NFC East: Victor Cruz

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:

Giants' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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Projecting the New York Giants' 53-man roster before training camp begins:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Giants didn't like carrying three quarterbacks last year. They did so because they drafted Nassib as a fourth-round project with the thought that he wouldn't be active for any games as a rookie. But this year, they've come out and said that Nassib needs to win the No. 2 job. He worked as the clear No. 2 ahead of Curtis Painter in OTAs and minicamp, and I think he'd have to fall flat on his face in order to lose the job. If Manning goes down, the Giants are cooked anyway, whether it's Painter or Nassib behind him. So they might as well keep developing the kid unless he's totally incompetent.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Five running backs feels like a lot, so Hillis or 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox had to go. It's possible the Giants carry five and Williams could start out as this year's Nassib -- a fourth-rounder who's inactive for at least a little while as he gets his feet wet in the NFL with an eye toward a contribution further down the road. This list also assumes Wilson is cleared for contact by the neck exam he has scheduled for July 21, which is no sure thing. If he isn't, then Cox or Kendall Gaskins could find his way onto the team.

FULLBACK (1)

It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, but the Giants won't keep both. My hunch is that Hynoski has shown enough ability to produce with the ball in his hands that he'll get the edge in Ben McAdoo's new offense ahead of Conner as long as he's healthy.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Holliday is likely to make the team as a return man, though it's possible he could get squeezed out if the team decides Beckham, Quintin Demps and either Randle or Jernigan are enough to handle those responsibilities. The Giants signed Holliday before they drafted Beckham, after all.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

In spite of the lack of quality experienced options, McAdoo's offense does appear to want to use the tight end a lot. Some Giants fans are hoping an outside name or two can replace some of the ones on this list, but as of now, this is what they have, and they'll hope something decent comes of it. They are eager to see what Robinson can do if he can ever keep himself healthy, and they love what Donnell showed them last year on special teams and think he deserves the reward of an opportunity here. Daniel Fells or Xavier Grimble could beat out Davis for that third spot without too much trouble.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are injury and health concerns with Beatty, Jerry and possibly Snee that could knock a name or two off this list with an IR or PUP designation. The Giants signed Brown and Jerry as veteran backups. They like Mosley's upside, and he could have the edge over someone like Eric Herman or James Brewer.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

I thought about undrafted Kelcy Quarles for one of the defensive tackle spots, and I guess it's possible he could beat out someone like Patterson in camp. But everyone else on here seems like a lock.

LINEBACKERS (6)

If Beason's foot injury isn't healed in time to allow him to start the season, someone like Terrell Manning or Dan Fox could sneak on here. More likely, the Giants would go with five linebackers while waiting for Beason and add someone on the defensive line or in the secondary.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer.

SAFETIES (5)

