New York Giants Position-by-Position Review & 2011 Mock Draft 2.0

David RushCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2011

New York Giants Position-by-Position Review & 2011 Mock Draft 2.0

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    We hit you with this the first time around when the New York Football Giants were 8-4; things were going along swimmingly, and the Big Blue world was filled with reason for boundless optimism. 

    A little more than three months later vigilant followers of the G-Men are just beginning to recover from the bitter sting of yet another dismal end to the regular season.

    That onto itself is reason enough to go back and take a look at our first week December breakdown.

    Press it up against an up-to-date positional review. From there, revisit draft options that will either breath new life into glaring dead spots, or in the alternative, provide length in places where the team looked deeper than the deepest blue sea to begin the 2010 season, only to find themselves scouring local street corners to fill critical roster spots for the all important stretch run.

     

     

    Warning: While there's a ton of good film available on the Draft Prospects, a lot of it is accompanied by some pretty questionable music choices.

    Consider the mute button, 

    DR

The Big Easy

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    2/23/09 QB: Funny how differently things can look after a promising season goes to pot. At 8-4, Eli Manning was on a run, had thrown for 3,000 yards and 23 T.D.'s.

    He'd also thrown 17 picks by then, but in the midst of a feel-good run that would lead the team to the precipice of not only a playoff spot but possible top seed in the NFC, a lot of those errant throws were written off to inopportune tips or just plain poor route running. 

    By season's end, though followers of the team were less forgiving and the more straightforward lament "that god damn Manning is just throwing too many bleeping interceptions," was frequently heard throughout the badly downtrodden, Big Blue universe.  

    That having been said, despite the additional eight picks that didn't help a bit down the December stretch, Eli still threw for 4,000 yards and 31 TDs in 2010, (to go along with his 30 combined turnovers.) 

    Undoubtedly something will have to give in 2011. Either Coach Coughlin and his staff will get the team to hang onto the ball like their professional lives depend on it, or the changes made in the ensuing off season should include a new set of whistle blowers as Eli Manning is already holding onto way too much Giant green for him to be going anyplace in the foreseeable future.  

    Note: Even with that being said Giant Owner John Mara is already talking contract extension with Head Coach Tom Coughlin. What that means in terms of expectations for the team is hard to define, especially if you're amongst the fan base that plunked down tens of thousands for PAL's. 

     

    12/8/2010 QB: A team's got to click on all cylinders to win an NFL Championship, but it all starts with the helmeted man under center. Eli Manning has improved dramatically over the course of his seven seasons in N.Y., his game savvy is outstanding, pocket presence as cool as it gets, and with an enhanced stealth of weapons at his disposal Manning's production—albeit with a few too many INTs thus far in 2010—is particularly impressive on a team that at least in part puts significant emphasis on the running game. 

    He doesn't miss any time either, though if one had to venture a guess Sage Rosenfels seems like a pretty capable back up. 

    Draft need on a scale of 1-10: Two

    At a glance we'd say for training camp and preseason fodder only, (See Andre Woodsen & Rhett Bomar), but this year, the Giants might want to think out of the box a bit and go for a young QB with leg—someone who might fit a change of pace bill on third and short. 

     

    As far as potential picks go, we'll stick with our possible late round choices from 12/8.

A Little Wildcat Anyone?

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    Tyrod Taylor out of Virginia Tech, 6'1", 205 lbs, 4.5 40. Mobile, athletic, can make some throws—up to about a 65 percent completion rate in 2010— hurls a decent long ball and has duality written all over him.

    Is he the next Brad Smith? Probably not, but we can at least see Taylor playing some wideout in a pinch. 

     

    Colin Kaepernick, Nevada, 6'6", 215, 4.7 40: Feel like we've been watching this kid forever, but that's only because he was already out on the field as a compelling freshman getting tangled up in crazy high scoring affairs with Boise State and the like.

    Superb runner, 1,184 yards in 2010, would probably make a great H-Back. Has a huge arm—2,830 yards, 65 percent, 20 TDs, seven INTs— albeit with questionable mechanics. Excellent game savvy. Protects the ball.

    If he falls to Round 6, which he probably won't, this would be a real back up prospect for the G's to groom.  
         

