Debunking The Myth Of Jerry's Genius

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Debunking The Myth Of Jerry's Genius
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And all the sheep chanted in unison, "In Jerry we trust!!!"

Well, count me among the flock BUT....

Some of Jerry Reese's draft picks have been far from stellar, especially when it comes to the wide receiver position. Thus, this year's picks of Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden, and Travis Beckum as a solution to replace Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress shouldn't simply be analyzed with the popular refrain, "Jerry's a genius at general manager. He must know what he's doing."

Reese has been essentially in charge of the Giants' draft since 2002 as director of pro personnel, and officially in charge as GM since 2007. So now in 2009, it is a perfect time to go back and evaluate this wunderkind of NFL talent evaluation. 

First, one preliminary myth needs to be debunked; mainly that the Giants are a good drafting team. Historically, with the exception of the Parcel’s era, the Giants have been abysmal in the draft. The height of the Giants' ineptitude is probably indicative of why the Giants were the dregs of the NFL until the 1980s, was the 1965 NFL Draft.

That year the Giants had the No. 1 pick, and drafted RB Tucker Fredrickson (who???) out of Auburn. Two picks later, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers went off the board. Ouch! Later in that round, Joe Namath was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. How would Broadway Joe have been for the real New York football franchise?

The misses and busts just kept coming until fairly recently when Jerry Reese took over with his miraculous draft class of 2007, where almost every pick including two seventh rounders, Ahmad Bradshaw and Michael Johnson, contributed to a Super Bowl Championship.

Giants' fans rightfully give Reese a lot of credit for getting value with each and every pick, but it's those first day picks that need to be hits because those players are getting the big bucks and are expected to make the team. Hitting on a sixth or seventh rounder is frosting on the cake because many are not even expected to make the team.

Also, hitting on some late round picks or on some undrafted free agents takes a little bit of the sting out of missing on a first day pick. I think this has been the saving grace for Reese's reputation as an expert drafter.

Let's look at some significant misses on the first day since 2002, when Reese was director of pro personnel. (Granted these drafts belong to Ernie Accorsi, but Reese as head of scouting had to be responsible for a significant part of setting up the Giants' draft board)

 

2002

Jeremy Shockey sounds like a good pick at No. 14 right? I mean he was a Giants' fan favorite and arguably one of the most dynamic TEs in the league along with Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gate, and Todd Heap. However, when compared with the other "great" TEs of his era, Shockey is certainly last on the list.

He also was always injured, and had a terrible attitude that stunted the growth of the future franchise player, Eli Manning. Were the Giants so desperate for a TE that year? So desperate to pass on DT Albert Haynesworth, who got drafted by the Titans the very next pick. Was a TE with the 14th pick a better bet than a safety picked 10 picks later by the Ravens? Yeah, that would be Ed Reed.

If we needed a TE so bad that year, what about taking Haynesworth or Reed, and then in the third or fourth round taking Chris Baker or Randy McMichael (both pretty solid TEs) instead of who we actually took; Jeff Hatch. Haynesworth and McMichael would have been a better haul than Shockey and Hatch.

How would Haynesworth and Reed, both positions where we presently need depth, look today at the height of their careers in Giants blue? I'm sure they would look better than Shockey does today in a Saints uniform.

With the second pick that year, the first of the WR busts, Tim Carter, who had an injury plagued and uneventful short career with the Giants. He eventually got traded for seldom used Reuben Droughns. Who did we pass on for Carter? Clinton Portis four picks later. Who cares if the Giants had Tiki Barber, isn't the Giants' philosophy best player available regardless of need? I would have taken Tiki and Portis, Lightning and some more Lightning, over Thunder and Lightning, Ron Dayne and Tiki.

 

2003

The next year, had we taken Haynesworth at DT (who now haunts us on the Redskins), the Giants wouldn't have taken one of their biggest busts in DT William Joseph, with the 25th pick in the first round. The Giants would then have been free to take Nnamdi Asomugha, who went to the Raiders six picks later and is now one of the best CBs in the league. Wouldn't he have been an upgrade at the time from perennial disappointments Will Allen and Will Peterson (now Will James)?

Despite being a first rounder, Joseph could never consistently crack the starting lineup. Now this miss was greatly softened by the colossal hit with Osi Umenyora in the second round and David Diehl in the fifth round, both eventual starters. Oh by the way, for those lamenting having taken Haynesworth over Shockey in this parallel Giants universe, the Giants could have gotten Antonio Gates, who went undrafted that year. 

 

2004

This may be the most polarizing, controversial draft of the decade. Either Giants' fan view this year as a turning point of the franchise, where the Giants got their franchise QB, who eventually lead them to a championship OR they see this as one of the biggest reaches and non-value picks in the history of the draft.

