The New York Giants follow-up to its 2011 Super Bowl run ended much-like its previous follow-up to its last post-Super-Bowl season in 2008. They started off hot, until injuries and inconsistent play on defense and at quarterback wilted them down the stretch. The Giants' past NFL Draft Grades have been among the most consistently successful of any team, which is why they've strung together two championships.
Throughout the last seven seasons, the Giants routinely select in the latter portion of the first round, but that hasn’t deterred them from finding high-value players.
They hit big in 2010 when they landed defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at No. 15 overall. They struck gold again with the signing of undrafted slot receiver Victor Cruz that same year. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks proved a game-changer in the first round of 2009 as well.
But where New York's NFL Draft Grades really improve is in the 4-7 round range, especially at the running back position. The Giants have a great knack for finding overlooked RB's when most teams are happy just to find a guy who can play special teams. Past examples of this include Ahmad Bradshaw in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, Brandon Jacobs in the fourth-round in 2005, and Andre Brown in the fourth round in 2009. So where did the Giants find the best value in 2013?
First Round — OT Justin Pugh — B
A lineman was a need on every NFC East team’s list. The Eagles went with a tackle in the first round, while the Cowboys took a center. The Giants took a more versatile guy in Pugh, but the big question is ‘will this guy fit the team’s scheme?’ Luckily, Pugh is the perfect fit for the Giants' scheme. He’s a mobile, balanced tackle who will sit in his blocks well, which is an ideal trait for the team’s zone-blocking scheme. He can play either the right or left side and could see time at guard which is important due to the Giants aging offensive line. His short arms will make him a liability when it comes to keeping defenders off him though. Still, he’s not the worst pick for the Giants system.
Second Round — DT Johnathan Hankins — B+
The Giants could have gone with a linebacker here, but instead chose to stick with their philosophy of ‘defense starts with the big guys up front.’ Though Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown was probably a better value pick in terms of versatility, Hankins has the size and strength to be a decent run stopper in the NFL. However, his motor runs low at times and his weight will need to be closely monitored at the next level. He also doesn’t have the explosiveness to be an elite passes rusher, instead relying on his size to plug up holes. If the Giants didn’t have a proven track record of dominating games with their defensive line, I would have given this a lower grade since linebacker was a bigger need here. But proven postseason success with a dominant defensive line trumps logic here.
Third Round — DE Damontre Moore — A
Great value pick here. Moore budded into a star at Texas A&M in 2012 after moving to defensive end for his junior season, registering 12.5 sacks and 85 tackles with 21 of them for loss. Good quickness and strength helps him drag down ball carriers hard and also chase down running backs from the backside. Moore’s rip technique will be very difficult for tight ends to stop and his inside rushing ability on slants is among the best in the draft. With a great motor and second-effort ability, he can recover and close on the quarterback even when initially beaten. He’ll have to show he can get to the quarterback from the edge since most of his production in college came from the inside, but Moore is a fantastic pick in this round for a Giants team that struggled to get to the quarterback last season. He has the potential to play alongside JPP.
Fourth Round — QB Ryan Nassib — B
It’s no secret Eli Manning, 32, is clearly the Giants' starting quarterback of the near future, so what were the Giants trying to do here? Nassib was projected to go as high as No. 8 overall and analyst Jon Gruden rated him the best quarterback of the 2013 class. But Nassib still found himself available in the fourth round. The Giants figured Nassib was the best value guy available, and the real grade of this pick will come from what they can trade him for. The Philadelphia Eagles made out well when they traded Kevin Kolb for a second-rounder in 2011, so the Giants are hoping they can get similar value in a quarterback-driven league. Giants general manager already said he hopes Nassib ‘never plays.’ So unless they get a good trade out of him or he shines following an injury to Manning, this pick is a waste.
Fifth Round — S Cooper Taylor — B-
The Giants lost a solid, but injury-prone, guy in Kenny Phillips, who signed with Eagles for cheap. Cooper Taylor also has a history of injuries. But at 6’4, 228 lbs, he’s a rare safety in a linebacker’s body. He possesses surprisingly good speed and athleticism for a guy his size. He’s also a good fit for the Giants, who like to play a three-safety set from time to time. While he lacks the elite speed of most starting safeties, Taylor will compete for a backup spot. And at the very least, he'll see plenty of time on special teams.
Seventh Round — G Eric Herman — B-
Herman is a big guard with a bit of a nasty streak and should provide much-needed depth behind Chris Snee. Snee is coming off offseason hip surgery and is getting up there in age, so Herman is a welcome addition.
RB Michael Cox — B
Cox is a big back that only rushed for 715 yards and five touchdowns last season at UMass, but the Giants coaches like his speed and praised his catching ability. He’ll be waiting in the wings if the running backs don’t show up in 2013 ala Bradshaw in 2007.
Overall: The Giants needed a linebacker badly, and they didn’t draft one, which keeps them from getting an A in it's NFL Draft Grade. Clearly they continue to stress pressure on the quarterback as a core principle on defense, and with the kind of success they’ve had during the past two Super Bowl runs, you can't argue with what works. B+