NFC East: Jerry Reese

Giants Camp Report: Day 4

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
8:30
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:


  • Man, the Giants' offense looks like hot garbage right now. Eli Manning threw a ball so badly to Jerrel Jernigan that Antrel Rolle and Prince Amukamara almost killed each other as they collided to try to intercept it. Ryan Nassib (to Charles James) and Curtis Painter (to Mark Herzlich) also threw picks. There was a play in which Manning tripped over the feet of running back Rashad Jennings and fell to the ground. (He got right up, don't worry.) Kendall Gaskins fumbled a ball and coach Tom Coughlin began screaming and cursing at the top of his lungs, wheeling on the offensive players who were standing on the sideline and not in the drill and yelling, "Hang onto the [bleep-bleep] ball!" over and over. Mario Manningham beat Walter Thurmond on a slant route for a nice catch, but Thurmond stayed with the play and knocked the ball out of his hands. I mean, ugly. Still way early, but tough to watch.
  • This was the first day they practiced in shoulder pads, and the first thing I saw when I went out to the field to watch was rookie running back Andre Williams absolutely lay out linebacker Justin Anderson in a one-on-one kick-return drill. It was as though Williams was taking out all of his frustrations about Thursday's dropped passes on poor Anderson. But everyone was feisty. At the end of one drill, linebacker Dan Fox playfully tackled GM Jerry Reese, who was watching by the goal post.
  • Things that are real that you wouldn't have expected: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard is a guy the coaches and other players continue to rave about, and Brandon McManus remains a threat to take the kicker's job from Josh Brown. McManus is 8-for-8 on field goals so far, was making them easily from long distance Friday and looks more powerful on kickoffs, which ends up mattering to coaches in a big way when these decisions are made. If it's close on the field goals, they take the guy who can kick it out of the back of the end zone. Field position matters.
  • Still no Odell Beckham Jr., and no word on when his hamstring will allow him to practice. Yes, the Giants are frustrated that their first-round pick is not on the field.
  • Keep an eye on Preston Parker, a third-year wide receiver out of Florida State who had legal trouble in college and has bounced around. The Giants are using him a lot with the first-team offense and on returns.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- I have no idea whether Larry Donnell will be the starting tight end for the New York Giants this season, because no one has any idea, and if anyone did know for sure on July 25 it wouldn't be me. What I do know is that the Giants' coaches really, really like Donnell and don't have any clearly superior options. So the fact that Donnell was listed first at the position when the team handed out its first unofficial depth chart of training camp Thursday wasn't the most shocking thing we've ever seen.

Donnell
As far as Donnell's concerned, it neither means nor changes anything.

"I'm just trying to do everything I can do to show the coaches I can do all of the right things as a player, so if that role comes my way, I can handle it," Donnell said before Giants practice Friday. "I just want to do the best I can to show I'm worthy of being here."

Those are common-sounding words, but Donnell lives them, and that is how he has caught the friendly attention of Giants coaches over the past two years. He was a willing and eager special-teams player in 2013, and Giants coaches say his dedication and work ethic were such that they looked for opportunities to involve him more in the offense. He is 25 years old. At 6-foot-6, 265 pounds he is the second-largest of the five tight ends on the Giants' roster after the 6-7, 265-pound Kellen Davis. Donnell was an undrafted free agent in 2012, one full year out of Grambling State, where he began his career as a quarterback and caught only 38 passes in four years once he moved to tight end during his freshman year.

This is an unlikely path for an NFL starting tight end, and Donnell remains far from a sure thing. He still needs to refine his run-blocking, which is likely to be the most important quality the Giants look for when they decide on a tight end, and he's obviously also still evolving as a pass-catcher. He believes his progress in the offense last year could have been more significant if not for a foot injury he suffered in the spring, and he believes he's coming along quickly this camp as he competes with Davis, Daniel Fells, Adrien Robinson and Xavier Grimble for the starting role.

Donnell is also cognizant of the importance of continuing to be an animal on special teams. While the Giants will surely pick the best tight end as the winner of the competition, if it's close, they're likely to select the guy who has made the most favorable impression on them in the dirty work.

"No change on that," Donnell said. "Still on special teams, still flying around, doing all those things. The more you can do, the better."

Giants GM Jerry Reese tends to downplay the need for an experienced, reliable tight end, pointing out that the tight end hasn't been a big pass-catcher for much of recent Giants history. But Donnell thinks that's changing this year under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

"The tight end plays a big tole in this offense," Donnell said. "We're a big part of it. We're main reads, No. 1 reads, so it's important to know where you need to be and how you need to get there. We're a big part of the offense."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- See now, this is what I'm talking about. The New York Giants just handed out a depth chart here in the media room. And while the nice gentleman who handed it out kept saying, "Officially unofficial," and while it's only July 24, I see no reason why we can't pick through it and overreact to what's on it, do you?

No? I didn't think so. Good. Let's go.

