New York Giants: Victor Cruz

Giants' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
11:00
AM ET
Projecting the New York Giants' 53-man roster before training camp begins:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Giants didn't like carrying three quarterbacks last year. They did so because they drafted Nassib as a fourth-round project with the thought that he wouldn't be active for any games as a rookie. But this year, they've come out and said that Nassib needs to win the No. 2 job. He worked as the clear No. 2 ahead of Curtis Painter in OTAs and minicamp, and I think he'd have to fall flat on his face in order to lose the job. If Manning goes down, the Giants are cooked anyway, whether it's Painter or Nassib behind him. So they might as well keep developing the kid unless he's totally incompetent.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Five running backs feels like a lot, so Hillis or 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox had to go. It's possible the Giants carry five and Williams could start out as this year's Nassib -- a fourth-rounder who's inactive for at least a little while as he gets his feet wet in the NFL with an eye toward a contribution further down the road. This list also assumes Wilson is cleared for contact by the neck exam he has scheduled for July 21, which is no sure thing. If he isn't, then Cox or Kendall Gaskins could find his way onto the team.

FULLBACK (1)

It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, but the Giants won't keep both. My hunch is that Hynoski has shown enough ability to produce with the ball in his hands that he'll get the edge in Ben McAdoo's new offense ahead of Conner as long as he's healthy.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Holliday is likely to make the team as a return man, though it's possible he could get squeezed out if the team decides Beckham, Quintin Demps and either Randle or Jernigan are enough to handle those responsibilities. The Giants signed Holliday before they drafted Beckham, after all.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

In spite of the lack of quality experienced options, McAdoo's offense does appear to want to use the tight end a lot. Some Giants fans are hoping an outside name or two can replace some of the ones on this list, but as of now, this is what they have, and they'll hope something decent comes of it. They are eager to see what Robinson can do if he can ever keep himself healthy, and they love what Donnell showed them last year on special teams and think he deserves the reward of an opportunity here. Daniel Fells or Xavier Grimble could beat out Davis for that third spot without too much trouble.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are injury and health concerns with Beatty, Jerry and possibly Snee that could knock a name or two off this list with an IR or PUP designation. The Giants signed Brown and Jerry as veteran backups. They like Mosley's upside, and he could have the edge over someone like Eric Herman or James Brewer.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

I thought about undrafted Kelcy Quarles for one of the defensive tackle spots, and I guess it's possible he could beat out someone like Patterson in camp. But everyone else on here seems like a lock.

LINEBACKERS (6)

If Beason's foot injury isn't healed in time to allow him to start the season, someone like Terrell Manning or Dan Fox could sneak on here. More likely, the Giants would go with five linebackers while waiting for Beason and add someone on the defensive line or in the secondary.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer.

SAFETIES (5)

It's going to be tricky to get fifth-round pick Berhe on this roster, but the Giants like him enough to make room at the expense of someone like Brewer on the offensive line or Charles James at cornerback.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Special-teams coach Tom Quinn said there was a kicker competition between Brown and Brandon McManus, so flip a coin on that one. The other two spots here are in stone barring injury.
All this week, and then the week of July 14, we are taking a position-by-position look at the New York Giants' roster heading into training camp. Today, we look at the wide receiver group.

Starters: Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle

[+] EnlargeGiants
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsRueben Randle will try to grab a bigger role in the Giants' offense.
Backup candidates: Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, Trindon Holliday, Corey Washington, Marcus Harris, Julian Talley, Preston Parker, Travis Harvey

Cruz is the only sure thing in this group, and the Giants are best when he's working as the slot receiver. That means they need to spend camp identifying their best options on the outside. Randle, the 2012 second-round pick, is the guy they'd like to see take the leap in his third season. He showed enough flashes last year to make them think he can be a big playmaker. They just need him to play and work more consistently.

Beckham was this year's first-round pick, and as such he'll get an opportunity to contribute as a starter as soon as he's ready to handle it. But the Giants don't rush rookies, and if he's not ready, they will wait and use other options until he is. Manningham is a wild card -- a player the Giants know and like but who's coming off knee problems that kept him from being a factor for the 49ers during his two seasons away from New York. Jernigan showed enough late last year to merit more of an opportunity, but regardless of what anyone says publicly, he's still viewed as Cruz's backup in the slot more than anything else.

