Somebody asked for an overview of the Giants' draft process, so I'll attempt to explain it here. I won't get into specific players because that would be silly. There's way too much time between now and the draft in late April, and a lot can happen to affect the desirability of those picks.
But here's the basic rundown. As we speak, the college scouting staff, along with Jerry Reese, are down in Mobile, Al. talking to and watching the 100 invitees to the Senior Bowl, the nation's top showcase of big-program college talent. Some of those same scouts undoubtedly attended the East-West Game, which is another prime showcase.
The next big event is the scouting combine in Indianapolis, where 300 invitees will run, jump, leap, get prodded medically and psychologically, and will have opportunities to talk with reps from each team. And once that is over, schools will conduct private workouts, many of which will be heavily attended by coaches and scouts.
As you might expect, a lot of trees die during this period, as scouts compile voluminous sets of notes on each candidate. As the reports come in, the names go up on the value board in order of round, position, and numerous other factors. It's all very hush-hush, and the board itself is kept under lock and key, to be seen by only a handful in the organization.
Eventually, an organized list develops on that value board depending on need and strength of the candidate. The Giants, for instance, should have at least one defensive tackle in their first-round cluster of five or six players they expect will be available at No. 15. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a safety and an inside linebacker in there, too, since those areas represent the biggest needs the Giants have. But there will also be others, including the old "Best Athlete Available" that doesn't necessarily fit into a direct need, but would be an asset to have, anyway.
That's really how Mathias Kiwanuka came to be a Giant. With Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, and Justin Tuck already in the fold by 2006, the last thing anyone thought the Giants needed was another pass rusher. But there sat Boston College's Kiwanuka, one of the top defensive ends that year. Ernie Accorsi picked him at No. 32, having traded down from No. 25 with Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. "Can't ever have too many pass rushers," Accorsi said.
It was obviously a best athlete available pick. Yet, thanks to injuries to both Strahan and Umenyiora, Kiwanuka wound up starting as a rookie. So things do work out sometimes.
Reese has tried more to blend the need with the "best athlete" philosophy in his three previous drafts, and has by and large succeeded. To further rebuild what had been a porous secondary in 2005, Reese used his first pick of 2007 on Texas cornerback Aaron Ross at No. 20. Since Sinorice Moss spent most of his rookie season on the sideline injured, the second-round pick went to Steve Smith. Jay Alford, Kevin Boss, Michael Johnson, and Ahmad Bradshaw also came in that blockbuster draft, all brought in for depth or direct need.
2008 should have consolidated the middle of the secondary for years to come with the addition of first-rounder Kenny Phillips, a move made in anticipation of the Giants setting safety James Butler loose in free agency a year later. Terrell Thomas and Mario Manningham also came in that draft as depth enhancements.
The elimination of Plaxico Burress (gunshot) and Amani Toomer (set loose in free agency) led to the drafting last year of Hakeem Nicks, a budding star that was part need, part best athlete. And the recognition that offensive lines don't last forever led to the second-round drafting of Connecticut tackle Will Beatty. Both wound up starting for part of the past season.
So you see, it's hard to say whether Reese will go need or best athlete available with the No. 15 pick, assuming he stays there. Trades are always possible. And who comes in free agency will go a long way in determining which position most needs to be addressed on the first day of the draft. Right now, middle linebacker, defensive tackle, and safety appear the prime targeted areas.
As I said, the bulk of the draft process has just started. There's a lot of film to study and many scouting reports to be completed before draft day.
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