Controversial duo of Manti Te'o, Tyrann Mathieu on Giants' radar
Drafting a football player isn't only about football. Teams are bringing a personality into their lair, for better or worse, and often have to consider beyond how a rookie will fit in on the field. They also analyze how he will fit into their overall environment.
Two of the biggest names in this year's draft, for example, have become better known for activities off the field than on it. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was a Heisman finalist but garnered national headlines when his bizarre "relationship" with an online girlfriend who did not exist was exposed this winter. Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was a Heisman finalist in 2011, was kicked off his college team for repeatedly failing drug tests.
Those backgrounds may be enough for many teams to pass on their talents. The Giants, though, would seem to be in a position in which they could absorb the circumstances of either -- or even both -- with just a few ripples instead of the waves that often accompany such notorious resumes.
With an infrastructure of veterans, at least two of whom have a close relationship with and have spoken on behalf of one of those players, the Giants might decide it's worth the gamble to draft players with that kind of baggage.
Justin Tuck and Corey Webster will not be involved in the Giants' selection process, but both have vouched for the players in recent days. Tuck, a Notre Dame product like Te'o, has been following the linebacker's career since he arrived in South Bend. Webster, who played at LSU, has been an adviser to Mathieu in recent months and seemed to offer the Giants a bit of a public guarantee if they do select the player formerly known as the Honey Badger.
"If I'm here, I can have him right underneath my wing,'' Webster said, "so I'll make sure that it's going the right way."
The Giants have drafted and acquired players with less than pristine backgrounds. Perhaps most advantageous was the selection of Ahmad Bradshaw with a seventh-round pick in 2007. Last year, they added safety Will Hill, formerly from Florida, after he sat out a year from football when no team drafted or signed him the previous year because of personal red flags.
Surrounded by focused veterans such as Webster, Antrel Rolle and others in the secondary, Hill made it through his first NFL season on a short leash that rarely needed to be tugged. (Hill was suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, a positive test he blamed on his ADD medication Adderall.)
"Obviously on the field, he has been a good player," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said of Mathieu. "But obviously, he has had some off-the-field issues. Those have been well-documented. So we'll put all of the pros and cons together and see if he fits anywhere for us."
Te'o's foibles are more odd than sinister. He was caught up in -- and claimed to be a victim of -- a strange scheme that created an inspiring but ultimately fictional narrative around his personal life. He undoubtedly will be the butt of some locker-room jokes when he arrives to play for whichever team drafts him.
"I think he understands that," Tuck said. "But hopefully for him, wherever he goes, he gets a veteran guy that understands that the more comfortable a rookie . . . is in these situations they're going to face, the better they're going to play. He's going to take his shots and things of that nature, but hopefully everything will just be fun-loving and he'll get ready to get on the football field.
"Because that's what it's about, football."
Well, not always. But the Giants can afford for it to be.