The All-Powerful O-Line

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2/23/2011 O Line: Residual to all the injuries things couldn't have gotten any hairier for this group, though anyone watching had to come away impressed with how well the Giant offensive line coped from the opening bell onward.

    It's a tribute to the talent and depth that's been accrued over the past several seasons, and it would take the ugliest example of black cat luck for last year's run of serious injuries to manifest itself once again in 2011.

    One position that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later though is center. O'Hara could be done, even when he made it back last year, the line struggled to run block, and the choice to supplant Seubert in the middle backfired on the Giants over the last several weeks of the season.

    Note: Recent reports also indicate that Seubert's season ending knee injury and pursuant surgery render his status for the 2011 season questionable.

    12/8/2010 O-Line: They keep Eli erect, only 12 sacks this year, none in the last five games, and continue to punch wholes for the two-headed tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.  

    This year, it's been all the more amazing with injuries to center Sean O'Hara—eight weeks in total with no respite in sigh.

    Left tackle Diehl—three weeks, though his return is beginning to appear imminent.

    Backup center Adam Koets—out for the season.

    Kevin Boothe—first eight weeks of the season on the PUP list but playing well now at left guard.

    William Beatty—out for the first 10 weeks of the season with a broken foot, playing well now at left tackle and virtual behemoth Shawn Andrews, who hung in there for the first half of the year, even showed signs of returning to dominant All-Pro form, only to once again be saddled with the kind of back pain that forced him to sit two full seasons in Philly.

    (You take all that into account and come to two very distinct conclusions; the Giants were deep in capable offensive lineman to start the season, or at least training camp, and O-line coach Pat Flaherty is just about the best in the business.) 

    Otherwise they've got a nice looking kid, (not literally, but in terms of tenacious playing style), Mitch Petrus, out of Arkansas who appears as if he could handle a guard or center spot down the road.

    Right guard Chris Snee is a young All-Pro, and 31-year-old Kareem McKenzie—after having dropped 25 lbs. this past off season—is still playing a better than serviceable right tackle. So, it's not like this group must be altogether revamped in the immediate future. 

    Not revamped, but the Giants will look to retool a bit, find another hammer who fits in here and adds to what turned out to be a very precarious depth chart in 2010. 

    Draft Need on a scale of 1-10: Seven. 

Will the Giants Pounce on This Heralded Twin?

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    Mike Pouncey, G/C Florida, 6'4", 310, 4.95 40:  Similarly gifted twin brother of Steeler center Maurkice Pouncy. Second-team All-SEC selection, he started every game at center in 2010 and made 41 total career starts between center and guard with four more on the defensive line.

    He was part of an offensive unit that paved the way for four 300-yard rushing efforts in 2010, one of only six BCS teams to accomplish that feat. Great athlete, strong run blocker, showed great quickness in pass protection as well.

    Had a few errant snaps early in 2010, but that's just about the only knock against him—which is negligible.

    A projected first-round pick, top of the second round latest, the Giants would have to really love Pouncy to grab him at 19.   

    Stefen Wisniewski, G/C, Penn State, 6'3", 306, 5.05 40: Wisniewski is probably the best natural center in this draft class, and with the possible exception of Pouncey, the best fit at the position at the pro level.

    He's got a sturdy base and really locks into defenders. He is quick out of his stance and shows above-average agility making him a fit for any system. He also shows a good bit of smarts making him capable of reading blitzes and calling protections at the pro level. His uncle was a long-time All-Pro center for the Raiders, and Wisniewski seems to have inherited the family talent.

    Will probably fall into the second round; could be there when the Giants pick 48.  

    John Moffit, G/C, Wisconsin, 6'5", 320, 5.15 40: A bit of a project, but big John Moffitt out of ground-it-out-factory Wisconsin could be a nice depth player with upside potential. Two-time All Big Ten first teamer, played a year at center before moving over to guard the last two seasons.

    Would make for a nice fourth or fifth round pick.

     

    Offensive Tackle: There are five offensive tackles currently rated in the top 30 or so available in the 2011 draft. Anthony Costanzo out of B.C., has gotten most of the early hype, but right behind him, you have 6'5" Tyron Smith out of Southern Cal, 6'8" Nate Solder out of Colorado, 6'7" glass eater, Gabe Carimi out of Wisconsin and 6'5", three-year SEC starter out of Mississippi State, Derek Sherrod. 