[+] EnlargeAdrien Robinson
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsAdrien Robinson is buried on the Giants' initial training camp depth chart.
First thing that jumps out is that Larry Donnell is listed as the starting tight end. That's not as surprising as the fact that Adrien Robinson is listed as the No. 5 tight end, behind Donnell, Daniel Fells, Xavier Grimble and Kellen Davis. That seems like a message from the coaching staff about Robinson's progress, and it's somewhat shocking considering that Robinson and Donnell have been the guys most mentioned when the organization has talked about expecting its young tight ends to step up.

The thing to remember, of course, is that the only place Robinson has ever been an effective pass-catching tight end is in Jerry Reese's imagination. Robinson caught a total of 29 passes in four years of college football at Cincinnati and didn't catch one in either of his first two NFL seasons. He's a blocking tight end, if anything, but Reese drafted him thinking he had the physical gifts to become a good NFL tight end. It's still possible he turns out to be correct, but to this point there's no evidence to support it.

The Giants' starting tight end job remains wide, wide, wide open and could conceivably still go to someone who's not yet on the team. But it's stunning to see Robinson listed all the way at the back of the depth chart when there was an assumption that he could get the first crack at it.

Elsewhere on this gilded document:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants GM Jerry Reese doesn't love talking about his tight end situation. He doesn't consider it as big a worry as some outside the organization consider it. He points out, correctly, that the Giants' top tight end over the past seven or eight seasons has tended to catch 40-50 passes a season, and he believes he doesn't have to spend major resources to acquire a run-blocking tight end who can offer such a minimal contribution in the passing game.

[+] EnlargeAdrien Robinson
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsGiants GM Jerry Reese hasn't been shy in comparing tight end Adrien Robinson to Pro Bowl players.
That said, even Reese would have to admit that this year's tight end group looks a little bit thin.

Or would he?

"We feel like we have some young players who have some dynamic skill sets that can get out there and do it," Reese said Wednesday. "Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, a couple more young tight ends on the roster that we like. Those guys have to go out there and do it."

Fair enough. He has guys he likes athletically but who haven't proven anything yet. He thinks they can and has decided to bank on that. He thinks the risk is small. Robinson can definitely run-block, and if he ends up being able to catch the ball, so much the better.

Problem is, Reese kept talking. And said this:

"The tight end in Denver, Julius Thomas, how many catches did he have before last season? He didn't have many catches. Actually, I think he had one catch going into his third season. So hopefully, we can have a guy step out of the shadows and do something like that for us, because they have the skill set. They just have to get out there and do it."

Okay, so first things first. Julius Thomas, who caught 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns with Peyton Manning as his quarterback last season, has just joined Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on the list of players to whom Jerry Reese has now -- without solicitation -- compared to Robinson. You likely remember that Reese described Robinson by saying, "we hope he can be the JPP of tight ends" after drafting him in the fourth round in 2012. The reference was to the fact that Pierre-Paul was a raw player coming out of college who became a star in his second season. It was an unfair label to affix to Robinson, a fourth-round pick who caught a total of 29 passes in his four years of college football at Cincinnati.

Thomas caught 29 passes (for 453 yards and two touchdowns) in one season as a senior at Portland State in 2010. That was Thomas' only season of college football. The difference between him and Robinson is that Robinson played four years at Cincinnati, and no one ever thought to throw him the ball on a regular basis, whereas once Thomas decided to play football, they found he was pretty awesome at catching it.

So Reese's point on Robinson really isn't much different right now than it was on draft day 2012. He thinks the guy has the skills to be a good tight end in the NFL, but he admits he has no actual proof of that and he's hoping to see some of that proof.

Maybe Robinson can deliver it. If not, maybe Donnell can. Or Xavier Grimble. Or Daniel Fells or Kellen Davis, both of whom actually have a fair amount of NFL tight-end experience.

But based on the guys to whom he likes to compare him to, Reese really thinks Robinson has a lot of talent.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning is 33 years old and coming off the worst season of his career. But New York Giants GM Jerry Reese said Wednesday that the team expects a return to top form by their franchise quarterback in 2014.

Manning
"I expect nothing except for him to bounce back and be the Pro Bowl-caliber player that we know he can be," Reese said before Giants training camp practice. "He's still a young football player, all things considered, with respect to the quarterback position. So we expect him to come back and be a leader and bounce back and not have some of the things that happened to him last year and be a dynamic football player for us."

Manning threw a career-high and league-leading 27 interceptions in 2013. His completion percentage and yardage totals were his lowest since 2007 and 2008, respectively. And his 18 touchdown passes were the fewest he's ever thrown in a full season. It's fair to ask the question of whether Manning is on the decline, but the determination the Giants made this offseason was that he is not.

"Quarterback's a little bit different," Reese said. "Thirty-three is getting up there, but it's not like a running back at that age or some other position. Quarterbacks don't take hits like a lot of other positions do. So hopefully, Eli doesn't take a lot of hits like he took last year."

Many of Manning's problems in 2013 were traceable to the complete collapse of the Giants' offensive line in front of him. Still, his performance was alarming enough that the organization decided not to extend his contract this offseason. Manning is signed through 2015, and the Giants could have helped themselves against the salary cap with an extension, but they decided not to do it, and Reese said Wednesday they're not working on anything now, either.

