It wasn’t exactly breaking news to hear New York Giants CEO John Mara admit during his season-ending press conference that the team’s draft record over the last several years hasn’t been as solid as they had hoped it would be.
“We have missed on guys, no question about it,” Mara told reporters gathered in the auditorium of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, adding:
There are a few cases where we took a chance, knowing that we were taking a chance, thinking that if we hit on this guy, maybe we’ll knock it out of the park. If we miss, we miss, and we missed a few times, but that’s going to happen.
Certainly no team hits on every one of their draft picks, though the Giants came close in 2007, the first year of Jerry Reese’s tenure as general manager.
That season, New York had eight picks, and all but one—offensive lineman Adam Koets, their sixth-round pick—contributed to the team’s Super Bowl XLII championship.
What’s happened since hasn’t been pretty, but before I go into the rather unsettling details, I need to remind everyone of a little piece of forgotten history.
The 2007 draft class was the last one that Reese put together. That year, he had served as the director of college scouting before he was promoted to be Ernie Accorsi’s successor as general manager. Given the timing of Reese's promotion, he ran the 2007 draft.
Since 2008, Marc Ross has run the Giants' drafts, though the actual selection process is a collaborative effort between the scouting department, coaching staff and ownership.
As the general manager, Reese heads the process and is believed to be the deciding factor if there is a dispute.
Let's look then at the last five draft classes—38 picks per Pro Football Reference—and see what kind of foundation the Giants have built for themselves.
2009 to 2013: A Somber Summary
The following graph summarizes what the Giants' last five draft classes have yielded as far as primary starters, backups, picks on other teams and players who were out of the league or on the practice squad during the 2013 season:
In addition, only one of the Giants' last 38 draft picks—defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul—earned Pro Bowl and/or All-Pro honors.
Now let's break down each of the five classes. The first number in the parentheses next to the player’s name is the round in which he was drafted. The second number is the overall pick.
The Class of 2009
WR Hakeem Nicks (1/29), LB Clint Sintim (2/45), LT Will Beatty (2/60), WR Ramses Barden (3/85), TE Travis Beckum (3/100), RB Andre Brown (4/129), QB Rhett Bomar (5/151), DB DeAndre Wright (6/200), DB Stoney Woodson (7/238)
The Giants came away with two starters out of this class in Nicks and Beatty. Beckum and Barden had their moments, but neither could carry a regular spot for himself in the lineup, even in a reserve role.
Brown started out in this class, but a ruptured Achilles sent him on an odyssey that finally brought him back to the Giants in 2011 as a member of the practice squad.
When he was healthy, Nicks provided the best value and production of this draft class once he stepped into the starting lineup in 2010.
Sintim came from a 3-4 system in college and had his struggles adjusting to the Giants’ 4-3, which made one wonder why the Giants didn't draft a player suited for a 4-3 instead of essentially starting from scratch with such a high draft pick.
The Class of 2010
DE Jason Pierre-Paul (1/15), DT Linval Joseph (2/465), S Chad Jones ( 3/76), LB Phillip Dillard (4/115), OL Mitch Petrus (5/147), DE Adrian Tracy (6/184), P Matt Dodge (7/221)
The Giants struck gold with Pierre-Paul and Joseph, both of whom became staples on the defensive line. Pierre-Paul developed into the Giants' only Pro Bowl talent among their draft picks over the last five seasons.
Joseph’s value, meanwhile, has been rising every year to where he's likely to earn a significant contract offer that might be too rich for the Giants' budget.
Jones unfortunately never got onto the field thanks to an unfortunate car accident. USA TODAY reports that Jones is a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system.
Dillard and Tracy were stopgap depth solutions, with Tracy being another 3-4 college defensive end the Giants tried to convert to a 4-3 defender with no success.
The team had hopes that Dillard could be their inside linebacker, but that didn't work out as planned.
Dodge was one-and-done, and will probably be forever known for his role in the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.
I’m giving Joseph the edge for his durability and his ability to consistently raise his level of play each year.
Pierre-Paul might be the popular pick; however, I stop short of considering him as the best pick of this class because of his health issues the last two seasons.
If Pierre-Paul is healthy, then he's certainly right up there with Joseph, perhaps even ahead since Pierre-Paul is the only one of the Giants' draft picks over the last five seasons to be named to a Pro Bowl.
It’s Dodge, and not even close.
No I'm not basing it on his blunder. What I don't understand about this pick is why the Giants even bothered to spend a draft pick on a punter when there were probably more experienced veterans available.
The Class of 2011
CB Prince Amukamara (1/19), DT Marvin Austin (2/52), WR Jerrel Jernigan (3/83), OL James Brewer (4/117), LB Gregg Jones (6/185), S Tyler Sash (6/198), LB Jacquian Williams (6/202), RB Da’Rel Scott (7/221)
This draft class yielded one solid starter, Amukamara. Williams has flirted with earning a starting spot, but a knee injury has slowed down his development a bit.
Perhaps most alarming, though, is that within two years after being selected, three of the picks—Austin, Sash and Jones—have been unable to find a new home after the Giants cut them.
Scott, who Reese admitted the team was taking a “flyer” on (h/t the Star-Ledger), was a curious pick only because with so many picks available, the last thing you typically want to hear a team's general manager say is that he’s “taking a flyer” on that pick.
With so few draft picks and so many needs every year, is it really worth it to gamble on any draft pick? Taking flyers are typically what a team does with undrafted free agents or reserve/futures signees.
