April talk of another Super Bowl for the upcoming 2013 season might be considered premature by some, especially with Victor Cruz still unsigned and the draft yet to be held, but Eli Manning has stated that it is the goal of the Giants every year to win the Super Bowl. Super Bowl XLVIII has even more significance to the team as it is being played on their home field at Giants Stadium and the Giants are not happy with the thought that another NFC team might be hosting the game on their turf.
And the Giants are in fact gearing up for another run at the Lombardi Trophy and will worry about their expiring contracts after the season. A Super Bowl win on their home field will most suredly guarantee a spot in the Hall of Fame for Eli Manning, Coach Tom Coughlin and perhaps GM Jerry Reese as it will be the third for all of them.
So, in taking a realistic approach as to how the Giants stack up we should start with how things appear in the NFC East, which last year had this finish: Washington 10 - 6; NY Giants 9 - 7; Dallas 8 - 8 and Philadelphia at 4 - 12.
Washington split with the Giants last year and is definitely an emerging team BUT, will RGIII be ready to go at the start of the season, and if not, when and will he be at the same level? If he can go at full speed the Redskins will be tough to beat. The Eagles, coming off that 4 and 12 season, have a new coach who is installing a new and innovative offense but is not sure which QB will run it, and may even draft a rookie QB to run it, so questions remain. And the Giants' old rival Dallas, still has Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and DeMarcus Ware but also has a lot of holes to fill. Four of their five offensive linemen are considered average or below average with the Right Tackle having been described as a sieve. Running Back depth, Defensive Line, Linebacker and Defensive Backs are all areas of concern for the Cowboys, as opposed to the Giants who are fairly strong at each position group with the notable exception of Linebacker and with the Defensive Backfield also needing some strengthening..
As for the schedule, Washington's may be a little tougher than the Giants, with the Giants first 8 games having only one of the top teams in Denver (Manning vs. Manning); and possibly Chicago; and the second half heating up with Green Bay, Seattle and two with Washington, which two games could determine the division champion.
Moving beyond the division and into the playoffs it gets tougher with teams like Atlanta, Green Bay, an improving Chicago and Tampa Bay, and the two elite teams Seattle and San Francisco all lurking; and from there to the AFC champ which should come from New England, Baltimore (which lost a ton of players), Cincinnati, Miami, Houston or Denver. This would be a daunting but not impossible task for the Giants.
The Giants overall are still a solid team but not an elite team as their roster is not star-studded. Most of their position groups are still good, or at least deep, and just as every other team in the league, are in need of an upgrade at certain positions. The only team close to being strong at every position group is the 49ers and with 13 picks in the upcoming draft should be able to complete that task and be the envy of every other team in the NFL.
For the past two years the Giants have had ONLY four Pro Bowl participants, either as starters, backups or replacements and they are Victor Cruz, Eli Manning, Chris Snee and Jason Pierre-Paul, while some other teams for the 2012 season such as the 49ers had 9, Minnesota 7, Seattle 6 and has been active in signing Free Agents and trading for Percy Harvin this off season. This further shows that the Giants are not a star-studded group but more of a solid group with some depth and good coaching.
Even Kansas City, with the worst record in the league, had six Pro Bowlers. Go figure that one out.
As for a position breakdown, we shall start with the most important position on the team, QB. The Giants are very strong here with Eli Manning, the starter, and good backups in David Carr, the former No. 1 overall selection in the draft, and Curtis Painter. I had always hoped that they would have kept Jared Lorenzen, a/k/a "The Hefty Lefty" and "The Pillsbury Throwboy" to see if he would have developed, but they let him go.
As for the Running Backs the Giants are hopefull that last year's No. 1 pick, David Wilson, will take over the position now that Ahmad Bradshaw has moved on, and Wilson was selected with the thought in mind to groom him for the starting spot And if Wilson does not step up, Andre Brown, who has looked good in the past, would be next up, followed by Ryan Torain and Da'Rel Scott who have shown some ability. In the meantime they are talking with Brandon Jacobs about bringing him back, and with Henry Hynoski, they have one of the top Fullbacks in the NFL. So there is promise with Wilson and experience with Brown and possibly Jacobs, not a bad combo.
Wide Receiver would be the strongest position on the team with Pro Bowler Victor Cruz, Hakeen Nicks, second year man Reuben Randle and newcomer Louis Murphy, a promising speedster but they could use some more depth here. The 2013 draft is loaded with WR's and they might even be able to obtain a good one in Undrafted Free Agency.
Tight End presents newcomer Brandon Myers, known as a receiver, and Bear Pacoe, known as a blocker, and Adrien Robinson, known as an athletic development type. Now when you have one guy as a receiver and another as a blocker, you don't have a TE, so that Tyler Eifert, the highest rated TE from Notre Dame becoming a real possibility with the Giants having the 19th pick in the first round. He is a receiver and blocker who with his 6'6" height, speed, and ability to make difficult catches would add a new dynamic to the Giants offense which would help the WR's and the RB's as there is another option for the defense to plan for.
The offensive Line has RG Chris Snee, the Pro Bowler, Center David Bass, LG Kevin Boothe and LT Will Beatty, a solid if not great group, and also has RT David Diehl, who has been solid in the past but is now considered the weak link. James Brewer, the backup RT was a fourth round draft choice in 2011 and was drafted to be developed and eventually take over the position, and this could be his opportunity, but he may not be ready, and thus this becomes a need position that if the Giants wanted to address in the 1st round and that would mean D.J. Fluker, the mammoth OT from Alabama would get consideration. There is concern about his pass blocking but none about his run blocking so he has a fall-back position in that he could always be moved to Guard. And since the OL is more known for pass blocking than run blocking this would make an even stronger case for Fluker. In addition, they could also use a backup C/OG type in case of injury to either OG or David Bass, the Center.
