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Friday, February 7, 2014
MVP replacements: New York Giants

By Dan Graziano

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Manning
You think the New York Giants had a rough year with Eli Manning struggling and leading the league in interceptions? Bah. Just imagine what it would be like if Manning weren’t even on the team.

Manning is far and away the Giants’ most valuable player, even coming off his worst NFL season. He has not missed a game since becoming the team’s starting quarterback during his 2004 rookie season, and the plain fact is that the Giants are completely without a fallback plan if they were to lose him to injury or for any other reason.

Curtis Painter filled the backup quarterback role in 2013, taking over for longtime backup David Carr as the guy who runs the scout team and only plays if the Giants are down by 30 in the fourth quarter in Carolina or if Manning sprains his ankle in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Redskins. Ryan Nassib, the 2013 fourth-round pick, was drafted as a developmental flyer -- a player they think has a chance to be good down the road but is not, in their estimation, even close to being ready to see actual NFL game action.

No, Manning is really all the Giants have at quarterback. Their offense -- nay, their entire team -- is built on the assurance that he will take every meaningful snap. He is 33 years old, still in his prime, and not only is he not going anywhere with two years left on his deal, he’s a strong candidate for a contract extension this offseason as the team works to sign free agents and stay under the salary cap.

You might be upset with Manning over the season he just had, but the fact remains that if the Giants were to lose him, there would be no reason for them even to show up on Sundays.

Potential pick: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Drafting another quarterback after taking Nassib in the fourth round last year is unlikely, so let’s take a look at a player who could help protect Manning in Kouandjio. While he needs to work on his hand placement and footwork, his flaws are fixable and he’s athletic enough to overcome them until he improves his technique. Left offensive tackle Will Beatty is coming off a disappointing 2013 season and broke his leg in the regular-season finale. Kouandjio could push for playing time opposite 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh if Beatty doesn’t bounce back. If Beatty does bounce back the Giants could kick Pugh inside to guard where they also need help. As well as Pugh played at tackle he could be an even better guard.

-- Steve Muench