The Giants are the defending champions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have holes to fill.
Big Blue rode a magical hot streak to win Super Bowl XLVI last season, but for most of the season they were an inconsistent squad that could beat the likes of New England and Green Bay, but also get swept by Washington.
General manager Jerry Reese noted the Giants will need to revamp certain units on the team, but was adamant he would not select a player solely on need, but rather pick the “best player available that will help our football team, regardless of position.”
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Since the free agency period commenced in early March, the Giants have lost a handful of starters and key reserves including right tackle Kareem McKenzie, running back Brandon Jacobs, wideout Mario Manningham, defensive end Dave Tollefson and cornerback Aaron Ross. None of those positions have yet to be adequately filled via free agency — and all four units could use an influx of talent — so it’s safe to say those are the target areas for Reese and Co. in this Thursday’s draft.
Although the Giants’ brass didn’t name potential draftees, there are some routes they can go with their first-round pick amongst players with consensus first-round grades:
1. Coby Fleener, tight end, Stanford: Andrew Luck’s favorite target makes sense in that he could possibly be the best player still on the board and a need. The Giants’ top-two tight ends, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, both tore ACLs in the Super Bowl. The downside is that while Fleener has great size (6-foot-6, 247 pounds), he isn’t known as a great in-line blocker and is more H-Back (like Beckum) than a masher who also happens to have good hands (like Ballard).
2. David Wilson, running back, Virginia Tech: Wilson has the size (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) and pedigree (All-ACC) that fits the Giants’ style. He should most certainly be there at No. 32 and could be a nice addition to help ease the burden on Ahmad Bradshaw.
3. Doug Martin, running back, Boise State: Martin has climbed up many mock drafts because of his versatility and running style. The mighty-mite (5-foot-9, 220 pounds) reminds many of LeSean McCoy in that he is hard to tackle, but is also a threat in the passing game. He fits the Giants’ offense because offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is known to fall in love with the screen play and Martin would be a viable option in those packages.
4. Mike Adams, offensive tackle, Ohio State: Not the proverbial “sexy” pick, but Big Blue has never been known to draft towards public sentiment. Depending on whether anyone drastically falls in the first round, Adams may not be the best player available, but he would still be a very solid pick. The controversial Buckeye could also add depth to a position that lost McKenzie, has left tackle Will Beatty still recovering from offseason eye surgery, and has flip-flopped David Diehl all over the line. The potential downside to Adams is he was amongst the group of OSU players banned from the team for receiving improper benefits last season.
5. Devon Still, defensive tackle, Penn State: Still is an intriguing prospect because of his pedigree (four-year starter at PSU) and size (6-foot-5, 300 pounds). While the Giants seem set at defensive tackle (they’re also getting back a healthy Marvin Austin this year), don’t be surprised if Big Blue still selects Still, as the Giants love to stockpile talent along the defensive line. They are not bashful at adding talent even when there seems to be no room for playing time, as they once drafted Matthias Kiwanuka even though they already had Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck in the defensive end rotation.
6. Vinny Curry, defensive end, Marshall: Curry is an intriguing pick because he’s not a household name, but one who is getting some first-round attention by team personnel. As Umenyiora continues to stew over his contract, again, and with Big Blue losing some depth with the defection of Tollefson, the rush end position could use some depth. Curry (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) is similar to Umenyiora in size, speed and relentless pursuit of the quarterback, so don’t be surprised to hear his name called as the final pick of the first round.
Big Blue notes
» Speaking of Umenyiora, the disgruntled Pro Bowler will be a relative bargain at $3.975 million this upcoming season, the final of his seven-year deal, but don’t think he doesn’t know that. Umenyiora, who noted he’d have a “difficult time” coming off the bench next season, said he’s non-committal about reporting to training camp this summer without some sort of pay raise or extension.
“I never want to say never, but I just doubt. I seriously doubt that’s going to be the case [reporting on time without a new deal]. … I can’t answer that question [but] I hope so.”
Umenyiora, 30, went on to say that he feels vastly underpaid, considering his 12.5 sacks last season (including the playoffs), while other defensive ends had lesser stats despite playing more downs. Umenyiora missed the first three games last season following August knee surgery.
“Obviously, you see [Eagles defensive end] Trent Cole doing what he did, signing his extension. You see [Colts] Robert Mathis, he’s 31 years old, and who I feel like I’m just as good as. You see the numbers that they signed, I don’t see how I can sign [for less].”
When asked if he could share time at rush end with budding phenom Jason Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora tried to sound like a team-first guy, but didn’t do a very good job of hiding his disappointment if that’s the case.
“Whatever the team wants me to do is what I’m going to be willing to do,” Umenyiora said. “Wherever they feel like playing me is where I’m gonna play. But I definitely feel like I’m an every-down defensive end.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.