It's going to be tricky to get fifth-round pick Berhe on this roster, but the Giants like him enough to make room at the expense of someone like Brewer on the offensive line or Charles James at cornerback.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Special-teams coach Tom Quinn said there was a kicker competition between Brown and Brandon McManus, so flip a coin on that one. The other two spots here are in stone barring injury.
One last New York Giants Twitter mailbag before I start a too-brief summer vacation ... @DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think that's a fair expectation, and I think you saw the Giants lean that way last year with Terrell Thomas as the regular nickel corner. They signed Walter Thurmond to play that position, and he's as good at it as anyone in the league. And they're thin at safety with Will Hill suspended and released, Stevie Brown coming off knee surgery and Quintin Demps having been signed primarily to return kicks. They have been talking a lot about keeping Antrel Rolle at safety, rather than using him all over the field as they've done in years past, and obviously sticking with a three-cornerback look would help with that. I honestly don't see the need for the old three-safety package, especially if Jon Beason is back healthy at middle linebacker early in the season. It worked well during that 2011 Super Bowl season, but that year they were thin at cornerback and linebacker and deep at safety. You're right if your point is that the scheme should be based around the personnel, and right now cornerback is a Giants strength. @DanGrazianoESPN: With Beason nursing a foot injury, the starting middle linebacker in training camp (and probably for Week 1) is going to be Jameel McClain. He projects as the starting strongside linebacker if Beason's healthy, but he's taking over in the middle while he's not. Jacquian Williams is the front-runner for the starting weakside linebacker spot, and the strongside position should belong to either Spencer Paysinger or rookie Devon Kennard, who impressed coaches with his minicamp performance. As for receivers, that's an interesting case. My first thought is that they keep six -- Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Mario Manningham, Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan and Trindon Holliday. But Holliday isn't really likely to factor as a receiver, as he's pretty much exclusively a kick and punt returner. So that would leave them with five real receivers (four if Manningham's knee won't let him answer the bell). That opens it up for someone like a Marcus Harris, Julian Talley or Corey Washington to possibly sneak onto the roster with a good camp, but that's a long shot. @DanGrazianoESPN: Based on my conversations with Giants people (and with Will Beatty himself) last year and this spring, I think the main reason Beatty struggled was technique. He's not a big, monstrous, mauling left tackle who relies on strength and an ability to overpower people. Beatty's success, when he's had it, has had more to do with quickness and athleticism. I was told last season while he was struggling that Beatty was playing with his hands too low, giving away leverage and hurting his ability to dictate his matchups. That sounds like an easy thing to fix, but bad habits are tough to break, and as the year went along the struggles got into Beatty's head. He admitted in December that he'd felt the weight of his free-agent contract and let the pressure get to him, and I think he was looking forward to an offseason to clear his head. The problem is that Beatty's offseason has been about recovery from that broken leg he suffered in the Week 17 game against the Redskins, and he hasn't had time to practice getting back into good habits. I agree that a Beatty rebound would have a positive ripple effect along the rest of the line, but at this point you have to consider him a major question mark, and not just because of the injury. @DanGrazianoESPN: The firing of their longtime tight ends coach does rank among the more surprising moves of the Giants' offseason. But when they hired young Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, it was only fair to assume he'd want to bring in a few of his own coaches and help construct the staff. During those discussions, it was decided that Pope's position would be one of the ones to turn over. They moved wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride (the son of the former offensive coordinator) to tight ends coach, Sean Ryan from quarterbacks coach back to wide receivers coach and hired Danny Langsdorf as the new quarterbacks coach. Pope was a Giants icon, and the only person whose name is on all four of the franchise's Super Bowl trophies. But there was an effort to get a bit younger on the coaching staff this offseason. Tight end Adrien Robinson spoke during OTAs about how he's felt a different kind of connection with the younger Gilbride than he did with Pope, and if that's the case with the rest of the group it might answer your question. Thanks for all of your questions. If you need me, I'm on the golf course.
A 7-9 season and a turbulent offseason has left the New York Giants' roster littered with question marks heading into 2014. There are so many positions -- receiver, offensive line, running back, tight end, defensive line, linebacker -- where they hope they've found answers but can't be sure. A lot is riding on the ability of Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff to bring it all together, and for help with that they will lean on the few positions at which they're sure they are set -- and the few players who remain roster rocks.

Victor Cruz appears to be such a player.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Al Bello/Getty ImagesVictor Cruz continued his quest for self-improvement, even after signing a big contract.
After signing his big contract extension last summer, Cruz showed up at training camp and told his coaches he wanted to work to improve his blocking. Yes, that's a wide receiver, in the wake of signing his big contract, deciding he wants to work on blocking because he knows he's got to get better at it to help the team and make himself a more complete player. At a time in his career when a lot of players might have started coasting, Cruz decided to work even harder at one of the toughest parts of his job.

"He's that way," Giants receivers coach Sean Ryan said last week. "For the kind of quick ascent he's had, none of that has ever gone to his head or to his work ethic. He's the same guy he was the day he walked in here in terms of working hard and being down to earth and wanting to be a complete football player. You've got to respect that."

