Jerry Reese has had his ups and downs when drafting talent, but in 2017, the right pick can make the New York Giants legitimate contenders.
New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese will never be confused for a world-class draft expert. His shortcomings in recent years have hindered the organization’s depth, which resulted in unsuccessful campaigns.
One year ago, Reese did his best to silence his doubters — on the surface, however, it appeared that the trend would continue.
When the 2016 NFL Draft concluded, analysts and fans alike were perplexed at some of Reese’s selections for the Giants. After missing out on top choices in Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd, Eli Apple was brought in at number 10. Cornerback depth was needed but Vernon Hargreaves III appeared to be a better fit, as he was viewed as a higher rated player and natural slot corner. Sterling Shepard drew praise from many but wasn’t a big-bodied wide receiver that could compliment Odell Beckham Jr. on the outside. Reese didn’t even select an offensive lineman, a position that could’ve used any help it could get.
But that’s why awards aren’t handed out days after the draft. By the time the season ended, it was obvious the GM struck gold.
Apple went through growing pains but flashed the physical tools of what organization’s crave in outside cornerbacks. Shepard was arguably the top rookie at his position. Paul Perkins took the reins in the backfield by season’s end and will enter 2017 as the starting running back. Jerell Adams gained valuable experience as a backup tight end, and despite limited playing time, Ben McAdoo and company still have high hopes for both Darian Thompson and B.J. Goodson.
With a month left until amateur players find their first professional homes, it’ll be interesting to see what Reese and the Giants do with their first round selection. Did they fill holes during free agency? Yes. Are they considered, on paper, as one of the top teams in the NFC? Absolutely.
But there are still holes to fill.
Despite bringing in D.J. Fluker and re-signing John Jerry, the offensive line could certainly use an upgrade. Garett Bolles from Utah is a tackle that is still developing but is as athletic as they come and has a mean streak to boot. Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp can play both guard and tackle at an extremely high level. Ryan Ramcyzk, a Wisconsin Badger, has injury concerns but is a pure left tackle who played in a pro system.
Both Adams and Will Tye are growing as NFL talents and the Giants just signed Rhett Ellison to a four-year pact, but tight end is still an area of need. Alabama’s O.J. Howard has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Graham and would add yet another elite weapon to an already prolific offense. Miami alum and New Jersey native David Njoku is an athletic freak that screams future Pro Bowler.
With Jonathan Hankins still unsigned, there’s a chance he returns to the Giants. But as it stands, there is a massive hole next to Damon Harrison, which could make defensive tackle a first-round need. Jonathan Allen’s draft stock has taken a hit since the combine but the Alabama product has the perfect mix of run-stuffing and pass-rushing skills. Malik McDowell of Michigan State has an impressive motor that makes him wreck havoc when matched up against interior linemen.
The Giants have rarely invested in high-quality linebackers in recent seasons. But with the talent that may be on the board at 23, the organization may take their first ‘backer since Carl Banks in 1984. Haason Reddick of Temple looks like this year’s version of Floyd and his pass-rushing ability is something the Giants love in their defenders. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham is a tackling machine.
Offensive line, tight end, defensive tackle, and linebacker are all needs — but if Reese and the Giants are known for one thing, they take highest-rated player on their board, no matter the position. Running back Christian McCaffrey is an offensive weapon both as a rusher and pass-catcher. He won’t only compliment Perkins in a great way but would give Eli Manning yet another top-notch target. Most scouts aren’t sure if Jabrill Peppers is a safety or linebacker but it’s hard to deny that he’s a playmaking defender — and it’s known how much defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves versatile players on his side of the football.
There’s clearly a lot of directions Reese can go in the first round.
But whether it’s defensive line or offensive line, tight end or linebacker, or any other position, there is one thing that’s for sure — Reese has the ability to take the Giants roster to the next level.
And it could be the difference between another first round exit or the organization’s fifth Lombardi Trophy.