|ESPN.com: ESPNNewYork||[Print without images]|
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The middle linebacker the Giants targeted to replace Antonio Pierce surprisingly turned out to be the player Al Davis secretly coveted as well.
With Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain gone by the eighth pick to Oakland, the Giants were left with Plan B:
When in doubt, go with the best pass rusher available.
So, the Giants drafted yet another defensive end by taking South Florida's raw and incredibly athletic Jason Pierre-Paul at 15th overall. This move, however, does not mean that the Giants will be saying sayonara to Osi Umenyiora.
General manager Jerry Reese emphatically said the unhappy defensive end will remain with the Giants, who now have Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Pierre-Paul at defensive end to go with Dave Tollefson.
"We are not trading Osi so you don't even have to ask that question," Reese told reporters shortly after picking Pierre-Paul.
"We think [Pierre-Paul] has the biggest upside of any player in the draft. We think the sky is the limit. With the speed that he has, the long arms that he has, the athletic ability that he has, those kinds of things come naturally ... raw, oozing with that kind of talent. The motor that he has, it is hard to find a package like that. He has some freakish athletic skills, which we are excited about trying to hone."
Reese compared Pierre-Paul's 6-5, 270-pound frame to Jevon Kearse. Pierre-Paul is crazy athletic and anyone can go to YouTube for proof, since he can do 14 back flips in a row. But the Giants have to hope he's not the next Vernon Gholston, the Jets' freakishly athletic linebacker who was drafted sixth overall in 2008 but has been a major bust.
Pierre-Paul, 21, has played just one season of major college football. In his only season at USF, he was an All-Big East performer who registered 6.5 sacks in 13 games. In 2008, Pierre-Paul played at Fort Scott Community College (Kan.) and recorded 10.5 sacks.
In 2007, Pierre-Paul had 14 sacks while playing at College of the Canyons junior college in Santa Clarita, Calif. It was only his second season playing organized football.
"Very interesting introduction to the sport: His high school coach got him to play in a playoff game when he was a junior in high school," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He hadn't played football. He was a basketball player. And that started his career. His senior year in high school he became a football player. This is a very talented young man with outstanding upside."
There were definitely talented options when the Giants picked. They chose Pierre-Paul over Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams and Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga, among others. But the Giants did something similar to what they did in 2006, when they took Kiwanuka with the 32nd overall pick despite already having Tuck, Umenyiora and Michael Strahan.
"I'm glad I'm a Giant," Pierre-Paul said in a statement. "I was nervous at one point, I felt like I wasn't going to get picked and then I got a call from the New York Giants. I was surprised because I visited a lot of teams and I didn't know who was going to pick me. I'm just glad I got picked. Now I get to come in, settle down and become a great football player."
While Reese has plenty of pass rushers, he still has a glaring hole at middle linebacker after he released the injured Pierce in the offseason. The Giants had McClain as their top target, but the Alabama middle linebacker didn't make it past the unpredictable Raiders.
Now, the Giants will likely take a long, hard look at middle linebacker in the second and third round Friday, with Penn State's Sean Lee and Florida's Brandon Spikes sure to attract attention. Adding an offensive lineman, a defensive back and a running back also could be on the Giants' priority list.
Reese didn't say much about what he will do Friday, but he squashed any notion of the Giants trading Umenyiora this weekend -- or, for that matter, this season.
Reese said he has talked to Umenyiora and he isn't worried about the defensive end being unhappy. Umenyiora has made it clear he wants his starting spot back and Kiwanuka said he wants to start entering the final year of his contract.
"Osi knows he is going to be here and Osi knows we are not looking to shop him in any way, and he knows he is going to be a Giant in the fall," Reese said of Umenyiora, who has three years left on his contract for a total of a little more than $10 million. "We did get a couple of calls [from other teams]. But we are not looking to shop Osi."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.