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Early mocks have Giants looking O-line

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Early mocks have Giants looking O-line

Post  Big_Pete on Mon Apr 04, 2011 8:25 pm

Early mocks have Giants looking O-line

BY Ralph Vacchiano

With a little more than three weeks until the NFL draft, the Giants, with the 19th overall pick, select …

OK, if you’ve been following this blog for the last few years then you know by now that I’m nowhere near being ready to guess. My guesses are usually good (either that or the Giants are pretty predictable), but so much can happen between now and Day 1 that no one can really know this far out.

Of course, that doesn’t stop people from doing Mock Drafts. They’re all over the radio and the internet and have been for months. In fact, I’ll be participating in my first one later this week. And in almost every mock draft I’ve seen so far there seems to be a consensus on one thing about the Giants:

They will take an offensive lineman at 19.

True? Maybe. It’s as good a guess as I can make 24 days out. After all, they have plenty of health and age issues along their current offensive line. And at the scouting combine in February, Tom Coughlin – who rarely gives anything away – pointed to the injuries to Adam Koets (knee), Rich Seubert (knee), and Shaun O’Hara (ankle, foot) and answered a question about draft priorities for the Giants by saying “The center position is a concern, because we have injuries at that spot.”

I can also tell you that there are at least three first-round linemen very much on their early radar, according to several league sources – Florida C/G Mike Pouncey, Boston College T Anthony Castonzo, USC T Tyron Smith. The Giants sent offensive line coach Pat Flaherty to both the Florida and Boston College Pro Days (I believe Coughlin was also at the Florida one). And Smith figures to be way up on their draft board, though most people project he’ll be long gone by 19 (No. 9 to the Cowboys is a good and popular early bet).

For what it’s worth, Gil Brandt and I recently interviewed Pouncey on Sirius NFL Radio and he said he’s had “a lot” of contact with the Giants. He said they met with him for about an hour and a half before his Pro Day and then worked him out again afterwards. He added that he has no plans to make a pre-draft visit to the Giants, but that doesn’t mean much since the Giants usually only bring in players they have unanswered questions about.

So again, it’s early, but as I start to take part in these Media Mocks – a lot of places now ask beat writers from around the country to make the mock picks for their teams – I’ll be zeroing in on Pouncey, Smith and Castonzo for starters. I’ll add in Colorado T Nate Solder, who was the Giants’ pick in a recent Sirius NFL Radio mock by Bryan McGovern and Jim Miller (Pouncey, Smith and Castonzo) were all gone.

By the way, I should also add this: The Giants say year after year that they draft the best available player, not for need. I’ve been covering them for most of the last two decades and when it comes to first-rounders, I mostly disagree. More often than not they’ve managed to fill a need with their first round pick, and unless there’s a “best available player” at a non-need position way above everybody else, I believe they’ll always lean towards plugging an immediate hole (more on that in an upcoming blog entry).

So what are those holes and needs heading into the first round of the NFL Draft on April 28? These three positions immediately come to mind:

--Offensive line: It’s the obvious choice, given their injury situation. O’Hara and Seubert are no locks to return at their age, so an interior lineman is definitely a big need. If the team moves David Diehl from T to G – something that always seems to be a possibility – that would fill a guard spot, but they’d still need a center. Maybe O’Hara is back for another year, but even then they’d need a center of the future. Kareem McKenzie could also be entering his last year as the Giants’ RT, and the jury is still out on Will Beatty as the LT of the future. The Giants’ signing of Shawn Andrews shows they are looking for options at tackle. Given the huge bonuses and salaries in his contract and his ongoing back issues, Andrews isn’t likely to be back.

--Linebacker: The Giants’ track record of drafting linebackers since they found Jessie Armstead in the eighth round of the 1993 draft is pretty abysmal. I think Jonathan Goff has a chance to be a good middle linebacker, and I believe Michael Boley has enough talent to be good on one side. I’m not sure anyone thinks either of them are big-impact players, though. So a speedy, impact linebacker – preferably on the outside – would seem to be a necessity. It’s early, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be a ton of first-round locks at that position, though. Once the first couple are off the board, the rest might slip to the second round. A few early names to watch are UCLA’s Akeem Ayers, Georgia’s Justin Houston, and Texas’ Sam Acho.

--Running back: This position would be much easier to figure if free agency had already occurred, but since that’s stalled by the lockout and the uncertain labor situation, this spot is a bit of a mystery. For example, whether the Giants decide they can afford to keep Brandon Jacobs may depend on whether there’s a salary cap in 2011 (depending on how the courts rule, the NFL might play under last year’s non-capped CBA rules). If there is a cap, Jacobs may be asked to take a pay cut, which he might refuse. If there’s no cap, then it seems like a lock he’ll be back. Then there’s Ahmad Bradshaw, who could be an unrestricted free agent if the next CBA restores UFA eligibility to four vested years (though the Giants appear likely to sign him to a long-term contract as soon as they can even if he is unrestricted). Regardless, given Bradshaw’s history of ankle and foot injuries and the fact that Jacobs at the very least will be entering his last year with the Giants, a running back somewhere up high makes sense. Probably not first round, though, unless Alabama’s Mark Ingram slips all the way to 19 – and someone who has scouted him said that if that happens the Giants need to jump on him because the value would be off the charts. But it’s definitely a position to watch in the first three rounds.
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