"We keep all of our options open with respect to that, but right now it's nothing really to talk about," Reese said. "We're two days into training camp, and there's really no need to talk about contracts at this point."

With a big year, Manning could ensure one more big quarterback contract (likely an extension signed next offseason) to carry him through the end of his career. But if he slumps again, the Giants are going to have to start asking some tough questions about whether they need to replace him sooner than they expected to.
Jerry ReesePat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsOf the 39 players drafted during GM Jerry Reese's first five drafts, only eight remain on the roster.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are New York Giants fans reading this who aren't sure how to feel about this year's draft but assume it'll be all right because they trust GM Jerry Reese as a good drafter.

They shouldn't. Because the evidence says he's not.

Reese's reputation as a good operator of the draft rests on two things -- his very good debut draft as Giants GM in 2007, and the fact that the Giants have won two Super Bowls during his seven seasons in the position. But that shouldn't be enough, really. The 2007 draft was seven years ago now, and he hasn't had a good draft since. And the Super Bowl is used far too often to excuse other sins. It's one game (or two, in this case). If Mario Manningham's pinkie toe is on the sideline when he makes that catch, or if Rob Gronkowski's end-zone lunge starts a half-second sooner that night in Indianapolis, would it then be OK to criticize the Giants' recent draft record? If the answer is yes, then it should be OK to do so anyway. Credit the people who run the Giants for the Super Bowl titles, but it's also on them that their team has missed the playoffs four of the past five years.

I don't think Reese is a bad GM. His in-season work last year to patch holes with guys such as Jon Beason and Brandon Jacobs kept the Giants from being historically awful. He was active and smart in free agency this spring, wisely identifying his roster as one that needed widespread repair. Victor Cruz as an undrafted free-agent find is on his résumé, too. But when it comes to the draft, a deeper look reveals a troubling lack of clothes on this particular emperor.

Discount, just for our purposes here, the 2012 and 2013 drafts, which are still too recent to evaluate. (Though it's tough to feel real excited about the David Wilson/Rueben Randle/Jayron Hosley start in 2012 so far). Look at Reese's first five drafts -- 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. He selected a total of 39 players and only eight are on the current roster. One of those eight, Manningham, left for two years and came back. Four of the eight came from the 2011 draft, so only four of the 31 players he took in his first four drafts are on the team at the moment, and only three have been on it all along.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Al Bello/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks is the latest former Giants first-rounder who didn't sign a second contract with the team.
Of all the players Reese has drafted for the Giants, exactly three -- Ahmad Bradshaw, Will Beatty and Zak DeOssie -- signed second long-term contracts with the team after their rookie deals. Reese's first three first-rounders -- Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips and Hakeem Nicks -- all signed elsewhere when they hit free agency. Linval Joseph, the second-round pick in 2010, also was not re-signed. These were fine picks who produced for the Giants, but you can't say you're building through the draft when you're not retaining those types of guys. Even in a league where the average player's career lasts less than four years, consistent failure to retain your top picks beyond that time frame is evidence that you're doing something wrong.

Who's Reese's best pick? After Bradshaw, the 2007 seventh-round steal who helped deliver one Super Bowl as a rookie and another as a veteran, it's probably 2010 first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul. They don't make the 2011 playoffs, let alone win that year's Super Bowl, without Pierre-Paul. But 2011 was Pierre-Paul's only good year so far. He's a near-permanent resident of the weekly injury report and he has a total of two sacks in the Giants' past 23 games. He could become the fourth to join that list of second-contract guys, but so far he hasn't. And if he limps around and fails to produce this year, he becomes a contract-year question mark just like Phillips and Nicks were. Best pick? The most consistently reliable long-term contributor Reese has taken is DeOssie, the fourth-round mainstay long-snapper.

There's miss after miss at key spots in early and middle rounds, and Giants fans know their names: Clint Sintim, Ramses Barden, Phillip Dillard, Marvin Austin, James Brewer. Since Bradshaw in 2007, there are no late-round gems who've surprised and become major contributors. Some of it is because of injury. Some can be blamed on those charged with player development. But this is a results business, and for whatever reason -- too many risks, too much trust in poor evaluations, whatever -- Reese hasn't delivered the kinds of draft results that help build strong organizations.

The Giants have drafted as poorly over the past half-decade as any team in the league. The results showed up last year in a hollowed-out roster that had to overachieve to get to 7-9 and required Reese to sign more free agents than anyone else this offseason in order to fill its many holes. This past weekend, Reese delivered a tepid draft. The Giants are excited about the dynamic Odell Beckham Jr., their first-round pick. And they like the center, Weston Richburg, they got in the second round. But the rest of the draft was safe and dull, devoted to finding what Reese calls "clean" players. Every pick after the second round looks like a player who's just about at his ceiling and can make an immediate contribution as a backup and/or special-teamer, but almost all of them were reaches and very few look likely to blossom into future stars.

