NY Giants: Complete 2014 NFL Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis
The good news for New York Giants fans is that the team didn’t trade up to get a quarterback this year on Day 3.
The bad news, at least according to the majority of people who took the time to weigh in during the draft, is that there wasn’t a tight end selected.
A wild three-day ride? You better believe it!
Now that everyone has had some time to let the activities of the NFL draft sink in, it’s time to break everything down and see how moves made and not made might impact the team.
Until I see otherwise, I give the Giants a solid B grade for this draft class, because in addition to making a lot of safe and smart picks, they were also successful at marrying need with value.
I also like a number of the undrafted free agents they will reportedly sign. I think there could be a couple of surprises in that group who could open a few eyes were they to have strong preseasons.
So without any further delay, let’s break everything down and see what kind of impact the class could potentially have on the Giants.
Round 1, Pick 12: Odell Beckham, Jr, WR, LSU
Round 2, Pick 43: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
Round 3, Pick 74: Jayson Bromley, DT, Syracuse
Round 4, Pick 113: Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
Round 5a, Pick 152: Nat Berhe, S, San Diego State
Round 5b, Pick 174: Devon Kennard, LB, USC
Round 6, Pick 187: Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
As I mentioned in the opening slide, I thought the Giants did a good job of marrying need and value this year with their draft. They also did something with this class that, while not a new idea, is probably even more important for the future of the franchise.
They loaded up on leaders.
“We’ve always tried to pick guys who are captains, in leadership roles for their teams,” general manager Jerry Reese told reporters after the draft concluded.
“We feel like you can get quality players when you do that. When guys have leadership roles, we like those guys.”
Five of the Giants' seven draft picks were captains of their respective college programs—center Weston Richburg, safety Nat Berhe, linebacker Devon Kennard, cornerback Bennett Jackson and defensive tackle Jay Bromley.
Whether the high number of team captains drafted by the Giants was by design or was a happy accident, the importance of adding leaders cannot be overstated. This is especially true in 2014 with no rookie minicamp but players still needing to hit the ground running.
There’s more to this leadership angle, though. When you have a team that just came off a 7-9 season, there are usually some guys who "check out" prematurely and play out the string.
That's something former cornerback Terrell Thomas alluded to last year when the team started out winless.
“I think some don't care,” Thomas told Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, when asked if his teammates were as upset as he was with the team's 0-6 start. “Everybody is different. Some people can lose a game and go about their day very easily. Others can't sleep at night.”
There were never any names mentioned, but it’s not a stretch to think that some who didn’t care are no longer members of the team.
That’s why it was not surprising to hear Coughlin, who said that leadership has always been an emphasis for the Giants in the draft, admit to reporters that the leadership concept was “probably been talked about more this year in the room than maybe the last year or two.”
Why is it so important?
“We would like to feel like the people that come here are absolute football players, devoted to it,” Coughlin said.
“Let’s face it; where we are, there are areas that could be distractions. We need to have people that can operate in this environment and stay focused and do the job they were brought here for and not get off track.”
We won’t know until training camp just what each draft pick can bring in terms of football skills, but for a team that over the years has seen its veteran leadership slowly bleed out—Antonio Pierce, David Diehl, Justin Tuck, Shaun O’Hara and Brandon Jacobs—replenishing that key component was obviously a priority going into this draft.
As these rookies begin to establish a comfort level in performing their jobs and interacting with current team leaders like safety Antrel Rolle, linebacker Jon Beason, quarterback Eli Manning and guard Chris Snee, it should make for a much different—and more successful—season for the New York Giants.
Best Pick: Running Back Andre Willams
On paper, there’s really no draft pick made by the Giants this year that I can honestly say I hate or love the most.
Since I’m on the hot seat and have to give you a “best” and “worst” pick, let’s start out with what I think is the “best” pick in this class: running back Andre Williams.
I’ve touched upon this before, but I’ll say it again. I’ve never been fully comfortable with the Giants' running back situation going into the draft, not even after the free-agent acquisition of Rashad Jennings, who I think is going to be fantastic for the Giants, and the re-signing of Peyton Hillis.
