Jerry Reese respectfully disagrees with the man who pays him when it comes to assessing the importance of this year’s NFL Draft.
Giants president and co-owner John Mara suggested last week that after four straight seasons with no playoff berth, next week’s draft holds more importance than usual, but Reese demurred.
“Not for me,” the general manager said yesterday. “All the drafts are important to me. I understand why John would say something like that. All the drafts are important.”
Mara clearly is pushing an agenda of impatience, demonstrated by his unmistakable nudge of Tom Coughlin out the door after a 6-10 season and his comments about needing a productive draft.
The Giants’ long streak of front-office continuity began with George Young in 1979 and continued with Ernie Accorsi and Reese, who is entering his 10th season as the Giants’ lead football executive. But although Mara hasn’t officially placed him on the hot seat, Reese knows the reality of his production-based business. Mara will take action when he feels it’s necessary, and Reese is no exception.
Reese is on the spot to produce a solid draft class, and Mara’s challenge only underscores the pressure. But the GM wants to make one thing very clear: Any pressure he feels doesn’t come from his boss or the growing criticism from outside the Giants’ training facility.
“I put the urgency on myself,” he said. “I know I come to work every day and I work my behind off and that hasn’t changed since Day One. The pressure is always there. Nobody puts more pressure on me than me.”
It’s been a very dynamic offseason for Reese, who has splurged in free agency like no Giants GM before him. In the first hours of the signing period last month, Reese spent more than $200 million to sign defensive stars Olivier Vernon from the Dolphins, Janoris Jenkins from the Rams, Damon Harrison from the Jets and incumbent defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
It was a stunning makeover for a bottom-ranked defense and a reminder that Reese couldn’t resolve the talent issues in previous drafts. Pierre-Paul is the only player from the 2010-12 drafts still with the team. The shutouts in 2011 and 2012 are matched by the Jaguars, the only other team without a player left from those drafts.
The work done by Reese and his staff the last three years has been more promising. Among the jewels of that group are first-rounders Odell Beckham Jr., a transcendent receiver who might be the NFL’s best playmaker, and reliable offensive linemen Justin Pugh and Ereck Flowers. Other seemingly solid picks include center Weston Richburg and safety Landon Collins, although the 2015 second- rounder regressed last year after a solid start.
But more work needs to be done, and Mara’s sense of urgency will lurk inside the draft room. With the 10th overall pick, Reese hopes to come away with an instant starter.
“If you pick inside the first 10, 12 picks, you’d like to get a starter who you can put out there to start playing right away, and we sure hope we can get one,” he said. “We believe we can.”
Where that would-be starter plays remains to be seen. Reese still is looking for a promising offensive tackle, even after drafting Flowers last year, and Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley or Michigan State’s Jack Conklin might be available. Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell could provide depth at receiver, and Ohio State tailback Ezekiel Elliott might be on the board, although Reese seems content with his current running backs.
Pass rushers Leonard Floyd of Georgia, Shaq Lawson of Clemson and Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky should be available, as well as Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
Whoever it turns out to be in the first round — and beyond — Reese needs to hit it big. After all, the man who writes the checks is running out of patience.