Winners and Losers from New York Giants' Draft
The NFL draft affects more than just the players selected. The incoming rookies are wedged onto crammed rosters, affecting established players, coaches and executives around the league.
The New York Giants' selections in 2015 will have multiple ripple effects—some positive, some negative. Some Giants will benefit from the team's additions, while others could be in danger of losing their jobs.
The following slides will highlight six of New York's affected parties: three that are "winners," two that are "losers" and one that is still up in the air.
Giants' 2015 Draft Picks
|7||Bobby Hart||OL||Florida State|
Winner: QB Eli Manning
Eli Manning tried to give the politically correct, ambiguous answer when talking to Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post about the Giants' ninth-overall pick last week, but his intention was clear to anyone familiar with the team's needs heading into the draft.
"As a quarterback, you never complain about more offensive linemen or receivers or running backs or tight ends," Manning told the New York Post.
After running for his life throughout the 2013 season, Manning enjoyed improved protection last year. In turn, his touchdown total swelled from 18 to 30 and his interception total dipped from 27 to 14. Manning also surpassed 4,000 yards for the first time since 2011 and posted a career-best completion percentage (63.1).
Still, there's room for improvement in Year 2 under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. If Manning reaches new heights as a 34-year-old, however, it'll be behind flawless protection.
That's why the Giants finalized their offensive line with the selection of Miami's Ereck Flowers with the ninth overall pick.
Flowers, along with Justin Pugh (Pick No. 19, 2013) and Weston Richburg (Pick No. 43, 2014), will form New York's young core of blockers, which is to be complemented by able-bodied veterans Will Beatty and Geoff Schwartz in 2015.
Loser: OL Justin Pugh
Players slated to line up opposite Ereck Flowers in 2015 are the real losers, but for the sake of keeping this list in-house, let's focus on Justin Pugh's plight.
Since being drafting (Pick No. 19, 2013), pundits have pinned Pugh as an interior lineman due to his short arms. After holding up for two seasons as the team's starting right tackle, the Syracuse product was ticked off by all the talk of his inevitable transition to guard.
"They keep telling me I'm the right tackle for the New York Giants. I have no intention of ... I really don't like that question [of moving to guard] because I came here to play tackle," Pugh told Jordan Raanan of NJ Advance Media after the 2014 season. "If they ask me to move, they ask me to move. You guys keep asking me if I want to move to guard. I think I've done a pretty good job at right tackle, so I plan on staying there."
Pugh must have caught wind of New York's plan to upgrade his position, because his tone had changed quite a bit by late April.
"I’m loving my time at right tackle," Pugh told Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. "But I don’t mind playing guard. I want to win. I want to go to the playoffs, and that is my priority this year. So wherever that puts me and whatever the best five guys are, that’s OK."
Now that Flowers is in the mix, Pugh's days as a right tackle are probably numbered. Flowers (6'6", 329 lbs) is two inches taller and 28 pounds heavier than Pugh, making him a more of a prototypical option to block on the edge.
Everyone's a winner if Pugh switches positions and the Giants make the playoffs, but he'll be a loser during potential contract negotiations in 2017, when he finds out how much harder it is to get paid as a guard. Among the top 200 average salaries in 2015 according to Spotrac, 25 belong to tackles and only nine belong to guards.
Winner: Giants Run Defense
In Week 10 of the 2014 season, the Giants surrendered 350 rushing yards to the Seattle Seahawks, as running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson carved up New York's defense with their legs. The 38-17 loss to the Seahawks was just a snapshot of a season in which Big Blue allowed a league-worst 4.9 yards per rush attempt.
While the Giants added to the offense in the first round, they came back to address the run defense on Day 2. And they did so in two very different ways.
First, New York traded up to the first pick in the second round (No. 33 overall), which they used to select Alabama's Landon Collins, a 228-pound human missile at safety. For the Giants, Collins will make a noticeable difference against the run, though his pass coverage as a rookie will be suspect.
The trade for the Collins' pick cost New York its fourth-round selection and one of its seventh-rounders (to Tennessee).
Then, a round later, the Giants picked UCLA's Owamagbe Odighizuwa, a defensive end described as an "absolute Greek God with the pads off" by NFL Media's Lance Zierlein. At 6'3" and 267 pounds, Odighizuwa's expertise is playing the run. He'll help stop the bleeding on the ground before he becomes New York's next star pass-rusher.
