Since NFL free agency began three weeks ago, the New York Giants have signed four cornerbacks, four offensive linemen, four linebackers, three running backs, two kick returners, a safety, a wide receiver, a defensive tackle, a backup quarterback and a kicker. Pretty extensive overhaul, especially when you consider that half of those players came from other organizations. Reports Tuesday indicated that Broncos pass-rusher Robert Ayers is in for a visit today, and if he signs that would address (mathematically, at least) yet another area of need.
Some fans like to add this all up, determine what hasn't been addressed and assume that has become the target for the Giants with their first-round draft pick. There is still no tight end, for example, so you think maybe Eric Ebron. The wide receiver they signed, Mario Manningham, is no sure thing, so you think maybe Mike Evans. And Ayers and Mike Patterson are likely rotational players and not starters on the defensive line, so you think maybe Aaron Donald or Anthony Barr or Kony Ealy.
I'd caution against this line of thinking. Sure, it's possible the Giants would use the No. 12 pick in next month's draft to address a position of immediate need. They have done it before, even specifically at wide receiver when they took Hakeem Nicks in the first round in 2009. And when you pick this high, it's not crazy to think you can take someone who is going to contribute right away.
But it's important to remember the Giants don't like to do this. They don't like to make their draft picks based on short-term need, or to ask their draft picks to start right away if they can help it. Justin Pugh started 16 games at right tackle as a rookie, but that wasn't the plan on draft day or even at the start of training camp. It's good for him and for the Giants that he handled it, but they know that not every rookie can, and they don't like counting on them.
So while it's certainly possible they take Ebron at No. 12 thinking he's the big, dynamic tight end that other teams have had in recent years and they haven't, it shouldn't be assumed that they'll be using that No. 12 pick to fill their last glaring hole. If a player they ranked in the top five or six on their board is still there at 12, they're going to want to take him, even if he plays defensive back (where recent and immediate history shows they never believe themselves to be deep enough). If they don't come out of the draft with a starting-caliber tight end, I believe the Giants could decide to roll with Adrien Robinson, figuring he can at least help as a blocker while they throw it to the backs and the receivers.
The point is that the Giants still prefer to use the draft as a means of finding the highest-quality players they can find to help them build and maintain a deep roster. They have missed on some early-round picks and mid-round picks in recent drafts, which is the reason their roster has eroded and they have had to sign 11 outside free agents so far. They don't like to operate that way, and reaching for a positional need pick in the first round is a time-tested way of going down that same road. The Giants need this year's draft to be a good one, and re-stocking the roster as a whole is more important than finding the last piece of the 2014 puzzle.