1. Odell Beckham Jr, WR LSU
2. Weston Richburg, C Colorado State
3. Jay Bromley, DT Syracuse
4. Andre Williams, RB Boston College
5. Nat Berhe, S San Diego State
5. Devon Kennard, OLB USC
6. Bennett Jackson, CB Notre Dame
The New York Giants came into the 2014 NFL Draft trying to right themselves after a self-induced tailspin in 2013. Between in an inability to win up front on offense, struggles to run the ball and Eli Manning going on one of the all-time interception sprees, the Giants offense was unreliable to put it kindly. Defensively, they lost some free agents and have gotten old in a few key spots, so they had to draft replacements. The Giants did not act as many though they might in the first round, but they really landed some nice players that should help them reclaim an identity they lost over the past few years.
Their approach in the draft had a theme that fit every pick they made. Every prospect they selected has terrific work ethic and football character. They all seem to be the type of players that Coughlin would love to have. Jerry Reese had been taking more athletic players with extremely high upside and while this draft has some of those, it took guys that fit what Coughlin likes in players.
The expectation was that the Giants would select a lineman with their first round pick. Offense or defense, they could use help at both spots. It was a surprise they selected Odell Beckham Jr. because of the success the Giants have had in finding talented wide receivers with later picks or even undrafted free agents. Nevertheless, the Giants lost Hakeem Nicks to free agency and Manning could use more weapons.
The value for the Beckham pick was relatively average; that is except for how much the Buffalo Bills gave up to take Sammy Watkins. In comparison, Beckham looked like a steal, especially for me, since I had Beckham ranked ahead of Watkins. I think he is a better receiver now and going forward.
Because of the Giants’ ability to find receivers and Tom Coughlin’s history of getting a great deal out of receivers, this might be a huge endorsement to Beckham’s ability. Going back to his time in Jacksonville, Coughlin has been able to find and exploit talented receivers, despite his old school approach and demeanor.
Beckham is not small by any stretch, but he is not a huge receiver either. He plays bigger than his size and is able to go get the ball, but it is worth noting just how athletic the combination of Beckham and Victor Cruz can be for the Giants, who also have Reuben Randle. The Giants could have a talented trio of receivers that can get yardage after the catch.
In the second round, the Giants went more true to form when they selected Weston Richburg. Center was a huge issue last year. Dallas Reynolds was a tackle moved to center when injuries hit them. Not only does Richburg fill a need and will likely start immediately, he is also a player that Coughlin should love.
In terms of his mindset, his technique and his mean streak, Richburg has a great deal in common with Coughlin’s son-in-law, Chris Snee. Those two should hit it off and when Snee does retire, he may pass the torch of the offensive linemen from the teams that won the Super Bowls to Richburg.
The value was great as was the fit. Richburg should immediately provide an upgrade at the pivot spot and playing against two division opponents that run the 3-4 and one that just added Henry Melton as its nose guard, they need him to be effective. Between the addition of Richburg, the signing of Geoff Schwartz in free agency and what Giants fans can only hope is a significant improvement for Justin Pugh in his second year, the Giants should have a much better offensive line.
With their third round pick, the Giants addressed the big issue on their defensive line; their 3-technique tackle spot. Linval Joseph left via free agency to Minnesota and Cullen Jenkins is now 33 years old, leaving them with Markus Kuhn as the next man up. The Giants went ahead and drafted Jay Bromley out of Syracuse.
Bromley looks the part and has the athleticism to do the job, but needs to get much better with pad level, technique and consistency. The Giants put a value on players that can contribute in pass rushing situations and have experience developing players along the defensive line that have athletic ability but need polish. Bromley is reputed to have the work ethic and is coachable, so he is the moldable player the Giants love along the defensive line.
If Bromley can hit the ground running, there is a chance he could end up starting, but if he can contribute as a rookie and rotate in with Jenkins while being able to take over the job in earnest next year, that would be great for the Giants. Along with Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore, their second and third round picks from last year, the Giants defensive line gets much younger along with Jason Pierre-Paul, who is still just 25. If they are right on with those three picks, the Giants can get back to terrorizing opponents in passing situations, creating pressure from all four spots.
In round four, the Giants did two things that scream Tom Coughlin. They filled their quota for yearly addition from Boston College and got a no nonsense plow horse of a running back in Andre Williams. Injuries, fumbles and ineffective play killed the Giants running game last year. They should not give up on David Wilson by any stretch, but they brought in two big, strong backs in Williams Rashad Jennings.
With Richburg and Schwartz up front, the Giants are planning to go full steam ahead with the running game and have two strong backs to carry the load. Wilson now can be more of a change of pace back that has more speed and quickness, able to exploit opportunities for big runs. Williams is limited in terms of his ability to catch the football and he does not do terribly well when asked to run outside of the tackles.
All he wants to do is get the ball and run between the tackles, keeping his shoulder square to the line of scrimmage and running people over who get in his way. Williams is a throwback workhorse type of back that used to be all over the league in the 80’s and 90’s. He gets stronger as the game goes along and gets harder to bring down with the more carries he can get. The Giants can use him and Jennings to make opponents respect them on the ground and open up more opportunities for Manning and his receivers. When the Giants have been at their best, they ran the ball, played great defense and Manning made big plays down the stretch to win games.
The Giants used their first fifth round pick on a hybrid safety in Nat Berhe from San Diego State. Berhe specializes in being a safety that plays like a corner, for both good and bad. He can make plays on the ball down the field, knows how to find the football, and can play in coverage against tight ends, but he tackles like a corner. Conceivably, he can be depth for both strong and free safety, but is far more likely to help at free than strong.
Berhe could also be a player that gets some look in nickel or dime because he is smart and does a little bit of everything. For a team that has had awful luck when it comes to injuries in the secondary, Berhe gives them a player that offers a ton of versatility and can help at a number of spots with some potential to get better. And in what was a trend in this draft, Berhe was a football junkie that just loves to play the game.
I really like their second fifth round pick in Devon Kennard. He played a rush linebacker position for USC, but is really well suited to play strong side linebacker in the NFL. Kennard is extremely smart, with great instincts and an understanding of how plays are developing. He has average physical tools but plays faster because of his knowledge of the game.
Kennard is not a great pure pass rusher, but he is terrific when it comes to blitzing. He does a great job of timing and selling blitzes and does not simply just run into a blocker and give up on the play. Kennard is someone that can also sniff out screens and break them up before they get started. His upside is limited but Kennard is the type of player that could end up being a start in the league for years because he just really understands how to do his job and makes a ton of plays as a result.
Bennett Jackson fits the style of player that the Giants were taking in this draft, but I still find the pick a little puzzling. His workouts were far more athletic and fluid than his tape. He always looked extremely average as an athlete and just did not make many plays, getting picked on at times. Considering where the pick was made, it is not as if they put up much in terms of assets and he does have upside if he can get much better with his technique, but I am surprised that Jackson was drafted.
Quietly, the New York Giants had a really solid draft. The value was average with a few of their picks like with Beckham and Bromley was probably a bit of a reach, but they also had some nice values like Richburg and a potential steal in Kennard. They could end up getting significant contributions from five of their picks and I would not rule out Kennard as a sixth. Needs were addressed and they made moves that reinforced an attitude they want to have on the defensive line as well as their offense in general. Combined with their moves in free agency and the belief that Manning cannot have a season that bad again (can he?), the Giants should be able to bounce back in 2014.