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Giants don't want to strike out with 15th pick

Giants general manager Jerry Reese took a conservative

Giants general manager Jerry Reese took a conservative approach to signing free agents. (Jan. 4, 2010) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Giants will make the 15th pick in the upcoming NFL draft. They'd rather not.

"Obviously, we don't like that," general manager Jerry Reese said. "If you're picking in the first half [of the draft], you didn't play that well. In that respect, we don't like it."

But it does have its benefits. The Giants are coming off an 8-8 season and - assuming they remain in their assigned slot - will make their highest draft choice since 2004, when they picked Philip Rivers at No. 4 and wound up with Eli Manning shortly afterward. In other words, this will be the highest pick Reese has ever made.

Along with that comes some inherent pressure. Yes, the Giants are coming off their first season of mediocrity under Reese's administration. And yes, president and chief executive John Mara made it clear that 8-8 will not be tolerated when he boiled over the day after the season ended.

Picking in the 20s or the 30s means you can select a player and not expect him to make an immediate impact. Picking at 15, well, that's different real estate.

Last year's 15th pick was linebacker Brian Cushing, and he made it to the Pro Bowl for the Texans. Other recent 15th picks include linebacker Lawrence Timmons of the Steelers; cornerback Tye Hill, who was selected by the Rams and recently signed with the Titans, and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was picked by the Titans.

The Giants? Well, through either injury or other situations, they haven't found a full-time starter in the first round since they traded for Manning in 2004. Those picks haven't been flops, but they haven't been Pro Bowlers, either.

The Giants have had more success in other rounds, taking players such as Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Steve Smith and Terrell Thomas in recent years. And their draft class in 2007 included some key pieces in the Super Bowl run of that year: Smith, Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jay Alford.

But picking in the top half of the first round this year cries out for an impact player.

"We do feel like we are going to be able to pick a good player there at 15," Reese said.

Reese said he's not changing his philosophy just because he's picking in a different part of the first round.

"We try to get value and need," he said. "That is never going to change. We try to get a combination of both. Sometimes you can get a good combination of both. But we are skeptical of drafting need."

He also said that the Giants' draft room is buzzing with debate about whom they will select. That's typical of any draft. What's different this year is the level of players they are debating.

"You know where you are," Reese said. "We try to visualize and see where our window will be with the four or five players who are going to be in our window at 15."

But even after an 8-8 season, even with the highest pick of his career and even with a glaring need at middle linebacker that most expect the Giants to try to fill in the first round, Reese said there is no more pressure than there is in any other draft to get this one right.

"We're looking for good players," he said. "If we can hit home runs, that's good. If we can get a double, that's good. If we can get a single . . . We just want to get on base in the draft. We don't want to have a bunch of strikeouts. It's tough when you have a bunch of strikeouts."

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