The bitter end to the 2012 season for the New York Giants raised a lot of questions for the team, its fans and its front office looking forward. Luckily, it seems as though some early draft choices could provide for some pretty sound answers.
Between different area struggles and possible player departures, the main concerns for the Giants rest heavily upon the defense as a whole (mainly within the defensive end and linebacker positions) and with providing Eli Manning with at least one more reliable weapon (most sensibly at tight end).
Within the bounds of reason, there are several players that New York's front office has been dreaming about since the end of the season that could be the very helpful answer to some very serious questions.
Alex Okafor, Texas
Osi Umenyiora is likely to become an unrestricted free agent and Justin Tuck’s numbers have been steadily decreasing, putting a heavy emphasis on making sure New York’s defensive line stays as potent as it has been in recent years. Longhorn Alex Okafor proved in his senior season that he could be a worthy addition to the line that has helped the Giants win two Super Bowls since 2007.
Okafor ended his Texas career on a high note, recording 4.5 sacks against Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29. It was easily his best game of the season (along with his 12-tackle performance against Kansas in October), and it reflected his consistent brand of athleticism that could fit well into New York’s system.
Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Before Ezekiel Ansah walked on to the Brigham Young football squad in 2010, he was running in circles for the Cougars' track and field team. Now, after a stellar senior year, Ansah has a lot of potential and the look to be a breakout defensive rookie for the Giants
At 6'6" and 270 pounds, the freakishly athletic Ansah boasts a lot of similarities to Jason Pierre-Paul. Again, as someone with only a few years of college football experience under his belt, the development process could be longer for Ansah than others. But the flashes of brilliance he showed this past season might be enough for a call from New York on draft day.
Sam Montgomery, LSU
Consistency was the name of the game for Montgomery in his junior year in Baton Rouge, recording basically a sack and three tackles per game. Especially considering his play in the SEC, Montgomery’s ability to make his presence known steadily throughout could be an invaluable resource for the Giants moving forward.
At 6'5" and 260 pounds, it’s starting to look more and more like Montgomery will be New York’s pick come draft day, and that will be quite alright for the Giants.
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
You can bet the barn that Moore will not be available by the time the Giants pick, but we can dream, right?
Alec Ogletree, Georgia
There is a solid chance Chase Blackburn could become a free agent this offseason. Regardless, despite a solid 2012, Blackburn is not the linebacker of the future.
The very athletic Ogletree would be a worthy replacement/addition to New York’s linebacker corps. The Bulldogs did not give up many points last season, and Ogletree’s ability to be a leader in that defense was a big part of it. If the Giants are looking to pick a linebacker, the guy that recorded double-digit tackles nearly every game would be a solid choice.
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
One of the biggest wild cards in the draft class right now, nobody knows for sure how early or late Te’o could be available. But despite the off-field storylines surrounding the Heisman finalist, there’s little doubting his athletic ability.
An undeniable leader on the field, the senior was always able to make his presence felt throughout Notre Dame’s undefeated regular season. Some say that his Heisman hopes were hurt due to the lack of a true “Heisman moment,” but that may just be a bigger testament to his solid consistency. Making plays from sideline to sideline may be boring, but it’s a very good sign for any teams looking to go for a linebacker.
Zach Ertz, Stanford
Picking up a tight end early on in the draft could prove very beneficial for Giants, who may or may not be looking to replace Martellus Bennett (contract negotiations will be interesting) soon enough. It’s unlikely that the Giants would go for a tight end with their first pick, but they will benefit from the low chances of any tight ends being selected before New York’s second pick.
Zach Ertz would appear to be the best tight end in the draft this year, enjoying a very successful junior year at Stanford that included three 100-yard games and six touchdowns. An always-reliable weapon for the Cardinal, Ertz has the physical build and strength to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Nobody will cry if the Giants are stuck with drafting Eifert, who caught 50 passes for four touchdowns in Notre Dame’s run to the championship game. He’s not nearly as NFL-ready as Ertz, but he’s shown the knack for the position that could lead to a solid career.