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Saturday, April 27, 2013
Draft: Giants' puzzle more complete

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants got bigger and younger in the draft.

They added muscle and size to the trenches with their first three picks. They stunned many by not only trading up but doing so to grab Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. And they added more depth.

"We went in with some pretty set ideas about what we wanted to accomplish going forward," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We did go ahead and address our offensive and defensive lines with some competitiveness achieved with regard to that."

Ryan Nassib
The Giants ducked in and stole Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib in the fourth round on Saturday.

Co-owner John Mara wanted to see his team improve in the trenches. So general manager Jerry Reese drafted Syracuse's versatile offensive lineman Justin Pugh in the first round and followed that up by taking Ohio State's humongous defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore.

The Giants believe their first three picks will create competition and perhaps push some veterans ahead of them. But what the Giants hoped to accomplish out of this draft was to get bigger, stronger, and younger. They wanted to find some potential contributors this season and groom potential starters to fill areas that could be pressing needs in 2014.

Their skill players are already in place, with the likes of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and David Wilson surrounding Eli Manning. This draft was about adding reinforcements on the front lines and potential replacements for the future, with two dozen starters/contributors that might not be under contract after 2013.

Pugh, who the Giants say can play every position on the line, might challenge for a starting spot this season, but more likely could be a starter in 2014 when David Diehl and Kevin Boothe could be gone. The 320-pound Hankins should help a run defense that finished 25th last year, and he could also find himself starting in '14 with Linval Joseph's contract set to expire after this season.

The 20-year-old Moore, who had 26.5 sacks in three seasons with the Aggies, could also find himself in the Giants' four pass-rusher rotation this season and see critical snaps in 2014.

"Certainly the first [three] players are very, very competitive," Coughlin said. "They will give us great versatility there at those spots. It remains to be seen how we can use Moore and how many different ways and that type of thing."

While the first three picks might not have been sexy, the Giants' fourth pick was an eye-opener that shocked many. They traded up six spots to make Nassib Manning's understudy and give the team the kind of insurance policy that they've never had since Manning became a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Reese preaches about always looking for the best value and the best player available. True to his word, he went after Nassib, a player some thought would go in the first round. The Giants had Nassib in their second row of prospects on their draft board and he was by far the best player available in the fourth round for them.

The Giants' brain trust discussed Nassib on Saturday morning and decided to go after him.

"When I look at quarterbacks, I don't look at arm strength and all that," said Marc Ross, director of college scouting. "That stuff is secondary to me. I look at guys who are leaders and winners and raise the level of their team and when they're on the field they have a presence about them and some moxie.

"Those are the attributes to me that stood out with him," Ross added. "This guy just has a presence about him around his team, and then at the Senior Bowl, around guys he didn't know. Those are the winning attributes for me that I look for in quarterbacks."

Of course, Reese admits that if Nassib never plays, that is probably the perfect scenario for the Giants, because that means Manning is healthy and still playing well. But if the Giants' iron man were to get seriously hurt, the Giants finally have a young quarterback who can step in.

The Giants surrendered their sixth-round pick to trade up for Nassib, but they got an intriguing safety prospect in the fifth round in Richmond's Cooper Taylor. The 6-foot-4, 228-pound safety is big and fast and fits the profile of the kind of safety Perry Fewell likes to plug in as a third safety who can play a hybrid safety/linebacker role. He also could have an immediate impact on special teams.

With their two seventh-round picks, the Giants took Ohio guard Eric Herman and UMass running back Michael Cox.

The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Herman has the kind of nasty demeanor and physicality that the Giants search for in offensive linemen. And the Giants hope Cox, taken with the second-to-last pick, could be another running back gem they discovered in the seventh round, just like Ahmad Bradshaw in 2007.

The Giants did not draft a linebacker or a cornerback -- two positions at which they can still use some help. But the draft is just really another piece of the puzzle of improving the roster and making another Super Bowl run for Reese.

"I feel good about it and obviously it's just part of the puzzle," Reese said of his draft picks. "Free agency is part of the puzzle and the draft is part of the puzzle. It might be the week before we line up to play Dallas [in the opener] before we have the roster ready because you'll have some 53-man cuts.

"There will be some people left and we'll continue to look for players to help our football team," Reese added. "But what we have right now, I like what we did in the draft. Obviously, we still have some work to do."