Cruz did improve as a downfield blocker last year, in the estimation of the coaching staff. Like the rest of the offense, he endured a tough season from a production standpoint, catching only four touchdown passes and none after September. But toward the end of the season, he spoke with pride about the improvements he'd made in his game, and his coaches are eager to see him continue to work at it.

"With those guys and the blocking, it's about want-to," Ryan said. "They've got to want to do it. They've got to want to get in there and dig out safeties. And there's a lot of technique to it, too, just coming down and beating men to a spot versus just running out to where they are now. It's not blocking them where they are; it's blocking them where they're going to be. And I think he took a real interest in doing that and being good at it and making himself a complete player, and we're going to pick up on it and continue to improve on it with him and with everybody. You've got to block to play receiver in the NFL. You have to do it."

The return of Mario Manningham to the Giants brings someone who obviously knows all about that. Rueben Randle has the size to do it effectively if he'll commit to it as Cruz did. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr.? Too soon to know what his commitment will be to that nitty-gritty aspect of his position. But having Cruz around as an example can only help. He stands as an example of someone who's continued to work to get better even after brilliant early-career success.

"He's got that same skill set," Ryan said of Cruz now compared with early in his career. "He's an explosive player. His change of direction is excellent. I think he's gotten rid of, in my opinion, some concentration drops he had early in his career. I don't see as many of those. And from a leadership standpoint, he's really stepped to the forefront in terms of being vocal and being a leader on and off the field in that position."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He is the New York Giants' 2014 first-round draft pick. He was the No. 12 overall pick in this year's draft. But wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is here at the Giants' team facility doing what everybody else on the offense is doing at high speed -- learning.

"It's a new offense for everybody," Beckham said Tuesday. "They just got it two or three weeks ago, so the veterans are all learning, too. So right now, everything's all up in the air."

[+] EnlargeOdell Beckham Jr
Elsa/Getty ImagesLike the rest of his new teammates, Odell Beckham Jr. is busy learning a new offense.
Beckham said his goal is to learn every wide receiver position in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system, but he's starting out with the X receiver position. That's the split end, or the receiver that's tied to the line of scrimmage and doesn't go in motion. Based on what the Giants said about Beckham the night they drafted him, they view him as an ideal candidate for that spot, since success there depends on the receiver's ability to beat press coverage and get separation from the defender. Hakeem Nicks, the 2009 first-round pick who left as a free agent this offseason, could not do that last year, and the Giants hope that the replacement they drafted can do a better job with that.

Beckham's LSU teammate, 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle, would then be the Z receiver on the other side with Victor Cruz handling the slot receiver duties. But of course that could change from week to week or play to play, which Beckham knows. At this point, he's just trying to get down what he can.

"Right now for me, it's a lot of learning the offense," he said. "I feel like I'm catching up. There's so much being thrown at you a once, it's all going to take some getting used to."

He said having Randle around helps him some, as does his familiarity with Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who went to the same high school Beckham attended in New Orleans and has worked with Beckham at his passing camps. And Beckham also is well aware of outside criticisms about his size (5-foot-11) and has made his peace with them.

"It's something I don't really think about," Beckham said. "There are a lot of guys in the league my size. Percy Harvin is one of them. Maybe he's a little faster than I am, but he's been successful. Size is not something that matters, I don't think."

If he has speed and the ability to get away from defenders, Beckham's size shouldn't hold him back. Nicks has the size to outfight people for the ball, but his inability to get open with any kind of consistency last year hamstrung the Giants' offense. The Giants don't care how tall Beckham is if no one's covering him. They want to get him the ball and let him run with it.

First, though, he's got a lot to learn.

Giants' depth chart: Offense

May, 15, 2014
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A look at where I think things stand with the offensive side of the New York Giants' depth chart following free agency and the draft.

Quarterback
Eli Manning
Curtis Painter
Ryan Nassib
Josh Freeman

Manning
Obviously, there's no threat to the top spot. But Manning's recovery from April ankle surgery could offer spring and summer opportunities for Nassib or Freeman to win the No. 2 spot from Painter.