Maybe that's for the best. The Giants needed to draft differently this year than they have in recent years, because they've been absolutely terrible at it. They needed to pull a George Costanza and start doing everything the opposite of the way they usually do it, because it never seems to work out. Reese's reputation as a shrewd drafter isn't deserved, and good for him if he realized he needed to change things up. It's time to stop assuming all is well here just because of the four trophies in the lobby. It's time for the Giants to start thinking about what they can do to build their roster back up and put themselves back in a position to even have a shot at winning a fifth.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are fairly forward-thinking as NFL franchises go, but there's an old-school vein that runs through their decision-making hierarchy. And the fact that the running back who led the NCAA in rushing yards in 2013 was still available for them Saturday in the fourth round of the draft was too much to pass up. They had a second-round grade on Boston College's Andre Williams and were happy to get him with the draft's 113th pick.

[+] EnlargeAndre Williams
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisThe New York Giants believe they got great value picking up Boston College running back Andre Williams in the fourth round.
"We're still hoping that [2012 first-round pick] David Wilson comes back and is able to go, but we said out of the gate that we weren't going to count on that until the doctors say he can practice full-contact, and he hasn't been released to do that," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "We think he's going to be there, but we couldn't pass up the value of a running back of this caliber at this point in the draft."

Wilson is coming off neck surgery and by all accounts is doing well, but as Reese points out there remains a chance they don't have him at all. They signed Rashad Jennings and Peyton Hillis in free agency and still have 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox, but the Giants found out first-hand last year that there's no such thing as too much running back depth. And besides, Williams does things they're not likely to ask Wilson to do coming off of neck surgery.

"This is a big, powerful guy -- basically a first- and second-down runner, can run the zone scheme," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Boston College this year, they would come out sometimes with two or three tight ends, which would bring the entire defense down and have the offensive formation contained almost hash-mark to hash-mark. And yet this kid still rushed for 2,100-plus yards."

That's what the Giants see in Williams: a back who can gain yards even when everybody in the stadium knows they're going to run the ball and the defense is geared to stop it. The Giants believe in the value of a power run game as a means of setting up the pass and helping the effectiveness of Eli Manning's play-action. Williams showed in college that he could get the tough yards.

"He comes through the line of scrimmage and 22 eyes are looking at him and he still rushes for 2,000 yards," Reese said. "If you get up in a game and you're trying to run the clock out in that four-minute drill at the end, this is the kind of guy that you can give the ball to over and over and over and he'll get first downs for you."

It's important to remember what team officials are talking about when they discuss Day 3 draft picks. You hear Reese say this and you're thinking about this year. He's not, necessarily. Sure, it's possible that Williams could fill a role like that on this year's Giants team, but they do have Jennings and Hillis and maybe even Wilson ahead of him on the depth chart still. The Giants are thinking big-picture with Williams and won't force-feed him more in his rookie year than he can handle.

They don't know yet whether Williams will be an asset or a detriment in pass protection. They know he didn't catch the ball out of the backfield in college. As Coughlin said, he projects as a first-down and second-down back. But he'll still have to show at least some mastery of the protection schemes if he wants to see significant playing time. That could take a while, but unless the running back corps falls apart due to injury for a second year in a row, they'll have the time to get Williams up to speed.

He claims to be a fast learner, having changed roles several times amid coaching changes during his time at Boston College. For example, his 355 carries in 2013 seem like a ton, but he only had 349 total in the three years prior to that.

"I've been through about five different offensive coordinators, and in different offenses I was called upon to do different things," Williams said. "This year, I was just called upon to run the ball, and we had a lot of success with that. I think I'm solid in pass protection."

He plays running back, he has track record and his new team likes to give opportunities to those who work hard and earn it. So if Williams has the goods, he'll get a real chance to succeed in the NFL with the Giants.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A couple of weeks ago, we went over the reasons why New York Giants GM Jerry Reese didn't feel it was important to get a tight end in this year's draft. The popular perception that the Giants' offense has relied on its tight end as a pass-catcher during the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era simply isn't supported by facts. And while the list of tight ends currently on the roster isn't inspiring, the Giants are of the belief that someone will emerge who can catch the 42 passes a year their top tight end usually catches.

So no, they didn't take a tight end in the early rounds of this year's draft. And they didn't take one in the later rounds. And even if they had taken one in the later rounds, it wouldn't have addressed the perceived problem, because whoever they drafted wouldn't have been more qualified to start than, for example, Adrien Robinson, who was a fourth-round pick in 2012 and hasn't really seen the field yet. Why would a tight end drafted Saturday be better qualified to play than Robinson, a former mid-round pick who's been in the NFL and the Giants' building for two years already?

"We weren't going to force any players or overvalue anybody just because people may think we need a tight end," Giants VP of player evaluation Marc Ross said. "That's just not the way we operate."

Which isn't to say that everyone in the building feels great about the tight end situation. Giants coach Tom Coughlin echoed the sentiment that there weren't any tight ends worth taking at the spots where the Giants were picking. But he also acknowledged that he's not fully comfortable with the options on the current roster.

