So, yeah. It's happened again. Mel Kiper Jr. has done his first mock draft of 2014. And as some prior mock drafts have done, he's projected Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley to the New York Giants with the No. 12 overall pick.
Usual disclaimers apply: I respect -- nay, revere -- the work Kiper does on the NFL draft. I don't think there's anyone who knows more about it, and I don't believe there's anyone who works harder to make sure that's the case. He's a machine, and nothing I write that disagrees with anything he writes should be taken as any kind of slight against the man, his work or his abilities.
The Giants have not selected a linebacker in the first round of the draft since Carl Banks in 1984.
Carl Banks. In 1984.
That's 30 years, during which the franchise has been run by basically the same people and under the same philosophy, and it's not a coincidence of history that it's been that long. Especially in the salary cap era, during which teams set their priorities and only allocate high-end resources (meaning big free-agent money and high draft picks) to those positions they feel deserve them, the Giants have consistently undervalued the linebacker position and sought to address it with bargains. Even more recently, as passing offenses have evolved to dominate the game, the Giants (and many other teams) increasingly spend more time in nickel defenses, which require only two linebackers on the field if you're a base 4-3. The Giants simply do not believe linebacker is a position worthy of a first-round pick, so they don't pick linebackers in the first round.
Is Mosley good enough to break that trend? Maybe. Did the extent to which Jon Beason revitalized their linebacker corps this year underline the importance of a high-energy field general at that position? Possibly, but it's worth noting that they only spent a seventh-round pick to get Beason, and that fact actually kind of supports their belief that they can get linebacker figured out without spending major resources on it.
So count me as a doubter that they'll pick Mosley at No. 12.
I think they should take the best available offensive lineman there, given the extent of their short-term and long-term needs on the line. Someone like Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, should he fall (which he doesn't, in Mel's mock). But others will correctly point out that their bigger line needs are at guard and center, and can be addressed in Rounds 2 and 3. So what's most likely, in my opinion, is that the Giants take someone like Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans or North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron if one of them is there, to supply Eli Manning with a fresh new weapon on offense. Or they could go defense and snag someone like Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan or Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Those picks would be much more in keeping with the Giants' drafting philosophy than would Mosley.
And hey, you never know. They went 11 years without drafting a running back in the first round before taking David Wilson two years ago. And they went 13 years without drafting an offensive lineman in the first round before taking Justin Pugh last year. So sometimes trends don't last. But this trend is at 29 years, which puts those others to shame. No offense to Mel or to Mosley, but I have a hard time imagining this.