Despite a strong free-agency spending spree that included inking 14 new players, New York still must address several positions, including tight end, guard, center, defensive tackle and defensive end.
Wide receiver is also considered an area of weakness that must be nurtured in the draft, though my opinion differs from the majority.
With all of these needs, Big Blue would do well for themselves to find a potential starter at one of the above positions after the fourth round.
Fortunately, Stork could be that player, as he has the talent and work ethic to be an NFL starting center, and he is projected to get drafted anywhere from the fifth round—per CBSSports.com—to the seventh round—as NFL.com predicts.
The only center the Giants currently have on their roster is newcomer J.D. Walton. The 27-year-old last played in a game in Week 4 of the 2012 season, when he suffered a severe ankle injury that has kept him out of action since.
Even when Walton was healthy, he was far from a quality starter. In 2010 and 2011, Walton played in all but one snap for the Denver Broncos, but registered woeful Pro Football Focus ratings (subscription required) of minus-15.9 and minus-31.9, respectively.
He was playing much better two seasons ago before he suffered the injury, producing a 5.1 rating in three-plus games. However, solid play in such a short sample size doesn’t erase two years of terrible production.
Therefore, drafting a center with starting-caliber potential makes sense, since Walton could very well be a short-term stopgap at the position.
Center is not a position that is normally addressed at the top of the draft. Only three—Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey and Travis Frederick—were drafted in the first round over the last four years. In 2012, the first center didn’t come off the board until early in the fourth round.
This year doesn’t look to be any different, as the top center, which is currently Weston Richburg, isn’t projected to go until late in the second round.
Stork falls behind Richburg and two other players mainly due to his lack of straight-line speed and quickness. In terms of the latter, he is not particularly fluid in changing direction and doesn’t move great laterally. As for the former, all you have to do is look at his unofficial 40-yard dash time of 5.25 seconds from Florida State’s pro day on March 18.
The 23-year-old, though, makes up for these deficiencies with good functional strength and excellent size. He also has plenty of intangibles, as Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com explains in his analysis of the former Seminole.
Maintains good positioning and can slide, shuffle and seal off defenders. … Uses his hands well to control defenders. Understands angles and leverage. … Good competitor. … Good football intelligence. Lunchpail worker. The game is important to him.
All of these attributes, which have very little, if anything, to do with sheer athletic talent, were a big reason that Stork won the Rimington Trophy last season, which is awarded annually to college football’s top center. He was also a key member of a Florida State offense that ranked sixth in the country in total yards per game and second in points per game.
Stork also quietly brings another positive to the table—he has experience at right guard. During his freshman and sophomore seasons, he played eight games, combined, at this position.
With a 6’4”, 315-pound frame, Stork is certainly big enough to hold down right guard in the NFL if injuries or poor play force this scenario.
Without putting unnecessary expectations on the youngster, Stork bears some resemblance to Shaun O’Hara, one of the best centers in Giants history.
If the Giants draft a center, who provides the best value?
O’Hara’s deficiency was a lack of size, not speed or quickness like Stork, but he was also a player that overcame his shortcomings through strong work ethic and a solid football IQ.
Despite a successful college career at Rutgers, which included two first-team All-Big East selections, O’Hara went undrafted in 2000. The Cleveland Browns ended up signing him as a free agent and he spent four years with the team. He didn’t blossom, however, until he landed with the Giants in 2004.
O’Hara started 97 of a possible 112 games in his seven-year stint with Big Blue, racking up three Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl trophy in 2007.
If Stork reaches the levels O’Hara attained, the Giants will have themselves an exceptional late round steal. It is safe to assume, though, that Stork can at least be a solid backup who can fill multiple positions.
However, he also could be another O’Hara, which makes him someone New York must draft with one of their three picks in the fifth and sixth rounds.
All round projections, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of CBSSports.com.