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Giants could opt for Stanford TE Fleener

Stanford tight end Coby Fleener scores against Notre

Stanford tight end Coby Fleener scores against Notre Dame on a pass from quarterback Andrew Luck in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif. (Nov. 26, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

He's an excellent receiver who can make dynamic plays and create mismatches in the secondary, but he's not a traditional tight end and will have difficulty blocking in the NFL. He can line up in the slot or as an H-back, but probably not next to the tackle to provide extra push or protection.

That was the predraft buzz around Travis Beckum in 2009 when the Giants selected him with their third-round pick. And it's almost exactly what many scouts are saying about Stanford's Coby Fleener this spring.

Beckum, who tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, likely will miss at least part of the 2012 season even though he's ahead of schedule in his rehab. If the Giants are looking to replace him -- both in the short term and possibly long term, as Beckum will be a free agent after this season -- they could have a chance to grab Fleener with the 32nd pick at the bottom of the first round Thursday.

Tight end (which is not quite what Beckum and Fleener play, even though they are called tight ends) has been a position of need for the Giants since their win over the Patriots in February. In that game, they lost not only Beckum but Jake Ballard, who had emerged as the starter at the position.

They quickly re-prioritized and signed free agent Martellus Bennett from the Cowboys at the start of the open market. But the Giants have to replace not one but two players. Bennett will take Ballard's spot. Who will take Beckum's?

Not that it was much of one. Because of a series of hamstring and other nagging injuries, Beckum never blossomed into the playmaker the Giants hoped they had drafted.

When he was selected, the offensive staff was excited about the possibilities of lining up the 6-3, 243-pound Beckum against slower linebackers or smaller defensive backs, creating mismatches either way. But in his first three seasons, Beckum caught only 26 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns.

Though he began to emerge a little late last season, for most of his career, Beckum has been a pass-catching tight end who was not catching passes. That doesn't look good on a resume.

They could take another shot at that kind of player with the 6-6, 247-pound Fleener. As a fifth-year senior, playing with presumed No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck last season, he caught 34 passes for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns. That's nearly 20 yards per catch. The year before that, he caught 28 passes for 434 yards and seven touchdowns.

It's no secret that tight end has been transformed into a glamour position by the likes of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Dallas Clark, and Eli Manning always has liked to throw to his tight ends. If the Giants want to keep up with that trend, they'll need to identify their tight end of the future. As of now, the Giants have only one tight end -- free agent Larry Donnell -- under contract beyond the 2012 season.

Fleener is not a complete package. If the Giants want a traditional tight end, they could look to Clemson's Dwayne Allen, whom they reportedly brought in for a workout. But the Giants' recent history with the position is to acquire players who excel in one area and allow tight ends coach Mike Pope to mold them into more balanced players.

That's what they did with Kevin Boss, more of a pass-catcher who learned to block. That's what they did with Ballard, who was signed as a blocker but developed into a receiver.

Perhaps that's what they'll do with Fleener. He could be the Beckum that Beckum never turned out to be.

Notes & quotes: Michael Strahan, who was the Giants' second-round pick in 1993, will announce their second-round selection Friday.

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