Holliday was signed as a return man and is unlikely to make much of a contribution on offense, though they did use him there a bit in the spring with others injured, and he held his own. The rest of the guys on that list are long shots and/or practice squad candidates.
One last New York Giants Twitter mailbag before I start a too-brief summer vacation ... @DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think that's a fair expectation, and I think you saw the Giants lean that way last year with Terrell Thomas as the regular nickel corner. They signed Walter Thurmond to play that position, and he's as good at it as anyone in the league. And they're thin at safety with Will Hill suspended and released, Stevie Brown coming off knee surgery and Quintin Demps having been signed primarily to return kicks. They have been talking a lot about keeping Antrel Rolle at safety, rather than using him all over the field as they've done in years past, and obviously sticking with a three-cornerback look would help with that. I honestly don't see the need for the old three-safety package, especially if Jon Beason is back healthy at middle linebacker early in the season. It worked well during that 2011 Super Bowl season, but that year they were thin at cornerback and linebacker and deep at safety. You're right if your point is that the scheme should be based around the personnel, and right now cornerback is a Giants strength. @DanGrazianoESPN: With Beason nursing a foot injury, the starting middle linebacker in training camp (and probably for Week 1) is going to be Jameel McClain. He projects as the starting strongside linebacker if Beason's healthy, but he's taking over in the middle while he's not. Jacquian Williams is the front-runner for the starting weakside linebacker spot, and the strongside position should belong to either Spencer Paysinger or rookie Devon Kennard, who impressed coaches with his minicamp performance. As for receivers, that's an interesting case. My first thought is that they keep six -- Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Mario Manningham, Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan and Trindon Holliday. But Holliday isn't really likely to factor as a receiver, as he's pretty much exclusively a kick and punt returner. So that would leave them with five real receivers (four if Manningham's knee won't let him answer the bell). That opens it up for someone like a Marcus Harris, Julian Talley or Corey Washington to possibly sneak onto the roster with a good camp, but that's a long shot. @DanGrazianoESPN: Based on my conversations with Giants people (and with Will Beatty himself) last year and this spring, I think the main reason Beatty struggled was technique. He's not a big, monstrous, mauling left tackle who relies on strength and an ability to overpower people. Beatty's success, when he's had it, has had more to do with quickness and athleticism. I was told last season while he was struggling that Beatty was playing with his hands too low, giving away leverage and hurting his ability to dictate his matchups. That sounds like an easy thing to fix, but bad habits are tough to break, and as the year went along the struggles got into Beatty's head. He admitted in December that he'd felt the weight of his free-agent contract and let the pressure get to him, and I think he was looking forward to an offseason to clear his head. The problem is that Beatty's offseason has been about recovery from that broken leg he suffered in the Week 17 game against the Redskins, and he hasn't had time to practice getting back into good habits. I agree that a Beatty rebound would have a positive ripple effect along the rest of the line, but at this point you have to consider him a major question mark, and not just because of the injury. @DanGrazianoESPN: The firing of their longtime tight ends coach does rank among the more surprising moves of the Giants' offseason. But when they hired young Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, it was only fair to assume he'd want to bring in a few of his own coaches and help construct the staff. During those discussions, it was decided that Pope's position would be one of the ones to turn over. They moved wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride (the son of the former offensive coordinator) to tight ends coach, Sean Ryan from quarterbacks coach back to wide receivers coach and hired Danny Langsdorf as the new quarterbacks coach. Pope was a Giants icon, and the only person whose name is on all four of the franchise's Super Bowl trophies. But there was an effort to get a bit younger on the coaching staff this offseason. Tight end Adrien Robinson spoke during OTAs about how he's felt a different kind of connection with the younger Gilbride than he did with Pope, and if that's the case with the rest of the group it might answer your question. Thanks for all of your questions. If you need me, I'm on the golf course.
A 7-9 season and a turbulent offseason has left the New York Giants' roster littered with question marks heading into 2014. There are so many positions -- receiver, offensive line, running back, tight end, defensive line, linebacker -- where they hope they've found answers but can't be sure. A lot is riding on the ability of Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff to bring it all together, and for help with that they will lean on the few positions at which they're sure they are set -- and the few players who remain roster rocks.

