This is the sixth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Giants as they prepare for the draft:
Position: Special teams.
Scouting report: The Giants are solid at punter with Weatherford, who averaged 47.5 yards per punt last season and landed 22 of 58 punts inside the 20. Long snapper and special teams captain DeOssie adds stability and chemistry on special teams as well. But the unit will have a major change at kicker.
The Giants are moving on without Tynes, signing three other kickers (Brown, Buehler and Rogers). Brown is expected to be the man, but Buehler should have an opportunity to compete for the job. Brown, 33, has had a season-long field goal of 52 yards or longer in each of his 10 seasons, with a career long of 58 yards, which was during his rookie season in 2003. He has made 81.3 percent of his kicks and averages 64.1 yards on kickoffs.
Buehler averages 66.8 yards on kickoffs and made 24 of 32 field goals in 2010, his only season kicking field goals, for the Cowboys. He has a career long of 53 yards.
After kicker, the Giants have some uncertainty in their return game. Wilson was electric on kickoffs last season, amassing 1,533 return yards and one touchdown. But his workload at running back is going to increase, and the Giants have to consider how much they want to risk their prized running back on kickoffs. If they opt not to use him, the Giants could turn to Jernigan or Brown on kickoffs.
Randle averaged 7.2 yards per punt return last year. He could be the punt returner again. Jernigan is also an option here. Aaron Ross has return experience and could be in the mix if the Giants want to try somebody else. Also, cornerback Jayron Hosley was a punt returner at Virginia Tech.
The last time: The Giants have not drafted a kicker or punter since 2010, when they took punter Matt Dodge in the seventh round.
Potential targets: Perhaps the most well-known prospect with dynamic return skills in the draft is LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu, who was a Heisman Trophy candidate before being dismissed from LSU. The cornerback comes with baggage, but he would have a ready and willing mentor in Corey Webster, a former LSU star who already has taken Mathieu under his wing.
“On the field he is a good player,” general manager Jerry Reese said this week. “Obviously, he has got some off-the-field issues that have been well-documented. So we’ll put all the pros and cons together and see if he fits anywhere for us.”
The Giants could use a cornerback, and Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks is one of the top corners in the draft and also has a return touchdown on his résumé as well. Another potential top-10 cornerback is Southeastern Louisiana’s Robert Alford, who also has return experience. Texas A&M cornerback Dustin Harris led the country in punt return yardage, and Hawaii cornerback Mike Edwards returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season.
Utah wide receiver Reggie Dunn might be the most explosive kick returner in the entire draft. The All-American returner, who was reportedly clocked at 4.2 in the 40 at Utah's pro day, has more 100-yard kickoff returns (5) than anybody else in NCAA history and had four last year alone. He sports a career average of 30.9 yards per kickoff return. The Giants could add one more receiver for depth as well.
Other prospects with return ability are Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis, Alcorn State wide receiver Terrance Lewis, UConn wide receiver Nick Williams, Central Arkansas wide receiver Jesse Grandy, South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders and NC State wide receiver Tobais Palmer.
Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 4 (for a player with return ability).
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