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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Draft positional preview: Linebacker

By Ohm Youngmisuk

This is the eighth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Giants as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Linebacker.

Depth chart: Jacquian Williams, Dan Connor, Keith Rivers, LB/DE Mathias Kiwanuka, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger, Jake Muasau.

The departed: Michael Boley (free agent), Chase Blackburn (Carolina).

Alec Ogletree
Alec Ogletree is the kind of athlete the Giants like, but does he bring too much off-field baggage?
Scouting report: The Giants went out and added beef to the front line by signing defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson and re-signing Shaun Rogers to try to stop the run.

They made three moves at linebacker: releasing Boley in a cost-cutting move, re-signing Rivers and adding Connor. Kiwanuka seems likely to move back to defensive end to help offset the loss of Osi Umenyiora in free agency. If Williams and Rivers can remain healthy, they give the Giants good speed on defense and are candidates to play on passing downs when Perry Fewell can go with three safeties on the field. Paysinger also could get an opportunity to see more snaps.

The Giants are hoping Connor will be a good fit for their scheme. Herzlich could compete with Connor for the starting middle linebacker job. Muasau left a positive impression on the coaching staff in rookie camp last year.

The last time: The Giants last drafted a linebacker in 2011 when they took Greg Jones and Williams in the sixth round.

Potential targets: Since Antonio Pierce went down with a career-ending injury in 2009, the Giants have pretty much tried filling the middle linebacker spot with minor signings in free agency or mid-to-late draft picks. The organization does not value the position in the same manner as pass rusher or cornerback when it comes to first-round picks.

The Giants haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1984 when they took Carl Banks out of Michigan State.

This year, the Giants will likely have at least two prospects available when they draft at 19. Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o are the best inside linebackers and they are widely considered to go in the neighborhood of where the Giants are picking.

But would the coaching staff play Ogletree or Te'o this season ahead of Connor or Herzlich? And in 2014 and beyond, would either prospect play more than two downs and be used on passing downs by the Giants? Will the Giants get the kind of value they need at 19 by picking a linebacker as opposed to picking an offensive lineman, pass rusher or cornerback that they will need in 2014 and beyond?

Both also have had to deal with some off-the-field issues. Ogletree was arrested for DUI in February and he was suspended for four games last season for reportedly failing a drug test. Te'o was the center of an Internet-girlfriend hoax that became national news.

Ogletree, though, sounds like the kind of athlete the Giants can use, a converted safety -- GM Jerry Reese likes guys who played multiple positions in the past -- who can fly and deliver big hits. Te'o could also have the kind of on-field leadership qualities the Giants find appealing.

Reese has drafted eight linebackers (if you include Adrian Tracy, who now is a defensive end) since he took over as GM in 2007. So while he doesn't use first-round picks on linebackers, he could certainly draft one later on.

If the Giants pass on linebacker at 19, LSU’s Kevin Minter could be an option in the second round. As far as outside linebackers, Kansas State's Arthur Brown and UConn's Sio Moore also could be options.

Some mid-round prospects could include North Carolina's Kevin Reddick, Rutgers' Khaseem Greene, Southern Mississippi's Jamie Collins, Florida State's Brandon Jenkins, Oregon's Kiko Alonso, South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman, Florida's Jonathan Bostic and Texas A&M's Sean Porter.

The Giants have shown some interest in Ohio State's Nathan Williams, who could be a late-round target.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 8.