"Yeah, it's a concern," Coughlin said. "It's a concern in a lot of ways. But as has been said, we've got a couple of young guys here that ... Fellas, if you can't see your way to the field now..."

He's talking about Robinson, whose opportunity has never been better, and to a lesser extent Larry Donnell, who distinguished himself as a special-teamer in 2013 and could earn more opportunity as a result. The other two tight ends already on the roster were Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis, and reports Saturday night indicated that they'd added undrafted free agent Xavier Grimble from USC.

From that group, anyone could emerge. The Giants also could still add someone. Familiar names such as Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley remain on the market, but they remain there due to medical concerns that might not be resolved to the Giants' or any other teams' satisfaction. If the Giants had their preference, Robinson would make a big leap this offseason and cash in on the promise they saw in him when they picked him in the fourth round two years ago.

"Adrien is very sharp and is able to count," Coughlin said. "He's on the field with four guys. And he's handled everything very well to this point. Very well."

The Giants will keep tinkering to make sure they get tight end right, as they will continue to do with every position on their roster. But they're not about to do anything drastic here. They just don't think it's as big a problem as a lot of people outside their building seem to think it is.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The fast and furious action in the second and third rounds of the NFL draft Friday night didn't leave us much time to delve into the New York Giants' second-round pick, but Weston Richburg is worth some Saturday morning delving. So let's delve, shall we?

Richburg was the 43rd pick in this year's draft, and there is little doubt he'll be expected to compete for (and likely win) the starting center's job this spring and summer. His top competition right now is free-agent addition J.D. Walton, who hasn't played since September of 2012 due to an ankle injury.

[+] EnlargeWeston Richburg
AP Photo/G.M. Andrews"He can pull, he can block the zone schemes and he makes all the calls," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of second-round pick Weston Richburg.
"He can pull, he can block the zone schemes and he makes all the calls," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "The center position here for us is one of responsibility in terms of dictating to the rest of the offensive line exactly how the scheme is going to go. This guy will fit right in in terms of that."

Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese both said the center's responsibility for handling line and protection calls will increase under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Giants VP of player evaluation Marc Ross said Richburg scored an impressive 31 on the Wonderlic test and impressed the Giants in his combine interview with his intelligence. The idea that they're excited about Richburg as a potential starter says less about Walton, who himself was a not-too-shabby 80th overall pick in the 2010 draft and would have projected as the Giants' starting center if they hadn't addressed the position in the draft, than it does about Richburg himself.

The decision-makers raved about Richburg's athleticism, which apparently also will be an asset in the new McAdoo offense, and his durability. Coughlin couldn't wait to tell the story of how Richburg broke his right hand in 2012 and played the final game snapping with his left hand while his right was in a club cast.

"Yeah, that's something I take a lot of pride in," a proud Richburg said when asked about that story. "You don't see a lot of guys who can do that."

The Giants' execs pointed out that Richburg was a team captain who didn't miss any games in college. Richburg said it was important to him to be the first center taken in the draft (as he was). And in general, there's nothing not to like about the guy at this point. Even if the Giants really were comfortable with the idea of Walton as their starting center, they recognized that they needed to re-stock with top talent on the offensive line. Richburg helps them do that, and at a position where there may be an opportunity to start right away.

"Last year, we had a couple of injuries early on the offensive line and it was pretty devastating," Reese said, accurately. "We had to bring in some guys that struggled some at those positions, so we're trying to make sure we have enough depth at every position. This guy will help provide that for us."

The Giants have overhauled the interior of their offensive line, which was extinction-level bad in 2013. Left guard Kevin Boothe signed with the Raiders, right guard David Diehl retired and they released center David Baas. They signed free agent Geoff Schwartz to start at left guard, Walton for center and John Jerry for a reserve role, and they're hoping Chris Snee can make a healthy return from hip surgery at right guard. Richburg is the latest move in their effort to make sure they don't get caught short with underprepared guys at those spots if injuries happen again.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' pick of Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley in the third round felt weird even to Bromley, who was pulling a "Gravity" DVD out of a Redbox machine at his local grocery store when he got the call.

"Honestly, I didn't expect a call at all tonight," said a giddy Bromley, who grew up a Giants fan and played college football with two of the players the Giants drafted last year.

So why, then, did the Giants spend the No. 74 pick in the draft on a guy who was mainly projected to go somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds? Well, he was a team captain at Syracuse. Second-round pick Weston Richburg was a team captain at Colorado State. First-round selection Odell Beckham Jr. was a team leader at LSU.

"We like captains," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "Most of these kids are developmental, let's face it. But in this day and age, there aren't a lot of guys you can let sit around and redshirt. These guys, we think they're more mature, and that's attractive for us."

The point is that the Giants, even after the biggest free-agent spree any team went on this offseason, entered this draft with so many needs that they can't afford to draft guys who aren't going to perform right away. And they have decided that the smartest way to speed up the learning curve of their early picks was to seek and draft smart, mature, high-character guys who might not need as much hand-holding as some of their more raw recent early-round picks. (Think: Wilson, David, 2012.)

