Thursday, April 14, 2011
Giants draft preview: special teams
By Ohm Youngmisuk
This is the last installment in a nine-part series that will analyze the Giants' needs, position by position, in the upcoming draft.
Position: Special teams.
Depth chart:Lawrence Tynes (K), Matt Dodge (P), Zak DeOssie (LS), Domenik Hixon (PR/KR), D.J. Ware (KR), Darius Reynaud (PR), Chase Blackburn (capt.), Sage Rosenfels (holder).
Not under contract: Blackburn.
Scouting report: The weakest unit on the team hopes to get better with Hixon’s return. The Giants’ return game was abysmal as they ranked second to last in the NFL averaging just 6.1 yards per punt return and 19 yards per kickoff return. Hixon is expected to be fully recovered by training camp from last summer’s ACL injury. Ware took over the kickoff return duties from Reynaud toward the end of the season and did a decent job. Hixon will be the primary returner but the Giants also have Reynaud and Devin Thomas as options on kickoffs as well. Dodge vowed at the end of the season to work harder than anybody else and he is expected to have competition in camp from a veteran punter. The experience of last season should make him better. Tynes was the bright spot on special teams making 19-of-23 field goals, including 16-of-his-last-17 attempts.
The Last Time: The Giants last drafted a special teams player in 2010 when they took Dodge out of East Carolina in the seventh round.
Potential targets: The Giants have a couple of key contributors with expiring contracts. The Giants likely will bring back Blackburn, the special teams captain. LB Gerris Wilkinson’s contract is also up. The Giants need more speed on special teams and a dynamic playmaker more than anything else. They are set with Tynes and the Giants are hoping Dodge will get better with experience after showing flashes of his potential last year. So if the Giants do anything in the draft to improve their special teams, it will be by drafting a linebacker, safety or corner that can help on coverage. Even though the Giants hope Hixon returns to form, they could draft someone who can return. Kentucky’s Randall Cobb is considered one of the best returners in the draft but he will likely be a second-round pick. The Giants are already stacked at wide receiver and have greater needs so it would be hard to justify using such a high pick on a WR/KR. Nebraska WR Niles Paul can return and he might project to be a fourth-round pick. Other potential returners in the draft include East Carolina’s Dwayne Harris, Troy’s Jerrel Jernigan, TCU’s Jeremy Kerly, Iowa’s Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, USC’s Ronald Johnson and SMU’s Aldrick Robinson. Another speedster is North Dakota State's Josh Gatlin, cousin of Olympic sprinter Justin Gatlin. Gatlin ran a 4.38 at his pro day and could be a late-round pick. ESPN draft expert Todd McShay also highlights Idaho safety Shiloh Keo as a potential special teams ace tackler.
Need Rating (On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being of highest importance): 8.