that are just as significant, but Wilson has skills that push him ahead of those guys and possibly some of the remaining names on this list.
5. CB Prince Amukamara
For the majority of his first full season in the NFL, Amukamara looked and felt like a true No. 1 cornerback. But with the rest of the Giants defense in flux, the 2011 first-round pick will be counted on to keep flourishing in his third year.
Amukamara allowed completions on only 52.4 percent of the passes thrown his way last year, which ranked 19th among the 113 cornerbacks who played at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps. Opposing quarterbacks had a combined passer rating of just 74.5 on those throws, placing him in the top 25 in the category. And on a per-snap basis, only eight corners gave up fewer completions than he did.
But he did all that as a No. 2 corner, which means he didn't always face top-end wide receivers. If Webster struggles again this year, that'll have to change. That's why Prince is so important.
4. WR Hakeem Nicks
Three of the four most valuable components on this team are also key weapons in the passing game. Manning and his top two receivers have to be healthy and on the ball for the Giants to overcome weaknesses in other areas, and Nicks is still this team's top wideout.
The 25-year-old already has a pair of 1,000-yard campaigns under his belt, but he's yet to play a full season. Injuries disrupted his momentum in 2012 after back-to-back superb years, and now Nicks is entering the final year of his original NFL contract.
When healthy, the former first-round pick truly is one of the best receivers in the league. He'll need to find a way to stay on the field going forward, especially with Victor Cruz's future up in the air.
3. WR Victor Cruz
Cruz has been significantly more productive than Nicks the last two years, emerging as a much more reliable and durable option out of the slot. But he's a restricted free agent, and he's expected to take his sweet time before signing that tender.
Some think Cruz is less valuable than Nicks because he's not an archetypical X or Z wide receiver, but since the start of 2011 only five receivers have more catches, only four have more yards and only five have more touchdowns.
This team would be screwed without Nicks and Cruz. They can survive without one. But they can't excel without both.
2. DE Jason Pierre-Paul
After Manning, who is the second-most valuable Giant?
I really thought JPP had a chance to make a serious run at Michael Strahan's single-season sack record in 2012, so it's shocking to look at that flimsy single-digit sack number of 6.5. Amazingly, that was still enough to lead the team in that category, and there's little doubt that Pierre-Paul remains the most dangerous defensive player on New York's roster.
Believe it or not, PFF deemed that JPP was more productive as a pass-rusher in 2012 than in 2011, when he had 16.5 sacks. The reality is that he was a better closer that season, and a stronger supporting cast was a big reason for that.
He's still only 24 years old and is entering his fourth season, but the Giants pass rush needs to get much more pressure and Pierre-Paul a few more sacks if the defense is to redeem itself in 2013.
1. QB Eli Manning
Surprise! We're going with the two-time Super Bowl-MVP quarterback in the top spot. Because when Manning's good, so are the Giants, and when Manning's bad, well, you can probably figure it out.
The 32-year-old wasn't any more prone to turnovers or sacks in 2012, but he wasn't as clutch as in previous years. And as a result, the Giants weren't able as often to find that winning magic. The shame of it is that the offensive line and running game stepped up their game, but Manning wasn't accurate enough, may or may not have had a "tired arm" and didn't have a chance to establish a lot of chemistry with his receivers.
If that continues in 2013, the G-Men won't stand a chance. But if Manning can find that groove of 2011, this could again be a Super Bowl team.
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