The defensive line has a lot of depth to it so that if certain players do not perform at a certain level, they have experienced players to replace them. Of course, the Giants are known for having a bunch of defensive lineman and rotating them in and out of games to keep them fresh for the 4th quarter.Jason Pierre-Paul, the Pro Bowler, and Justin Tuck, also a good player, are the DE's who had down years in 2012 but are expected to bounce back, and if not, now have Mathias Kiwanuka moving back to DE, his more natural position, from LBer, to add depth to the position.
But the Giants have even more here in that they have promising Adrian Tracy, Justin Trattou and Matt Broha who will be challenging for spots. But even more they have Adewale Ojomo, an Undrafted Free Agent from Miami last year who really impressed in the 2012 pre-season by flashing an explosive pass rush and an ability to stack and make plays against the run. He is 6-4 270 but his lack of experience also led to being fooled on plays and being overly aggressive so the Giants kept him as a development player and he is a player to watch. So with Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Kiwanuka and these four promising players, DE would not appear to be a position of need at this time.
The DT position lost 2 players to Free Agency but gained two in Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. Jenkins had a strong year with Green Bay in 2011 but was let go by the Eagles in Free Agency. Mike Patterson has been a strong player at DT since his days at USC and continuing on with the Eagles but was injured last year. The only knock on him was his lack of height but he is a player. These are two good pickups for the Giants and teamed with Linval Joseph, Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin, the promising 2nd round draft choice who can't shake injuries, and Markus Kuhn, a 7th round draft choice but a real battler, gives the Giants some real depth with a mix of experienced and promising younger players.
The most unsettled position is Linebacker, both MLB and OLB, and as the Giants were poor against the run in 2012, this is a need position. Coach Coughlin has stated that shoring up the defense to stop the run is a priority. Besides being the weakest position it is also the least deep position n that they don't even have a bunch of average types for depth. This being the case has led many to assume that this is the direction that the Giants would take with their 1st round pick and especially an OLB who can also rush the passer to help the DE's who had the down year in 2012. Look for the Giants to draft at least two LBers.
The Corner Back and Safety positions need to be bolstered as there are some players that you can play but they are not Pro Bowl material and would be players that you are looking to upgrade.But even here there is some promise, as CB Prince Amukamara, whom the Giants felt that they stole late in the first round of the 2011 draft but has yet to claim a starting position but may have to now that starter Terrell Thomas has suffered his third ACL injury.
Thomas is still on the roster and Amukamara himself has been hampered by injuries but hopefully can become a Pro Bowl CB that the Giants expected when they drafted him. The other corner, Corey Webster, has had his ups and downs and is backed up by 2012 third round pick Javon Hosley and the Giants have also brought back their former first rounder, Aaron Ross to add to the mix. Little known Strong Safety Stevie Brown had a strong year in 2012 while Free Safety Antrel Rolle was up and down. The backups here are journeyman types.
Special Teams are another strong suit for the Giants but if David Wilson can claim the starting RB position another Kick Returner will be needed. Josh Brown has been signed for Place Kicking duties and while known for having a stong leg and while there are two other Kickers on the roster, I can see the Giants going to their Fordham connection and pursuing PK and Punter Patrick Murray, who was an FCS Little All-american this year. The Giants coaching is amongst the best in the league. Tom Couglin, being the oldest coach in the league has had his differences with the so-called new breed of player but they have come to respect his methods and he has mellowed some also. The development of Jason Pierre-Paul and the Offensive Line and Wide Receivers is also a tribute to the coaching staff.
Taking all of the above into account and also considering that the Giants are not known for trading up and down the draft board and with the idea of giving the offense an added dimension while still shoring up the defense, I would draft as follows:
1 (19) TYLER EIFERT, TE, 6-6 250, Notre Dame
2 (49) SIO MOORE, OLB, 6-1 240, Connecticut
3 (81) KIKO ALONSO, MLB, 6-3 238, Oregon, or JON BOSTIC, MLB, 6-1 245, Florida
4 (116) BRENNAN WILLIAMS, ROT, 6-6 318, North Carolina, or VINSTON PAINTER, ROT 6-4 306, Virginia Tech
5 (152) JOSH EVANS, FS, 6-1 207, Florida
6 (187) ROD SWEETING, CB, 5-11 189, Georgia Tech
7 (225) STEVE MEANS, OLB, 6-3 257, Buffalo
7 (253) IVORY WADE, C/OG, 6-4 313, Baylor - This is a Compensatory pick
And there are still a good number of Running Backs, Wide Receivers and Defensive Backs to be signed as Undrafted Free Agents to compete at those positions.
Obtaining DT's Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson has begun the process of helping against the run and in consideration of the LBers who might be available at 19, such as Alec Ogletree (character issues), Manti Te'o (distraction issues, especially with the N.Y. press); Jarvis Jones (spine and 4.92 forty issues), I took the above approach.
MLB Kevin Minter would get strong consideration at 19, despite being 5-11 3/4, and then with Sio Moore in Round 2 the LBer position would have been addressed but then in the third round you probably wouldn't get the opportunity to draft that additional dimension for the offense that the "defense must prepare for" type TE.