NFL New York Giants

Evaluating Every New York Giants 1st-Round NFL Draft Pick Under Jerry Reese

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Evaluating Every New York Giants 1st Round NFL Draft Pick Under Jerry Reese

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

GM Jerry Reese has taken a lot of heat recently for his track record in the NFL Draft. The New York Giants roster is due for a lot of turnover this offseason, and the failures of the last two seasons can be partially attributed to poor drafting. However, we also know that building a great roster is also about managing the salary cap, structuring contracts correctly and executing a sound plan for free agency year after year.

Reese has shown a keen eye for avoiding “busts” in the first round of the draft since taking over in 2007. Not all of the draft picks have reached their potential, but as you will see in most cases, that has to do with one factor out of Reese’s control — injuries. Some of these players have played their role as a major component in both the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl runs.

As Reese has been quoted a number of times saying, his strategy for all of his draft pick is to choose the best player available based on the Giants' grades. While other teams often choose players based on need, Reese likes to avoid that strategy unless he can pair top talent with needs. Since becoming GM, Reese has selected three defensive backs, a defensive lineman, an offensive lineman, a running back and a wide receiver. Let’s take a closer look at all of his first-round picks (counting down backwards from the most recent) since taking over as GM.

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7. Justin Pugh

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You sometimes need two or three years to judge a rookie. Justin Pugh apparently didn't get that memo. After a rocky first few games, Pugh finished the last two-thirds of his rookie season as the best offensive lineman on the entire team — which is not saying much. However, he also finished as an honorable mention at tackle on Pro Football Focus’ all-rookie team. They know a thing or two about offensive and defensive line play. Pugh looks like he will be a stalwart on the offensive line for many years to come.

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6. David Wilson

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David Wilson’s sophomore campaign was cut short due to an unexpected and serious neck injury. His status for 2014 is unclear. Wilson was not utilized as a weapon in space on screens, designed swing passes, circle routes and wheel routes. His 2012 game film suggests that the coaches should have used him in these situations. Wilson gained 15-plus yards on six of his 71 carries in 2012 for a total of 173 of his 358 rushing yards. If he makes it back for 2014, he can certainly justify this pick in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's uptempo and attacking west coast offense.

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5. Prince Amukamara

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

If you are the NFL fan who likes to point only to interceptions and pass deflections as the stats that define a cornerback, you are then just to think that Prince Amukamara has been a bust. You would also, however, be entirely wrong in your thinking. Amukamara does not get targeted very often, and that’s what makes him a solid cornerback. In 2013, he graded out as the 34th-best cornerback out of 110 qualifying cornerbacks by ProFootballFocus. He is without a doubt the Giants' top cornerback and one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the NFL.

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4. Jason Pierre-Paul

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Billed as a project with limited college production, the advanced statistics website FootballOutsiders used a model to predict that Jason Pierre-Paul would be the biggest draft bust. Since then, that model has been entirely scrapped. Pierre-Paul’s elite athleticism translated the NFL quickly and in his rookie season, he looks like he was on his way to becoming one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. Injuries have derailed his last two seasons and he will need to put together a healthy season to quiet those rumblings. However, it is important to keep in mind that while his pass rushing production has diminished in these past two seasons, often while playing through injury, he has remained one of the better run-defending defensive ends according to ProFootballFocus. This should go down as Reese’s best draft pick of all time.

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3. Hakeem Nicks

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Hakeem Nicks marks the third first-round pick in the past five drafts for Reese that flashed immense potential, only to see that all come to a halt due to injury. Nicks’ 2011 regular season was reminiscent of that of a no. 1 receiver. His elite postseason run saw him string together 28 catches for 444 yards and four touchdowns over four games. Nicks has not been healthy since, and he has never returned to that form. Consequently, Eli Manning has not been the same quarterback either since he lost his true outside threat at wide receiver. Nicks has already accomplished enough in a Giants uniform to more than justify this pick.

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2. Kenny Phillips

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Every Giants fan remembers Kenny Phillips, in only his second year in the league, intercepting Tony Romo twice in the second game of the season. He flashed the ability to cover the deep half of the field and break on the ball. Of course, that would be the final game of Phillips’ sophomore season. He injured his knee and it required microfracture surgery. He was never the same after that. This was Reese’s biggest first-round draft miss.

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1. Aaron Ross

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Reese’s first round one draft pick as Giants GM was cornerback Aaron Ross. Ross never lived up to his production in college at a big school that has had its fair share of troubles producing quality NFL players at the cornerback position. Ross was never a long-term starter for the Giants. However, he played a role in both Super Bowls and totaled seven interceptions in the two Super Bowl seasons during the regular season.