Jernigan showed some flashes at the end of last season, but one must wonder where those flashes were in his first two seasons when he was twice given every opportunity to earn a return specialist job only to flub it away.
Perhaps Jernigan will finally have his breakout season in 2014 under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. That remains to be seen; based on his existing body of work, he’s been a disappointment for a third-round pick.
Brewer had an excellent opportunity this year to show the coaches that he was ready for a full-time starting job. However, he came up short in that quest, finishing with a minus-8.9 overall grade and a minus-6.3 grade in run blocking, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
He also posted three subpar games in a row in Weeks 13 through 15, his worst coming in Week 14 against the San Diego Chargers.
Amukamara got off to a slow start due to a foot injury, but once he shook that off, he’s reached the goal he shared with the New York Post of becoming the number one cornerback on the Giants.
Per PFF, he still has a ways to go before he reaches his next goal, which is be among the best cornerbacks in the league. That is a list that includes Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield, Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Chicago’s Charles Tillman.
Austin came with so much promise, but injury after injury kept setting him back to where he never developed as they hoped he would.
The Class of 2012
RB David Wilson (1/32), WR Rueben Randle (2/63), CB Jayron Hosley (3/94), TE Adrien Robinson 94/127), OL Brandon Mosley (4/131), OL Matt McCants (6/201), DT Markus Kuhn (7/239)
The 2014 season is going to be a big year for the class of 2012 as it will be a year to show that they've taken a significant leap in their development.
The biggest question for this class involves Wilson, who is coming off offseason neck surgery. Specifically, there has been some debate as to exactly when he might be ready to play in 2014.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Wilson “will be ready for training camp.” However, Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger correctly points out that there is a bit of ambiguity regarding what “ready” really means.
Randle might have a big opportunity in front of him if Nicks departs via free agency, as is believed. Meanwhile, Mosley could be the sleeper in this group as he flashed in limited playing time before suffering a broken hand late last year.
Robinson will need to finally show something after two years and three snaps on offense. Last year he had some injury issues, but he has the athleticism to play the position.
Kuhn will also look to carve out a bigger role in the defensive tackle rotation after spending most of last year on PUP.
In terms of potential production, Wilson is the top choice, but if I'm being honest, I’ve been underwhelmed by his performance as a running back so far.
Yes, he has that dynamic breakaway speed and ability to make defenders miss. However, after two seasons, he’s not yet a complete back.
Before his season ended prematurely, Wilson continued to have trouble with pass blocking, which is part of a NFL running back’s job description. He also had ball security issues that popped up in Week 1, which I broke down after that fiasco.
Those ball security issues were surprising considering he had the same problem at the start of his rookie season and had supposedly worked to eradicate the issue.
For those wondering why I didn’t pick Randle as the best pick, while he impressed during the spring and summer, he was unable to carry that all the way through the regular season.
Considering he got a lot of offseason work in with Manning, for Randle to have been the intended receiver on a team-high eight interceptions in 2013 is surprising.
One might have thought Robinson would at least see the field a lot more than the three offensive snaps he’s taken over the last two seasons.
He can probably get a pass for being injured for most of 2013, and I suppose you can make an argument that the delay in him joining the OTAs during his rookie season because he had to finish school was a factor in his delayed development.
However, other rookie tight ends came in for the Giants and flourished in their first season under former tight end coach Mike Pope’s tutelage—a good and recent example being Kevin Boss.
So why couldn’t Robinson, who as previously noted has the tools to be a player in this league, have made more strides as a rookie? Only Coach Pope and Robinson know the answer to that one.
The Class of 2013
OL Justin Pugh (1/19), DT Johnathan Hankins (2/49), DE Damontre Moore (3/81), QB Ryan Nassib (4/110), S Cooper Taylor (5/152), OL Eric Herman (7/225), RB Michael Cox (7/253)
Pugh is entrenched as a starter after a fine rookie season; Hankins seems poised to move in the starting lineup if Linval Joseph departs via free agency; and Moore looks like he’s going to have a bigger role in 2014.
The jury is still out on Taylor, Herman and Cox. Nassib's development might have been delayed a bit as when things fell apart for Manning, all coaching resources might have been needed to help the starter survive behind a deteriorating offensive line.
Even if that hadn't been the case, the only way Nassib would have set foot onto the playing field was in an emergency.
Pugh started all 16 games and seemed to get better each week. No matter where the Giants plan to play him in 2014, they came away with one of the best value picks in the first round.
With all due respect to what NFL Draft analyst Russ Lande reported about Nassib, that pick is still one that leaves something to be desired.
The Giants have a two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback who, while having had his struggles over the last season and a half, is still by far the team's best option.
So why, with the Giants having concerns about the offensive line, did they spend a draft pick to develop a quarterback who, in a press conference following the pick, Reese told reporters that he hopes “doesn’t ever play?"
Let’s say that their plan was to develop Nassib to where he could be traded for more draft picks one or two years down the line. Given the transition the team was facing on their offensive line and at cornerback, could they really have afforded to spend a draft pick on a player who may or may not develop into a legitimate pro prospect?
And by the way, did I mention how Nassib’s presence ate up a roster spot that the team probably could have used on another area of need when the injuries started to hit?
I understand the importance of having a backup quarterback on the roster, but if you think that highly of the pick, then why carry a veteran, who, by the way, played ahead of the rookie anyway?
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. Football statistics and rankings from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.