Victor Cruz appears to be such a player.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Al Bello/Getty ImagesVictor Cruz continued his quest for self-improvement, even after signing a big contract.
After signing his big contract extension last summer, Cruz showed up at training camp and told his coaches he wanted to work to improve his blocking. Yes, that's a wide receiver, in the wake of signing his big contract, deciding he wants to work on blocking because he knows he's got to get better at it to help the team and make himself a more complete player. At a time in his career when a lot of players might have started coasting, Cruz decided to work even harder at one of the toughest parts of his job.

"He's that way," Giants receivers coach Sean Ryan said last week. "For the kind of quick ascent he's had, none of that has ever gone to his head or to his work ethic. He's the same guy he was the day he walked in here in terms of working hard and being down to earth and wanting to be a complete football player. You've got to respect that."

Cruz did improve as a downfield blocker last year, in the estimation of the coaching staff. Like the rest of the offense, he endured a tough season from a production standpoint, catching only four touchdown passes and none after September. But toward the end of the season, he spoke with pride about the improvements he'd made in his game, and his coaches are eager to see him continue to work at it.

"With those guys and the blocking, it's about want-to," Ryan said. "They've got to want to do it. They've got to want to get in there and dig out safeties. And there's a lot of technique to it, too, just coming down and beating men to a spot versus just running out to where they are now. It's not blocking them where they are; it's blocking them where they're going to be. And I think he took a real interest in doing that and being good at it and making himself a complete player, and we're going to pick up on it and continue to improve on it with him and with everybody. You've got to block to play receiver in the NFL. You have to do it."

The return of Mario Manningham to the Giants brings someone who obviously knows all about that. Rueben Randle has the size to do it effectively if he'll commit to it as Cruz did. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr.? Too soon to know what his commitment will be to that nitty-gritty aspect of his position. But having Cruz around as an example can only help. He stands as an example of someone who's continued to work to get better even after brilliant early-career success.

"He's got that same skill set," Ryan said of Cruz now compared with early in his career. "He's an explosive player. His change of direction is excellent. I think he's gotten rid of, in my opinion, some concentration drops he had early in his career. I don't see as many of those. And from a leadership standpoint, he's really stepped to the forefront in terms of being vocal and being a leader on and off the field in that position."
The goal for New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara last year was a simple one: Stay healthy and play all 16 games. This had been a problem for Amukamara in his first two NFL seasons, so the Giants made it clear to him before 2013 started that his focus should be on durability and availability.

Amukamara
"And he did that," secondary coach Peter Guinta said last week at the end of the team's minicamp. "He played all 16 games, every game getting better. You could see him improving by being out there. He understands the defense better. He's much more comfortable here. And now he's starting to take some chances and make some plays because of that comfort. He's really starting to grow up that way, where he understands the game."

The Giants' 2011 first-round pick, Amukamara has been a solid player when healthy but only has three interceptions in his three NFL seasons. He has said he'd like to make more of an impact as a playmaker, and Giunta described a practice play from last week on which Amukamara jumped a Victor Cruz "in" route and helped Antrel Rolle intercept Eli Manning.

"Now he's starting to gamble a bit and take some chances, which you like to see because you want guys thinking, 'Hey, I'm going to make a play,'" Giunta said. "He's evolved that confidence in himself and the defense, and he knows what's coming."

Amukamara himself said last week that he feels different this year without former Giants corners Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross in the locker room. He credits those guys with helping educate him about playing -- and playing cornerback -- in the NFL and believes their absence marks a key point in his own career and development.

"I feel like those guys sharpened me. They really helped me learn and grow," Amukamara said. "Now, I feel like it's my turn to take that big step on my own and be a leader and up my game. I'm the oldest cornerback here among the guys who have been here. That feels kind of weird, but it lets you know, 'Okay, it's time to take it up a notch.'"

The Giants picked up Amukamara's option for 2015, which means they have him for about $7 million that season if they want him but can cut him without penalty prior to Week 1 of 2015. They also signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie long-term and Walter Thurmond for one year and are very deep at the position for 2014. Amukamara knows his future with the team is uncertain, and he's eager to prove he's worth a long-term commitment from them.

Big Blue Morning: One day more

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
9:30
AM ET
Good morning and welcome to the final day of the New York Giants' offseason program. Their three-day mandatory minicamp concludes with a practice this morning, and we'll get one more chance to talk to players and coaches before everyone heads off to vacation. After today, the Giants won't all be on the field together again until July 22, which should be their first training camp practice, so this is our last chance to see them in action.