    We really like Carimi, but at 19, all of the aforementioned are reach picks for the Giants.

     

    Joseph Barksdale, OT, LSU,  6'5", 315, 4.9 40:  In every draft, there's at least a couple of kids with all the talent of those more highly rated at their respective positions, and that's how we see LSU product Joseph Barksdale.

    He's a powerhouse with long arms, great technique, lateral mobility and superior hand strength. More so projected as a right tackle a year behind Reggie MacKenzie, this kid could be a great bookend to Will Beatty for years to come. 

    If the Giants don't go after Pouncy or Wisniewski higher up, Barksdale could be a third or fourth round steal.  

     

Who's the Boss?

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    2/24/2011: Of course, we still like Kevin Boss, the guy's got guts spilling out of his guts, but a couple of critical bonehead plays and inopportune drops later have us hoping he'll come into 2011 sharp and mentally ready to play at a high level throughout.

    He's by far the Giants best screen option, a load to bring down when he gets a head of steam going, and it would be nice to see the team get a lot more creative as far as incorporating Boss into the passing scheme so he doesn't have to get his head torn off every time Eli tosses one his way. 

    Bear Pascoe did everything the team asked of him in 2010 and should have dibs on the fullback spot heading into 2011.

    Beckum can get open, and he's got the good hands but may have to find another team to play for before he gets involved in more than a handful of plays.   

    Too many holes elsewhere to be a position of need.  

     

    12/8/10: Kevin Boss is one superb tight end, but the guy takes heavy, heavy shots on a regular basis, and without him, the Giants are down to Bear Pascoe, who's proven himself to be a pretty able blocker & pass catcher out of the backfield in 2010, and Travis Beckum, a seemingly capable H-Back/Receiver type who rarely if ever sees the ball.    

    Draft Need on a scale of 1-10: Six 

Catch a Falling Hokie?

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    2/24/2010: We can see the Giants grabbing 6'5", 267 lb. Andre Smith out of Va. Tech in one of the later rounds.

    He's got reasonable speed for a man his size, 4.80 40, soft hands, 20 catches in 2011 and the three-year starter is unquestionably an imposing blocker. Can drive, seal and pull, even pass protect off the edge.

    Tough physical matchup for defenses, and that projects on a pro level as well. Good contributor on special teams. Would be an ideal bookend to Boss in a two-tight end set. 

    Worth a fifth-round pick, could ascend the board for any team in real need of a blocking tight end. 

     

    12/08/2010—Charlie Gantt, TE, Michigan State, 6'5", 248, 4.80 40:  We don't love Gantt, but he'll be there late, is a serviceable run blocker, has soft hands and a bit of speed. 

Will Ahmad Bradshaw Be Back?

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    2/24/2011—Running Back: A strong possibility exists that Ahmad Bradshaw will not be back with the Giants in 2011.

    Not because of the six fumbles, I'm pretty sure the Giants would be willing to work their way through the issue with Bradshaw in 2011 and beyond if given the opportunity but more so because the demand for his services figures to be heavy, and frankly, there are other offenses out there that would do a better job of utilizing his open-field talents.

    At least one team amongst the likes of the Saints, Patriots, Chargers, maybe the Packers figure to lay a serious three-year deal on Bradshaw, and the Giants may be hesitant to match after back-to-back, offseason foot and ankle surgeries.  

    If that's the case, the G Men will still have Jacobs, should give Danny Ware a shot and figure to draft a back in the second or third round. 

    If they are able to re-sign Bradshaw, the team may still look at a third-down back with pass catching and kick return skills. 

     

    12/08/2010—Running Back: Clearly a rich spot for the G Men with Bradshaw having emerged as one of the league's best, (1,013 yards at the 12-game mark) and Brandon Jacobs back to running like, well, Brandon Jacobs.

    Danny Ware's a nice third back or could be if he ever got on the field, but if the Giants have one truly critical need, it's a great return man, and they should be scouring the draft boards for a Leon Washington type, a superb receiver/returner who can turn a game on a dime. (They can also fill the kick return need with a dual skill player at Wide Receiver or Cornerback.) 

