The New York Giants will enter draft day with a quite a few holes to address. If last season showed fans anything, it was an aging offensive line and a weak linebacking core. While it would be easier for New York to use the Washington Redskins approach and throw millions of dollars at free agents, the Giants have never been the overzealous types when it comes to opening their wallets.
If the G-Men have any aspirations of returning to the playoffs this season, they are going to have to be smart both on the field, and off it, starting with the NFL draft.
The Giants are borderline desperate for a young offensive lineman who can actually produce on the field if and when the time comes during next season.
Three of the projected five starting linemen for next season are 30 or older. Veteran Rich Seubert, who is one of the team's leaders and most skilled lineman, is recovering from his second major knee surgery and is a wild card for the beginning of the season. Center Shaun O'Hara and backup center Adam Koets are recovery from surgery. Shawn Andrews, whose future with the Giants is a bit uncertain with no collective bargaining agreement in place, has had his back surgically repaired, and is no guarantee to last a full season.
Certainly the most intriguing pick would be Florida's Mike Pouncey. The brother of Maurkice Pouncey of the Pittsburgh Steelers offers versatility and an impressive skill set, however his chances of making it to pick No. 19 are slim. If the ideal pick in Pouncey is not available, the Giants could go with offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo from Boston College, or Nate Solder from Colorado.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and I agree here, and it's only because I don't believe Texas defensive end/linebacker Sam Acho will be available this late in the draft.
It's no secret the Keith Bullock signing was a failure, and the Giants linebacking core was mediocre at best. If it's one thing the Giants are known for, it's their defense, and last year it was their offense trying to keep them in games late.
Quan Sturdivant played a variety of linebacking positions throughout his time at North Carolina, but moved to inside linebacker in 2009. Sturdivant is a solid tackler and gets an above-average grade in the passing game. His versatility is something the Giants would love to have, and his projection falls right around where New York picks. The Giants should consider themselves very fortunate to land a player with such a high ceiling.
In 2009 safety Kenny Phillips was a shining star, and then his left knee "patella femoral arthritis" got so bad that he was shut down for the season. After microfracture surgery, the Giants' young safety turned in a forgettable 2010 campaign that saw only one interception and 77 tackles. His knee is very questionable, and if last season was an indication of the future, the Giants need to act now.
Quinton Carter is someone the Giants could use because of his tackling ability. Over the past two seasons, Carter has racked up 185 tackles, and his ability to stay healthy throughout the hits is a big plus, especially when talking about the Giants secondary.
His most glaring flaw is lack of speed and coverage ability. The combine timed him at 4.62 on the 40-yard dash, and his coverage ability was exposed throughout college. However with the assistance of Antrel Rolle and Corey Webster, the Giants should be able to overcome whatever shortcomings he may encounter early on in his career.
Replacing Jeremy Shockey isn't easy, and still hasn't been done. Tight end Kevin Boss is a talented player with limited blocking skills and an inability to stay healthy. He has suffered three concussions throughout his five-year career, and the question has to be how long will he last? While he is a fan favorite, and the team seems to favor him, his durability is questionable and there will come a time when the Giants tell Boss it's only business—don't take it personal.
Tight end Rob Housler could end up being a steal here. His 6'5" frame will give Eli Manning a reason to throw high when he's on the field. While his size is comparable to Boss, it's his speed that sets him apart. At the combine Housler recorded the fastest time among tight ends with a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash. The Giants need to surround Eli Manning with not just targets, but targets that can actually play an entire season without worry.
The Minnesota Vikings own the Giants pick in the fifth round, so fans will just have to be patient for Round 6 to roll around.
The Giants defensive line could use some help, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the return of Barry Cofield.
West Virginia defensive tackle Chris Neild proved his worth on a very talented defensive team. The Mountaineers were ranked first in their conference, and third in the nation in total defense, and Neild was right in the middle of it—literally.
This past season Neild recorded 35 tackles and four sacks. The former Mountaineer received first-team All-Big East honors this past season, and although he missed most of his team's final game with a hamstring injury, Neild is not an injury-prone player, having started every game in 2009.
The Giants defensive line is very talented, but adding some depth (assuming Cofield is already halfway out the door) with Neild is not a bad selection this late in the draft.