Truth be told, having watched them the past two days, the offense looks downright ragged. That's not surprising or meant as a negative. There is a lot to learn under new coordinator Ben McAdoo, and the plan fact is the Giants aren't supposed to be ready now. They're not supposed to be ready a month from now. Heck, they're not supposed to be ready two months from now. They are all learning and making mistakes together, and if you showed up today to watch them practice you'd think the defense looked fantastic and the offense looked terrible.

They're trying a lot of new things. You see funky goal-line packages with multiple tight ends. You see plays where Rueben Randle works the slot and Victor Cruz plays on the outside. You see everyone from Marcus Harris to Julian Talley lining up in Odell Beckham Jr.'s would-be spot while Beckham works his way back from a hamstring injury. It's the very definition of a work in progress, and it's likely a good thing that they all get a few weeks off after today to think, study, decompress ... whatever they need to do before returning in late July to take up all of this learning and practicing again.

It's been hot this week, but the Giants got some good work in. The standouts have been guys like cornerback Zack Bowman, who intercepted an Eli Manning pass Wednesday. The cornerback corps looks deep and fun. Spirits are high and everything feels the way you'd expect it to feel this time of year in spite of all the change. That has a lot to do with Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff, who should have little trouble melding everything together. There's been no trouble keeping everybody on the same page in spite of the changes to the staff.

"That's never going to happen," Coughlin said Wednesday. "Everybody's going to be on the same page, which is just a tribute to the quality of the individuals and their understanding and belief in what we're doing."

Coughlin will make a big speech at the conclusion of today's practice about staying focused and out of trouble in the four or five weeks before the Giants reconvene. But he'll do so with the confidence of a veteran coach who understands how early his team still is in the process of coming together. And then they'll take that break, and come back refreshed next month and ready to start work again.
Interesting exercise by Pro Football Focus, ranking all 32 NFL rosters Insider in order. It's an Insider post, so you have to pay to read it, but for our purposes here I can tell you that the New York Giants' roster came in at No. 19 in the NFL and No. 3 in the NFC East, behind the No. 5 overall Eagles and right behind the No. 18 overall Cowboys.

Along with the rankings are color-coded charts that rate each team's starters. Of the 22 starters they project for the Giants, only 10 rated above average and only three -- fullback John Conner, guard Geoff Schwartz and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- rated "high quality." None rated in the blue "Elite" category. Hence, this part of the evaluation:
There aren't many glaring holes on the Giants' roster anymore, but their problem is more the absence of real difference-makers. Rashad Jennings showed he was a "capable" runner a year ago in Oakland, but he's little more than that, and the receiving corps now expects Victor Cruz to lead the way rather than complement a true No. 1 receiver.

I think it's fair. There's something of a "who-scares-you?" element to the Giants as currently constructed. The Giants think Jennings can be more than just "capable," but neither they nor we know that for sure yet. Quarterback Eli Manning and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul are players who have performed at elite levels in the past, and if they can elevate their games this year they could certainly improve the color-coded rankings on the high end. But given the way the past two seasons have gone for them, it's impossible to rank them as high-end performers right now without seeing them do it again.

You're welcome to like the Giants' roster better than Pro Football Focus does. They are just one set of opinions, after all. But as we've been discussing here for months, the Giants ended 2013 with a long way to go to build their roster back up to championship-contender level. Even with all of the work they've done to improve this offseason, they still have plenty more they could do.
Hey, look who used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week! You guys!
 
Because I love fantasy football, and because I persist in believing a subset of my readership loves it too, I sometimes do fantasy posts. This is one of them.

The first edition of our 2014 ESPN fantasy football rankings is out, and here's a look at where New York Giants players fall in those rankings. Click on the name of the position to see the full list of rankings for that position.

Quarterback

18. Eli Manning

41. Josh Freeman

Not as bad as I thought it would be after last year's 27 interceptions. Manning's ahead of Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco and couple of other interesting names. Most interesting to me, however, is the fact that they ranked Freeman at all. Manning hasn't missed a game since 2004. Yes, he rehabbing an ankle injury right now and is likely to miss some offseason workout time. But it's still a stretch to imagine him missing regular-season games.

