NFL mock drafts have begun to take flight all across the football landscape and the usual misconceptions about who the New York Giants will select in the upcoming NFL Draft continue to confound insiders.

For the record, the New York Giants do not draft out of need. They take the best player available (according to their board) when their time to select arrives. That being stated, many pundits and draftniks have the Giants taking an offensive tackle, tight end or running back with the 23rd overall pick in the first round. All are considered “need” positions.

That certainly could happen, but only if need and best available player intersect at that very moment as it did in several cases in the past (Jeremy Shockey, Odell Beckham, Jr., Hakeem Nicks).

The Giants are very aware of what their needs are and so is the rest of the league. Some years those needs are more evident than others and teams drafting behind them tend to get a little nervous not knowing exactly what the Giants’ plans are.

Last year, the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans leapfrogged over the Giants into the top ten to poach two players the Giants reportedly coveted in Georgia LB Leonard Floyd and Michigan State OT Jack Conklin. GM Jerry Reese then surprised everyone by selecting Ohio State CB Eli Apple with the 10th overall selection.

Apple was not predicted to go that high, but the Giants had him higher on their board than most teams and that’s why they didn’t think twice in taking him. It just so happens their secondary was the league’s worst in 2015, so it came across as a “need” pick. The truth is, any pick going into last year’s draft was done out of need after three losing seasons.

Reese has adhered to the same draft philosophy since he took over personnel responsibilities in 2007. He waits his turn and takes the best player in front of him. He told us last year before the draft how the Giants arrive at those choices.

“We put guys in the first row. We put guys in the second row and the third row. When it’s our time to pick, we try to pick the best player in the row,” he explained. “Sometimes we can get two players out of the first row. We like it when we can get two players who we’ve got in the first row. We like it like that. In the first row, all of those guys are not really first round picks because we call them rows.”

It’s an interesting way of doing things. Grouping players laterally rather than vertically.

They also do not get caught up in what pundits or the fans have to say. If those people were any good at player evaluation they’d be doing it for a living themselves rather than just talking and writing about it. Predicting the NFL Draft has gone from a casual parlor game to an exact science over the years, but when it comes to the Giants, all bets are off.

We won’t know who the Giants might have in what row come draft day. We never do. Neither does anyone else, so don’t believe anything you read or hear leading up to draft day. Yes, the Giants need a left tackle. Badly. A right one, too, but will a tackle be the best player available when the Giants’ turn to pick comes around? We’ll see.

To be frank, it’s way too early to speculate which players they could be targeting in the draft right now. The NFL Combine revealed the usual. There are a lot of good athletes out there. We already knew that. As Bill Parcells used to say, he’s not a “track coach, he’s a football coach.”

The Giants, like many teams, tip their hand at the Combine by meeting with players privately. They use that time very selectively and if they speak to a player, they are said to be genuinely interested. Same goes for the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.

Walter reports the Giants have met with the following players:

Senior Bowl: 

Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell; Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia; Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy; Kyle Kalis, G, Michigan; Dieugot Joseph, OT, Florida International; Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut; Antonio Pipkin, QB, Tiffin; Justin Senior, OT, Mississippi State

East-West Shrine Game:

Gehrig Dieter, WR, Alabama; Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA; Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado; Josh Tupou, DT, Colorado; Joseph Williams, RB, Utah (EW)

NFL Combine:

Garett Bolles, OT, Utah; Jake Butt, TE, Michigan; Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech; Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech; O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama; Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech; Damien Mama, G, USC; Taylor Moton, OT/G, Western Michigan; David Njoku, TE, Miami; Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin; Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama; Nico Siragusa, G, San Diego State

Free agency is a more telling scenario when it comes to addressing needs. With the salary cap rising again this year, the Giants had over $30 million to play with. Reese went right to work, using $17 million of that money to assign the franchise tag to DE Jason Pierre-Paul and then brought in veteran WR Brandon Marshall on a two-year, $11 million deal.

Reese then made one of his famous under-the-radar pickups by inking Minnesota Vikings’ TE Rhett Ellison, a superior blocker that can also be used as a fullback. He followed that signing up by bringing back OL John Jerry and adding former first-round pick D.J. Fluker, a three-time national champion offensive lineman who played all over the line the past four seasons for the San Diego Chargers.

These were all “need” additions as the draft approaches. This way, Reese won’t be inclined to make a forced error on draft day. This fits Reese’s modus operandi the past few years. He has strategically used free agency to fill the immediate holes in his roster and then looked for longer term solutions in the draft.

It’s working, as the Giants’ roster has improved dramatically over the past three years.

John Fennelly has been covering the New York sports scene on the Internet since 1997. He has advised and been published on dozens of prominent websites and in major periodicals and can been heard on sports talk radio stations all over the dial. Before embarking on his career as an accredited journalist, John held several management positions in a successful 25-year career in the financial industry. He holds a degree in New Media/Journalism from Queens College.