    Draft Need on a scale of 1-10: Six 

DeMarco Murray Could Fit Either Bill

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    DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma, 6'1", 214, 4.4 40: Solid ball carrier with excellent speed. Murray profiles as much more than a third-down back. Soft hands, best pass catching back to come out of the draft in a long time—69 grabs for 595 yards in 2010—serious kick return skills.

    Great third or fourth-round pick for the Giants if he's still on the boards. 

You've Been Quizzed!

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    JacQuizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State, 5'7", 195, 4.49 40: Teams looking for a feature back will probably shy away from Rodgers because of his size, but if he slips to the third round, he could be an ideal fit for the Giants.

    A game breaker with great hands, Rodgers is one of those touchdown's-waiting-to-happen types that would disappear through holes created by the Big Blue front five and enjoy the luxury of wide open spaces in the secondary off single coverage.

    One-thousand-four-hundred-seventy-one combined rush/catch yards in 2010 with 17 TD's. Just the solution to the G's kick return woes as well.   

Noel Is Devine—However Far Down on the Draft Boards

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    Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia, 5'8", 175, 4.34 40: This kid is just a football player, smallish, but runs hard, can break at any moment, soft hands and another blazing mighty mite you'd love to see returning kicks.

    We liked him as a third or fourth-rounder. Most of the boards have him as a five or six now. It's the same nonsense that dropped Ray Rice and Maurice Jones Drew down the board in their draft years.

    Small can be huge in the NFL. Devine projects as a Darren Sproles-type and what NFL team wouldn't expend a mid-level pick on the Charger flyer knowing what they do now. 

The Fleet Receiving Corps

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    2/24/2010 Wide Receiver: Even though he's coming off a pretty serious knee injury, you've got to figure the Giants will make a full fledged effort to bring back Eli Manning's third-down security blanket, Steve Smith. 

    Like Bradshaw, Smith will be in demand elsewhere, but he is the perfect possession complement to burners Nicks and Manningham, and in the Giants pass-happy scheme of things, he is just too valuable an asset to let go of.

    Ramses Barden, 6'6", looked like he was ready to take a big step up last year as well, and if the Giants can get all four of these guys on the field at the same time in 2011, they might be able to do the same kind of damage as the big four—Driver, Jones, Nelson & Jennings—did for Green Bay during their season ending run in 2010.

    If Smith re-ups, this is strictly a late lookout for a kick returner type.   

     

    12/08/10 Wide Receiver: Even with their best return man/capable receiver, Domenick Hixon, out before training camp opened, the Giants were still jammed with a virtual embarrassment of riches at wideout to begin the 2010 season.

    Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham could be the league's best young trio of WRs and on the rare occasions he managed to get on the field 6'6", second-year man, Ramses Barden, showed flashes as well. 

    All that and a hill of beans didn't amount to much when the injury bug hit the Giant wideouts in full with Derek Hagen, Devin Thomas and Michael Clayton recruited off any variety of NFL related scrap heaps just to get a sufficient number of pass catchers on the field much less keep up the semi-torrid pace set earlier in the season. 

    Good spot for a neophyte receiver, a burner with upside and serious return skills. 

    Draft need on a scale of 1-10: Four

If Not JacQuizz Rodgers How about His Brother James?

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    James Rodgers, WR/PR/KR, Oregon State, 5'7", 185, 4.38 40: Like his brother JacQuizz, James can burn it up on all fronts though he'll likely drop down the board due to broken leg that short circuited his 2010 season.

    2009?

    Ninety-one catches for 1034 yards, 58 rushes for 303 yards, nearly 30 yards per kick return. He's a fit for the Giants at the four or five spot, though another team in need of a versatile smurf might snag him higher up. 

Late-Round Receiving Depth from Boise State

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    Austin Pettis, WR, Boiste State, 6'3", 201, 4.56 40: The scouts will come up with every reason to downgrade Pettis. Lacks great speed, won't be a huge downfield threat, but watch him play, and you'll know at once this kid will compete and thrive in the NFL. Nice depth player who can come in and catch balls with just a bit of grooming. 