Running back

25. Rashad Jennings

39. David Wilson

63. Andre Williams

We discussed this a bit last week. The issue is the murkiness of the situation. Giants running backs aren't usually reliable in fantasy anyway, due to the unreliable nature of the way the Giants use their running backs. And Wilson hasn't yet been cleared for contact following his neck surgery, so we don't know whether he'll play at all. If he's not cleared, I imagine Jennings moves up the list significantly, because he's likely to get the bulk of the carries. Williams would move up some too (though Peyton Hillis is still ahead of him on the depth chart). If Wilson is in the picture, that's a positive for the Giants but not helpful to those trying to figure out how to deploy Giants as fantasy running backs.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellVictor Cruz is the highest-rated Giant at No. 43 in the ranking of the top 200 fantasy players.
Wide receiver

17. Victor Cruz

50. Rueben Randle

65. Odell Beckham Jr.

I'm going to say it's going to be tough for Manning to be the No. 18 quarterback if Randle and Beckham produce at No. 50 and No. 65 levels at wide receiver. But from this distance, not knowing how soon Beckham will be ready to be a reliable contributor, the ranks are fair. The Giants hope Beckham can emerge quickly as an outside threat in their passing game, and they hope Randle can make a big jump from Year 2 to Year 3. But they don't know, and no one knows how the new offense is going to work. If it runs smoothly, I think Cruz can have a bigger year than this ranking indicates. But after watching the Giants' offense last year, it's hard to blame anyone for waiting to see.

Tight end

No Giants tight end was ranked in the top 30. Adrien Robinson is the front-runner right now for starting tight end, and undrafted rookie Xavier Grimble might be able to play his way into the picture along with Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis. It's an uninspiring group for fantasy purposes. Robinson said Tuesday that the new offense offers the tight ends more opportunities to catch the ball, but at this point it's impossible to know who'll be doing the catching. For those holding out hope, former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is still a free agent and is ranked No. 23 on this list in spite of not currently having a team.

Kicker

26. Josh Brown

Yeah, if you don't have any faith in an offense to score points and move the ball, then you're not starting its kicker. The Giants are going to have to prove their way back into fantasy relevance.

Defense/Special teams

17. New York Giants

Seems a tad low, especially when you factor in the work they did to improve their options in the return game with Beckham and free agents Trindon Holliday and Quintin Demps. But return touchdowns are a tough thing on which to rely. The Giants' defense was a middle-of-the-road unit last year in terms of forcing turnovers, and only five teams had fewer sacks. And their sack leader from last year is now on the Raiders. The Giants may have a solid defense, but it's tough to predict with confidence that it will be the kind that scores fantasy points.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He is the New York Giants' 2014 first-round draft pick. He was the No. 12 overall pick in this year's draft. But wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is here at the Giants' team facility doing what everybody else on the offense is doing at high speed -- learning.

"It's a new offense for everybody," Beckham said Tuesday. "They just got it two or three weeks ago, so the veterans are all learning, too. So right now, everything's all up in the air."

[+] EnlargeOdell Beckham Jr
Elsa/Getty ImagesLike the rest of his new teammates, Odell Beckham Jr. is busy learning a new offense.
Beckham said his goal is to learn every wide receiver position in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system, but he's starting out with the X receiver position. That's the split end, or the receiver that's tied to the line of scrimmage and doesn't go in motion. Based on what the Giants said about Beckham the night they drafted him, they view him as an ideal candidate for that spot, since success there depends on the receiver's ability to beat press coverage and get separation from the defender. Hakeem Nicks, the 2009 first-round pick who left as a free agent this offseason, could not do that last year, and the Giants hope that the replacement they drafted can do a better job with that.

Beckham's LSU teammate, 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle, would then be the Z receiver on the other side with Victor Cruz handling the slot receiver duties. But of course that could change from week to week or play to play, which Beckham knows. At this point, he's just trying to get down what he can.

"Right now for me, it's a lot of learning the offense," he said. "I feel like I'm catching up. There's so much being thrown at you a once, it's all going to take some getting used to."

He said having Randle around helps him some, as does his familiarity with Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who went to the same high school Beckham attended in New Orleans and has worked with Beckham at his passing camps. And Beckham also is well aware of outside criticisms about his size (5-foot-11) and has made his peace with them.

"It's something I don't really think about," Beckham said. "There are a lot of guys in the league my size. Percy Harvin is one of them. Maybe he's a little faster than I am, but he's been successful. Size is not something that matters, I don't think."

