ESPN Mock Drafts: Giants drafting defense in first round

In a pair of ESPN mock NFL drafts, analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. both expect the New York Giants to try and improve on the defensive side of the ball this spring.

According to McShay, New York will look to bolster its defensive backfield by adding Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks.

“The Giants have been successful under general manager Jerry Reese going with the best available athlete on the board, but in this case they find one of the top players available at a priority need area,” McShay writes. “Banks is not elite in man-to-man coverage, but he has good length and is solid in press coverage, shows instincts in zone, supports the run and is a ball hawk with 16 career interceptions.”

The last defensive player drafted by New York was Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara in 2011. In 2010, the team took Jason Pierre-Paul.

The selection of Banks  could have ramifications for what the Giants plan to do in free agency. Safeties Kenny Phillips and Stevie Brown are free agents, while cornerback Corey Webster’s future remains in flux.

In Kiper’s mock draft, the longtime veteran analyst predicts New York will snare LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery.

“It was just a year ago at this time when we considered the pass rush a major strength of the Giants, with an emerging Pierre-Paul and veterans Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. But while JPP is now among the best 4-3 defensive ends in the league, the latter two will both be north of 30 by the time the draft arrives — Umenyiora may not be around next season, and it could be the final year for Tuck in New York,” Kiper writes. “If the Giants want to keep the defensive line a strength, a proven, high-motor defender with pass-rushing skills such as Montgomery would make a lot of sense.”

Kiper makes some good points. Pierre-Paul is coming off a down year, in which he sack total fell to 6.5, 10 fewer than he recorded in his breakout sophomore campaign.

Neither Tuck nor Umenyiora are sure bets to return to New York next season. Tuck, set to turn 30 in March, started 14 games in 2012, producing just four sacks. It’s the second consecutive season Tuck has failed to finish with double-digit sack totals, finishing with nine in the past two years after registering 11.5 in 2010.

Umenyiora has been asking out of the Big Apple for what seems like every year. Though the 31-year-old is searching for a new, lucrative contract, Umenyiora has been a part-time player for the past two seasons, playing in a combined 25 games and starting in 11.

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