    Titus Young, WR, Boise State, 5'11", 170, 4.34 40: Another guy who will drop because of his size, Titus Young appears to have more than a little bit of DeSean Jackson in him—separation speed galore, soft hands a real touchdown maker.

    Monster kick return potential. Would be a superb fourth-rounder if he drops that far. 

The D Line

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    2/23/2010 Defensive Line: Played the run pretty well all season but simply could not generate a pass rush with them down four when it counted over the last five or six games.

    There was a lot of Umenyiora hype in 2011 over his tipped ball sacks, but if he had two or three takedowns all year as a result of bodily contact, we'd be surprised. Justin Tuck, on the other hand, was consistently brilliant—48 tackles, 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and has emerged as one of the top defensive ends in all of football.

    Rookie Jason Pierre Paul showed flashes in 2010, but that won't be enough in 2011. Kiwanuka led the team in sacks early, but no one knows if he'll make it back from a bulging disk/neck injury or if the Giants will look to re-sign him.

    Barry Cofield is another Giant free agent and will get a decent-sized contract offer out of someone. We liked the look of East Carolina rookie Linval Joseph but who knows how ready he'll be in 2011 after the sparse playing time he received in 2010.  

    Defensive line is still an area of strength for the Giants but not to the extent we perceived it before the season-ending collapse.    

     

    Note: Most recent report is Mathias Kiwanuka did not require surgery on his herniated disk and while he still has not been cleared for strenuous physical activity it is an indication he will be able to play football in 2011.

     

     

    12/08/2010 Defensive Line: All you need to know about this power spot for the Giants is impressive 2010 draft pick out of East Carolina, Linval Joseph, can't even find his way onto the game day active roster and ever improving rover and former first-round pick out of Boston College, Mathias Kiwanuka, (free agent in 2011), has been out since Week 4. 

    And they still have the best defensive line in the NFL by a fairly wide margin playing the run and rushing the passer with great efficiency. 

    There's really no draft need here, but if you're looking for a crazy late-round flyer how about Cedric Thornton, DE/DT, Central Arkansas, 6'4", 295, 5.10 40—reasonably dominant at the small-school level he's seen as a potential mid-rounder by some. Giants might be interested if he dropped to seven or even fell out as a coming free agent.       

A Giant Need for Impact Linebackers

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    2/24/2011 Linebacker: An area of need has become a source of near desperation for a team that requires at least one impact linebacker via the draft.

    Fortunately for the Giants, the 2011 pickings come with impressive depth at both outside linebacker positions, and the team should at least be able to partly remedy their shortcomings across the one-time Big Blue stronghold on April 29th.

    Another potential source of upgrade may come from within, again in the form of 2011 free-agent Mathias Kiwanuka. Few players in the league have his combination of size and agility, and he fits the role of strong-side hybrid perfectly.        

    Whether it's a healthy Kiwi and a pick, a couple of top draft choices or a premium pick and an impact free-agent signing, the Giants can no longer look to fill linebacker positions with stopgap measures as the play of this integral unit has clearly slowed the overall progress of the team. 

     

    12/08/10 Linebacker: If there's a plausible area of need for the Giants, it's at linebacker.

    Ex-Vandy scholar and sure tackler Jonathan Goff has given some indication in his third season he can be the kind of penetrating stud in the middle to hold the Big Blue MLB position for a fair enough period of time to come.

    The coaching staff also sees upside in backup Phillip Dillard out of Nebraska, though that hasn't translated into any playing time thus far in 2010.   

    Keith Bullock is a short-term, middling solution on the strong side, and at this point, he's really only on the field because University of Virginia product Clint Sintim hasn't shown enough to play regularly though the Giants continue to like his potential, and he's played well on special teams.

    Late-rounder Adrian Tracy out of William & Mary showed nice flashes in preseason but got IR'D. The Giants also see potential there on the strong side. 

    On the weak side, Michael Boley shows persistent flashes of a high-level skill set. There are games he appears to be all over the field, and there's no doubt he's got sideline-to-sideline speed. But there are also games where you turn around and say—Did Boley play today?— and it's unlikely the team would not  consider an alternative or upgrade at the position.   

    Draft need on a scale of 1-10: Seven.

