The first round of the 2013 Draft kicks off on April 25, and every team will look to build for both present and future. This is the 19th in a two-a-day, 30-part series that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.
2012 record: 9-7
Key offseason acquisitions:
Dan Connor, middle linebacker
Brandon Myers, tight end
Cullen Jenkins, defensive tackle
Ryan Mundy, safety
Mike Patterson, defensive tackle
Aaron Ross, cornerback
Louis Murphy, wide receiver
Josh Brown, kicker
Key offseason departures:
Osi Umenyiora, defensive end
Michael Boley, linebacker
Chris Canty, defensive tackle
Ahmad Bradshaw, running back
Kenny Phillips, safety
Martellus Bennett, tight end
Chase Blackburn, middle linebacker
Domenik Hixon, wide receiver
Lawrence Tynes, kicker
Biggest holes in roster: Linebacker, defensive end, cornerback
General manager Jerry Reese knows how to find hidden talent.
Late-round draftees such as Ahmad Bradshaw (seventh round, 2007), Kevin Boss (fifth round, 2007) and Mario Manningham (third round, 2008) played key roles in each of the Giants' two Super Bowl championships. Guys such as Victor Cruz (undrafted, 2010), Linval Joseph (second round, 2010), Andre Brown (fourth round, 2009), Will Beatty (second round, 2009) and Henry Hynoski (undrafted, 2011) have ascended into prominent roles on the team within the past two years. Still others -- Jacquian Williams (sixth round, 2011) and Mark Herzlich (undrafted, 2011) -- could step into bigger roles next season.
So while the Giants have needs at a few different positions, don't be surprised if they don't address them until the second or third day in the draft. When it comes to the first round, the Giants may simply choose the best player available (like Jason Pierre-Paul in 2010) or a high-upside player who can make the greatest impact down the line (Prince Amukamara in 2011 and David Wilson in 2012).
Still, the Giants would have to at least consider first-round players who could fill needs, the biggest of which would be linebacker. Williams and Herzlich are expected to replace Michael Boley, and the Giants signed ex-Cowboys MLB Dan Connor, but the unit lacks a truly dominant impact player. Plus, with Osi Umenyiora gone, Mathias Kiwanuka will likely slide back into the defensive end rotation, further depleting the linebacker corps.
Georgia's Alec Ogletree may be the athlete the Giants have lacked for some time. Ogletree was recruited to Georgia as a safety but was moved to inside linebacker before his sophomore season, where he racked up 163 tackles (19 for a loss), six sacks and seven passes defensed in 18 games. Ogletree has sideline-to-sideline speed and flies to the ballcarrier, even when trailing the play. He's got a nose for the football and can force fumbles with his hitting power. He can also drop back in coverage.
Ogletree's biggest red flag, and the main reason that he projects to get drafted this low: the dreaded "character concerns". Ogletree was suspended twice at Georgia. He sat one game during his freshman year for reportedly stealing a motorized scooter helmet from a Georgia track and field athlete. He was then suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season for what reports said was a violation of the team's substance-abuse policy. He also was charged with a DUI in Arizona the week before the Combine.
The Giants aren't afraid to draft players with character concerns. Bradshaw was kicked off the Virginia football team before ever taking a snap after he was arrested for underage drinking and running from police. Manningham admitted marijuana use in a letter to all 32 teams after initially denying reports at the Combine. If Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin feel that Ogletree's worst moments are behind him and get a sense that he's willing to change for the better, they may overlook his past.
There's another inside linebacker that the Giants may consider. His name is Manti Te'o. You've probably heard of him, whether for his stellar senior season at Notre Dame or for the well-publicized Lennay Kekua-Ronaiah Tuiasosopo catfishing incident. Sources told Newsday's Bob Glauber that the Giants brought Te'o in for a workout earlier this month. It may be a little bit of a reach at No. 19, though.
Still, at 6-1 and 241 pounds, Te'o has a typical inside linebacker build. He is an instinctive tackler with good form and closing ability. He was a vocal on-field presence for the Fighting Irish during their run to the BCS National Championship Game and was considered a leader in the locker room. In four seasons, Te'o registered 437 tackles (34 for a loss) and seven interceptions (all of which came last year). He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting and won the Maxwell Award as college football's player of the year in his senior season.
Te'o was considered a top pick before the title game. But Alabama contained Te'o with ease, holding him to just three tackles en route to a dominating 42-14 win. Scouts began to question whether or not he was just a byproduct of a strong front seven.
Then came the fake girlfriend drama. Te'o made the media rounds to say that he was the victim of a hoax perpetrated by Tuiasosopo, a former childhood friend. But that did little to allay concerns about his judgment.
Then came the Combine, that 4.82 in the 40-yard dash and scouts questioning whether or not he has NFL speed. He would clock a 4.69 at Notre Dame's Pro Day.
If the Giants feel like they can find a quality middle linebacker later, then they could pick up a long-term project at tackle in Florida State's Menelik Watson. Watson has perfect size and strength for either tackle position and could slide inside at guard if needed. However, he is extremely raw -- he's has only played organized football for two seasons after playing basketball in England and Spain during his prep years. The Giants like to take prospects with high ceilings and let them learn the playbook and develop, so don't be surprised if they take Watson.