Under-the-Radar Decisions the NY Giants Could Make During the 2014 NFL Draft
When it comes to the NFL Draft, anything—and I do mean anything—goes.
Think about it. How many times were there blockbuster trades made during the NFL’s now three-day long event?
Moving closer to home, how many times have the New York Giants made a move during the draft that left you wanting to chuck the television set right out the window in frustration?
Forget about Draft Day, the movie. This is what the NFL Draft is all about.
When you have 32 teams trying to get at the right talent from a large candidate pool, there's often nothing short of organized chaos in which everything you thought you knew about your team and the prospects in the draft turns out to be wrong.
In the end, though, sometimes those seemingly crazy moves made by a team eventually make sense in the long-run.
For example, anyone remember the uproar when the Giants drafted Mathias Kiwanuka in the first round of the 2006 draft?
Eventually due to injuries, that selection ended up being a stroke of genius by Ernie Accorsi, the Giants' general manager at the time.
So as the clock ticks down to the start of the 2014 NFL Draft—we're under 30 days now until NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes the podium to start announcing the No. 1 picks for each team—I present to you three wild, yet realistic Giants draft possibilities that might initially seem crazy, but that could have merit down the road.
Look for Another Quarterback
First, a disclaimer. I wrote this before the news about Eli Manning's ankle procedure was announced.
Last year, the Giants caught just about everyone off guard when they traded up six spots in the fourth round to take Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib.
The pick, as Bill Pennington of The New York Times noted, was “the highest the team has taken a quarterback since it chose Philip Rivers at No. 4 in 2004 and then traded him for the top pick, Eli Manning.”
If that wasn’t surprising enough, in his comments made to reporters following the draft’s conclusion, general manager Jerry Reese said that the organization hoped that Nassib “never gets to play” for the Giants.
So far so good on that front.
Nassib was inactive every week of his rookie season in 2013, even when the season had slipped away from the Giants and as the offensive line began to deteriorate so badly that it became concerning every time Manning lined went under center.
So why would drafting another quarterback make any sense for the Giants if he's going to sit behind Manning?
You have to remember the original reason why Nassib was drafted.
Traditionally, the Giants have fielded veteran quarterbacks as a backup to Manning because of their experience.
However, Manning himself isn’t getting any younger. His recent ankle surgery as announced by the team is a reminder that the longer he plays, the more he'll be subjected to hits that could potentially lead to injuries requiring rehab and/or surgery.
For as durable as he’s been throughout his career—he’s yet to miss a regular season or postseason game—the regular season finale against Washington in which Manning took such a brutal hit that he ended up suffering a high ankle sprain was a reminder that the injury bug does not discriminate.
So let’s get back to Nassib.
Almost weekly in the second half of the season, head coach Tom Coughlin was asked about dressing Nassib to give him some experience. Yet Nassib never was able to climb up the depth chart.
What can we take from this? Despite their initial reluctance to play rookies, usually as the season wears on, the coaches will give those rookies who have earned more snaps the corresponding work in practice and games.
That Nassib couldn’t pass Curtis Painter on the depth chart despite his draft status suggests that Nassib’s practice sessions (practices are closed to the media) were less than impressive.
That could also explain why the Giants re-signed Painter to a one-year deal this offseason—to allow themselves insurance.
If the Giants want competition at every position—and that seems to be their modus operandi—they’ll more than likely bring in another quarterback to compete with Nassib and Painter.
Whether that quarterback is a draft pick or an undrafted free agent will be determined based on how the picks come off the board.
Running Back: If at First Your Don't Succeed, Try, Try, Try Again
I made note of this in yesterday’s analysis, but it bears repeating and expansion.
If you look at the last few Giants drafts, which you can find at Pro Football Reference, their history regarding drafting running backs has been very disappointing in that they haven’t had an impact draftee at that position since Ahmad Bradshaw was drafted in the seventh round in 2007.
Let's look at the history.
In the seventh round of 2013, they took Michael Cox, who struggled to crack into the rotation at Michigan and who thus transferred to Massachusetts to finish out his career.
Keeping in mind that rookies should start to show some sort of progress as the year progresses, Cox barely saw the field for the Giants, not even when injuries were taking their toll on the running backs. The only exception was when the Giants had no other options and they were forced to start him in the middle part of the season.
In 2012, they spent their first-round pick on David Wilson, a player who while possessing dynamic speed, has yet to prove that he can be a complete back.
The problem? Pass blocking, something that Wilson told Dave Hutchinson of The Star-Ledger last year he worked on to improve because “it’s something you have to do at this level. I want to be effective in all areas of the game.”
Despite working on his pass blocking, he still had his struggles, earning his second straight negative pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). That grade was based on 26 pass blocking snaps he was given before a season-ending neck injury forced him to miss the final 11 games.
In 2011, the Giants spent a seventh-round pick on Da’Rel Scott, who showed flashes of some fine straight-ahead speed, but not much else.
Scott was cut early last year only to be brought back when he injuries piled up. As an unrestricted free agent, he currently remains unsigned and is no longer in the Giants' plans.
Lastly, there was Andre Brown, a fourth-round pick in 2009 who bounced around the league due to injuries, beginning with a ruptured Achilles suffered during his rookie training camp.
When he became an unrestricted free agent, the Giants decided to go in another direction.
Given their lack of recent luck with drafted running backs, should the Giants abandon hope of drafting a quality running back?
That someone doesn’t necessarily have to be a first-round pick, nor should he be—I personally wouldn’t take a running back in the first round unless a clone of Adrian Peterson were sitting there. However, I think it makes sense to consider a running back in the fourth or fifth round if a good value pick is there.
Drafting an Inside Linebacker
One of the things that all NFL teams do when it comes to the draft is keep an eye on the long-term future.
They have to. Sometimes a team finds itself with several contracts at one position set to expire at the same time, making it difficult to re-sign everyone.
If the team has done due diligence in the draft, they can often have someone at the ready to step in.
For example, when defensive tackle Linval Joseph became too expensive to re-sign, the Giants, who drafted Johnathan Hankins a full year ahead of Joseph's departure, were able to get him acclimated to their system to where he should now be able to step in and start.
That’s the situation the Giants find themselves in with their depth at middle linebacker.
Although they have locked up starter Jon Beason for three years, the depth behind him is of concern.
Mark Herzlich, whom the Giants signed to a one-year contract worth $1 million before the start of free agency rather than tender him a right of first refusal offer of $1.431 million, is going on his fourth season.
Herzlich, remember, was the stopgap solution between Dan Connor and Beason. After Beason arrived, Herzlich became the first off the bench at that position.
Behind Herzlich is Allen Bradford, the running back turned linebacker that the Giants claimed off waivers from Seattle last year.
Bradford is a bit of an unknown given his limited game snaps on defense, though he’ll have a chance to compete for a roster spot. Bradford is signed through 2015 and, per Over the Cap, will earn base salaries of $570,000 this year and $660,000 next year if he sticks.
In a pinch, the Giants can also use Spencer Paysinger, who has played in between the tackles as part of the Giants’ nickel package, in the middle.
Obviously the hope is that Beason, who now has an injury history, makes it through a 16-game schedule. If he doesn't, do the Giants have a suitable backup who can replace him for more than just a few snaps, or are they better off drafting a prospect with a solid pedigree?
If the draft is the way to build your roster, it would probably make sense to get ready for the future, especially since Beason's contract is only for three years.