New York Giants: 5 2012 NFL Draft Picks We'd Love To See
As the New York Giants slog to the finish along with the Dallas Cowboys battling for the NFC East title, it’s not too soon to start looking ahead to April’s draft and addressing some of the glaring needs that have plagued Big Blue during the 2011 season.
There are five positions I believe to be crucial to the improvement of the Giants in 2012. Two of those are along the offensive line and three are on the back end of the defense. Given New York will be, at best, drafting from the middle of the pack, the obvious suspects that sit atop various draft boards already won’t be around when the Giants pick somewhere in the high teens or early 20s. So for Giants fans dreaming of getting offensive tackle Matt Kalil out of Southern California, well, you won’t be seeing that particular projection here.
While it’s possible the Giants could look to trade up to get someone, I don’t think it’s likely because that hasn’t been the pattern established by general manager Jerry Reese. However, Big Blue has done a decent job of finding value from wherever they have picked, landing gems such as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in the late stages of Round 1.
So, in no particular order, here are the five positions where the Giants need the most help and who may still be available at that position when the Giants draft in the lower half of the first round.
G David DeCastro, Stanford
DeCastro is a draft-eligible underclassman who has not yet declared for the 2012 talent pool. DeCastro was a finalist for the Outland Trophy this year and is ranked in the low teens on most draft boards but is also listed by most as the top-rated guard.
DeCastro has shown talent and durability in his three years with the Cardinal. He’s made 38 straight starts, was named to the AFCA FBS Coaches’ All-America Team this year and is a two-time first-team All-Pac-10/12 performer. With DeCastro anchoring the offensive line, Stanford surrendered just 13 sacks in 2010 and only nine this season.
At just under 6'5" and 313 pounds, DeCastro has the prototypical size for the position and his agility and top-end speed are on par with what is expected from a guard. He’s above average as both a pass-protector and a run-blocker, and has a high football IQ, proving adept at detecting and blocking stunts along the defensive front and blitzes from the second level of the defense.
David Diehl has not had a great year moving inside to left guard this season and his two best performances have been the two games he’s moved back out to left tackle after Will Beatty went on injured reserve. Drafting DeCastro would allow the Giants to move Diehl back to tackle on the left side and perhaps target Beatty to fight with underperforming Kareem McKenzie for the job on the right side.
S Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
With Deon Grant aging and Tyler Sash showing great instincts but not tremendous speed, there is a need for help as safety and Martin, ranked second by Scouts, Inc. at the position, could fit the bill as a productive project.
Martin doesn’t project as a first-rounder at this point, which means the Giants might be able to snag him in Round 2. He was a first-team All-Big 12 performer this season and was named to the AFCA FBS Coaches’ All-America Team. He’s almost 6'1" and 202 pounds, average size for a safety, and has good top-end speed.
Durability has been a question for Martin. He missed games in 2009 with a hip injury and missed part of spring practice before this season after left shoulder surgery.
He has above-average cover skills and ball skills, and diagnoses plays in the passing game well. While not as strong in run support, he can improve by learning how to take better angles to the football and by improving his breakdown—he can over run plays in run support by simply coming in too fast.
MLB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State
Burfict is a run-stopping machine. He’s a big hitter who takes good angles in pursuit and is a solid open-field tackler. There are some concerns he leads with the helmet too often, however.
The middle of the Giants defense has been disastrously bad in 2011 and Burfict might be a player who could solidify that middle. He’s got great size at 6'3" and 252 pounds and his speed is above average for an inside linebacker. He can also shed blockers and slip blocks when he needs to and uses his hands well to get off blocks and make plays.
If you were waiting for the “but…” in the discussion on Burfict, there is definitely one coming. Burfict plays with great intensity and energy, but he has a reputation for losing control of his emotions. In the regular-season finale against California, Burfict was hit with two unsportsmanlike-conduct flags and had a three-personal-foul game against Washington in 2009.
If Perry Fewell could channel that aggression in the right way, Burfict could be a huge upgrade at middle linebacker for the Giants.
RT Zebrie Sanders, Florida State
Matt Kalil of USC, Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Riley Reiff of Iowa head a deep group of tackles for the 2012 draft. However, all currently project as top-10 picks, so they’ll likely be long gone before the Giants submit a card to commissioner Roger Goodell in the first round.
Which brings us to Zebrie Sanders of Florida State, a first-team All-ACC pick in 2011. He was a versatile lineman for the Seminoles, but most of his starts were at right tackle. Sanders is likely to still be on the board for at least the early stages of Round 2.
Sanders is also an accomplished musician and is considered to be cerebral and mature for his age. He’s almost 6'6" and 295 pounds, a good size, and Scouts, Inc. says Sanders appears to be bigger on game tape than his recorded weight of 295.
He’ll have to work on his pass protection with regard to leverage to succeed at the NFL level, but he’s a big tackle with long arms and a solid base. He’s an above-average run-blocker who has a good first-step burst for a lineman and does a good job of steering defenders away from the play once he’s engaged them.
CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska
Morris Claiborne of LSU and Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick are the big names at cornerback should they declare as eligible underclassmen while Dennard is the best senior available in the 2012 draft class.
He has above-average cover skills and is fast enough to run with most receivers on vertical routes while also proving to be effective in press coverage and can reroute bigger receivers.
Dennard is a bit on the smallish side at less than 5'10" but is solid at 204 pounds. He has quick reactions while not always anticipating correctly or soon enough.
Cornerback could be a position of need in the 2012 draft for the Giants or it may not be. A lot of that will depend on the status of free-agents-to-be Terrell Thomas, who missed all of this season with a knee injury, and Aaron Ross. If one or both of them return to New York next season, this position becomes much less of a need considering the Giants spent a first-rounder in 2011 to draft Dennard’s former Cornhusker teammate Prince Amukamara.