My biggest concern is durability.
Last season was at least the second time since 2010 that the injury bug ripped through the running back position, leaving the Giants to scramble for healthy players to put on the field.
While New York tries to stock up depth at every position, not all depth is created equal. We saw that last year with the offensive line.
Prior to the draft, I had concerns about the depth in the backfield. If Jennings were to get hurt, logic would dictate that Hillis would become the starter. However, Hillis has had his own injury issues since 2010 that have made his name a frequent one on the weekly injury report.
Second-year man Michael Cox is still unproven. That he was unable to get more opportunities last year as the injuries ate away at the position's depth was concerning.
I've said all along that I would not be stunned if Wilson not only starts training camp on the PUP list but stays there to start the 2014 season. At this point, I also wouldn't be shocked if he misses the entire 2014 season, given all the moves the Giants have made to address the position.
That brings us to Williams. I’m well aware that head coach Tom Coughlin won't play rookies until they earn snaps in practice and do something with those snaps.
In the past, that oftentimes was a struggle given the complexity of Kevin Gilbride's system . Will new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system be easier to learn?
If it is, don’t be surprised if Williams ends up significantly contributing as a rookie a lot sooner than did past RB draftees Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Wilson.
If that happens, he could very well turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the Giants’ 2014 draft class.
Worst Pick: Defensive Tackle Jay Bromley
Before we go any further, I want to make it clear that I do not think that the selection of Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley is a wasted pick, nor do I dislike the pick itself.
I think Bromley is going to be an excellent player for the Giants, who clearly needed some additional depth at a position where two out of the four guys that have NFL experience for New York are are 30 years old or older.
What I didn’t like about this pick is where they took Bromley.
Maybe they had an inkling that a team behind him was about to grab him. If that wasn’t the case, to take him in the third round was, in my opinion (as well as the opinion expressed by B/R draft analyst Matt Miller in the video above) a reach.
With that said, if Bromley ends up producing double-digit sacks, will anyone really care in what round he was chosen?
Probably not, but until then, I have to designate this pick as my “worst” of the Giants 2014 draft only because I think the Giants reached for a player who might have been there on Day 3.
Undrafted Free Agents
The following is a synopsis of the undrafted free agents (UDFAs) who have been linked to the Giants via various reports.
You can read more detail about the UDFAs as well as see some videos on each player and get my grades in my breakdown from Saturday night.
By the way, the Giants have not yet announced any signings, so nothing is official until the players put their name on a contract. That should come sometime in the coming week.
Dan Fox, ILB, Notre Dame
Linebacker Dan Fox (6’3”, 233 pounds) struggled through a knee injury last season. As with all of the Giants' rookies, he’ll be asked to contribute on special teams. On defense, he’ll try to push both Allen Bradford and Mark Herzlich for the backup job behind inside linebacker starter Jon Beason.
Fox announced his pending signing with the Giants.
Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles (6’4”, 297 pounds) will have a chance to show teams that passed over him in the draft that he doesn’t need Jadeveon Clowney in the lineup to free him up to make plays.
If Quarles can get his hands on a few passes—a stat that has declined since 2011 when the Giants defensive front posted 18 pass knock-downs (that group posted 11 passes defensed 2012 and 14 in 2013)—that would be to his advantage.
Quarles first tweeted the news of his signing.
C.J. Barnett, S, Ohio State
Safety C.J. Barnett (6’1”, 204 pounds) is a versatile player and seems to be exactly the kind of athlete head coach Tom Coughlin tends to favor—a hardworking, blue-collar type who always seeks to improve his craft.
With Will Hill’s future in jeopardy and Stevie Brown set for a controlled practice schedule given his on-going rehab from ACL surgery, there could be an opportunity here for a young undrafted free agent such as Barnett to open a few eyes.
Barnett’s signing was first reported by IFA, the agency that represents him.
