Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for New York Giants' Top 3 Picks
When the New York Giants start plucking up prime collegiate talent in next month's NFL draft, will you be exalting general manager Jerry Reese's expertise, or will you be cursing your television set?
Some picks naturally generate excitement within the fanbase, while others leave the faithful scratching their heads. But that initial knee-jerk reaction doesn't always translate to future NFL production or lack thereof. Later this week, I'll be highlighting the best and worst Giants draft picks of the past decade.
But right now, let's focus on the first three rounds of this year's draft. New York must have its eyes on several dozen early round prospects, but on draft day, the Giants will only be in position to settle on a few. Management must make those selections wisely.
This article will highlight the best- and worst-case scenarios for each of the Giants' top three picks in the 2014 draft.
Round 1 Best Case: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Originally considered a surefire top-10 selection, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews can conceivably fall into New York's lap at 12th overall.
Both Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com and Peter Schrager of Fox Sports had Matthews falling to the Giants in recent mock drafts, although those fluctuate wildly. Matthews is from the same NFL bloodline as Pro Bowl cousin Clay (linebacker, Green Bay Packers) and Hall of Fame father Bruce (guard, Houston Texans/Tennessee Titans). As one might expect, he is one of the cleanest prospects in this year's draft.
From Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com:
Smart, tough, versatile franchise left tackle capable of playing all five positions on the line. Can plug into a starting lineup immediately and will play a long time at a consistently high level. One of the safest picks in the draft, Matthews' best position might even be center.
For the first round, New York's best-case scenario is the selection of Matthews at 12 overall. The Giants have already added Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, John Jerry and Charles Brown in free agency to give the offensive line an immediate boost, but the addition of Matthews would provide a long-term improvement. And considering New York's current state of flux, Matthews might also be a front-runner for a starting position as a rookie.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, in the video above, calls him a "blue chip" prospect.
If selected by the Giants, Matthews can join 2013 first-round selection Justin Pugh—who is also flexible enough to play multiple positions—as yet another key component around which New York's offense can rebuild.
Round 1 Worst Case: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
It is difficult to conjure a worst-case scenario for the first round. Draft busts are impossible to predict—for if they were predictable, they would not exist.
I'm not saying Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert is bound to bust, but his best fit may not be with the Giants. There is a good chance, however, that he is the best player available when the Giants pick at No. 12. Even if this is the case, it would be wise for New York to deviate from its usual draft strategy and pick a player at another position.
I say this because the Giants have no immediate need at cornerback. In fact, it is likely their strongest positional unit after the moves they've made in free agency this spring.
Yes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was locked up long-term to a five-year, $39 million deal, but Walter Thurmond is only with the team on a one-year, $3.5 million contract. Also take into account that Prince Amukamara's contract is up in a year's time. On top of that, Jayron Hosley is entering a make-or-break season. That is a lot of talent expected to be productive right away in 2014.
The only reason I consider Gilbert a worst-case first-round scenario is because he would face a stacked lineup in the Giants secondary. With the team looking to make an immediate turnaround, whoever the Giants select in the first round this year should start in Week 1, a la Justin Pugh in 2013.
Although Miller lauds Gilbert's playmaking ability in the video above, and even though Nawrocki specifically writes that the speedy corner (4.37 sec 40-yd) is "capable of stepping into the starting lineup from Day One," I still think his chances to do so as a Giant are slim.
Round 2 Best Case: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Perhaps many would consider the selection of North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron a better first-round scenario than this is a best-case second-round scenario, but I like Texas Tech's Jace Amaro.
I like even more that, in this scenario, that the Giants can wait to address the tight end position until the second round. It should be considered a luxury to spend a first-rounder on a skill position as specialized as tight end, and I don't suppose the Giants can afford that after a 7-9 season in 2013.
By waiting to draft Amaro, the Giants would still solve their starting tight end dilemma. He has fantastic size (6'5", 265) and outstanding athleticism.
Amaro was a top performer in six out of the seven workouts in which he participated at the NFL Scouting Combine. From the 40-yard dash (4.74 seconds) to the broad jump (118"), he set the pace for tight ends in this year's draft class.