It's a plan. And it appears to be a well-thought-out one by a team that's admitting to itself that the amount of work it has to do to repair all of its holes is more than will fit into a single offseason. The Giants had a lot to say about the many reasons they liked Beckham and Richburg. And they had a few about Bromley, too. But by the time they were explaining Bromley, the real outline of their 2014 draft plan had come into focus.

"These guys are high-character team captains, hard workers, smart, competitive guys with no issues whatsoever," vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross said. "All three of these guys, we felt, were at the very highest in terms of character."

In the past, the Giants might have used second-round and third-round picks on projects with question marks and upside. Their roster had more depth and they could afford to do that. They can't anymore, so it appears they decided to prioritize present-day makeup, maybe even at the expense of high-ceiling talent. The end result was that they targeted certain specific players and picked them whether they represented value at the pick or not.

"We just sat where we were and made good picks, I think," Reese said.

The final grade on this draft will depend on the extent to which he's right.
After the New York Giants took LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with the No. 12 pick in the draft Thursday night, I wrote this about the risks inherent in falling in love with a player and trusting your own evaluations. This was a very specific, 500-word analysis about the Giants' methods, and it had nothing to do with the player himself or what the Giants liked about him.

But they obviously like him a great deal and for a number of reasons, many of which they went into Thursday night after making the pick.

"He's a dynamic receiver, dynamic punt returner and a dynamic kickoff returner," GM Jerry Reese said. "You're getting a guy that can score touchdowns in three different ways for you. There's no way we would pass him up."

Three different ways is a pretty cool concept, especially if you're picking someone to replace Hakeem Nicks, who scored touchdowns in no different ways in 2013. The Giants clearly fell in love with Beckham's ability as a player who can help them score points. Picking him sends a clear message that they're more concerned with exciting playmakers than with rebuilding the foundation of their crumbled offensive line. Not the way I'd have gone, as you know, but they believe this guy will be enough of a difference-maker to justify the decision.

"We're talking about the quarterback needing help, and this guy is a weapon," Reese said. "We need a weapon on the outside. Victor [Cruz] is more of an inside receiver. Victor can't play on the outside. We have Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and we got Mario Manningham back, so we're trying to get the quarterback some weapons. You need weapons in this league. We think this guy is a weapon."

Everything you hear about Beckham as a player backs up the evaluation. High-end speed, showcased at the highest level of college football in the SEC. Can take the top off a defense, force safeties to play deep, open things up underneath for Cruz and others. Reese described Beckham as "almost pro-ready," which indicates they expect a contribution at some point during his rookie season. And coach Tom Coughlin pointed out that Beckham's learning curve may not be that significant, given that the veterans, too, are learning a new offense this offseason under new coordinator Ben McAdoo.

"I think a young man of Odell's skill and his level of intelligence will pick this up relatively quickly," Coughlin said.

And good for the Giants if he does. They also raved about his abilities in the return game, which struck me as kind of odd after they spent free-agent money on return men Quintin Demps and Trindon Holliday. But when asked about potential redundancies there, Reese bristled a bit.

"It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter," Reese said. "The more return guys you have in the building, the better. We haven't had any in the building in some time. So the more the merrier. We have some options there, and whoever wins the job, it's fine with me. Holliday is a fast guy. This guy is a fast guy. Speed kills."

The Giants really do get the benefit of the doubt a lot, though given Reese's draft track record I continue to fail to see why. When the Dallas Cowboys or the Oakland Raiders ignore long-range offensive line needs in favor of fun, speedy skill position players, they get ripped for it. Yet that's exactly what the Giants did Thursday and people seem OK with it. Yes, there are some offensive line options still available Friday night, but there are wide receiver options still available, too, so that argument doesn't really mitigate anything.

The Giants like a lot of things about Beckham, and he's put a lot on film for them and everyone else to like. If he's the player they imagine he'll be, then they'll be happy with the pick. The inherent flaw in the draft is that everyone imagines these best-case scenarios and they don't all come true. In the case of the Giants and Beckham, the excitement of what's imaginable carried the day.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jerry Reese is a scout, and not afraid to admit it. The New York Giants GM has a scouting background, and even in the era of advanced analytics he remains an unabashed fan of the profession's role in NFL roster-building. Last week, Reese called the draft "game day for the scouts" and said it's "fun to see them rewarded with players they feel like are good players."

A fine sentiment. Scouts work extremely long, hard hours, live on the road away from their families and should be rewarded. But when you're the GM, charged with the dispersal of your franchise's most precious resources, it has to be about more than rewarding the scouts.

It was clear after the Giants picked Odell Beckham Jr. with the No. 12 pick in the draft Thursday night, that they had fallen in love. They loved their interview with him at the combine. They loved his speed. They loved that he can return kicks and punts.

[+] EnlargeOdell Beckham
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsOdell Beckham Jr. caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards and 8 touchdowns last season for LSU.
"You're getting a guy who can score touchdowns in three different ways for you," Reese raved. "No way we were going to pass him up."

