It is almost impossible to predict what will happen in the 2012 NFL Draft. It is even harder to predict what the New York Giants will do with the 32nd overall pick. Or is it? Jerry Reese is gearing up for his sixth draft as general manager of the New York Giants and his first five drafts offer an idea into how the Giants will draft come April 26th.
Reese has drafted two corner backs (Aaron Ross in 2007 and Prince Amukamara in 2011), one wide receiver (Hakeem Nicks in 2009), one safety (Kenny Phillips in 2008), and one defensive end (Jason Pierre-Paul in 2010). With only one first rounder spent on offense it is a safe bet that the Giants might once again focus on defense in the first round this year. One must also take into consideration the loss of Aaron Ross who left as a free agent, the likelihood that safety Deon Grant is done, and the injury history of Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara. In a pass-happy NFL the need for good corners has exploded and if Reese finds himself staring at one of the top defensive backs in the draft then he would not hesitate to pick him up. Look no further than last year when the Giants saw Amukamara, one of the top two corners in the draft, fall into their laps at pick 19.
Defending the pass begins up front on the defensive line. Last year the Giants got amazing production out of Jason Pierre-Paul who helped maintain a pass rush that was hit hard by injuries to Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. Reese has always maintained his affinity for having a strong defensive line. With Umenyiora’s future as a Giant in question (remember his holdout threats and the big battle he had with Jerry Reese last season about a new contract?) it is very possible the Giants will spend one of their first two picks on a defensive lineman.
Given Reese’s draft history I think it is safe to say he will not spend a first-rounder on a running back, offensive lineman, or tight end. The running game in today’s NFL has taken a backseat to the passing attack. Look no further than last year’s Super Bowl team where the Giants leading rusher, Ahmad Bradshaw (a 7th Round pick in 2007) led the team with 659 yards. Running the football just does not have the impact in today’s game that it did even four years ago. If the Giants do decide to draft a running back they will do so in the later rounds. Only Trent Richardson of Alabama is worthy of a first round pick this year and I do not expect Reese to reach for a running back regardless of the need. The Giants will be able to grab a good running back who can come in and compete with Da’Rel Scott and D.J. Ware on either the second or third day of the draft.
For as much as people make tight end out to be a priority for the Giants it’s not. Stanford’s Coby Fleener is the top rated tight end in this year’s draft and most scouts think he is a second round pick at best. Yes, the Giants lost Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum to ACL injuries in the Super Bowl. However, they addressed that need in free agency when they signed Martellus Bennett and Travis Beckum took to Twitter today to say he might be able to come back by the start of the season after receiving good news from the doctor. The Giants offense does not revolve around the tight end. The tight end in the Giants’ offense is a third to fifth option in the passing game and there is no way Reese uses a first round pick on a tight end.
Linebacker is another position that many scouts feel the Giants have needs. Unless one of the top linebackers in the draft fall to the Giants I don’t see them investing a first rounder in a position they invested heavily in last year with Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones in the draft and Mark Herzlich as an undrafted free agent. Yes, the Giants need depth at the position. What team doesn’t? If there is a prospect the Giants can’t pass up they won’t. The likelihood, however, is that another position like wide receiver, defensive end, or cornerback will be sitting on top of the Giants draft board when it is time for them to pick.
Another area of need for the Giants is the offensive line. Last year the o-line struggled in the running game and injuries forced the Giants to constantly shuffle the rotation. There is a possibility that one of the top tackles falls to the Giants with the last pick. A small chance. However, given Jerry Reese’s draft history, I don’t see the Giants drafting an offensive lineman in the first round. Will Beatty is the highest offensive lineman the Giants have ever drafted and it came with their second pick in the second round of the 2009 Draft so there is a chance the Giants could go offensive line with their first pick. It would just depend on who fell to them at that point.
The one area many people don’t think the Giants need help in is wide receiver. With Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz the Giants have as good a wide receiver tandem as any team in the league. However, Mario Manningham is gone and Domenik Hixon is coming off of his second ACL injury in two years, Ramses Barden has been a disappointment so far, and Jerrel Jernigan did not come close to living up to his potential as a rookie. There is a chance that Stephen Hill, the 6-4, 215 lbs. receiver from Georgia Tech or Kendall Wright, the speedster from Baylor will still be available. Adding another weapon in the passing game as Eli Manning is in the prime of his career is something the Giants will consider. Neither player would be asked to step into a starting role and would have time to learn the offense and could become a major player moving forward.
Ultimately, the Giants will draft the best player on the board with the 32nd pick. Jerry Reese has never truly drafted based on immediate needs but rather needs in a year or two. Given the defensive end situation and the future outlook at the position I believe the Giants will lean in that direction. The great part about drafting last in the first round is the Giants don’t have to reach based on need. They can sit back, watch the draft unfold, and take the best player on their board regardless of position.