It'd Take a Draft Day Trade To Make It Miller Time in New York

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    Von Miller, SSLB, Texas A&M, 6'2", 240, 4.58 40: Miller's role in the A&M defense over the past three years has been fairly simple—get after the quarterback on almost every play. The 2010 Butkus Award winner as the nation's best linebacker has been a thorn in the side of passers and offensive linemen since he arrived in College Station.

    He got off to a slow start as a senior while bouncing back from an ankle injury but took off late in the year, finishing with 68 tackles, 17.5 for loss, 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Those numbers were down from his 2009 All-American season when he led the nation in sacks with 17.

    Miller played the "joker" position at A&M, a defensive end/rush linebacker hybrid spot, and some scouts have labeled him a one-trick pony as a pass rusher without great size though the increased use of the 3-4 base scheme in the NFL and his explosiveness off the edge seems likely to earn him a top-10 draft slot.

    He is, at this point, considered an average run defender, and while he has the speed and athleticism to make due in pass coverage, his skill set there is raw at best.

     

    Barring the impulse to trade up the best thing Von Miller can do for the G-Men in the 2011 draft is fill a linebacker need for another team choosing higher than 19.

    That would plausibly give the Giants a shot at Aldon Smith or Akeem Ayers, the other potential first-round selections at the position. 

Aldon Smith

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    Aldon Smith, Missouri, 6'4", 258, 4.69 40: In only two years on the field, Smith earned enough respect from Big 12 coaches to be named first-team all-conference despite playing only nine games in 2011 because of a broken fibula. 

    A consensus freshman All-American and the conference's Defensive Newcomer and Freshman of the Year (along with honorable mention All-Big 12 honors) in 2009, he had 64 tackles—19 for loss and 11.5 sacks, both of which ranked in the top 15 nationally. 

    In addition to his exceptional athletic ability, Smith's toughness has impressed scouts. While less than 100 percent, he returned an interception 58 yards in a big win against Oklahoma and managed six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in his final six games. He's a raw physical talent, but evaluators look at Smith as a potential John Abraham or Julian Peterson type of pass rusher with very good length to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 base scheme as he matures physically.

    You can get a great look at his length and ability to penetrate in the attached reel.  

Akeem Ayers

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    Akeem Ayers, UCLA, 6'4", 258, 4.68 40: Ayers doesn't set the world on fire in this highlight reel, but in what amounts to a pretty mediocre draft if he's still standing at No. 19 it might be hard for the Giants to pass on the Bruin OLB.

    The No. 1 defensive end prospect on the West coast coming out of high school, it was a mild upset when Ayers redshirted in 2007. His emergence as a playmaking outside linebacker a year later was not a surprise.

    Ayers only started three of 12 games as a redshirt freshman. He was named honorable mention All Pac-10 with 40 tackles and five tackles for loss, including four sacks.

    Ayers' breakout sophomore campaign—55 tackles and consistent flashes of big-play ability with 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, four interceptions (two of which he returned for touchdowns) and two forced fumbles (one returned for touchdown), put him on the NFL radar.

    Among the most athletic and versatile defenders in the draft, Ayers' upside appears limitless.

    He plays a disciplined, physical brand of football, has great agility and top sideline-to-sideline speed. He's a strong run defender, holds his gap, can get after the quarterback and excels in coverage.

    He doesn't have Von Miller's explosion but is probably the more rounded player at this stage. 

Get Carter

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    Bruce Carter, WLB, North Carolina, 6'3", 225, 4.55 40: Possessing a brand of eye-popping pure athleticism, Carter entered the 2010 season among the highest-touted prospects in the country.

    A somewhat disappointing senior season and late knee/ACL injury that required surgery has dropped him down the board, possibly to the third round where the Giants could find themselves in the unique position of grabbing a second potential All Pro OLB.

    Carter signed with UNC as a highly-touted prep athlete who gained most of his attention on the offensive side of the ball, starring at quarterback and running back, as well as safety. It didn't take him long to acclimate to Tar Heels coach Butch Davis' scheme, however, as he earned the starting outside linebacker position the sixth game of his true freshman season.

    After flashing in 2007 (25 tackles, two tackles for loss, one blocked kick), Carter emerged as one of the best all-around linebackers in the ACC as a sophomore, posting 68 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, an interception he returned 66 yards for score against Rutgers and a nation-leading five blocked kicks.

