Giants Draft for the Long Term

042808 phillips web Giants Draft for the Long TermAfter last year’s wildly successful draft that saw Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Jay Alford, Kevin Boss and Ahmad Bradshaw all contribute to the Giants’ Super Bowl run, New York could afford to take some risks. This year’s edition was more about creating depth and looking toward the future.

Overall, the Giants addressed the few concerns they had, especially after an off-season that saw them lose three starters on defense. What they received were prospects with the raw talent to produce but some gaping holes in their skill sets. But they are Super Bowl champions, and they clearly aren’t setting out to remake the team right away.

Drafting Miami safety Kenny Phillips with their first pick will soften some of the blow of Gibril Wilson’s defection to the Oakland Raiders. Phillips is athletic and smart and has the kind of speed to cover wideouts as well as the agility to make open-field tackles. The knock on him is that he’s a little raw in reading coverage, but with New York signing Jaguars veteran Sammy Knight to shore up the safety position for the next few years, Phillips can develop and mature.

In round two, New York focused on shoring up the cornerback position, as 34-year-old Sam Madison continues to age. USC’s Terrell Thomas is a step in the right direction, but he has a history of injuries. He redshirted in 2003 to recover from shoulder surgery and played only two games in 2005 before tearing ligaments in his right knee. Before the ’07 season, Thomas dislocated his left shoulder but was able to start all 13 games as a senior. On the positive side, his biggest strength is playing press coverage, playing more man-to-man and bumping wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, a scheme in which the Giants’ corners excelled last season.

With their next pick, the Giants drafted Michigan wideout Mario Manningham, who has the kind of flashy skills that will make him a deep threat for Eli Manning when Plaxico Burress is double-teamed. His stock plunged before the draft because he lied during the combine about using marijuana and had to send letters to all 32 franchises apologizing for his actions. However, the Giants drafted someone with off-the-field concerns last season to great success (Bradshaw) and trusted the team’s veteran locker room to nurture a young player with a history similar to Manningham’s. Beyond his character issues, Manningham showed spectacular hands at Michigan, making grabs in traffic while running good routes.

Both of the next draftees, BYU’s Bryan Kehl and Vanderbilt’s Jonathan Goff, are linebacker projects with possible upside. The former is a speedy outside linebacker but needs to add weight to his frame and work on his technique stopping the run. Giants GM Jerry Reese traded a sixth-round pick to snag Kehl, so he and New York’s scouting staff must see something positive in the former Cougar. Goff played inside linebacker at Vanderbilt and is versatile enough to move outside with his speed (he was a high-school track star). His problem is a lack of lower-body strength. Both selections replenish depth at a position where the Giants lost both Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor.

With their final picks, back-to-back sixth-round selections, the Giants took on another flawed prospect in quarterback André Woodson and a defensive end in Southern Mississippi’s Robert Henderson. The Kentucky QB showed serious flashes of talent and athleticism earlier this year in leading the Wildcats to a surprising 8-5 record, but because his delivery has a huge hitch that turned scouts off, he’ll be another risky prospect the Giants can work with to develop. Given that they also have fellow Wildcat Jared Lorenzen, David Carr and Anthony Wright as Manning’s backups, Woodson will have to work to make an impression in camp. Henderson ran a 4.81 40-yard dash and could be a speed rusher up the middle some day, much as Alford was last year.

After the 2007 draft, questions arose about the talent Reese selected as well. But given how that turned out, they may be entitled to a little slack this time around.