If he has speed and the ability to get away from defenders, Beckham's size shouldn't hold him back. Nicks has the size to outfight people for the ball, but his inability to get open with any kind of consistency last year hamstrung the Giants' offense. The Giants don't care how tall Beckham is if no one's covering him. They want to get him the ball and let him run with it.

First, though, he's got a lot to learn.

Giants' depth chart: Offense

May, 15, 2014
May 15
2:00
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A look at where I think things stand with the offensive side of the New York Giants' depth chart following free agency and the draft.

Quarterback
Eli Manning
Curtis Painter
Ryan Nassib
Josh Freeman

Manning
Obviously, there's no threat to the top spot. But Manning's recovery from April ankle surgery could offer spring and summer opportunities for Nassib or Freeman to win the No. 2 spot from Painter.

Running back
Rashad Jennings
David Wilson
Andre Williams
Peyton Hillis
Michael Cox

Wilson is the wild-card in the mix. He may not be cleared to play at all following neck surgery, though the Giants say they believe he will. If he's not, Jennings should get a lot of carries as long as he can stay healthy and help protect Manning in the passing game.

"X" Wide receiver
Odell Beckham Jr.
Rueben Randle
Mario Manningham
Trindon Holliday

Beckham was drafted with this role in mind -- to play the split end receiver position because they believe he can get separation from defenders and beat man coverage with his speed. If he can't win a starter's job in camp, they'll need to go with one of those other options, neither of which is ideal for the role.

"Z" wide receiver
Rueben Randle
Mario Manningham
Julian Talley

If they only have two receivers on the field, slot man Victor Cruz is likely to be one of them. But when they go three-wide, Randle is likely to get a chance to show he's developing into a threat on the outside. Manningham remains a question mark due to the health of his knee.

Slot wide receiver
Victor Cruz
Jerrel Jernigan

Cruz
Cruz is paid as a top slot receiver, and after drafting Beckham the Giants admitted they'd like to keep him inside as much as possible. If the new offense is anything like what new coordinator Ben McAdoo was helping run in Green Bay, it could be tailor-made for Cruz as a playmaker with the ball in his hands.

Tight end
Adrien Robinson
Kellen Davis
Larry Donnell
Daniel Fells
Xavier Grimble

Robinson enters his third year, and as of now this opportunity is his if he wants it and can stay healthy. Grimble's signing as an undrafted free agent is expected but has yet to be announced by the team. Donnell is a special teamer who has impressed with his work ethic and could get a shot if other options falter.

Fullback
Henry Hynoski
John Conner

If Hynoski is back all the way healthy, I think he has the edge here as a more nimble run-blocker in McAdoo's system.

Left tackle
Will Beatty
Charles Brown

If Beatty's recovery from his Week 17 leg fracture is slow, there's a chance the Giants could move second-year right tackle Justin Pugh to this side.

Left guard
Geoff Schwartz
John Jerry
James Brewer
Brandon Mosley
Eric Herman

Schwartz was signed as a free agent to start here. If he gets hurt, their hope is that Jerry isn't already working on the other side and can step in ahead of the younger guys.

Center
Weston Richburg
J.D. Walton
Dallas Reynolds

Walton still likely ranks higher on the Giants' real depth chart than second-rounder Richburg, but I'm predicting the rookie wins the starting job. He sounds like the guy they want to handle center responsibilities, which will expand under McAdoo.

Right guard
Chris Snee
John Jerry
James Brewer
Brandon Mosley
Eric Herman

Snee
The Giants and Snee are optimistic about his recovery from his second hip surgery in as many years, but he could wear down quickly in camp and elevate Jerry to a starting role. That would damage the Giants' depth on the line, which was a massive problem in 2013.

Right tackle
Justin Pugh
Charles Brown

There remains a chance that Pugh could ultimately be asked to switch sides or move inside to play guard. But they liked what he gave them as a 16-game starter at right tackle as a rookie, and right now they will leave him there.
The scramble in the wake of the NFL draft for the lists of undrafted free agents agreeing to terms with teams is an ugly one. The process is a mess, as players and teams will "agree" on terms only to break said "agreements" moments later for better offers. Players will tweet that they have signed with a team when in fact they're only getting a tryout. It's a wreck. So, as you may have noticed, I really don't get involved in putting names out there.

