For a playoff team, the New York Giants still have plenty of gaps that can be filled in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. These are their top-five needs.
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Critics said 2016 was the beginning of the end for Eli Manning. There are reports the New York Giants think Manning has two or three more season left with the team, this one per 247 Sports. Multiple voices have suggested the New York Giants go after his eventual replacement in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Giants would be remiss in wasting a top pick on a quarterback when Manning wasn’t completely garbage in 2016. However, if the Giants address more critical problem areas on offense and Manning doesn’t take a step forward in 2017, the team should be way more aggressive in their search for his heir.
Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Husky Stadium. Washington won 44-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
5. Running Back
The Giants released Rashad Jennings after he averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 2016. Rookie Paul Perkins took over the reins as starting running back in the latter part of the season, averaging well over four yards per attempt. Yet, most pundits aren’t convinced Perkins is the immediate answer in 2017. They feel Perkins works best as a committee back rather than a workhorse.
With the threat of a sophomore slump for Perkins in 2017, experts say the Giants will pursue a free agent. If Big Blue’s brass have faith in Perkins, a costly free agent like Eddie Lacy or Latavius Murray could derail or delay his progress. A more reasonable solution would be going with a top prospect in the draft.
Who will that prospect be? A couple mock drafts suggest Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey. If the Giants were to select the 2015 AP Player of the Year, it would have to be in the first round as McCaffrey’s not projected to fall far beyond the top of the second round. Drafting McCaffrey would also mean the end of Shane Vereen‘s time on the roster and could even signal the release of returner Dwayne Harris. The G-Men would save approximately $6.75 million if they cut ties with both veterans after June 1.
The Doak Walker Award winner would be an intriguing pick as he’s the big back (6-1, 249 pounds) the Giants have missed since Brandon Jacobs departed. Foreman’s the short yardage and goal-line guy Big Blue needs to extend and finish drives.
The Giants haven’t found a stable long-term presence at tight end since trading Jeremy Shockey to the New Orleans Saints. Larry Donnell and Will Tye put up decent numbers but aren’t consistent playmakers. One-time (one-year) Giant Martellus Bennett might come back to the team as a free agent stopgap. But, it would behoove Big Blue to revisit their 2002 NFL Draft strategy and select a tight end with their first pick.
In NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft, he had Big Blue selecting South Alabama’s Gerald Everett, remarking that he there were parts of his game that are reminiscent of Jordan Reed. In Everett’s last season, he finished in the Sun Belt’s top ten for receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns.
In Lance Zierlein’s original mock draft, he had the Giants picking Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku. Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com also has Njoku falling to the Giants in the first. This is a deep draft at tight end and the Giants have numerous options depending on how they prioritize the position and how the draft plays out.
Nov 19, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) is congratulated by teammates after a fumble recovery during the second half against the Mississippi Rebels at Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt won 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
There hasn’t been a Giants Pro Bowl linebacker since Antonio Pierce in 2006. That’s out of control. Since Pierce’s retirement, the Giants have allocated most of their salary cap on defense to the defensive line and secondary, severely under-funding the linebacking corps. As a result, linebacker has been the weakest group in New York.
In 2015, the G-Men signed free agents Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas. Though Casillas was a captain and had a career year in 2016, he could be released. Thomas has been a bust and is on the verge of being cut. In 2016, Big Blue signed free agents Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard to one-year contracts, and neither really excelled. Both are now free agents, along with Mark Herzlich.
The league average for cap allocation at the linebacking position is $18.2 million. The Giants have allocated around $10 million, which is 25th in the NFL. Almost no one is predicting the Giants to upgrade the unit through free agency, so the G-Men will most certainly use a pick on the position.
Jan 26, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte (95) hits a tackling dummy during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
2. Defensive Tackle
With the Giants applying the franchise tag to Jason Pierre-Paul and a significant chance Johnathan Hankins leaves via free agency, the Giants could be in dire need of a defensive tackle next to Damon Harrison.
Hankins was forced to move away from his usual spot over center to make room for Harrison and the former second round draft pick’s performance declined. Even with Hankins playing poorly out of position, the most fervent of supporters would express concern over entering the 2017 season without him.
The organization hopes that 2014 third-rounder Jay Bromley and recently re-signed exclusive rights free agent Robert Thomas make substantial strides. The draft presents a few opportunities to add quality depth to the rotation. Doing so will help alleviate pressure (and double teams) on Harrison or deliver a plug-and-play fill-in if Harrison gets hurt.
Michigan State’s Malik McDowell has been mentioned as a possible pick. Other top-rated defensive tackles include Florida’s Caleb Brantley, Charlotte’s Larry Ogunjobi (who averaged almost 15 tackles for loss per year over two seasons in Conference USA), Notre Dame’s Jarron Jones, and Ole Miss’s D.J. Jones.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) in action during the game against the Western Michigan Broncos in the 2017 Cotton Bowl game at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers defeat the Broncos 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
1. Offensive Line
The worries over the defensive line pale in comparison to the accelerated anxiety over the offensive line. Ereck Flowers is a severe liability at left tackle. Many suspect he’ll get moved to Eli Manning’s front side. Marshall Newhouse and John Jerry are free agents and probably won’t be re-signed. Brett Jones filled in admirably at guard when Justin Pugh went down. Bobby Hart is still a raw talent who needs a lot of work.
Other offensive linemen mentioned as possibilities include Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton, Pittsburgh’s Dorian Johnson, and Michigan’s Erik Magnuson. You’d be hard pressed to find any Giants fans who wouldn’t welcome a couple top-rated prospects. There are only a handful of linemen who can start Day One. The Giants should move mountains to select them.