Running back
Rashad Jennings
David Wilson
Andre Williams
Peyton Hillis
Michael Cox

Wilson is the wild-card in the mix. He may not be cleared to play at all following neck surgery, though the Giants say they believe he will. If he's not, Jennings should get a lot of carries as long as he can stay healthy and help protect Manning in the passing game.

"X" Wide receiver
Odell Beckham Jr.
Rueben Randle
Mario Manningham
Trindon Holliday

Beckham was drafted with this role in mind -- to play the split end receiver position because they believe he can get separation from defenders and beat man coverage with his speed. If he can't win a starter's job in camp, they'll need to go with one of those other options, neither of which is ideal for the role.

"Z" wide receiver
Rueben Randle
Mario Manningham
Julian Talley

If they only have two receivers on the field, slot man Victor Cruz is likely to be one of them. But when they go three-wide, Randle is likely to get a chance to show he's developing into a threat on the outside. Manningham remains a question mark due to the health of his knee.

Slot wide receiver
Victor Cruz
Jerrel Jernigan

Cruz
Cruz is paid as a top slot receiver, and after drafting Beckham the Giants admitted they'd like to keep him inside as much as possible. If the new offense is anything like what new coordinator Ben McAdoo was helping run in Green Bay, it could be tailor-made for Cruz as a playmaker with the ball in his hands.

Tight end
Adrien Robinson
Kellen Davis
Larry Donnell
Daniel Fells
Xavier Grimble

Robinson enters his third year, and as of now this opportunity is his if he wants it and can stay healthy. Grimble's signing as an undrafted free agent is expected but has yet to be announced by the team. Donnell is a special teamer who has impressed with his work ethic and could get a shot if other options falter.

Fullback
Henry Hynoski
John Conner

If Hynoski is back all the way healthy, I think he has the edge here as a more nimble run-blocker in McAdoo's system.

Left tackle
Will Beatty
Charles Brown

If Beatty's recovery from his Week 17 leg fracture is slow, there's a chance the Giants could move second-year right tackle Justin Pugh to this side.

Left guard
Geoff Schwartz
John Jerry
James Brewer
Brandon Mosley
Eric Herman

Schwartz was signed as a free agent to start here. If he gets hurt, their hope is that Jerry isn't already working on the other side and can step in ahead of the younger guys.

Center
Weston Richburg
J.D. Walton
Dallas Reynolds

Walton still likely ranks higher on the Giants' real depth chart than second-rounder Richburg, but I'm predicting the rookie wins the starting job. He sounds like the guy they want to handle center responsibilities, which will expand under McAdoo.

Right guard
Chris Snee
John Jerry
James Brewer
Brandon Mosley
Eric Herman

Snee
The Giants and Snee are optimistic about his recovery from his second hip surgery in as many years, but he could wear down quickly in camp and elevate Jerry to a starting role. That would damage the Giants' depth on the line, which was a massive problem in 2013.

Right tackle
Justin Pugh
Charles Brown

There remains a chance that Pugh could ultimately be asked to switch sides or move inside to play guard. But they liked what he gave them as a 16-game starter at right tackle as a rookie, and right now they will leave him there.
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.
All right. It's time. Well, it's not actually time, since NFL draft doesn't start for eight more hours and the New York Giants aren't likely making their pick at No. 12 for at least nine more hours or so. But it's time for me to tell you what I think will happen, for whatever that's worth.

My prediction is that the Giants will select Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin with the No. 12 pick in the draft.