Monday afternoon, however, the New York Giants actually released the names of five undrafted free agents they signed. They are as follows:

Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
Eathyn Manumaleuna, DT, BYU
Kerry Wynn, DE, Richmond
Justin Anderson, LB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Thomas Gordon, S, Michigan

There are more to come, obviously, and the Giants will clear room accordingly. Monday, they waived linebacker Allen Bradford, cornerback Junior Mertile and punter Jordan Gay and terminated the contract of quarterback Rusty Smith, who signed just a couple of weeks ago when they were stocking up on quarterbacks in the wake of the Eli Manning and Curtis Painter surgeries.

As for this group of undrafteds, the biggest name is Quarles, who made our list of the top 10 undrafted players Saturday evening and seems to offer the size and the interior pass-rush ability the Giants look for in their defensive tackles. They currently project Johnathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins as starters at that position with Mike Patterson, Markus Kuhn and third-round pick Jay Bromley as backups and members of the rotation. But defensive tackle is definitely a spot at which an undrafted player could work his way into practice reps this summer and possibly even playing time in the fall.

Every undrafted player who signs with the Giants gets to look firsthand at the example of star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who was himself undrafted, for inspiration.
After the New York Giants took LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with the No. 12 pick in the draft Thursday night, I wrote this about the risks inherent in falling in love with a player and trusting your own evaluations. This was a very specific, 500-word analysis about the Giants' methods, and it had nothing to do with the player himself or what the Giants liked about him.

But they obviously like him a great deal and for a number of reasons, many of which they went into Thursday night after making the pick.

"He's a dynamic receiver, dynamic punt returner and a dynamic kickoff returner," GM Jerry Reese said. "You're getting a guy that can score touchdowns in three different ways for you. There's no way we would pass him up."

Three different ways is a pretty cool concept, especially if you're picking someone to replace Hakeem Nicks, who scored touchdowns in no different ways in 2013. The Giants clearly fell in love with Beckham's ability as a player who can help them score points. Picking him sends a clear message that they're more concerned with exciting playmakers than with rebuilding the foundation of their crumbled offensive line. Not the way I'd have gone, as you know, but they believe this guy will be enough of a difference-maker to justify the decision.

"We're talking about the quarterback needing help, and this guy is a weapon," Reese said. "We need a weapon on the outside. Victor [Cruz] is more of an inside receiver. Victor can't play on the outside. We have Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and we got Mario Manningham back, so we're trying to get the quarterback some weapons. You need weapons in this league. We think this guy is a weapon."

Everything you hear about Beckham as a player backs up the evaluation. High-end speed, showcased at the highest level of college football in the SEC. Can take the top off a defense, force safeties to play deep, open things up underneath for Cruz and others. Reese described Beckham as "almost pro-ready," which indicates they expect a contribution at some point during his rookie season. And coach Tom Coughlin pointed out that Beckham's learning curve may not be that significant, given that the veterans, too, are learning a new offense this offseason under new coordinator Ben McAdoo.

"I think a young man of Odell's skill and his level of intelligence will pick this up relatively quickly," Coughlin said.

And good for the Giants if he does. They also raved about his abilities in the return game, which struck me as kind of odd after they spent free-agent money on return men Quintin Demps and Trindon Holliday. But when asked about potential redundancies there, Reese bristled a bit.

"It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter," Reese said. "The more return guys you have in the building, the better. We haven't had any in the building in some time. So the more the merrier. We have some options there, and whoever wins the job, it's fine with me. Holliday is a fast guy. This guy is a fast guy. Speed kills."

The Giants really do get the benefit of the doubt a lot, though given Reese's draft track record I continue to fail to see why. When the Dallas Cowboys or the Oakland Raiders ignore long-range offensive line needs in favor of fun, speedy skill position players, they get ripped for it. Yet that's exactly what the Giants did Thursday and people seem OK with it. Yes, there are some offensive line options still available Friday night, but there are wide receiver options still available, too, so that argument doesn't really mitigate anything.

The Giants like a lot of things about Beckham, and he's put a lot on film for them and everyone else to like. If he's the player they imagine he'll be, then they'll be happy with the pick. The inherent flaw in the draft is that everyone imagines these best-case scenarios and they don't all come true. In the case of the Giants and Beckham, the excitement of what's imaginable carried the day.
All right. It's time. Well, it's not actually time, since NFL draft doesn't start for eight more hours and the New York Giants aren't likely making their pick at No. 12 for at least nine more hours or so. But it's time for me to tell you what I think will happen, for whatever that's worth.