The Giants never lack conviction. The issue is whether this is the right way to handle the draft, and specifically a pick as high as No. 12. If you're going to lock in on one player you love, and there's "no way" you're going to pass him up, then you're not really maximizing the value of your resource.

If your draft strategy is to scout players and pick the one you love the best, then your entire draft rests on the development of that player into a great one. If you miss, it's a total miss, with nothing to mitigate it. This is the problem with the Giants' recent drafts -- not just that they've consistently missed in the third round and later (and a few critical times in the second), but that they haven't done enough to protect themselves against poor evaluation. They almost never maneuver to amass more picks and play the percentages. They lock in on a guy they and their scouts like and they take him, believing he'll be great, totally hanging themselves out to dry if he's not.

So Beckham may well become a transcendent, No. 1-type wide receiver, worthy of the No. 12 pick. But the way the board went, they could have gotten him or a comparable player later. The draft is deep with wide receivers, and only one more was taken in the 15 picks that followed theirs.

The Giants would tell you they didn't think there were comparable players, that this was their guy and they're sold on him. And it's perfectly understandable that a scout who loves scouts and scouting would choose to run his draft that way. It's just not the best way to maximize the value of your draft picks. When you fall in love with a player, you take on too much risk. You need to be right, or you're left with nothing.
You ask the questions (and use the #nygmail hashtag) on Twitter, I answer them here. And we all have a lovely weekend.
 
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The man who's signed more free agents than any other this NFL offseason didn't come out and thump his chest about it Thursday. New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese had a lot more to say in his news conference about all of the work that remains to be done than he did about the work he's done over the past two months.

[+] EnlargeReese
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesHaving filled holes in free agency this offseason, Giants GM Jerry Reese is ready to build the roster through the draft.
"We had a lot of work to do in free agency, so we worked hard in free agency, and after that, I actually liked the couple of weeks' extra time to get ready for the draft," Reese said. "The draft stands alone. We try to take the best players we can in the draft. In free agency, you try to fill some holes."

The clear message was that next week's work is the real roster-building work. Free agency, in Reese's words, is about filling holes. The Giants went into the offseason with a large number of holes, and the free agents they signed fit several of them in ways the Giants liked. They tend to be between 27 and 29 years old. They play positions at which the Giants have recently lost key contributors or were in need of an upgrade. Square hole, square peg. Round hole, round peg. Free agency is puzzle-solving work, designed to make sure you can field a team.

The draft, however, is where the Giants (and nearly every other team) prefer to build the backbone of their roster. It is in the draft where the Giants hope to find the true, long-term, cornerstone solutions to their biggest problems. It is in the draft where they have, in too many recent years, failed to find enough such players.

"We try to get more right than we get wrong, but nobody's batting 1.000 in personnel," Reese said. "We always take it hard when guys don't make it that we think are going to be good picks for us. It's always hard, but it happens, we claim it, we move on and we try to pick better players as we move forward."

This was not a general manager gloating about how awesome his roster looks after signing 26 free agents. This was a general manager being honest with himself and his audience about a Giants roster that it still very much a work in progress. It's possible Reese will feel a lot better about the state of the Giants after next week's draft is over, but it doesn't seem likely that he'll feel he's got everything just right. There was more work to be done on this roster than could fit into a single offseason, and after listening to Reese on Thusday I think that's the way he sees it too.

He seemed uncertain about the state of the offensive line, mentioning it as a place where upgrades have been made but also as one where more might be necessary. He doesn't seem to think they're all the way set at center, and while everyone's optimistic about Chris Snee at right guard, Reese struck the proper we'll-see tone about an 11-year veteran coming off two hip surgeries.

Reese also talked about the defensive line, and the team's hope that young players such as Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore are ready to move into starting roles. He addressed tight end by saying they have young guys they hope are ready to step forward. He didn't address wide receiver, because he wasn't directly asked about it, but surely Rueben Randle could be viewed in the same light there in which Hankins and Moore are viewed on defense -- as a player they hope is ready for more. He talked about safety, and of the team's looming decision on Will Hill as he faces a third drug suspension in as many years, and said they wouldn't be afraid to draft a safety if one were there that they liked.

He seems confident about Eli Manning's chances for a bounce-back year at quarterback, and Manning obviously has enough track record to deserve such optimism. But Manning also is going to miss spring practices while recovering from ankle surgery, so he has to get thrown into the question-mark bin as well. If he doesn't get to practice as much in the offseason as he always has, will it take a while to get his season going in a new offense?

There are a ton of questions with this team, and I credit Reese for not acting otherwise. He's a man who has faith in himself and his process. He took last year's 7-9 season hard, and he's clearly disappointed with the results of his recent drafts. But while anything is possible in this league and especially this division -- and while the Giants' coach/quarterback combination is always likely to give them a fighting chance at playoff contention -- I think it's important for Giants fans to at least temper expectations for this coming season. This is a team in the middle of -- not at the end of -- a major roster rebuild. And this was a GM on Thursday who sounded as though he knows that.
The awkward part of New York Giants GM Jerry Reese's pre-draft news conference Thursday came when a reporter asked him about tight end. The exchange went like this:
Q: Historically, this team has relied on the tight end quite a bit. Would you be comfortable moving forward with the guys you have on your roster right now?