Why Martin? I think he'll end up being the best player available, in their judgment, at No. 12. I think they see too many red flags with guys like Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. I think they will decide (if they haven't already) that Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is too small to play defensive tackle for them. I don't think they will or should be willing to pay what it would take to trade up for Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. And while they went 13 years without drafting an offensive lineman in the first round before taking Justin Pugh last year, they recognize that they've let the offensive line erode to a detrimental extent. Martin is fine value at No. 12 and, like Pugh last year, can play a variety of positions along the line. So going forward, they can play him or Pugh at guard or center and the other at right tackle. Or if they decide to cut ties with Will Beatty next summer, they could play first-rounders Pugh and Martin at the tackle spots long term. The point is to load up on top talent at a vital and neglected position. Martin would represent the best player available at this point at a position of both short-term and long-term need for the Giants.

What if Martin is gone already? My sleeper pick for the Giants at this point is LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. I think that's the guy they'd take if Martin were taken in the top 11, and I think there's an outside chance they could take him even if Martin is still there. Beckham has incredible speed and is known as a playmaker with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is installing a system that's likely to resemble Green Bay's West Coast-style offense and lean on the idea of getting its playmakers the ball and letting them function after the catch. Like current Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, Beckham fits this description and would be a fun toy for McAdoo and Eli Manning. I personally don't love the idea of Beckham at No. 12, since he seems a little too much like Cruz and Jerrel Jernigan. I think this is a very deep wide receiver draft and that the Giants could find good value at the position in the second or third round if they really want one, and that they would do well to draft one with size. Rueben Randle hasn't yet shown that he can handle the outside job full time, and Manning has shown in the past that he would benefit from a taller receiver on the outside. I think they need that more than they need a guy like Beckham. But that's just my opinion, not theirs.

What if they're both gone? I guess maybe Ebron, though I still don't think so. Maybe a trade down, though that's going to be tough at that point in the round with so many other teams thinking along the same lines. If they stay put at 12 and can't get either of their top two choices (assuming those are Martin and Beckham), your guess is as good as mine. But just to throw one out, I'll say Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Yes, I still believe they need to address offensive here. But Clinton-Dix would be good value at No. 12, and Cooper Taylor is the only Giants safety currently under contract beyond 2014. The Giants have taken a defensive back with their first pick in four of their last nine drafts, so it would also be in character, as fallback plans often are.
Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both have new mock drafts out Tuesday. Both are Insider, so I can't fill you in on all of the juicy details, but I can tell you who they're picking for the New York Giants and give you some of my thoughts on it if you like. That work? Mkay, great. Here goes.

Mel's mock Insider has the Giants taking Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 12 overall. This is with North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron and Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin still on the board. You know me, if I'm picking for the Giants here, I'm taking the offensive lineman. But I have no issue with a defensive lineman, especially one as fearsome as Donald, who could add instant depth to the defensive tackle rotation and likely flourish as a long-term starter on the interior of the Giants' defensive line. Having let Linval Joseph leave in one of the free-agent moves I still struggle to understand, the Giants could use an infusion of talented youth in there, and Donald would be a fun pick. We'd go to bed next Thursday writing that they need to address offensive line in the Friday night portion of the draft, but they likely can do that.

In Todd's mock Insider, Donald and Martin are still on the board at 12, though Ebron is not and neither is Mike Evans. Todd gives the Giants LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who could conceivably team with fellow former LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle to round out the Giants' wide receiver corps behind Victor Cruz. Beckham also would be a fun pick, and would make Giants fans feel better about the array of weapons for quarterback Eli Manning in the passing game. But I don't know if I love the pick at 12. I think the Giants' biggest big-picture problem is the erosion of top-end talent up front. I think you need a foundation piece if you're drafting in the first half of the first round. And I think they'd be better served looking at what Bill Polian calls "fat guys" -- lineman of either the offensive or defensive persuasion -- with this high a pick.

Just my opinion, though, and Mel's pick and Todd's pick both make sense on some level. The fact there's such a spread with regard to the Giants' best options in the first round indicates just how many spots on their roster still need long-term solutions.
The New York Giants made 18 of their players available for media interviews on Tuesday afternoon. Some faces were familiar, others were new. Here are four quick things I took away from the day:

1. Eli Manning's ankle injury may not turn out to be a huge deal, but it's not a small one either. Manning is getting around on crutches right now, though he ditched them before he came out to stand in a walking boot in front of cameras and answer questions Tuesday. (I don't blame him for that, by the way. I'd probably do the same.) Asked directly whether he would be ready for the start of training camp, Manning said, "I think I'm safe to say I'll be 100 percent by the start of training camp." Then he paused and made that face he makes when he's not all the way comfortable with something and said, "I would hope so."