Thomas Gordon, S, Michigan
Safety Thomas Gordon (5’10”, 213 pounds) is another safety who has a chance to make a statement with the Giants.
While there’s no reason to think Gordon’s one-game suspension last season for an unspecified violation of Wolverine team rules is the start of a trend, he’ll need to be on his best behavior with the Giants.
Gordon’s signing was first reported by Michigan beat writer Joshua Henschke of SB Nation.
Justin Anderson, LB, Louisiana
Anderson (6’2”, 235 pounds), can play both inside and outside linebacker, though he currently projects to play more inside.
He will compete with fellow rookies Fox and fifth-round draft pick Devon Kennard, and veterans Herzlich and Bradford for a backup spot at middle linebacker.
Anderson’s signing was tweeted by Louisiana assistant head football coach Reed Stringer.
Eathyn Manumaleuna, DT, BYU
Defensive tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna (6’2”, 305 pounds) will enter Giants camp as a 25-year-old rookie after having served a two-year LDS mission.
With age, however, comes maturity, and the married father of one has that in spades. Manumaleuna is a classic blue-collar defensive tackle who’s not afraid to mix it up.
The biggest question he’ll have to answer is whether he has enough size and strength to hold his own at the point of attack.
Manumaleuna’s signing was announced by David Canter, his agent.
Emmanuel Dieke, DE, Georgia Tech
Besides probably being in need of some more muscle and upper body strength, Dieke’s biggest challenge—no pun intended—will be keeping his pad level low enough so that opponents don’t get underneath him.
Dieke’s signing was announced by his representation firm, 1st Class Athletes.
Kerry Wynn, DE, Richmond
Kerry Wynn (6’5”, 266 pounds) has played both defensive tackle and defensive end.
His size doesn’t appear to translate well to the defensive interior in the pros, which is why he’ll probably work exclusively at defensive end this summer.
Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger was first with the news on Wynn’s signing.
Xavier Grimble, TE, Southern California
What’s interesting about the signing of former USC tight end Xavier Grimble (6’4”, 257 pounds) is that he’s from a tight end draft class that Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross described to reporters as not being "very strong.”
Grimble, whom NFL Draft Scout’s Rob Rang compared to current Giants tight end Kellen Davis, is part of that class.
While Grimble could end up being a steal, it looks as though the Giants are keeping their fingers crossed that either Adrien Robinson or Larry Donnell will develop into a starter.
Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger and Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reported Grimble’s signing.
What's Next for the Giants?
With the 2014 draft in the books and the rookies on their way to East Rutherford to begin integrating with the veterans, it’s time for the competition to begin.
Indeed, the upcoming training camp is going to have a lot of competition at several spots—probably about as much as I can recall since head coach Tom Coughlin’s first season in 2004.
Here's a look at some of the key battles:
The projected starters are, from left tackle to right tackle: Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Chris Snee and Justin Pugh.
Beatty (broken leg) and Snee (hip/elbow) have medical question marks next to their names.
While the hope is that each will be ready for the start of training camp, the Giants protected themselves by adding two veteran tackles in Charles Brown and John Jerry.
Meanwhile at center, Weston Richburg will be looking to unseat Walton as the starter. If Richburg can become a starter on Day 1, he’d become the first Giants rookie draft pick since Rich Umphrey (Round 5, 1982) to do so, per Pro Football Reference.
If the Giants depth chart were to be published tomorrow, the identity of the starting tight end would probably be a hotly contested debate.
Currently, Ourlad’s NFL Scouting Services lists third-year pro Adrien Robinson as the starter, possibly based on his higher draft pick status (fourth-round pick in 2012).
That’s putting a lot on a player who has taken three snaps on offense over the last two seasons and has yet to post any receptions in his NFL career. Interestingly, the Giants brass claims that this year’s tight end class wasn’t enticing enough.
“The tight end position wasn’t a class we felt was very strong,” vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross told reporters after the draft. “Even with a couple of the guys, there are things that to the outside eye you don’t know about some of these guys that devalue them even more.”
