Giants Needs Heading into the Draft: Roster Review

Entering the 2016 NFL draft, GM Jerry Reese must evaluate the current roster and determine which positions are weakest. Historically; Reese has always stated that he drafts the best player available (BPA) and not by positional needs. Well, that can be debatable as last year’s draft selections had some drafted based on need (Ereck Flowers in the 1st round as a prime example).

Regardless; Reese needs to draft players who will make an immediate impact and hopefully be play-makers. Based on the 2015-16 team stats; defensively was the Giants downfall. So uncharacteristically; Reese must address the defensive side early and find impact players. Below is my list of team needs (in no particular order) and possible prospects the Giants should consider if available:

Team Needs:

Defensive Ends: No consistent pass rusher on the edge from the DE position really placed a lot of pressure on the Giants secondary. Robert Ayers was the Giants leader in sacks with 9, after him the closest player was Jenkins with 3. JPP displayed an endless motor and worked hard on every down. However; the Giants can’t afford to invest in him with the condition of his right hand. Jerry Reese must address this area and make it the #1 priority by selecting a pass rushing DE in the draft or through free agency.

Linebackers: Under Jerry Reese, the linebackers has become a complete mess. Reese must change his way of thinking in past drafts and select a play making LB in the early rounds. Can’t rely on Beason (should be released), Unga showed flashes, but was inconsistent. Jasper Brinkley played hard and did a fairly good job. However; at 30 years old; should the Giants invest in him as their MLB of the future? The only young LBer on the Giants roster that we can feel good about is Devon Kennard; who has shown signs of brilliance, but also has had his share of nagging injuries; which has limited his playing time.

Offensive Line: Overall, the Giants offensive line ranked closer to the bottom rather than the top in the NFL in rushing yards and OL efficiency. This trend can’t continue and needs to be fixed promptly. The absence of OT Will Beatty forced the Giants to play two OT more than they wanted to. Marshall Newhouse was a complete bust at the RT position as his numbers indicated. Rookie Ereck Flowers was forced to play a larger role; which really hindered his confidence level, but also his development. OG Geoff Schwartz injuries over the last 2 seasons, suggests to me that the Giants need to find a replacement for him and move on. OG Justin Pugh and C Weston Richburg rated in the top-level among their position and both should improve and anchor the Giants OL.

Safety: Landon Collins performed well as a rookie in 2015. However; the same can’t be said for the variety of Safeties that played alongside of him.  Brandon Meriweather, Craig Dahl and Cooper Taylor all hindered the Giants SS position. Landon Collins is more suited as an in box safety; which means that his man on man coverage skills are not as strong as his ability to defend the run and short pass routes. The Giants need to find a Safety who excels in downfield coverage and a ball hawk.

Cornerbacks: Prince Amukamara is a free agent and a very talented CB. However; injuries thus far during his brief career are red flags and the Giants must decide if he is worth the risk. This will be a coin flip as to whether or not the Giants (Jerry Reese) brings him back. If not, the need at CB becomes even more apparent in the draft and/or free agency.

Wide Receivers: Odell Beckham Jr. excelled in his 2nd season without the luxury of a bona fide #2 WR to protect him. Despite having a target on his back, Beckham will be playing in his 2nd Pro Bowl. Reese must let Rueben Randle walk and find a #2 WR that will help relieve some of the pressure from OBJ. At this point, the availability of Victor Cruz remains a mystery and one that shouldn’t be expected. It might be time for the Giants to also let Cruz go for the better of the team.

Running Backs: Can’t put all the blame on the Giants RB’s as the OL needs to share most of the blame. However; it’s clearly obvious that the Giants lack an explosive RB in their offensive arsenal. Rashad Jennings had his moments; but not enough in my opinion to warrant a return with the Giants. Shane Vereen needs to utilized properly to showcase his talents; which the Giants failed to do. Andre Williams really struggled in his 2nd season; which could be contributed by a weak OL and his lack of explosiveness at the line of scrimmage. Orleans Darkwa showed enough for me to bring him back and to give him a more serious look. Finding an explosive RB in the mid rounds or through FA should be on the top of Reese’s list.

Tight Ends: Once again the injury bug put a strangle hold at the TE position for the Giants as Daniel Fells and Larry Donnell (#1 and #2 on the depth chart to the season) fell victim to injuries that sidelined them for a large portion of the 2015 season. FA Will Tye did a tremendous job as the Giants starting TE, along with Jerome Cunningham as a primary blocking TE. The Key here is do the Giants have enough confidence in their current group to TE’s to not invest in a TE outside the organization. Not sure what the answer is, however; if I was Jerry Reese I would keep my eyes open just in case a TE happens to fall into my lap.

Kicker: This position is often overlooked most times, but it’s a valuable part of the Giants offense. Josh Brown once again had a solid year and it would make a ton of sense for the Giants to bring him back as he is a FA this off-season. However; despite his age (36) Brown could have a few teams looking for his services. If so, his stock and $$$ demands could be too much for the Giants to swallow. In that case, Reese needs to consider down grading not only in $$$$, but possibly in talent.

Final Thoughts: There’s a lot to take in for the Giants and a lot of roster spots to fill. Once again, GM Jerry Reese needs to have his best draft and also bring in FA that will make an impact on the team next season.

 by Michael Stewart | Featured Columnist