Now, it's important to note that the Giants start training camp a week earlier than usual this year due to their participation in the Hall of Fame game. So it's possible that Manning would be ready by the usual start of training camp but not by July 22, when the Giants are likely to start this year. But regardless of those semantics, it definitely appears that Manning and the Giants are prepared for the likelihood that Manning will miss the on-field portions of OTAs and probably the June minicamp. Manning is a stickler for practice and never misses a chance to discuss the importance of everyone being on the field practicing together. So if his arrival on the practice field is delayed by a month or more, that has to have an impact on his mindset, if nothing else.

2. Chris Snee is a big wild card. We've been treating the Giants' veteran offensive lineman as a question mark, and until we see him back on the field and playing the way he used to play, we'll continue to do so. But Snee said his offseason program has been completely different from what it was last year -- that he's been able to do much more in terms of strength and conditioning work and that he's basically going through a normal offseason of preparation, ready for full practice when the time comes. The potential benefits of a fully healthy Snee to the Giants' offensive line simply cannot be overstated.

3. The new offense will be very new. Lots of talk about new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and what he's installing. Everybody thinks it's going to look a lot like what they run in Green Bay, which is where McAdoo came from. Victor Cruz talked about the simplification of the passing game routes under McAdoo versus the option routes on which Kevin Gilbride's offense relied. There's a lot of learning to be done, and especially with Manning on the shelf you wonder how quickly they can become proficient with it. But the Giants are going to look a lot different this year when they have the ball.

4. They were on message on Will Hill. The Giants have a good media relations staff, and with the news breaking in the morning that safety Will Hill had failed another drug test and was in the process of appealing a potentially lengthy suspension, the players were prepared to answer questions about Hill. Everyone who was asked used the word "support" and talked about Hill as a good guy and teammate who needs help dealing with his issues. I question the characterization of a player who keeps getting suspended as a good teammate, since a good teammate is generally an available one. And I have my doubts about how far the Giants organization's "support" will extend if Hill loses his appeal. I have to think he's probably done here. But Stevie Brown is a question mark as an ACL recovery case, and Quintin Demps was signed more for his kick-return abilities than for his safety abilities. So it's possible they let this play out and see just how mad they want to get about Hill's latest headache.

Victor Cruz, one year later

April, 21, 2014
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Victor CruzAP Photo/Bill KostrounVictor Cruz's consistent play in 2013 meant far more than his absence from voluntary workouts.
A year ago, as the New York Giants opened their offseason program, star wide receiver Victor Cruz was not present. Cruz and the Giants were working on a long-term contract extension, which they eventually would complete, and Cruz made the decision to stay away from the voluntary portion of the offseason program as long as the deal was not yet done.

This was Cruz's perfect right, as it is the right of every player this time of year not to participate in the voluntary workouts. The criticism of players for their personal decisions not to attend the portions of the offseason programs that aren't required of them is one of my least favorite things about the NFL. "Voluntary" means voluntary, and when coaches and writers and fans get on guys for taking the time off that's available to them, I think that's just plain lousy.

But it happened to Cruz, as everyone from Tom Coughlin right on down to the fan base made it clear they were upset with Cruz for not attending non-mandatory practices. There was concern expressed about his absence's potential effect on the season and what it said about Cruz as a person, a player and a teammate.

Well, the season was a wreck all the way around, and it's hard to say anything that happened in April or May was the reason. But here's what Cruz's absence from voluntary work a year ago said about him as a person, a player and a teammate: absolutely nothing.