Reese: Historically we've relied on our tight end?

Q: Well, they've had a prominent role.

Reese: Really?

Q: I seem to remember tight ends catching important passes.

Reese: Yeah, well, we think we've got some tight ends that can catch some important passes. But "prominent role"? We want all of our positions to be prominent roles. I'm not sure if our tight ends have had prominent roles in the past. But we want a competent tight end. We think we've got a couple of young tight ends who have been here for a couple of years who we want to develop, and we'll continue to look as we move forward.
[+] EnlargeBrandon Myers
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsIn his one season with the Giants, Brandon Myers caught 47 passes for 522 yards.
I have been on the other end of that exchange in the past. I've been the one who asked Reese a question that posited a certain level of significance for the tight end position and had him reject the premise. Obviously, this does not show Reese at his most polite, but he views this idea that the Giants' offense has relied on a tight end as an especially irksome misperception. And the numbers support his side of it:

  • Brandon Myers' 47 receptions in 2013 were the second-most in a single season by a Giants tight end since Jeremy Shockey caught 57 passes in 2007.
  • Since 2007, the Giants have employed four different starting tight ends -- Kevin Boss from 2008-10, Jake Ballard in 2011, Martellus Bennett in 2012 and Myers last year.
  • Over that six-year stretch, the Giants' leading tight end has averaged 42 receptions for 539 yards and five touchdowns per year, with Bennett's 55 catches and 626 yards in 2012 and Boss' six touchdowns in 2008 the high-water marks in those categories.

Reese is not shy about telling people he thinks he can find a tight end who can catch 42 passes every year, and this is the basis on which he rejects a characterization such as "prominent role." Yes, he could be nicer about making the point, but the Giants' offense has not, in point of fact, relied on the tight end. Shockey was an exceptional case -- an exceptional talent the Giants deemed worthy of a first-round pick. And Bennett's athleticism allowed them to use him a bit more than they've used other guys after they were able to get him on the cheap prior to the 2012 season.

But the thing to remember about Bennett and Shockey is that both were excellent and willing blockers at the position. Bennett's as good a run-blocking tight end as there is in the NFL right now, and the Giants had him on the field a lot for that reason. That his size and speed enabled him to be a slightly bigger factor in the passing game than some of his predecessors were was a bonus, and the Giants were fortunate that he wasn't in demand that year due to the perception that he was a huge disappointment in Dallas. Once he played well for them, he parlayed that into a big free-agent deal with the Bears, and the Giants made no effort to spend to keep him.

So the point to be taken from this is not that the Giants don't like the tight end position but that it's not a position on which they feel compelled to spend major resources. Other than that 2002 first-round pick they spent on Shockey, they've consistently sought cheap solutions at tight end, viewing whoever plays it as replaceable from year to year. They want guys who can block, and if those guys can catch the ball, so much the better.

For that reason, it's easy to convince yourself that they won't be taking North Carolina's Eric Ebron with the No. 12 pick in the first round next week. Ebron may be an exceptional talent as a receiver, and the tight end position leaguewide may have evolved to the point where it's worth spending a No. 12 overall pick to get one who can be a difference-maker in the passing game. But Reese insisted Thursday that the arrival of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has not changed the way the Giants evaluate offensive players. And while Shockey was the No. 14 overall pick in that 2002 draft, it's vital to remember that Shockey was a good blocker in addition to a great pass-catcher. Ebron is a pass-catcher only. He'd be a liability as a blocker. So the comparison doesn't necessarily fit.

The Giants could find a tight end such as Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round if they really feel they need one, but it's possible they don't feel that way. They have 2012 fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson still on the roster and have been eager for some time to see him on the field more. They resisted putting Robinson on injured reserve all last year because they believed he had something to offer if he ever got healthy (which he finally did, only to injure himself again on the opening kickoff of the Week 16 game in Detroit). They signed blocking tight end Kellen Davis and Daniel Fells for depth at the position, and Larry Donnell has been a strong enough special-teams performer to earn more practice reps and show what he can do. That's the group Reese has, and he swears he doesn't feel the need to upgrade it in the draft. If their pick comes around and the best player still on their board plays tight end, sure, they could take him. But Reese isn't hunting for some huge solution at the position next week.

The question is whether he's right. I personally think the Giants would benefit from having a more permanent solution at this position than they've employed over the past four years. I think the way the league is going, it's more important than it used to be to have a big-time weapon at that position who can split out wide and bust matchups in the secondary. But I don't run the Giants. Jerry Reese does. And he and the Giants do things their way, and they believe in it. You can respect someone's conviction even if your opinion differs from theirs. Reese thinks he's OK at tight end -- or at least that he will be. And it's clear when he's asked about it that he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.

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