NFL Draft projections: Giants eyeing defense in 1st round

In a roundup of NFL Draft projections, five of the nine prognostications suggested the New York Giants will elect to draft a defensive player in the first round.

Among the names mentioned with the team’s first selection were BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery, Texas defensive end Alex Okafor and Georgia inside backer Alec Ogletree.

Here’s the scoop on these four defenders:

CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler on Ansah:

Stop me if you’ve heard this before — the Giants select the top pass rusher left on the board with their first-round pick. Ansah still needs a lot of work, but his NFL upside will land him in the top-20, if not higher.

ESPN Insider’s Mel Kiper Jr. on 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. 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.

NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah on Ogletree:

Alec has made a splash during his time in the starting lineup for the Bulldogs with his big hits and momentum changing turnovers. However, Ogletree is less reliable off the field, as he was suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season for a violation of team rules. He will be considered one of the best athletes at his position …

NFL.com’s Josh Norris on Okafor:

Justin Tuck has aged quickly and Osi Umenyiora is likely on the outs. Okafor, who can keep his opponents on skates with his active, strong hands, could have a very good week in Mobile.

Earlier this month, many mock drafts had the G-Men selecting Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o with their first pick, though GM Jerry Reese recently said it’s too early to discuss that idea.

The other draft experts saw the Giants going after tight ends Zach Ertz of Stanford or Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame. One mock had Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker falling into the Giants’ lap.

Here’s the scoop on these three possible selections.

NFL.com’s Albert Breer on Eifert:

Some thought an average tight end class would push the tall, athletic Eifert into the 2012 draft as a redshirt sophomore. After all, it was the decision of Kyle Rudolph’s to leave a season early for the 2011 draft (he was picked in the second round by the Vikings) opened the door for Eifert to become a star. And while a freshman at quarterback hurt his production as a junior, he still led the team in receiving in 2012 with a team-best 50 catches for 685 yards and 4 touchdowns, winning the Mackey Award (Nation’s top TE).

CBS Sports’ Rob Rang on Ertz:

On paper the Giants appear to have filled the hole at tight end with veteran Martellus Bennett and young developmental types in the wings. But Bennett is a free agent. Ertz, 6-6, 252, has the size and speed to challenge defenses down the middle, forcing defenses to think twice about providing help on the outside to cornerbacks attempting to stop Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks on Fluker:

Fluker’s been through his share of adversity in recent years. His family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, attended three different high schools due to family issues, and then had his apartment ripped apart by the tornado that swept through Tuscaloosa in April 2011. So even though Fluker did not block for star running backs Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson in 2012 (although Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon aren’t half bad), don’t expect him to back down from any challenges coming his way during his NFL career.

Earlier today, I wrote about the team’s top off-season priorities, which included revamping both the defensive line and linebacking corps.

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