COMMENTARY | Over the next few weeks, the New York Giants will be assembling their draft board into rows, each of which reflects the value assigned to prospects that the team's scouting department has identified as a prospective fit for the organization.
Based on the team's perceived current needs, which are subject to change pending the outcome of free agency, here's a look at five players whose NFL Scouting Combine performances and overall body of work could make them an intriguing option for the Giants in the first round of next month's draft.
DT Sharrif Floyd, 6-3, 297 lbs., Florida: A junior eligible, Floyd is probably the top-rated defensive tackle in this year's draft and probably won't make it down to the Giants at 19 in the first round. However, if he is there, he would be hard to pass up for several reasons.
First, the Giants are in need of some youth at the defensive tackle position after sending Chris Canty packing. They've re-signed veteran Shaun Rogers to complement a youth movement that includes third-year man Marvin Austin and second-year man Markus Kuhn, both of whom had injuries in the past which have no doubt stunted their development.
Last year, the Giants run and pass defenses suffered due to the lack of a steady presence in the middle. A player like Floyd could help create congestion in the middle and also draw double team blocks which might free up the defensive ends and get the Giants pass rush back on track.
CB Johnathan Banks, 6-2, 185 lbs., Mississippi State: Like defensive ends, the Giants feel that they can never have enough quality cornerbacks. That has never been truer than this offseason, as the team has a rising star in Prince Amukamara and a solid nickel back prospect in second-year man Jayron Hosley.
Meanwhile, there is Corey Webster, who is entering the final year of his contract, a year that will pay him a $7 million base salary barring a restructuring. Webster did not play well last season, part of that due to a lingering hamstring injury that slowed him down. And while the Giants believe that Webster will rebound, the 31-year-old Webster is probably on his final contract with the team.
Enter the need for a rising cornerback prospect. If Banks, who has 16 career interceptions, were to fall to the Giants in the first round, he would give them another tall cornerback with good length and better than average hands.
DE Datone Jones, 6-4, 283 lbs., UCLA: A versatile defensive lineman who during his college career moved around depending on the down and distance, a player with Jones' versatility could come in handy for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who likes to present multiple looks.
Further, if Jones is able to play both tackle and end at the pro level, he might one day be able to fill the role currently held by defensive end Justin Tuck, who lines up at tackle on obvious passing downs.
Jones suffered a broken foot in 2010 and had missed the entire season. After a drop-off in production (for him) as a junior, he re-established himself as a defensive force in the Pac-12, posting career highs in tackles (57), tackles for loss (17.5), and sacks (6.0) on his way to earning all-conference honors.
Jones is loaded with talent. With some coaching to help smooth out any rough patches in his technique, he will most likely be contributing to a NFL defense before too long.
OLB Alec Ogletree, 6-3, 242 lbs., Georgia: Another underclassman declared draft eligible, Ogletree is a converted safety who has experience at middle linebacker, and who brings exceptional closing speed and range to the mix.
However, he comes with some character concerns thanks to indiscretions resulting in a four-game suspension at the start of the 2012 season for violating team rules and a recent DUI arrest.
The Giants have, in the past, not shied away from players who have committed indiscretions in their personal lives providing the players make an effort to eliminate such mistakes moving forward. A recent successful example was former running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who served jail time for an alleged incident committed as a juvenile. Once Bradshaw paid his debt to society, he was a model citizen moving forward, and had a fairly productive NFL career.
If a team can impress upon Ogletree that football is no longer just a game, but his livelihood and that he must be fully accountable for his actions, perhaps he'll realize that the wrong move could potentially cost him more than just a job, but also millions of dollars.
OT Lane Johnson, 6-6, 303 lbs., Oklahoma: The Giants were successful in their attempt to sign left tackles Will Beatty to a long-term, relatively cap friendly deal. However, the offensive tackle position is far from being settled.
At right tackle, third-year man James Brewer will presumably be given another opportunity to win the starting job, while long-time offensive lineman David Diehl, who is entering the final year of his contract, is likely headed toward a reserve role given his versatility.
Behind Beatty, Brewer and Diehl, the Giants have zero depth with NFL experience, a frightening thought for such a critical position. While there is always a chance that a young prospect might emerge out of nowhere, the Giants would be taking a big gamble if they didn't address the future of the position.
Enter a player like Johnson, a prospect who began his college career as a tight end before moving inside to tackle. Johnson , who played at right tackle as a junior before finishing out his career at left tackle as a senior could initially provide the Giants with some versatility as the blocking tight end in the team's jumbo package while he gets his feet wet at the pro level.
Patricia Traina is a New Jersey-based sportswriter who has covered the New York Giants fulltime for 16 seasons for Inside Football. She is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow her on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.
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