Eric Ebron is a hot prospect at tight end this year. The Giants would likely be interested at No. 12. Credit: Getty Images
The NFL Draft is just days away, and with two additional weeks this year comes extra chances at evaluating — or over evaluating — the talent pool.
Luckily for the Giants, they could use that added time as they have many holes to fill coming off a 7-9 campaign.
General manager Jerry Reese has been busy this offseason, as the Giants have been one of the more active teams during free agency, adding almost 20 new faces.
Big Blue has needs and depth issues all over the place, particularly defensive line, offensive line, tight end and running back.
The Giants have a way of settling their draft board, as they usually have a list of prospects and promptly cross off each name until it’s their turn to pick — choosing the best player available when they’re on the clock. And since they rarely engage in first-round trades, they’ll likely sit and wait until it’s their time to select at No. 12, where there will still be many players on their wish list.
The top-rated players at the Giants’ position of needs — that will likely still be there — are defensive tackle Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh, offensive tackle Zack Martin of Notre Dame and tight end Eric Ebron of North Carolina.
According to most draft analysts, there isn’t a running back in this year’s draft worthy of a first-round pick.
Tight end seems to be the leader among immediate needs, and while Ebron may be the best prospect of the incomers, most of the 11 teams ahead of the Giants don’t have a pressing need for a tight end. Ebron is a new-age tight end who can stretch the field down the hash marks or split out wide. He’d be a boon to the new-look Giants offense under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who came over from Green Bay. McAdoo turned tight end Jermichael Finley into a star during his tenure and many analysts think Ebron’s physical skill set resembles Finley’s.
Ebron could be the pick, considering veteran Bear Pascoe signed with the Falcons last week.
Reese played coy when asked if he was leaning toward a certain position.
“This is a good draft, deep at a lot of positions,” he said. “We’re trying to find seven good players for the Giants, and I think there are seven we can use.”
He added that while he made all those free-agent signings, it won’t steer the Giants one way or another when it’s time to pick.
“It might, but you never know. I don’t know,” Reese said. “I do think we helped ourselves, but the draft is a separate thing, totally by itself.”
Reese had a chuckle when asked about the possibility of picking the same position repeatedly if his draft board has that particular position as the best player available at the time.
“That won’t happen,” he said.
What could happen, if the board falls his way, is that the Giants will still have some of their targets remaining during Day 2 of the draft.
Big Blue added some pieces to the offensive line via free agency, but there’s still depth that needs to be built. Luckily for them, there are a handful of options in the mid-rounds that could still be there, especially in the second round with their No. 43 overall pick.
Should the Giants still have a need at offensive tackle, Antonio Richardson of Tennessee could be their target. Richardson had some inconsistencies in his game, but with his raw power and the fact he’s snuck into the first round of some mock drafts, it’d be hard for the Giants to bypass him.
Others to keep an eye on down the road are fellow Volunteer JuWuan James (6-foot-6, 311 pounds), Virginia’s Morgan Moses (6-foot-6, 314 pounds) or Michigan’s Michael Schofield (6-foot-7, 301 pounds).
North Dakota State’s Billy Turner (6-foot-5, 315 pounds), Nevada’s Joel Bitonio (6-foot-4, 302 pounds) or Boise State’s Charles Leno (6-foot-4, 303 pounds) could all be nice pickups down the road.
Top-rated guards Xavier Su’a-Filo of UCLA or Stanford’s David Yankey will likely be gone by No. 12, but if either one is still there, Reese will have a nice problem on his hands.
Big Blue notes ...
» Reese admitted “there is competition” for the backup quarterback position behind the wounded Eli Manning (ankle surgery), who will be out until training camp.
At the moment, the leader could be Josh Freeman, who is the only other quarterback on the roster with significant starting experience. Just three seasons ago, Freeman was a 4,000-yard passer for the Buccaneers.
» Reese said he likes what Martin (6-foot-4, 308 pounds) can offer considering he potentially can play all three positions along the offensive line.
» Donald (6-foot-1, 290 pounds) would be a “great fit for any team,” said Reese, but particularly for the Giants as he could be a suitable replacement for Linval Joseph, who defected to Minnesota.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.