As the Giants' mess of a 2013 season unfolded, Cruz was one of the few consistent positives. Yes, I am well aware he didn't catch a touchdown pass after September. But he was playing in an offense that was, in the words of the team's owner, broken. The line couldn't protect the quarterback; the quarterback couldn't stop throwing it to the other team; the running game didn't exist; and the top outside receiver didn't want to play. Once defenses realized Hakeem Nicks no longer cared about trying to get open, they double-teamed Cruz and took the Giants' passing offense's one remaining threat out of the game.

Cruz's reaction to this terrible situation was to continue to play hard, fight his way open whenever possible and work to improve the parts of his game that needed work. For example, Cruz was a liability as a downfield blocker in his first two seasons in the league but a vastly improved one in 2013. He went to his coaches in training camp and told them he wanted to improve that critical and often overlooked aspect, and he did it, earning praise from the coaching staff and teammates behind the scenes. He worked hard in practice, even helping mentor backup slot receiver Jerrel Jernigan and helping develop him behind the scenes to the point that Jernigan was effective in place of an injured Cruz in December.

The injury is the only thing that kept Cruz from a third straight 1,000-yard receiving season, and it came on an effort play as Cruz was leaping to catch a pass in the third quarter of a hideous 23-0 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Not only was Cruz still trying to make something of a lost game and a lost season, there were times when it looked as though he was the only one who was.

Why bring this up now? Because it hasn't been brought up very much. And if Cruz had gotten his big contract and then loafed through the Giants' season -- especially after they started 0-6 -- that would have been brought up a heck of a lot, and in very damning ways. Cruz went the other way, though. He went through the negotiation dance this time last year and ended up getting his money, and he reacted by working even harder and trying to get better so that everyone could see he deserved it.

It bears mentioning that a player whose priorities and focus were being questioned this time last year ended up being one of the best and most reliable players on the team. Of all the things that happened last year, signing Cruz to a long-term contract appears to have been one of the few the Giants absolutely got right.
You've got questions, I've got answers. Especially if you used the #nygmail hashtag with your question on Twitter.
 
The New York Giants hold the No. 12 pick in the 2014 NFL draft following their 7-9 season. The Giants have been the NFL's most active team so far in free agency, signing a total of 13 free agents, including 13 from outside their own organization. They have filled a lot of holes, but that doesn't mean they are without needs both immediate and long-term.

Mel Kiper's fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out today. If you're an Insider, you have access to the three-round mock and will see that his first-round pick for the Giants fills a glaring present-day hole with a pick that could bring long-term benefits as well.

Did you use the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week? No? Well, then your New York Giants question is not among these. Sorry.
 
I have to believe we sell a lot of ESPN Insider subscriptions this time of year, because the NFL draft content is just so good (and the draft of such great interest to so many) that people are more willing than ever to fork over the very reasonable fee for Insider membership.

For instance, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are taking position-by-position looks at prospects in their "Draft Lab" series, and their latest installment looks at the top wide receivers and tight ends in this year's draft.

So I write a New York Giants blog for ESPN.com, and I'm looking at what the Giants have right now at wide receiver and tight end (which is basically Victor Cruz and a couple of guys), and I'm thinking, "Giants fans would love this, right?"

Right?

Can't give it all away here, because ... well, you know, we want you to buy the Insider subscription. But I can offer a couple of teases.
  • Both Mel and Todd list wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans and tight end Eric Ebron as likely to go in the first 12 picks. Not a coincidence that they pick that No. 12, which is the Giants' pick.
  • Todd gives Oregon's Colt Lyerla a second-round grade but cites off-field concerns that could steer teams away.
  • Todd also names Clemson wide receiver Martavius Bryant as a possible mid-round helper at wide receiver, in case the Giants (or other teams) are still looking for possible impact there.

Again, worth your time. The only pass catcher the Giants signed among their 19 free agents was Mario Manningham, who's obviously a question mark for injury and various other reasons. They're likely to try and find help there in the draft. Todd and Mel offer some names to keep an eye on.

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