However, that doesn’t mean that the Giants aren’t still on the lookout for another tight end.
“We have to,” head coach Tom Coughlin told reporters after the draft, and before the team reportedly signed undrafted free agent Xavier Grimble.
“That’s not enough numbers for camp. We need some numbers, yeah. I hope we can find some numbers.”
The big question regarding who might have the edge as the starter is what particular characteristics new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo emphasizes at the tight end position.
Coughlin offered a few clues.
“Our guys are still blockers and kind of Supermen kind of people. They have to block, they have to be able to release off the line, they have to catch the football, they have to be people that you’re looking for in that green zone area, get the ball up high.”
So where does that leave the tight end position?
There’s unrestricted free agent Jermichael Finley of the Green Bay Packers, who is still awaiting medical clearance after having neck surgery last fall.
Or there’s Robinson and Donnell, both of whom will have a golden opportunity to step out of the shadows.
“Yeah it’s a concern, it’s a concern in a lot of ways, but we’ve got, as has been said, a couple young guys here that, ‘Fellas, if you can’t see your way to the field now,’” Coughlin said.
For the third year in a row, Will Hill, the Giants talented starting safety, is facing a league-imposed suspension related to a failed drug test that Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News estimates will be anywhere from six to eight games if the third-year safety loses his appeal process.
The Giants, for their part, have not made any official statements regarding Hill, other than general manager Jerry Reese’s statement at his predraft press conference that the team will respect the appeal process.
If Hill loses that appeal, the Giants will presumably open training camp with Quintin Demps as the starter alongside of Antrel Rolle.
They are also hoping that Stevie Brown can make it back from ACL surgery and that Cooper Taylor, whom they drafted in the fifth round last year, will step up. Regardless, the pending loss of Hill would be huge if Brown has a setback or an injury strikes down any of the other safeties.
That’s a big reason why the Giants drafted Nat Berhe with the first of their two fifth-round draft picks.
“(Berhe) is an all-around football player that we think can come in and right away be a backup and help us on special teams,” Coughlin said. “He is a throw-your-body-around kind of guy, really sharp, loves football—the whole deal.”
“(Nat Berhe) is a football player,” added Ross. “He plays a hybrid role as a safety, corner and linebacker role where he is all over the place.”
If Berhe and at least one of the undrafted free agents (Thomas Gordon and C.J. Barnett) whom the Giants plan to bring to camp, can come along, that will go a long way toward removing this position as a concern.
The Giants didn’t draft a fullback nor did they sign a rookie. Yet for the first time since the 2007 training camp, they’re going to have a competition between two very capable players, John Conner and Henry Hynoski.
Conner, a 2010 fifth-round draft pick of the New York Jets, is on his third NFL team after making a stop in Cincinnati in 2012. Last season, he joined the Giants on Sept. 25 on a two-year contract after Hynoski suffered a season-ending fractured shoulder in Week 3.
Although Conner had to learn the Giants’ playbook on the fly, he did so rather well, finishing as the third-best run-blocking fullback and fifth-best fullback overall, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Hynoski’s 2013 season seemed over even before it started when he suffered an unfortunate knee injury during an OTA practice. He fought his way back and was on the field by opening day until his shoulder injury. Unfortunately, he didn’t look to be anywhere near the player he was in 2012, when he finished as the fifth-best run-blocker and eighth-best overall fullback.
With both players starting from scratch in a new offensive system, this battle should be one of the fun ones to watch this summer, assuming both make it to training camp.
Let the Games Begin!
Overall, it promises to be a competitive Giants camp, and Coughlin sounds like a man who can’t wait to watch it all unfold.
“Let’s get this thing going, let’s get the mesh going, let’s get this camaraderie thing going, let’s get out on the field and be smart about it," Coughlin told reporters after the conclusion of the draft.
"Compete—we’d like to be able to match up all of the positions with some competitiveness because that’s how you get better. So I’m excited about that part of it,” he added.
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