Jerry Reese always says he wants his first three picks in the draft to be able to come in and contribute right away. This year he picked a fourth-rounder he hopes will not.
The Giants traded up six places in the fourth round and selected quarterback Ryan Nassib with the 110th overall pick Saturday. Reese said Nassib presented too much value to pass up and that the organization is interested in grooming a young quarterback behind Eli Manning. But the ultimate plan with Nassib might be to develop him, showcase him and eventually flip him for higher draft picks.
"If he doesn't ever play, that'd be great," Reese said. "And if he needs to play, we hope he'll be up and ready to go at whatever time that is."
Manning, 32, has started 135 straight regular-season games (plus 11 playoff games), which is the longest active streak in the NFL for quarterbacks. His backup was anticipated to be David Carr, who re-signed with the Giants this offseason on a one-year deal. Carr will be 34 when the 2013 season begins.
The Giants were very high on Nassib from the start of the draft. He was not their highest-rated quarterback, but Reese did say that they had him above USC product Matt Barkley, who was taken by the Eagles at the top of the fourth round.
"When Barkley went, we were like, 'Wow, this guy is not going to be there,' " Reese said. "We thought it was in our best interest to move up. We made several calls and finally got somebody who wanted to make a trade and we did it."
They swapped fourth-round picks with the Cardinals and gave their sixth-rounder (187th overall) to Arizona. As it turned out, two teams selected quarterbacks between the Giants' original pick and where they grabbed Nassib. The Raiders took Tyler Wilson at 112 and the Steelers took Landry Jones at 115.
The recent history of teams developing and then using that equity is impressive. The Eagles did it with Kevin Kolb. The Packers did it with Matt Flynn. The Patriots did it with Matt Cassel and are doing it now with Ryan Mallet. So the Giants may have just drafted a quarterback of the future . . . just not their own future.
"Either or," Nassib said of whether he would become a cornerstone for the Giants or just attend graduate school here and get his master's degree in quarterbacking before moving to another team in three or four years. "If something were to happen to Eli, I feel like I can step in and be prepared enough to step in and take over his position . . . Right now, all I'm worried about is being a New York Giant and I can't tell you how excited I am about it."
Nassib likely will compete with Carr for the backup job, but Reese said the Giants are open to the idea of keeping three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. They have not done that since 2007.
The Giants have four quarterbacks on their roster right now, with Curtis Painter also in the mix. Reese would not commit to bringing all four to training camp.
Nassib is not the first quarterback the Giants have drafted since they landed Manning in 2004. They took Rhett Bomar with a fifth-round pick in 2009 and Andre Woodson in the sixth round in 2008. Those seemed like throwaway picks, even at the time. This one seems to have more of a long-term vision and urgency.
"Is he the most needed person? No," director of college scouting Marc Ross said. "But if something happens to the guy who's starting, he becomes the highest priority in the draft."
"He has the skill set to be a starter at some point in the league and we think he can be a terrific backup," Reese said. "We have Eli in the prime of his career and you actually hope this quarterback never plays. But what if something happens? You want to have a guy ready to go, and this guy fits the pattern that we need."
The pick also means that Manning will, for the first time in his career, be asked to mentor a younger player. That doesn't mean that Manning will be babysitting Nassib, though. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said there are no added responsibilities for Manning other than the most important one:
"I'm asking him to win a world championship," Coughlin said, "and take the rest of us with him.''