The defense is unquestionably not the problem for the Giants, heading into the 2017 season. The Giants defense gave up only 17.8 points per game, ranking 2nd in the league only behind Superbowl champions, The New England Patriots. Free agency could play a big part in which direction the Giants go on draft night, with Jason Pierre-Paul and Jonathan Hankins both requiring new contracts to stay with Big Blue.
It’s more than likely that an offensive name will be called out at 23 for the Giants, with upgrades needed across the board. Question marks have arisen about the play of veteran quarterback Eli Manning, but the Giants still see him as their guy and it’s highly unlikely they will use a first-round pick on his replacement. Victor Cruz, the long time fan favourite, was released by the Giants over the last week, along with running back Rashad Jennings. Both these positions will have to be addressed in free agency or the draft.
The Giants are in desperate need of a high quality tight-end, with Larry Donnell losing his job to Will Tye early on in the season. Tye is an adequate tight-end and could compliment an explosive, athletic tight-end nicely.
The big question marks on this Giants offense is the offensive line. Ereck Flowers had a tough second year at left-tackle, with Eli Manning getting pressure from his blind side on a weekly basis. Sooner or later the Giants need to address this issue, as the clock is ticking on Eli Mannings career.
David Njoku – TE – Miami – 6″4 – 245 lbs
There’s a lot of rumours flying around that the Giants could target a tight-end in free agency, with Martellus Bennett being touted for a return to New York. If not, then David Njoku, out of Miami, will be high up on the draft board for Jerry Reese.
Njoku is a very athletic tight-end, who shows great acceleration and explosiveness. He is a powerful athlete at 6″4, with long arms and great muscle mass, weighing in a 245 lbs. Njoku was a high-school high jumper, showing he’s got the ability to go up and attack the ball in mid air, and with his size and strength, he can outmuscle defenders to the ball. He played snaps in the slot and outside for Miami, showing he’s versatile and highly effective in the passing game. He is a willing blocker and with his arm length he can be effective blocking up and downfield.
He’s inexperienced at the position and he’s a work in progress. Njoku has been known to have inconsistent hands and has racked up drops in his college career. Due to his inexperience, his route running needs improving. Locating the ball, while fighting over the top of linebackers as also been a problem, but these issues can quite easily be rectified.
The Giants may require a day one starter at tight-end, and there’s question marks whether Njoku is that guy. He has clearly got the athletic ability to be a future Pro-Bowler, but it would be asking a lot of him to start day one or even mid-season, in this complex, hurry-up Giants offense.
OJ Howard – TE – Alabama – 6″6 – 249 lbs
If Njoku isn’t a day one starter, then OJ Howard out of Alabama, certainly is.
Howard is a gifted athlete, maybe not on the same level as Njoku, but he possesses great speed and acceleration and can quickly break both ways on his routes. Howard is a great pass-catcher and is very capable of making big plays, something which is is known for during his time at Alabama (He earned Offensive MVP honours in 2015 National Championship game, with 5 catches 208 yards and 2 touchdowns). The Giants are in desperate need of a redzone threat, and at 6″6 Howard could be that guy for them.
Not known for his blocking abilities and has been questioned on his willingness and effort in blocking. This could be problematic for the Giants, who rely heavily on blocking from their tight-ends, due to substandard tackles. Although Howard is a gifted pass catcher, he needs to show more elusiveness after the catch, which will result in bigger plays and more yards after the catch. This is something that sets the elite tight-ends of the league apart from the rest. There have been many question marks about his desire and competitiveness, which could be a red flag for the Giants. They need a guy who’s willing to grind and compete.
Ryan Ramczyk – OT – Wisconsin – 6″6 – 314 lbs
Ereck Flowers had a tough 2nd year at left-tackle and it’s more than likely he’ll be moved to right-tackle, if the Giants can land the right man to give Eli Manning the protection he deserves on his blind side. Potentially this position could be rectified in free agency, but if not, Ramczyk is the guy they will look to at 23.
Ramczyk is the consensus best tackle in this years draft class, one that isn’t that much to shout about. Ramczyk shows excellent technique when blocking, which is a result of being taught the fundamentals while at Wisconsin. He’s athletic enough for his size and moves with ease, allowing him to compete with speed edge rushers and also to provide blocking downfield in the run game. He is more than capable of being a day one starter, which is something the Giants need at the tackle position.
Has a narrow frame and fairly short arms, allowing for edge rushers to get separation off the block. His injuries are probably the biggest concern for all teams scouting him at this point, as he will miss the scouting combine due to having arthroscopic surgery on a torn labrum in his hip. If he passes all medical tests, his draft stock could shoot up considerably and he might not be available at 23.
Christian McCaffrey – RB – Stanford – 6″ – 197 lbs
The Giants cut Rashad Jennings, after seeing what they liked in last years 5th round pick Paul Perkins. Shane Vereen, amongst others, could also be exiting New York, which leaves questions to be answered on who will be in the Giants backfield for 2017. Adrian Peterson might be one name, but this dynamic running back out of Stanford could potentially be another.
A lot of the hype around McCaffrey has died down, but there’s still no question about his playmaking abilities as a runner and receiver. He’s a smooth runner with excellent vision, and the ability to make defenders miss on all 3 levels. He protects the football very well and has great hands in the passing game. McCaffrey has the ability as a receiver to line up in the slot and make huge plays. Something which will boost his draft stock is his playmaking abilities as a kick/punt returner, where he has shown off his great speed and vision.
Doesn’t have the size for an every-down back, something which the Giants will more than likely want. McCaffrey has had over 300+ touches in each of the last 2 seasons in college, so being overworked might be a bit of an understatement. The Giants already have a rising star who plays in the slot in Sterling Shepard, so I’m not convinced the Giants will utilise his pass- catching abilities.
Zach Cunningham – LB – Vanderbilt – 6″4 – 230 lbs
The Giants sole need on defense is at the linebacker position. They haven’t drafted a linebacker in the 1st round since 1984, when they drafted Carl Banks. If the right linebacker is there at 23, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the Giants stayed defense in the 1st round.
Check out the scouting report on Zach Cunningham by Tom Like here;
Cunningham possesses incredible quickness when reacting to the ball-carrier off the snap. He plays downhill and meets the ball-carrier with great speed. His playmaking abilities are excellent and he’s able to make tackles for a loss by shooting the gap with pace and power. A big plus for the Giants in Cunningham is his pass-coverage, especially against tight-ends, something which the Giants had no answer to all season long. Cunningham’s height and range allows him to compete with tight-ends at the line of scrimmage and he shows great awareness in pass coverage. He game is perfect for 4-3 defenses, and he could quite easily slot in as the weak-side linebacker for the Giants.
For all his play-making abilities, he has been known to miss tackles. This is mainly due to his rangy height, as he often tackles high instead of low, meaning he isn’t able to wrap up properly and bring the runner down. It can be said he needs to add some weight, enabling him to compete with some of the bigger backs that are in the NFL.
As with every year, a lot of what will happen in the draft will be decided by free agency. I believe the Giants will plug up many holes on the offensive side in free agency, mainly at WR, where they need to find someone to compliment OBJ and Shepard, and on the O-line, where an upgrade is needed at LT.
If Adrian Peterson signs, then the Giants may feel comfortable enough with their backfield. This leaves the tight-end and linebacker issues to deal. Ultimately on draft day, the Giants have to decide which is the bigger need, Offense or Defense.
– Alex Williams @UKGiantsHQ