    With offenses crafting their gameplans around him in 2009, Carter's numbers dropped slightly (65 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, INT returned for a 41-yard touchdown), but his recognition from the opposition rose, as he earned second-team All-ACC accolades.

    Obviously Carter—who's been timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, owns a 40.5-inch vertical jump, a 440-pound max bench press, 605-pound squat and a power-clean of 374 pounds—needs to return to health, but before the ACL injury, despite some down numbers in 2010, he was still considered one of the most explosive prospects in the 2011 draft, and if the Giants don't smell a little Lawrence Taylor on this potential UNC phenomenon, they have to at least see a ballplayer who brings the kind of skill set that can make a major impact on the team's fortunes at some point in the coming season or two.  

On the Corners

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    2/25/2011 Corner: Again, what was a quibble after 12 games is something of a pressing concern after the end season collapse in 2010.

    If anything, we've come to like Terrell Thomas the best of the three corners. He's a physical tackler with ball-hawking instincts. A top No. 2 corner—which is really the issue with the Giants cover group. 

    All three, Ross, Webster and Thomas, are capable No. 2 corners but lack the elite one-on-one cover skills to shut down top opposition receivers. 

    We don't know how much of that to put on secondary coach Pete Giunta.

    Ross, and particularly Webster, go through periods of noticeable regression. The Giants never seem to want to commit to a particular playing style in coverage—they'll look good in tight man or press formations for several games and suddenly switch off to a passive zone where they'll get shredded underneath and then when they move the zone up, over the top.    

    It's a pass-protected game in the NFL, even the best secondaries will have tough Sundays, but the Giants need a shutdown corner to vastly upgrade their present group, especially if they want to stand toe-to-toe with the Packers, Eagles, Saints, Pats—the leagues elite offenses.

     

    12/08/2010 Corner:  Aaron Ross, Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster are a solid trio, but if you want to quibble, you could say none of the three are Darrelle Revis or Asante Samuel, so there's a little room for improvement. The Giants could target a high pick here and again someone they could groom who's also a burner with kick return skills would be ideal. 

    Draft need on a scale of 1-10: Six

The Top Prospect in the 2011 Draft?

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    Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU, 6'1", 218, 4.45 40. A purebred! Dominant kick returner, run stuffing CB with great cover skills.

    What's the catch?

    He's going top five.

Is This Prince Worthy of the 19th Pick?

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    Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska, 6'1", 200, 4.5 40. A dominant college athlete that may not have the speed to become a true, top-tier NFL corner a la Revis or Woodson, but he grades highly on every account, press coverage, run support—a sure tackler with an instinct for the ball. 

    How high he goes will be decided by his combine results. As it is, Amukamara is projected as a top 10-15 pick. If he shows the kind of closing and deep cover speed some think he lacks, he can end up going in the top six or seven.

    The Giants should be watching closely.  

Another First-Round Pick out of Miami?

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    Brandon Harris, CB, Miami, 5'11", 195, 4.41 40. The U may be down on its luck these days, but that doesn't mean Brandon Harris wouldn't be an ideal pick for the Giants at No. 19.

    Great athlete, top speed, won't allow receiver separation and has no fear taking on the run.

    His ability to blaze translates into special kick return potential as well. A potential game breaker in the mold of a Darrell Green, he would immediately upgrade the Giants secondary.

Strong at Safety?

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    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    2/25/2011 Safety: We're going to pull another flip flop here. Deon Grant looked good as a hybrid safety/linebacker most of the year but lacks speed in coverage.

    Antrel Rolle has the skill set to be a solid strong safety but disappears for stretches and won't stop running his mouth which could eventually earn his a ticket out of New York.

    Most alarming, Kenny Phillips, who the Giants count on to be the glue that holds the secondary together, looked dramatically diminished in the season's closing quarter, was unable to make more than a handful of big plays on the ball all year long and the team has to be concerned over his long-term prospects at the position.

    Best case, Phillips is stronger in 2011 and plays to prior form, Rolle concentrates on his play rather than team or coach analysis and picks it up in the coming season, and Grant has another year left in the tank.