After fielding the seventh-best pass defense in 2014, New York's selections of Collins and Odighizuwa both seemed to be based on what they bring to the table as run defenders.
Loser: S Cooper Taylor
All the talk about the need for a safety to step in or step up must have excited New York's inexperienced few. A pair of former fifth-round selections—Nat Berhe (2014) and Cooper Taylor (2013)—had a legitimate shot to be the starting duo before the draft.
However, now that Landon Collins has been added to the mix, Taylor looks like the odd man out.
Collins and Taylor are the same type of safety. Both players push 230 pounds and could pass as linebackers, making them most valuable close to the line of scrimmage. Injuries have kept Taylor from making an impact in his first two seasons with the Giants, so Collins is likely to leap him for the starting strong safety role.
While none of the three is a promising free safety, Berhe fits the mold the best at only 6'0" and 194 pounds. Cornerback Prince Amukamara praised Berhe's speed last month, likening him to a former Giant who had eight interceptions playing free safety in 2012.
"Nat's very fast so he can go from hash to hash similar to what Stevie's strength is," Amukamara told Nick Powell of NJ Advance Media, comparing Berhe to Stevie Brown, who recently signed with the Houston Texans.
If Berhe is injured, or not as spectacular in the starting defense as he was on special teams during his rookie season, free agent acquisition Josh Gordy or another fifth-round selection—2015 pick Mykkele Thompson, of Texas—might be more likely to replace him than Taylor. Gordy has the most NFL experience at the position and is New York's only player on the current roster listed as a true free safety.
Perhaps Tayloer finds the field in some three-safety sets (if they still exist in the post-Perry Fewell era), but his path to a starting job is now long and winding to say the least.
Winner: DC Steve Spagnuolo
Parallels can be drawn between Steve Spagnuolo's defensive personnel in 2007 and what the Giants have on the roster after this year's draft.
When Spagnuolo came to New York for his first stint as defensive coordinator, he inherited a future Hall of Famer in Michael Strahan, as well as All-Pro Osi Umenyiora and 2005 third-round selection Justin Tuck. With these three star defensive ends serving as his cornerstones, Spagnuolo built a Super Bowl-winning defense.
Umenyiora was Spags' speed-rusher, relentless in his upfield pursuit of the quarterback and timely with a momentous strip-sack. Strahan was the reliable veteran, tested in run defense and notorious for his ability to get after the passer. Tuck was a young contributor off the bench who produced in favorable matchups, created by a crafty D-coordinator.
Now, after the 2015 draft and the third-round selection of UCLA's Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the Giants have a similar trio in place.
Jason Pierre-Paul must step up and become Spagnuolo's new Strahan during the defensive coordinator's second stint with the team. And JPP's not the only one with huge shoes to fill; Damontre Moore has to become the playmaker Umenyiora once was. ESPN's Dan Graziano reported last month that Spagnuolo "loves Moore on tape and can't wait to get his hands on him."
The comparisons between Odighizuwa and Tuck have flown for a while now. If Pierre-Paul and Moore fill the previously described roles, it'll be interesting to see how Spagnuolo plans to unleash his young weapon along the defensive line.
Too Soon to Tell: GM Jerry Reese
It's too soon to tell whether general manager Jerry Reese is a winner or a loser, but, in the meantime, we can draw a couple conclusions about his selections in the 2015 NFL draft.
First, this draft was Reese's most blatant departure from his usual best-player-available strategy. The Giants didn't flinch when Brandon Scherff was selected, as they stuck with the O-line position and, instead, picked Ereck Flowers, who they believe is the next best offensive lineman in the class. A lot of outlets and experts, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, considered Flowers a late-first-round prospect.
Reese continued this aggressive pursuit of players who fill team needs by trading up to the first pick in the second round, giving away a fourth and a seventh in the process. With the selection, the Giants added safety Landon Collins to their most depleted positional unit. Another hawkish decision was Reese's snaring of Texas' Mykkele Thompson in the fifth round—WalterFootball.com writes that no one considered him "a draftable prospect."
Some of Reese's picks are primed for an instant impact, others will need time to develop. Immediate expectations are erratic, and only time will allow us to evaluate Reese's work accurately.
Kevin Boilard writes about the New York Giants at Bleacher Report.