Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin both made liberal use of the word "upside" in their appraisals of their higher-round draft picks.
While the word is usually taken in a positive context, as the general manager and head coach meant it to be, it also has a negative connotation which applies to first-to-third-round picks Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, and Chad Jones. Because of injuries or mere life experience, those three have more limited football experience than those taken around them.
In other words, the Giants are what is popularly known as betting "on the come" with these guys. Betting that they haven't played their best football yet, and a little education, conditioning, or on-field experience will take them to levels far higher than where they are now.
Take Pierre-Paul, for instance. He didn't even start playing football until junior year in high school, when the coach coaxed him off the basketball court to play in a playoff game. After high school, he played two years of junior and community college before he hit South Florida, where he started all of seven games before he declared himself draft-eligible as a junior.
The 270-pound Pierre-Paul is certainly active enough, and his impressively long body and huge wingspan bodes will for the future. But as far as anyone knows right now, the Giants have drafted a great back-flipper. And that would have been outstanding if this was an Olympic year. Nobody quite knows what they're going to see once they get Pierre-Paul in pads. With any luck, it'll be a supreme pass rusher who forces himself into playing time, the positive of upside. But right now that upside is so high because Pierre-Paul's experience level is so low that it would be hard for him not to improve to some extent.
Joseph is a different case. The defensive tackle has had weight and stamina issues. Although he weighs just 315 now, he was 70 pounds heavier before minor back surgery following his freshman year. And then he put 20 of it back on before the 2008 season. Weight yo-yoing is never good, and it resulted in Joseph having to be used in rotation rather than as a straight starter inside. One scouting report said he often looked winded when playing consecutive series. He'll have to overcome that, in part by being vigilant about his weight. But the "upside" is that if he can succeed in that, he could be a big-body occupier of blockers and a disruptive force on the pass rush.
East Carolina doesn't play in the biggest of NCAA Division 1 conferences, either, so his level of competition wasn't like someone coming out of an SEC or Big-10 school. He faced mostly the Tulsas, UTEPs and Central Floridas of the world, with only occasional forays into big-boy territory. That's not uncommon, but since we're talking about flaws, it's worth mentioning.
Safety Chad Jones spent four years playing at big-time LSU. That's good. But he also split his time between the football field and the baseball diamond, where he helped pitch the Bayou Bengals to a 2009 College World Series championship. As a result, his upper body isn't fully developed. A lot of extra time in the weight room will remedy that.
That's not a huge knock. Nor is the fact that he never engaged in spring football practices. But Jones understandably didn't have as extensive a football experience as others who specialized in the sport. So there is an educational gap there.
So all these players have huge upsides. There's nothing wrong with that. But when one bases his high-round draft picks on potential created by experience or physical deficiencies, that's taking quite a risk. And that is exactly what Jerry Reese has done with this draft.
He's betting on the come. And from now until the end of the season, he'll go to bed hoping he hasn't thrown a whole lot of money on the table only to roll craps.
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