Basically the trade boils down to: Eli Manning for Philip Rivers, Shawn Merriman, and Nate Kaeding (OLB and K are still positions of need today as evidenced by the Clint Sintim pick and having to bring the ancient John Carney on in 2008).

In terms of straight value, this is inarguably a bad trade even if Rivers and the Chargers have yet to win a Super Bowl. One can argue that Rivers for Manning today straight up would be a fair trade, so including a defensive force like Merriman completely tips the scales in favor of SD.

It is not farfetched to imagine that if Rivers developed as he did in SD, Osi drafted a year earlier, paired with Merriman, then the Giants would have had comparable success. Granted this trade WAS Accorsi's baby, but Reese had to be involved with giving his blessing.

Also, lost in the franchise changing trade with SD in the first round was the first pick in fourth round, where the Giants selected Reggie Torbor (disappointment). The very next pick the Chargers took Shaun Phillips. So the Giants could have had BOTH of SD's pro-bowl stud LBs in Merriman and Phillips. Again, these wasted opportunities were mitigated by Reese's shrewdness and knack for getting value with later picks such as Chris Snee and Gibril Wilson, both future starters.

Also, the colossal loss of value in the 2004 draft would be overcome by the Giants in the following year's draft, which for my money was the best in franchise history. 

 

2005

Despite having no first round pick (given up to the Chargers in the Eli trade and used to select Shawn Merriman) AND only four total picks in the draft, the Giants managed to select three potential perennial pro-bowlers, Corey Webster, Justin Tuck, and Brandon Jacobs. As previously stated, this may be the best drafting job anyone's ever done with so little. To get three starters at premium positions of CB, DE, and RB with no first round pick is just unbelievable. However, remember that this kind of miracle draft would have been unnecessary if we had not passed up so much value in the previous drafts.

For those of you keeping track of our parallel Giants universe; there would have been no need to draft Webster because we would have had Asomugha, no need to draft Tuck because we would have had Shawn Merriman, and no need to have drafted Jacobs because we would have had Portis. Here's the kicker: just because the Giants wouldn't have needed those three studs, the Giants may have still selected them and paired them with the studs we already drafted. Portis and Jacobs, Asomugha and Webster (and later Aaron Ross), Merriman and Tuck....WOW!!!

I know, I know, this is hardly realistic that the Giants would have taken players at positions they don't need, but remember the Giants' philosophy is best player on the board regardless of position. 

 

2006

This was probably the worst Giants' draft of the decade. Mathias Kiwanuka was initially a head scratcher. No one could pronounce his name and no one could figure out why the Giants needed another defensive end with Strahan, Osi, and Tuck on the roster. Furthermore, the Giants were in dire need of LB depth. The very next pick in the draft was DeMeco Ryans to the Texans, who went on to be Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Now I know not a lot of Giants fans have no problem with the Kiwi pick because the Super Bowl win ended up vindicating the philosophy of hoarding talented pass rushing defensive ends. However, the Giants ended up wasting a lot of Kiwi's talents on the failed experiment of playing him at LB, when they could have drafted an NFL ready LB to play next to Aaron Pierce and eventually replace him (certainly seems like a need today no?).

Nonetheless, the first round pick seems like an enormous success compared to the next two picks, Sinorice Moss and Gerris Wilkinson. The following are the WRs that Big Blue passed on to take Sinorice Moss in the second round: Greg Jennings, Devin Hester, Brandon Marshall,  and Marques Colston. All of these guys are their teams top receiver, yet Sinorice Moss isn't even the third best receiver on the Giants. Do the Giants draft two WRs in 2009 if they had selected anyone of these guys, especially Brandon Marshall?

As for Gerris Wilkinson, he has been almost non-existent for the Giants due to injuries; and thus, he has been a wasted third round pick. As usual, the Giants hit big with Barry Cofield in the fourth round, and that makes this draft slightly more palatable. However, with the exception of Cofield, every other pick was either wasted, underachieving, or less than optimal value.

 

2007 and 2008

We all know about the 2007 draft, possibly the best for any team this decade. The jury is still out on the 2008 draft.

 

Well, if you have made it this far in my epic review of Giants’ draft history, I commend you. (If I have no life for writing this, than you REALLY have no life for reading this).  The preceding analysis underscores that the NFL Draft is far from a science, and success is less predicated on genius than fortune.

Therefore, when certain Giants' bloggers opine that Hakeem Nicks will be better than Kenny Britt because Jerry Reese is an expert talent evaluator and he thought Nicks was better so he must be right, please direct them to this article.

Jerry Reese is certainly one of, if not the brightest new GMs in the NFL, but he's certainly not infallible. I guess blindly following young, bright African-American men, who are in positions of authority, is just all the rage in 2009.

Soon we will all see the answer to the one burning question of the Giants' offseason: Can the production of a physical freak at WR be replaced with a few draft picks? My guess is: YES, REESE CAN! YES, REESE CAN!

 

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