With very few positions unaccounted for in East Rutherford, we ponder whether linebacker is the top New York Giants need in the NFL Draft.
With the 2017 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, the New York Giants have many options. After a dominant defense carried the team in 2016, the most sensible route may be going offense in the first round.
After further review, the Giants should go after linebackers in the draft.
When one thinks of the Giants, they think of their dominant defenses. In the past, these defenses have been led by standout linebackers, such as Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks, to name a few. This past season, instead of the linebackers being a strength, they were the weak link on the defense. Luckily, players such as Landon Collins stepped up and were able to mask the underwhelming linebacking unit.
Out of the three main starters only one, Devon Kennard was above average at the position. The other two, Kelvin Sheppard and Keenan Robinson, were among the worst linebackers in the league. Sheppard ranked as the 82nd best linebacker out of 87 per Pro Football Focus. Robinson was not much better than his peer, as he was the 78th best.
With the 2017 season around the corner, Sheppard has not been re-upped by the Giants and at this point, it is highly unlikely that he’ll come back. This leaves the expected starters at linebacker as Keenan Robinson, Devon Kennard, and B.J. Goodson. However, this trio of starters may not be together for too long.
As of right now there are only four linebackers under contract for the 2018 season. To add upon that, there is only one linebacker signed through 2019, B.J. Goodson. Goodson is also the only linebacker of note that is signed through 2018.
With that in mind, linebacker only becomes a bigger need. I would not be surprised if Jerry Reese were to double dip at the position in the draft due to the future uncertainty.
In the first round, he will have plenty of quality options to choose from. The headliners are Jarrad Davis, Haason Reddick and Zach Cunningham. Out of those three, Reddick is the least likely to make it to the 23rd overall selection.
Cunningham, from Vanderbilt, is a mock draft favorite for the Giants. He is a rangy backer that fits in perfectly into the modern day NFL. However, he is a poor tackler, and that might push him from the first round into round two. With the devaluation that Reese seems to put on linebackers, it seems like Cunningham would be a perfect choice if still available in the second round.
Jarrad Davis is the wildcard of the bunch. The linebacker has all of the traits that one desires in their middle linebacker. He also fits the mold of the modern day linebacker, one that can defend the pass as well as the run. Davis might even be the top linebacker in the draft after Reuben Foster failed a drug test at the combine due to a diluted sample.
However, many have not yet heard of the Florida backer. While he has everything that one desires on the field his issue has been staying on the field. He has dealt with numerous injuries, that have prevented him from performing up to the level that he can. If he is able to escape the injury bug in the pros, he should be a quality player.
In the later rounds there are a number of guys that would fit with Big Blue. Out of the names, the ones that stand out are Anthony Walker from Northwestern, and Duke Riley from LSU.
Both would start off as special teamers and could grow into starters. This is a similar route to what B.J. Goodson appears to be on.
No matter what, if Jerry Reese were to draft a linebacker, not only would it significantly improve their defense, but it would also improve the future of the position.