When asked if the team’s activity in free agency—per Inside Football, the Giants have so far signed 16 new players in 2014— had any influence on how the team planned to draft, general manager Jerry Reese told reporters:
The draft is what it is; it stands alone. We try to take the best players we can in the draft and really, in free agency you try to fill some holes, but in the draft you just try to pick the best players.
Still, it would be rather foolish if the Giants were to take five receivers in a row if it just so happened that those were the five “best players” when the Giants’ turn came to make a pick, not with so many other needs on the roster.
So where are those opportunities where the Giants might be able to marry need and value? Here’s my list of what I think are the five most glaring.
If the season were to start Thursday, the Giants still don’t have a proven starting tight end, a big problem for an offense.
The question, though, is what kind of tight end they might be looking for to fit new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system?
“Everybody needs a playmaking tight end,” Reese said when asked about the position.
And what about the Giants’ two youngsters—Adrien Robinson, whom Reese once famously described as the “JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) of tight ends” given Robinson’s physical traits, and Larry Donnell, an undrafted free agent who, like Robinson, is entering his third season?
A year ago, the Giants made a run on defensive tackles, both in free agency and in the draft. However, the current roster, which will be missing Linval Joseph (Vikings) and Shaun Rogers (unsigned), leaves the Giants with four defensive tackles who have NFL experience.
Of those four, two (Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson) are 30 years old or older. And one of the younger guys (Markus Kuhn), has played in just 183 defensive snaps since being drafted by the Giants in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, this due to an ACL injury suffered in his rookie season that ate into his second season.
Depth made a big (no pun intended) difference for the Giants last year at this position, which is why I’d be stunned if it’s not addressed at some point in this draft.
The departure of longtime defensive end and team co-captain Justin Tuck was perhaps the biggest surprise of the free-agency activity. It also creates a ripple effect on the depth.
Jason Pierre-Paul, who elected not to have surgery on his injured shoulder, said he feels great and is on track toward picking up where he left off following his breakout 2011 season. Will he be able to withstand that first hit? And if he has a big season, will he price himself out of the Giants’ range after this year?
Damontre Moore, who last year flashed as a pass-rusher, did elect to have offseason shoulder surgery, per The Star-Ledger, to address a problem that first began in the preseason. How much will his rehab cut into his much-needed training to become a three-down player after receiving just 34 snaps against the run in his rookie season?
Mathias Kiwanuka, in his first full season back at his native defensive end since 2010, struggled with the one-on-one battles. As a result, he was the 25th-ranked 4-3 defensive end, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), out of those who took 60 percent of their team’s defensive snaps.
Lastly, free-agent acquisition Robert Ayers, who projects to be Tuck’s replacement in the starting lineup, believes he’s versatile enough to do all of the things that Tuck used to do for the Giants—play on the end, play on the outside and stand up. However, Ayers still finished seven spots lower than Tuck’s seventh place finish in PFF’s year-end rankings of 4-3 defensive ends.
I think the Giants will try to get a low-round defensive end/defensive tackle candidate to help shore up the depth along the line.
You just knew that general manager Jerry Reese was going to be asked about the offensive line in his predraft press conference.
“We feel like we’ve upgraded some spots and got a little bit younger in some spots, too,” he said.
But have they done enough?
Projected starting center J.D. Walton, at 27 years old, is younger than former starter David Baas (32 years old). However, Walton, who started 36 straight games for the Denver Broncos before landing on injured reserve after Week 4 of the 2012 season with an ankle injury, hasn’t been heard from since.
Geoff Schwartz, 27 years old, is projected to replace 30-year-old Kevin Boothe at left guard. Lastly, a pair of 27-year-olds, John Jerry and Charles Brown, are vying to replace the retired David Diehl (33 years old), whose versatility allowed the coaches to plug him in at either guard or tackle.
On paper, it looks promising, but when you look at the young depth currently on the roster, it’s not necessarily the most settling of pictures.
James Brewer had a golden opportunity to seize a starting job, but his inconsistent play likely means he’ll have to fight for a roster spot.
Eric Herman, one of two seventh-round picks last year, didn’t get a chance to join the 53-man roster until the very last week of the season, when the salary-cap-strapped Giants were out of options.
Even the projected backup center, 30-year-old Dallas Reynolds, who started 14 games for the Eagles in 2012, might not be the long-term answer at that position.
With left tackle Will Beatty (broken leg) uncertain to be ready for the start of camp and right guard Chris Snee also a question mark to make it through an entire 16-game schedule, two offensive linemen could very well be on the agenda for the Giants in this draft.
Although the Giants remain optimistic about having David Wilson to complement Rashad Jennings, even Reese admitted that Wilson is “really kind of a bonus for us if we can get him back.”
With that said, it would be a shock if the Giants don’t address running back in this draft, even with Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox under contract, because of the pounding running backs typically take.
While a rookie running back probably won’t see much action right away—not even Wilson was a Day 1 starter as rookie despite being a first-round pick—it would be wise to have another option.