From Matthew Cohen / SNYGiants Contributor:
We all know that the Giants claim that they draft the best player available in round 1. Many observers doubt that this is the case. I have argued in the past that “best player available” is a simplification of the Giants’ approach. No sane person would draft a potential all pro kicker ahead of a solid tackle (Al Davis, rest in peace). The Giants look for the highest impact player available. In other words, they draft the player that they think will increase their chances of winning the most over a comparable low cost free agent.
I think that the Giants think about positions in 4 groupings.:
Group A – critical position, willing to trade up to draft an impact player.
The only position that I think the Giants are willing to trade early round draft picks for is a potential top tier quarterback. This makes sense. Quarterbacks significantly impact the outcome of every offensive play and a top tier quarterback can impact the outcome of a game more than any other player.
Group B – key position, willing to take significant risk to get a top tier player, willing to draft a solid, but not all pro player, in round 1.
Left Tackle. The Giants have not drafted an offensive tackle in round 1 for many years. I think that this has more to do with the fact that offensive tackles are drafted very high by most teams rather than that the Giants undervalue the position. Top tier, NFL ready left tackles have been gone by the time that the Giants have drafted. They chose other positions rather than selecting a project, believing that they could get a project left tackle later in the draft.
Wide Receiver. The NFL is a passing league. The Nicks pick proves that the Giants are willing to spend a first rounder on a wideout that can stretch the field.
Defensive End. The best way to stop the pass is to pressure the quarterback before he has time to throw. The Giants have spent first round picks on Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka in recent years.
Cornerback. Solid cornerback play is a must if you want to stop the pass. The Giants have spent first round picks on Prince Amukamara and Aaron Ross in recent years.
Group C – only willing to draft a potential all pro player in round 1.
This is a trickier category to say what the Giants are willing to do as they have made limited selections in the first round for these positions. Given their mantra of picking the best player available (and reasonable evidence that this is what they do), it’s a reasonable guess that they would pick an elite player at one of these positions in the first round.
Guard and Center Not many teams draft guards and centers early. Most pressure on the quarterback comes from the outside so offensive tackles are seen as more important. Having said that, an all pro quality guard can really open up the running game and give balance to an offensive attack. The Giants drafted Snee in the second round. It’s not a stretch to think that they would pick a guard in the first if they felt that he was an elite player, NFL ready and carried limited risk.
Right Tackle Most quarterbacks are right handed and elite pass rushers are usually on the blind side, making left tackle the more important position. Having said that, we are seeing elite pass rushers on the right side of the offense (e.g. Clay Matthews, Von Miller) and teams can no longer afford to have a giant, immobile statue on the right. Right tackles are also key for the running game. I’ve always felt that Kareem McKenzie was a crucial and under appreciated factor in the success of the Giants’ running game. I can see the Giants drafting an elite right tackle in round 1 if he’s the best player available.
Running Back. I know that people are going to say that the David Wilson selection proves that running back should be in group B. But the Giants drafted last in the 2012 draft and there were fewer than 32 players in 2012 with first round talent. The Giants couldn’t trade down and get a decent return and made the best of a bad situation. Generally, I don’t think that Giants view running back as a first round value barring the availability of an elite talent.
Tight End. The Giants have had very good success finding serviceable tight ends (Ballard, Bennett and now Brandon Myers) without spending any draft picks. I think that if they found a good blocker who could stretch the field the way a Vernon Davis can, they would consider spending a first round pick (if he was the best player available) but otherwise, this is not a position they will look to fill in round 1.
Defensive Tackle. The Giants have drafted 2 defensive tackles in round 2 in recent years. I think that if a defensive tackle can create serious pressure on the quarterback, the Giants would consider selecting him in round 1. Otherwise, this position is not a round 1 priority.
Linebacker. I know that Giants fans all long for the glory days of Lawrence Taylor. But the Giants now run a 4-3 and rely on defensive ends to pressure the quarterback. As such, linebacker is less of a priority for the Giants. If a well rounded, elite linebacker (good in run defense, pass defense and blitzing) were available in round 1, the Giants would take a hard look but otherwise, they will seek to fill this position later in the draft or in the free agent market.
Safety. I think that Kenny Phillips was seen as a potential all pro when the Giants picked him. He could have been one had he remained healthy. If the Giants get another shot at an all pro quality safety, I think that they would strongly consider him but otherwise will look later in the draft to select a safety. I think that the Giants think that cornerback is a higher impact position and that is where they would spend a first wound pick, all else equal.
Group D – Late Round or undrafted free agents
Punter, Kicker Normal teams draft punters and kickers in the late rounds, if at all.