5 New York Giants Who Mean the Most To the Team’s Future
Most Important New York Giants To the Team’s Future
After failing in their attempt to use 2013 as a last ditch effort to build on the 2011 Super Bowl season, the New York Giants are left with a roster in transition. The Giants kept aboard highly priced veterans with an injury history like David Diehl, Chris Snee, David Baas and Corey Webster with the hope that they would supplement new talent coming from recent drafts. However, injuries to many high draft picks in recent years have flooded the team with question marks at positions that general manager Jerry Reese had expected would blossom into strengths. Hopefully the lesson was learned—don’t compromise future salary cap space by keeping around veterans for a season or two too long.
Instead, the Giants should look to the talent already on the roster and build through these players. Free agent additions will be necessary this offseason in order to rebuild the offensive line, but it is important that they sign mid-range players. Of course, they need to focus on staying away from free agents with an injury history or extra tread on their tires—they can’t afford to make the Baas mistake again.
Building through the draft is not a novel concept, and most general managers would agree that is the most efficient route towards building a consistent winner. Unfortunately, luck in the form of injuries plays a major role. In no way could Reese or anyone in the Giants’ front office predict that David Wilson would fall prey to a neck injury or Jason Pierre-Paul would battle chronic shoulder issues. Dating back even further, the Giants lost third-round pick Chad Jones to a career-ending car accident before he ever practiced in a Giants uniform.
For every bad luck pick or poorly scouted selection, there will always be Reese’s 2007 NFL Draft. In that draft, second-round pick Steve Smith, fifth-round pick Kevin Boss and seventh-round pick Ahmad Bradshaw all played major supporting roles in the Giants’ Super Bowl victory that year. Those players served as additions to an already established core of players at the time like Eli Manning, Snee and Justin Tuck among many others.
The following five players on this list can create that core needed to win a Super Bowl. Adding the right values in free agency and drafting a few more players to play supporting roles will make the difference in the Giants’ future success. However, it all starts with these five players and their impact over the next five seasons should prove to be a major indicator of the team’s overall success.
5. Will Hill
Not everyone in the NFL has caught on to safety Will Hill just yet, but it’s only a matter of time before they do. As long as Hill can stay out of legal trouble that has plagued him in the past, he has all the talent to develop into one of the best safeties in the NFL. Originally billed as a five-star recruit at Florida, he can be quoted admitting that he never took the game of football seriously before his time with the Giants. Giants fans can attest to that latter half of that statement, as Hill’s impact in his coverage in the deep half of the field and tackling in the box was evident in every game last season.
No one is going to forget when he ripped the ball out of Pierre Garcon’s hands to clinch the first win against the Redskins or the pick-six he made to send the Lions game into overtime. According to Pro Football Focus, Hill graded out as the second-best safety in the entire NFL. Hill is under contract for under $1 million in 2014 and does not become an unrestricted free agent until the 2016 season.
4. Rueben Randle
The development of Reuben Randle as an outside threat at wide receiver affects the Giants' passing game in multiple ways. First of all, his production, which was not consistently there in 2013, provides Manning with a tall and strong outside receiver who fits Manning’s skill set. As I mentioned here, Manning has had his best success in the past with this style of wide receiver by diagnosing one-on-one coverage and putting the ball in a spot where the receiver can make a play. In addition to Manning, Randle will take away the consistent double-teams on Victor Cruz that slowed him down in 2013.
Randle struggled to get on the same page as Manning in 2013, but often the third season is when a wide receiver makes the biggest leap in his career. With a full compliment of starter reps, I expect him to make that jump.
3. Justin Pugh
After a bumpy first four games to his rookie season, Justin Pugh finished the 2013 season as arguably the best rookie offensive lineman in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Pugh earned the highest overall grade of any rookie lineman. Pugh received all the pre and post draft criticism regarding his arm length and size. The critics believed he couldn’t succeed at tackle in the NFL and that he would have to move to guard. With one season in the books, it is easy to say that they were wrong and Pugh can use this offseason to add more size and strength.
Right now, Pugh is penciled in at right tackle for the 2014 season. However, depending on the recovery of Will Beatty, Pugh might be asked to shift over to left tackle as soon as this season.
2. Jason Pierre-Paul
Watching Jason Pierre-Paul go from closing in on becoming the most dominant defensive player in football to failing to record double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons has been painful for Giants fans. Injuries have played a major role in addition to questionable conditioning from Pierre-Paul. However, he is still the same player that blocked the game-winning field goal to keep the Giants’ playoff hopes alive in 2011. Pierre-Paul has already admitted to being disappointed in his play over the last two seasons and he is dedicating this offseason to getting in the best shape of his career. If healthy in 2014, Pierre-Paul can be the dominant defender he was in 2011 and a leader of the Giants defense if Justin Tuck leaves in free agency.
1. Eli Manning
Having just turned 33, it might seem counterintuitive to add Eli Manning to a list of the most important players to the Giants' future. However, as we have learned from previous pocket passers, including his brother, we will probably see him for another five seasons. Of course, Manning has also been an iron man and currently holds the longest active streak of games started, including the playoffs, at 162.
If the Giants want to get back to the Super Bowl, they will need Manning to reach a level close to his play in 2011. Manning’s individual success is so important to the team because he accounts for between 15-18 percent of the Giants’ salary cap. When Manning has time to step up in the pocket, he is lethal at reading the defense and delivering the ball with zip to the intermediate and deep routes. In the end, the Giants' future is tied to their two-time Super Bowl winning champion.