My prediction is that the Giants will select Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin with the No. 12 pick in the draft.

Why Martin? I think he'll end up being the best player available, in their judgment, at No. 12. I think they see too many red flags with guys like Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. I think they will decide (if they haven't already) that Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is too small to play defensive tackle for them. I don't think they will or should be willing to pay what it would take to trade up for Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. And while they went 13 years without drafting an offensive lineman in the first round before taking Justin Pugh last year, they recognize that they've let the offensive line erode to a detrimental extent. Martin is fine value at No. 12 and, like Pugh last year, can play a variety of positions along the line. So going forward, they can play him or Pugh at guard or center and the other at right tackle. Or if they decide to cut ties with Will Beatty next summer, they could play first-rounders Pugh and Martin at the tackle spots long term. The point is to load up on top talent at a vital and neglected position. Martin would represent the best player available at this point at a position of both short-term and long-term need for the Giants.

What if Martin is gone already? My sleeper pick for the Giants at this point is LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. I think that's the guy they'd take if Martin were taken in the top 11, and I think there's an outside chance they could take him even if Martin is still there. Beckham has incredible speed and is known as a playmaker with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is installing a system that's likely to resemble Green Bay's West Coast-style offense and lean on the idea of getting its playmakers the ball and letting them function after the catch. Like current Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, Beckham fits this description and would be a fun toy for McAdoo and Eli Manning. I personally don't love the idea of Beckham at No. 12, since he seems a little too much like Cruz and Jerrel Jernigan. I think this is a very deep wide receiver draft and that the Giants could find good value at the position in the second or third round if they really want one, and that they would do well to draft one with size. Rueben Randle hasn't yet shown that he can handle the outside job full time, and Manning has shown in the past that he would benefit from a taller receiver on the outside. I think they need that more than they need a guy like Beckham. But that's just my opinion, not theirs.

What if they're both gone? I guess maybe Ebron, though I still don't think so. Maybe a trade down, though that's going to be tough at that point in the round with so many other teams thinking along the same lines. If they stay put at 12 and can't get either of their top two choices (assuming those are Martin and Beckham), your guess is as good as mine. But just to throw one out, I'll say Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Yes, I still believe they need to address offensive here. But Clinton-Dix would be good value at No. 12, and Cooper Taylor is the only Giants safety currently under contract beyond 2014. The Giants have taken a defensive back with their first pick in four of their last nine drafts, so it would also be in character, as fallback plans often are.
Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both have new mock drafts out Tuesday. Both are Insider, so I can't fill you in on all of the juicy details, but I can tell you who they're picking for the New York Giants and give you some of my thoughts on it if you like. That work? Mkay, great. Here goes.

Mel's mock Insider has the Giants taking Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 12 overall. This is with North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron and Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin still on the board. You know me, if I'm picking for the Giants here, I'm taking the offensive lineman. But I have no issue with a defensive lineman, especially one as fearsome as Donald, who could add instant depth to the defensive tackle rotation and likely flourish as a long-term starter on the interior of the Giants' defensive line. Having let Linval Joseph leave in one of the free-agent moves I still struggle to understand, the Giants could use an infusion of talented youth in there, and Donald would be a fun pick. We'd go to bed next Thursday writing that they need to address offensive line in the Friday night portion of the draft, but they likely can do that.

In Todd's mock Insider, Donald and Martin are still on the board at 12, though Ebron is not and neither is Mike Evans. Todd gives the Giants LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who could conceivably team with fellow former LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle to round out the Giants' wide receiver corps behind Victor Cruz. Beckham also would be a fun pick, and would make Giants fans feel better about the array of weapons for quarterback Eli Manning in the passing game. But I don't know if I love the pick at 12. I think the Giants' biggest big-picture problem is the erosion of top-end talent up front. I think you need a foundation piece if you're drafting in the first half of the first round. And I think they'd be better served looking at what Bill Polian calls "fat guys" -- lineman of either the offensive or defensive persuasion -- with this high a pick.

Just my opinion, though, and Mel's pick and Todd's pick both make sense on some level. The fact there's such a spread with regard to the Giants' best options in the first round indicates just how many spots on their roster still need long-term solutions.

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