With NFL free agency set to begin next week, the New York Giants can start to fill holes after a championship season. After such period, Jerry Reese’s draft strategy will be somewhat unveiled.
However, there seems to be a common misconception surrounding the Giants general manager, one that I would seek to disprove.
Everyone, and when I say everyone I mean draft gurus and simple minded fans alike, for some reason believes Jerry Reese always employs a “best player available” option, particularly in the first round.
As such, many believe Reese will just take the best player in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, regardless of position (save for quarterback, obviously).
In reality, he has only gone away from a position of need in the first round once since being promoted to general manager in 2007.
In 2006, the Giants had the fifth worse pass defense in the league, and the corner backs on the roster were mostly cast offs from other squads or young blood like Corey Webster, so Reese drafted Aaron Ross in 2007.
After winning the Super Bowl in 2007, the Giants had a clear need at safety. Everyone pretty much assumed the Giants were going to take Kenny Phillips with the 32nd pick, and that’s exactly what happened in the 2008 draft.
During the 2008 season, Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg and got himself thrown in jail. Amani Toomer also left the team to join the Kansas City Chiefs after the season. Despite drafting Steve Smith in 2007 and Mario Manningham in 2008, most agreed wide receiver was a priority.
Enter Hakeem Nicks in 2009, and Eli Manning had the best season of his career to date.
Finally, when projected top 15 pick Prince Amukamara fell to the Giants at No. 19 in the 2011 draft, that and the need to add depth at the corner back position were too good to pass up.
The only time Reese made a selection that he had to explain was when they took Jason Pierre-Paul with the 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft. The Giants had many perceived needs that season, but defensive end was not one of them.
His explanation was they felt JPP was a rare talent with incredible upside that the Giants could not pass up. Wow. What an incredibly on-point analysis—where would the Giants have been in 2011 without JPP?
Ironically, that pick looks like the best first round pick of his tenure with the Giants. But other than Aaron Ross, Reese had hit on all of his first rounders and most of them filled needs.
Even taking it a couple rounds deeper, Reese typically takes positions of need rather than the best player available. Even if they are not immediate needs, the picks look good down the road when the team starts losing free agents.
I have a hard time believing each time he made a selection, they just happened to be both their best player available and fit a need.
Bottom line? Do not expect the Giants to make an outlandish selection this year that has you scratching your head.
Even the JPP pick, upon further review, looks like Reese was planning ahead. Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka are each entering the final year of their contracts, and now the Giants have a bonafide defensive player of the year candidate on their hands.
That is what makes Reese one of the best executives in the NFL. He sees the big picture, understands how to build a team and knows how to evaluate talent with the best of them.
It’s why when Giants fans lost their minds over the team losing Kevin Boss and Steve Smith last year, Reese brushed the criticism off knowing he had Jake Ballard and Victor Cruz.
He should feel good about Super Bowl 46. Though he was instrumental in getting several contributors to the 2007 squad, the 2011 team is more his work of art.
Seven of the 11 offensive starters and eight of the 11 defensive starters (using 4-2-5 defense) in Super Bowl 46 were either drafted or free agent pick ups by Jerry Reese since 2007.
Sure, not all of Reese’s picks have panned out, but such is the case with most teams. The name of the game is getting the most out of your drafts, and Reese is the poster child in that regard.
So whatever happens on that fateful weekend in April, know that there is a method to the madness.
In Jerry we should trust.