I’m super excited – it’s one of my favorite times of the year! The NFL Scouting Combine is here this week in Indianapolis, and it’s the first time we get an up-close-and-personal look at the kids coming into the NFL Draft this May (the older I get, the more I find myself calling them ‘kids’ – and that youth will be the topic of a future blog).
I just love the business season – a time to study, formulate opinions, and really begin to build an appreciation for the guys I might like to see in blue heading into the 2014 season.
First, lets take a look at what I believe to be the New York Giants’ key needs.
First things first… It might not come as a big surprise, but we need to get the Offensive Line up and running again, protecting Eli, and creating holes for whoever will be running the ball. I know you’re laughing, because that’s hardly a stretch of the noggin. But let me just put it in writing – we don’t need one, we need two or three guys to create new depth on the diminished, aging, and weak OL. And if a Tackle is available at #11 in the first round that can start now, then I am more than open to moving versatile Justin Pugh to Guard. We need to find a starting Center also, and some depth across the line. So I’m looking to the draft to pull 2 OL guys who can start immediately and grow into the future of the Giants.
By the way – I am excited to see what new OC McAdoo can do to help right this ship, but unless we shore up that line, he alone won’t be able to do much.
Next, I’m looking for Wide Receivers, Tight Ends and Running Backs (with the no-quit, animalistic instincts, and mental fortitude of lions and tigers and bears in a sense). It’s highly possible I can address one or two of these key needs in Free Agency – and they are all key needs.
Why Wide Receiver: This is a key need because while we have Victor Cruz (who has dropped a few balls too), we can’t be sure HE has enough guys to draw coverage away from him. Cruz is rarely successful out there alone. Currently, we can’t be sure what will happen with Hakeem Nicks and the Giants. And frankly, while 88 HAS been one of my favorites since the Giants drafted him in 2009, and I have worn his jersey every Sunday with the exception of the last few weeks of the 2013 season (when I wore 26), I have to question his recent mental tendencies (teamwork, leadership, taking the high road when there’s adversity) and whether or not he is too injury-prone. If he is okay in the physical department, I want him to be with us ALL IN – ready to play 100% on Sundays and to practice with the team; no temper tantrums and deciding not to play. If he can’t be totally focused, perhaps he should go elsewhere. Right now, I wouldn’t be inclined to sign 88 to a long-term, hefty contract (I could go for a shorter contingency contract so that he can show he still has it in him to be great, and readdress later).
I think we’ve seen glimpses from Rueben Randle, but it’s hard to say if he is really a #2 to Cruz. He ran a number of bad routes in 2013. He needs to know the playbook, and he needs to be on the same page with Eli. We haven’t totally seen that. So it’s a TBD for me. Do I think he has the physical potential? Absolutely. Am I sure about his mental abilities? Not yet.
Was Jernigan’s late season success a fluke? I honestly hope not – frankly, that was one of the highlights of 2013 – and I’m happy to hear myself say it, finally. But we won’t know for a while, and with the number of chances he has had, as well as the doubt with Randle and Nicks, the Giants need to create some big challenges amongst potential receivers. Who will step up and take it? Like the San Francisco 49ers have when Crabtree and Boldin are on the field (I know someone who is going to hate that analogy), we need the 1-2 solid punch in the gut at WR, so in my opinion, the door is open to look at who’s coming out in the draft for an early-round slot.
*After writing this, I heard that Mike Mayock seems to be in agreement on these first 2 key needs for the Giants in the draft. Here are Mayock’s top draft prospects at this point. By the way – Mayock always comes to Ali to make sure I agree with his list. 😉
Why Running Back: We have essentially zero security here, although we could possibly cover this in Free Agency, since there are some good and young Veteran Backs out there that can bring leadership to the unit, and yards on the field. David Wilson is not only a TBD, as far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on whether or not he is a solid #1 RB. Another physical (neck), and mental (maturity) project from what I’ve seen to date. I love the heart Dre Brown (who is a FA) brings, and he has certainly had some stellar moments, but with his injury history, we just can’t trust he’ll withstand the load of a 16-game season as a starter. Ben Tate, Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown and Maurice Jones-Drew are all young, Veteran RBs that could be interesting to watch in FA.
Why Tight End: I’m sure I don’t need to say that aside from Bear Pascoe (blocker mostly), this position is a bust. With Myers contract void, we now have Adrian Robinson (who has seen essentially zero playing time in 2 years), and Larry Donnell (who showed up hungry in camp last year and made it off the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster, but we haven’t seen enough). Some nice looking TEs in FA (Graham, Pitta, Finley – who played for McAdoo), so perhaps we can cover it there. I’ll definitely be watching the Tight Ends at the Combine (for one reason or other, I always enjoy watching the Tight Ends at the Combine – no pun intended, but take it as you wish).
Wow – apparently the Big Blue Offense needs some work before we get to the 2014 season!
On Defense, a lot will depend on what we do with our current Free Agents – such as Justin Tuck, Jon Beason (who we better get done), Terrell Thomas, Stevie Brown, Trumaine McBride, Aaron Ross, Ryan Mundy… so we always need to be looking closely at potential defensive stars to be. In the end, who we can and cannot keep will come down to the cap. While it might be tempting, we can’t overpay for one guy and forfeit an entire part of the field. Of course the bummer of it all is we ended the 2013 season with the 8th-ranked defense in the league. We’ll have to find a way to mix it up, and continue to improve on that – not slide. The only position that I think is relatively stacked is Defensive Tackle. And while I would love to resign Linval Joseph, we have seen before with Barry Cofield that some of our silent superstars (who command pretty large salaries in their 2nd contract) can be let go because we do have depth options there. Linval is ranked very high (#2 or 3 of available DTs depending on where you look) on the Free Agent Ranking boards, and he will have teams calling who will offer him a much higher salary than Big Blue. Be ready for that.
So the defensive priority for the draft is Linebacker. Big surprise, right? Lets assume we resign Jon Beason. I mean, we would all question the tam’s front office leadership if they don’t find a way to get that done. Still, Keith Rivers is a FA, and then we have Jacquian Williams (who I would love to see finally have a breakout season), Paysinger, Herzlich, Bradford, and a few other guys who were safety nets. The history of the Giants brings strong, hard-hitting linebackers in the opposing Quarterback’s face – Taylor, Banks, Carson, Gary Reasons, Sam Huff, Brad VanPelt, & Pepper Johnson. And while the team has moved more toward a hard-hitting defensive line, we desperately need to grow out of mediocre-ville in the current Linebacker position. One Middle Linebacker in the mold of Jon Beason is good, but we’ll now need to find a couple of hungry guys who can bring competition to camp, and vie for a chance to be a part of one of the most historically important pressure units to Big Blue.
Like I said, a lot of the rest depends on what we do with Free Agency, and who we resign from the defensive unit of Free Agents. So at the Combine, do keep an eye on DE, S and CB options that could end up on the draft board. We will need to fill some vacancies in one or more of these positions.
And while you’re it – keep this in mind. A player may have had some spectacular plays in college ball. A player may have potential. BUT, do they also bring the intangibles needed to quickly become a leader, a team player, and intelligent learner, a hungry athlete committed to always getting better, and even a high character guy who can be a contribution to the community and to the locker room?
Yes, along with the measurables, I will be looking very closely at the intangibles. Because along with those key needs, it is the WHOLE PLAYER, who is one I hope to see wearing blue come September, and soon become another GIANT AMONG MEN.
More to come very soon!