While seemingly half the league was busy trading places in the first round, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants decided to stand pat and trust their draft board.
There were eight trades, including 16 of the 32 picks being swapped at least once. But Big Blue didn’t partake in the frenzy as they landed former ACC Offensive Player of the Year David Wilson.
“This guy loves to play football,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. “We like all of that stuff about him. He’s fast. He’s productive. He can do anything you want him to do.”
The mighty mite (5-foot-9, 206 pounds) from Virginia Tech was one of the
best athletes on the board, sporting a swift 4.49 seconds in the
40-yard dash, a preposterous 41-inch vertical jump (best of all running
backs at the scouting combine) and was also an accomplished
triple-jumper as he finished sixth in the NCAA national meets.
“The Giants are Super Bowl champions, and I’m like ‘They probably won’t pick me,’ Wilson said. “I was just hoping that something would happen, and I get the New Jersey call and I start screaming. I answered the phone and it was the New York Giants. It was the best call that I got in a long time.”
The Giants lost Brandon Jacobs to San Francisco in the offseason and the team clearly wants to play a two-back system as they have over the past few years. With Ahmad Bradshaw taking the starting role, Wilson will be in the mix along with D.J. Ware and Andre Brown.
“We’re looking at the fact that Brandon [Jacobs] is no longer here and we do have to try to balance that out,” head coach Tom Coughlin said. “We believe that you do have to have multiple runners or at least two that can effectively take the field at any time and this young man we thought was one of those that can be a big play threat.”
Wilson, who entered the draft early as a junior, had over 1,700 yards rushing last season for the Hokies, but also had some issues with fumbling, a no-no for Coughlin. But if anyone can fix that, it’s Coughlin, who once famously fixed former Giants’ great Tiki Barber of his fumbling woes.
“The question comes up about ball security and we’ll remind him of that right away,” Coughlin said. “But I think every team has done that with him and he’s very, very much aware of that.”
Pluses for Wilson: Wilson can be a weapon on screen passes (career-high 22 receptions last season), which is a staple play for running backs in the passing game under Giants’ offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Wilson has above-average hands as a receiver and is similar in running style to starter Ahmad Bradshaw when in the open field. … Can also be utilized in the kick return game, as he once had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Minuses for Wilson: Wilson wasn’t used frequently enough in pass protection, which will need to improve if he’s to see significant time in the offense. … He fumbled eight times last season, losing four but he doesn’t feel it’ll be a problem in the pros. Scouts equate Wilson’s pigskin hiccups to his desire to not go down with the first hit and trying to fight for extra yards — a la soon-to-be teammate Bradshaw.
Big Blue notes
»The Giants are trying to revamp a defensive tackle rotation with Rocky Bernard continuing to twist in the free-agent winds and a still-rehabbing Marvin Austin (pectoral), so it came as no surprise that Big Blue tried to add depth to the position by signing the bulky Shaun Rogers (6-foot-4, 350 pounds). The 12-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowler last played for the Saints in 2011. He also saw time in Detroit and Cleveland recently. Rogers played in all 16 regular season games (four starts) and both postseason games for the Saints last season, tallying 22 tackles.
Rogers is a wide-body who said he’s looking forward to adding girth to a defensive line unit that dubbed itself “NASCAR” because of its speed rushers: “Those guys are most definitely top-notch pass rushers, in their prime. I’m just happy to be a part of that group, those guys are going to help me out and hopefully I can help them out.”
»The Giants bypassed Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, who many thought was a shoe-in to be selected by the suddenly tight end-depleted squad. Current tight ends Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard both suffered torn ACLs in the Super Bowl and subsequently underwent surgery. Beckum hasn’t ruled out playing against Dallas on opening night, though he still faces a long rehabilitation. Ballard is not as optimistic: “My best chance [to play] will be midseason, if at all,” Ballard said.
Ballard, who caught 38 passes and scored four touchdowns in a breakout season in 2011, has come to terms with the fact that he might miss the entire season: “A lot of people have ACLs and miss a year, so why should I be lucky enough that I don’t miss the whole entire year? … I can’t do anything about that now. I’m hurt, [but] I’m trying to get better.”
»Offensive lineman was also thought to be a key position to be selected by the Giants. They may still go that route in the later rounds but for now Big Blue seems happy with what they have — particularly Kevin Boothe. The versatile veteran started seven games at left guard (including the last six), five at center and one at right guard last season. He has also filled in at tackle in the past.
Boothe said he doesn’t need to know in advance where he’s going to play and added he wasn’t glued to the television screen to see if the Giants would add any competition to his spot: “In the several years I’ve been here I’ve played a lot of positions, so I’d approach [the draft] the same way; just trying to improve, learn as much as I can and see wherever I fit in. Who knows what could happen? You might prepare for one position, but you never know what might happen. So I’ll try to have a broad knowledge. … The more you can do.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.