The Giants will select a linebacker at some point in this year’s draft. But will that pick come 21 days from now, or 22 days from now?
When we’ve discussed middle linebackers thus far during our adventures in questions and answers in these team-by-team draft previews, the focus has often remained on Manti Te’o. I’ll partly admit that’s because I — like all of you — have been caught up in the chatter over the many factors around Te’o that are far removed from the football field. But mostly, there’s genuine intrigue about him, and I still believe that would exist even without the fake dead girlfriend cluster-mess.
That interest has percolated because given his specific skillset, and his top end speed that’s far removed from the quicks of, say, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman, it’s difficult to determine if Te’o is worthy of a first-round grade. At the very least, the draft discussion around Te’o has been intriguing, and often heated.
But what if you’re a middle linebacker-needy team like the Giants, and none of the first-round options at the position are appealing? Where do you turn next in the mid-to-late rounds? Eric Kennedy from Big Blue Interactive has a few ideas.
1. With both Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn gone, a middle linebacker has to be targeted in the first round, right? The Giants could be the first team to draft an MLB, meaning they can choose from top prospects Alec Ogletree, Manti Te’o, and Kevin Minter.
No, I don’t think the Giants will draft a linebacker in round one. Because the Giants play a 4-3 defense, they tend to value other defenive positions more. Keep in mind the Giants haven’t drafted a linebacker in round one in almost 30 years.
Also, I don’t think Te’o or Minter are first-round types, and I am not personally high on either. Past round one, I like middle linebackers Kevin Reddick and Steve Beauharnais better. Ogletree has all the tools and could be a possibility, but he has a lot of off-the-field baggage that will need to be checked out. Keep in mind that the Giants signed Dan Connor from Dallas. He’s a better fit in a 4-3 defense than Dallas’ 3-4, and will be an upgrade over Blackburn. He could surprise and earn a multi-year deal.
2. David Diehl is entering the final year of his contract, and he was something far less than impressive this past season. Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher will be long gone by the time the Giants are on the clock, and Lane Johnson will likely be spoken for too. But if D.J. Fluker is available, does Jerry Reese favor him over a linebacker, or wait on a tackle until a little later?
The Giants don’t tend to draft offensive linemen in the first round unless they play left tackle. That said, I would think Fluker has to be on their radar. He has the tools to become one of the best right tackles in football, and at worst, would make a hell of a guard.
Diehl is on his last legs. The big question is, how do the Giants truly feel about James Brewer, who they drafted in the fourthround two years ago. Brewer has all the tools, but does he have the temperament to succeed at the NFL level?
3. With Osi Umenyiora now in Atlanta and the Giants likely to seek an upgrade over Justin Tuck, when will a defensive end be targeted?
The Giants will definitely look at defensive ends and could draft one in the first round such as Bjoern Werner, Ezekiel Anash, or maybe even Datone Jones.
Tuck is in the last year of his contract, and Mathias Kiwanuka will probably be moved to defensive end. But the Giants will need another top rusher to team with Jason Pierre-Paul.
4. Brandon Myers was brought in to replace the departed Martellus Bennett. But given the injuries the Giants sustained at tight end during last year’s championship run, will more depth be looked at, maybe in the middle rounds?
Definitely. Myers is more of an H-Back type due to his size. The guy the Giants have really high hopes for as a two-way down tight end is Adrien Robinson, their fourthrounder from last year. They also still have journeyman Bear Pascoe, and there’s been whispers that relatively unknown Larry Donnell might surprise. That said, getting a big tight end who can block in the mid rounds makes a lot of sense.
5. What other needs should be addressed? A cornerback will also likely be a priority for both depth, and quality competition for Corey Webster.
I think the Giants biggest needs are the defensive line (both defensive tackle and defensive end), offensive line (both tackle and guard), and the secondary (both cornerback and safety).
The Giants have a lot of bodies at tackle, but quantity doesn’t equal quality. Unless Marvin Austin comes on, the Giants need a young defensive tackle to team with Linval Joseph down the road, as Cullen Jenkins is 32. Chris Snee is on the downside of his career and far too expensive. Kevin Boothe will be a free agent again next year. Corey Webster is on the downside. Antrel Rolle makes too much money. The Giants obviously also need to add some bodies at linebacker.