Which route will Beast take at receiver?
|With Plaxico Burress, left, and Terrell Owens gone, the Giants and Cowboys have huge voids to fill at wide receiver.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Now that the New York Giants have been praised far and wide for releasing troubled wide receiver Plaxico Burress, it's time for the following reality check: The Giants don't have anyone who resembles a No. 1 wide receiver on the roster.
Sure, the eternal optimists among Giants fandom (like my buddy Dan F. from South Orange) look at Mario Manningham and see a budding No. 1, but that's just because he has the team Web site bookmarked. The truth of the matter is the Giants appear to be set at every position except wide receiver, and there are no guarantees when it comes to the draft -- especially when holding the No. 29 overall pick.
The Giants, though, can take solace knowing that the other three teams in the NFC East could also enter the '09 season with questions at receiver. Say what you will about Terrell Owens and Burress, but they remain two of the most feared players in the game. The Giants and Cowboys are selling the tried and true "addition by subtraction" line to their fan bases, but that campaign only seems to work in the offseason.
With that in mind, let's attempt to figure out what each team in the Beast is thinking as we sprint toward the draft, which by the way, can be viewed on ESPN:
Hardcore analysis: Owner Jerry Jones mistakenly thought Roy Williams would be the ideal complement to Owens. He thought this right up until Williams ran his first mystery route in Jason Garrett's offense. Now Jones is talking about a "Romo friendly" offense that will play to Williams' strengths, which are to be determined at a later date. He's also said undrafted wide receiver Miles Austin is "close" to being at T.O.'s level, which made him comfortable releasing the future Hall of Famer.
Now the Jets are threatening to make Jones put his money where his mouth always seems to be. Austin, a restricted free agent, was scheduled to visit the Jets on Thursday and Friday. The Cowboys would have seven days to match any offer made by the Jets or they could accept a second-round pick as compensation. If you'd told me at this time last year that the Cowboys could receive a second-round pick for Austin, I'd have thought you were hallucinating. But with T.O.'s release, Jones has backed himself into a corner. Austin, the former Monmouth University star, has discovered the beauty of leverage, and he ought to take full advantage of it.
The Cowboys' first pick in the draft is at No. 51, and unless they lose Austin, there's not much chance they'll pick a receiver. A longtime NFC scout told me this morning that he expects to see a run on receivers early in the second round, so the Cowboys would likely wait until Sunday to look at a receiver. I know they love Ohio State's Brian Robiskie, but I'll be surprised if he lasts that long. The name to remember is Jarrett Dillard from Rice. He had 60 touchdowns (20 in '08) during his remarkable college career.
Hardcore analysis: My colleague Michael Smith seems to have his finger on the pulse of the Eagles, and he's hearing that Chad Ocho Cinco might be a possibility. I don't think Andy Reid feels compelled to draft or trade for another receiver, but he'll certainly listen to any and all offers. The Cardinals' Anquan Boldin would be a really nice complement to speedster DeSean Jackson. Everyone seems to think the Cardinals will break down and grant Boldin his wish of being traded, but Michael Bidwill doesn't feel like he owes the player any favors. And now that the Cardinals have actually earned some credibility, he may be less willing than ever to negotiate.
I sort of agree with Reid that the Eagles aren't in desperate need of a receiver, but I'm basing that on my belief in Kevin Curtis and Jason Avant. Curtis had to overcome a sports hernia last season, but he's a capable No. 2 receiver. Avant has emerged as a reliable third-down receiver. Reggie Brown has some ability, but his lack of consistency is frustrating.
The one thing I can tell you for sure is that the Eagles won't make a move simply to please Donovan McNabb. It's not their style. And in the end, he'll agree to a new contract and we'll all move down the road. It's much more likely the Eagles will take an offensive tackle and a running back in the first round (Nos. 21 and 28) than a receiver. Does that bother some of you guys? Let me know in the "comments" section.
New York Giants
Hardcore analysis: I talked to someone with the organization this morning who said that the Braylon Edwards rumors flying around are exactly that -- rumors. Yes, the Giants have looked into a possible deal, but their scouts are very concerned about all his drops. When a guy flashes one season ('07) and then falls back the next year, you have to be concerned.
Burress required two defenders much of the time. The Giants aren't sure Edwards is in that category. They certainly believe Ocho Cinco is that guy, but there are concerns about his character. The Giants just spent several years dealing with a very unpredictable personality with Burress. I don't think they're ready to jump back in that boat. Boldin's the most likely candidate in a trade, but general manager Jerry Reese
isn't going to put a ridiculous package together (see the Roy Williams deal).
This isn't a long-term answer, but I wouldn't rule out Marvin Harrison. Eli Manning watched his older brother tear up the league with Harrison for years. From what I'm told, Eli has already put in a good word on Harrison's behalf -- as if he needed it.
In the end, I think there's a good chance the Giants take Kenny Britt (Rutgers). They feel very familiar with him. But again, that doesn't address the No. 1 issue. If you want a No. 1, you better head up the draft board and get Michael Crabtree. He's the receiver who will make the most immediate impact in the NFL. Have I ever let you down before? Wait, don't answer that.
Hardcore analysis: The Redskins have only five picks in the draft, and I guarantee you they won't take a wide receiver at No. 13. They addressed this position in last year's draft by selecting Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly in the second round. They were ecstatic with those choices -- right up until training camp. Kelly was banged up and Thomas showed a lot of immaturity in his approach to the game.
I think Thomas has a chance to break through and make a significant contribution in '09. After watching Kelly play throughout his career at Oklahoma, I'm not so sure about him. This knee injury could be a lingering thing, and I don't see him as a real explosive player. But for now, the Redskins are stuck with their current cast of receivers. Santana Moss is an excellent receiver, but he's not a true No. 1 unless you have someone on the other side who keeps defenses honest. Antwaan Randle El's not that guy.
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