NFL Draft 2011: The New York Giants' Top Needs
Despite a 10-6 season, the New York Giants found themselves out of the playoff mix for a second consecutive season.
The G-Men, who haven't had a losing record since Eli Manning took over the helm full time, have a team that is consistently decimated by injuries, making depth extra important. They will look to add depth and potential starters at problem areas throughout the upcoming draft.
Here are the top positions the Giants need to upgrade in order to return to playoff glory.
It's easier than having a separate slide for OLB and MLB.
The Giants' linebackers were again their weakness, and they will need to focus on that in the draft. Mathias Kiwanuka's injury and transition to defensive end hampered an already thin unit, and Keith Bulluck looks like he may have lost a step since his days in Tennessee. Clint Sintim has failed to step up and claim the job, and the linebacking corps is the one area holding the Giants back from featuring a truly dominant defense.
They won't be in the running for a guy like Von Miller, but they may be able to grab UCLA's Akeem Ayers in the first round or trade back a few picks to grab Georgia's Justin Houston.
Cut it, slice it and dice it anyway you want, the Giants' special teams were again atrocious.
I'll get on to the other areas in a moment, but the punting game really killed the Giants. Their rookie punter, Matt Dodge, struggled with consistency, fumbled snaps and placements. His punt to DeSean Jackson will live in infamy in the minds of Giants fans, who long for the days of Jeff Feagles.
Again, Dodge was a rookie, so it's not surprising he made mistakes. Expect the Giants to bring in a punter as a free agent, possibly Miami's Matt Bosher (a combo kicker/punter) to challenge him for the spot.
Without Domenik Hixon, the Giants' return game was one of the worst in the league. They got no help from Darrius Reynaud, and while third-string running back Danny Ware provided a spark in the return game, nobody the Giants put back there came close to replacing Hixon.
The Giants will be getting Hixon back next season, but he's coming off a torn ACL, and they don't know how quickly he'll get back to full speed. It's important the Giants use a late-round pick on a speedster, something they've neglected to do in the draft for years.
Guys like Titus Young, Demarcus Van Dyke or Andre Holmes (Hillsdale) would fit perfectly for them.
Many fans have called for the Giants to add depth to the offensive line for the past couple of seasons, but a quick review shows the Giants are better off than many fans think. They used a second-round pick on William Beatty last season, and Kevin Boothe has shown flashes that he can be a quality starter.
But the Giants' line is aging, and they would be smart to address it—just not in the first round.
Lineman are fickle picks; many top picks fizzle out, and many of the top lineman are found in the later rounds. So much of the position is about coaching and perfecting technique. The Giants should scour the later rounds to pick up a big body, and let offensive line coach Pat Flaherty work with him.
Kevin Boss is a nice role player, but the Giants should at least look into the tight end market during the draft.
Boss has struggled with injuries and disappears at times during the game. H-back Travis Beckum is not polished or big enough to handle the grind week-in and week-out from the tight end position and is better used as a receiving option out of the backfield or when two-tight end sets are used.
Kyle Rudolph is the top tight end on the list, but unless the Giants are ready to use a first-round pick on him (which they shouldn't), they won't get him. D.J. Williams from Arkansas will be available in the second round, but again, it's not an important enough need for the Giants to waste such a high pick.
Look for the Giants to maybe go after Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks in the fourth round. Kendricks is big (6-foot-4, 241 pounds) with good hands and good speed after the catch. He's coming off a big season, where he was named first-team All-Big Ten, an AP second-team All-American and a SI.com first-team All-American.