Miller uses about half-a-dozen variations of descriptive term "athlete" when talking about Amaro in video above, also calling him "pro ready."
Nawrocki describes him as a "productive, finesse detached tight end"—in other words, a unique weapon for quarterback Eli Manning in the passing game for 2014.
Round 2 Worst Case: RB Tre Mason, Auburn
The 30th overall pick in the 2012 pick was Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, a player whose skills Giants head coach Tom Coughlin then described as "very important to us at this time," according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
With only 504 rushing yards in two years as a professional, Wilson has not been able to expand his production beyond the All-Pro (second team) season he had as a kick returner as a rookie. Rashad Jennings was acquired in free agency, reportedly to be the featured back. If Wilson returns, it is likely to be in a "different capacity," according to a tweet from Jordan Raanan of The Star Ledger.
The Giants should not look to redeem themselves for the Wilson pick by selecting a running back in the early rounds of the 2014 draft. If they do feel that pressure, Auburn's Tre Mason is probably an attractive candidate right now.
Mason proved he can be a workhorse and very productive at the college level. Matt Miller calls him this draft class' most game-ready running back, likening him to Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. Nawrocki likely agrees, writing that he has "the chops to make an impact as a rookie."
Mason is probably the ideal back to rebuild an offense around. However, New York is now committed to Jennings (four years, $10 million) in the backfield—and, still to some degree, Wilson as well.
The Giants can better use this pick to fill a position of immediate need, like tight end, and save the selection of a running back for one of the mid to late rounds of the draft. A solid back, such as Boston College's Andre Williams (whom Miller has mocked to the Giants in Round 5 of his latest mock), will certainly be there to be had.
Despite Mason's appeal as an ox-like runner, his selection would make for a worst-case second-round scenario.
Round 3 Best Case: C Weston Richburg, Colorado State
The Giants' biggest need of the draft is locating their starting center for the long term, as I'm not sure they did so in free agency by acquiring J.D. Walton.
Although Walton, who is signed to a two-year, $5 million contract, is fit to start if need be (36 career starts), it would be wise for New York to groom a young snapper. The team should target the best one available in this year's draft, and many believe that's Colorado State's Weston Richburg.
The team may be lucky enough to camp out on Richburg until the third round, making for an easy best-case scenario for that round.
In the video above, Miller compares Richburg to John Sullivan of the Minnesota Vikings—one of the most consistent centers in the league today. He even calls the 298-pounder a potential first-year starter. Nawrocki's assessment and Richburg's combine results were far less glowing.
The Giants can make the most of Walton's services next season (and maybe 2015 too) while Richburg readies himself as a rookie understudy. Even if he isn't an instant contributor, his eventual value could greatly exceed his 2014 draft position as a third-rounder.
When Richburg is good and ready to start, New York could field its most dynamic center since Super Bowl XLII champion Shaun O'Hara.
Round 3 Worst Case: LB Jordan Tripp, Montana
The Giants should not stretch thin the value of any of their first three picks, but that's exactly what they'd be doing if they selected Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp with their third-round pick.
Tripp was a productive college player but at a small school. Named All-Conference, All-American, you name it, Tripp put up exceptional defensive figures at Montana. He is the exact type of late-rising FCS-type that always appears to be worth the selection.
But the fact is that so much is unknown when selecting a small-school prospect. Can he perform similarly, for example, against much larger, faster talent? While every other draft pick is making one proverbial leap, these small-school players must make two massive bounds to make it at the NFL level.
That's not to say Tripp can't do it. But with so much uncertainty, it's simply not worth the third-round selection. At a position that is already seeing a diminishing snap count with the rise of nickel packages and five-defensive back sets, the Giants already have two quality, starting-caliber linebackers in Jon Beason and Jameel McClain.
And behind them, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams are sure to make a strong push for playing time. Even at the backup positions, we can expect a ferocious competition between Mark Herzlich and Allen Bradford in camp.
When you consider Nawrocki's not-so-riveting assessment of Tripp—"[a] competitive overachiever capable of earning a job as a backup"—this pick becomes significantly less attractive.
Selecting Tripp in the third round would be a tremendous reach and a potential worst-case scenario for that round.