    Worst case, well, we don't even want to speculate, but it goes to figure the Giants will protect themselves and look for safety depth in the Draft.

     

    12/08/2010 Safety: The combination of Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant is as good as any team in the NFL has to offer, but there's not depth behind them and an injury or two here could prove disastrous. No doubt, the Giants will look to improve their depth safety with an upper to mid-tier pick not unlike last year's third-rounder Chad Jones who was lost to the team in the offseason due to an horrific, life threatening car accident he may never fully recover from.  

    Draft need on a scale of 1-10: Six

Mid-Round Safety Help

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    Deunta Williams, FS/SS, North Carolina, 6'2", 205, 4.5 40. We love this kid, and he will drop after breaking his leg late in 2010 on top of a four-game NCAA suspension to start the season having to do with pre commitment recruitment violations and money received for travel.

    Has otherwise started every game for North Carolina. AKA the "Hit Man," Williams has mad ballhawking skills and soft hands as he came to the ACC school as a wide receiver and one of the top five athletes in the country. 

    Without the injury and suspension, hysteria Williams translated to a top-50 pick. If the Giants were to grab him with a three or four, they'd be adding a fantastic young talent to a safety group that could use the infusion.

This Somewhat Undersized Floridian May Fall at Strong Safety

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    Ahmad Black, Florida, 5'9", 183, 4.59: Had 11 career interceptions and tied for the national lead with seven in 2008.

    History of making big plays against top competition. Black stripped the ball from Oklahoma wideout Juaquin Iglesias for a momentum-swinging interception of 2010 No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford in the 2009 BCS Championship game. Earlier that season, he intercepted a pass and returned it 64 yards against 2009 No. 1 overall pick Matt Stafford.

    In a tough season for Florida, Black's consistency and leadership stood out. His reliability as an open-field tackler and penchant for big plays won't be lost on the Giants. A very plausible third or fourth-round pick. 

Kicking Games?

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    2/25/2011 Kicking Game: Giant fans held their breath all year long waiting for Matt Dodge to do something that would cost them a big game and of course that sense of foreboding came to bare in the Week 15 disaster against DeSean Jackson and the Eagles. 

    Dodge seems to have the leg, but as for what's going on inside his head, that's another question altogether. Giants should have practice squaded him in 2010 and brought in a vet. Having invested all of 2010 in the former East Carolina punter figure, they will give him every chance to lose the job in 2011 as well. 

    Lawrence Tynes was solid in 2010 and will return in good standing for the 2011 season.

     

    12/08/2010  Kicking Game: It's been a bit of an adventure but since Sage Rosenfels has taken over at holder placekicker Lawrence Tynes hasn't missed a trick—or a kick.  

    As for Matt Dodge—the No. 1 punter coming out of the college ranks last year—well, he's had more than his fair share of problems holding onto the ball in 2010 but has seemingly shown enough flashes to make the Giants think he can be a long-term fixture at the position. 

    But that doesn't mean they won't bring someone into camp to challenge him next summer. Probably not a draft pick though unless someone like Derek Epperson from Baylor falls into their laps at No. 7.  

Summarizing

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    Andy Marlin/Getty Images

    It's a fickle world, so why should the field of play be viewed any differently. Approaching Week 14 in 2010, things looked pretty rosy for the G-Men, but after losing two of four down the stretch and falling out of the playoff picture for the second consecutive season, questions abound as to where the team stands in the recently resurrected NFC.  

    Giant fans hope some of those questions can be answered via the 2011 NFL Draft and in G.M. Jerry Reese and his staff, they have at the very least an efficient group of talent evaluators to rely upon.

    Of the 2010 opening day, 22-man starting roster, 15 were Reese selections, and in this ever transient professional sports world of free-agent signings and departures, that's a pretty remarkable number.

    Enough to re-coin or recapture the phrase in Reese We Trust? After a brutal ending to the 2010 season, Giant fans will be somewhat measured in their enthusiasm, but as the clock ticks down to the weekend of April 29th, hopes will be inevitably buoyed.

    That's generally how it works for avid NFL fans, and there's really no reason to think 2011 will be any different. 

    Well, aside from the looming lockout— but that's a story for another day.

     

     

    Hope you saw something you liked, 

     

    DR