EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) If there was ever a year for New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin to get it right in the NFL draft, this is it.
The Giants have missed the playoffs the past three seasons since winning the Super Bowl in 2012 and jobs are on the line. The past two years have not been good: The team has been out of the postseason picture by roughly Thanksgiving.
Records of 7-9 and 6-10 are not going to cut it with co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.
The Giants need a player who can step in right away with the No. 9 pick Thursday, and chances are there is going to be one available. It’s just picking the right one.
”If you draft at nine, it is a premium position, regardless of what it is,” Reese said. ”It doesn’t matter what position. If you draft him at nine, he is a guy you expect to come in and play and play quickly.”
The Giants have obvious needs heading into the draft, the most notable on the lines. They need another offensive lineman, and it doesn’t make a difference if he is a tackle or guard because line coach Pat Flaherty demands his players be versatile enough to play either position. The defensive line needs a tackle.
Don’t be surprised, though, to see Reese draft away from need. He has always taken the best player no matter what the position, and there is a good group of receivers this year he could add to Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle.
Here’s a glimpse at the key issues facing the Giants heading into the draft:
THE O-LINE: The new West Coast offense picked up in the second half of the season under coordinator Ben McAdoo, and another lineman is needed. There are three premier tackles in the draft with Brandon Scherff of Iowa, La’el Collins of LSU and Andrus Peat of Stanford. With second-year guard Weston Richburg expected to move to center, taking a tackle might allow RT Justin Pugh to move inside to guard. Another lineman also gives the Giants depth with Geoff Schwartz coming off an injury-marred first season with the team. Scherff, the Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top lineman, seems to be the favorite to get the nod from Reese.
”I like the kid from Iowa, just from what I have seen,” Pugh said. ”He seems like a tough kid. I have watched a few games on him and that is someone I would like to play to with.”
THE D-LINE: The Giants ranked No. 29 overall in defense and No. 30 against the run last season. It led to the firing of defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and the return of Steve Spagnuolo. Stopping the run will be a focus, and the middle of the line is a big need. Johnathan Hankins played well in 2014, but Cullen Jenkins is 34. The best run stopper in the draft is Danny Shelton of Washington; he might be there when the ninth pick rolls around.
ANOTHER RECEIVER?: With Beckham, Cruz, Randle and the recently signed free Dwayne Harris, there seems to be more than enough talent for Eli Manning to pick out. However, you never pass up a game breaker – as Beckham showed last season in a record-setting rookie year. If Amari Cooper of Alabama is available, Reese won’t hesitate to make his stable bigger.
SPAGS’ SAFETY: The Giants lost Antrel Rolle to the Bears in free agency and their back line is untested with youngsters Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe, so they need a safety. The pick will probably come in the later rounds, although there has been some speculation Utah safety Eric Rowe might be taken in the second round and moved from cornerback to safety as a pro.
MORE DEFENSE: The other defensive need is for an inside linebacker. Middle linebacker Jon Beason has battled injuries in recent seasons and there is no one waiting in the wings to replace him. Reese has to take a middle linebacker, even if just to fill out special teams needs.
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