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Giants pick hard-hitting safety Landon Collins in second round of draft

Alabama defensive back Landon Collins celebrates during a

Alabama defensive back Landon Collins celebrates during a college football game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Credit: AP / Brynn Anderson

Landon Collins said being snubbed in the first round of this year's NFL Draft will not define him. It will, however, motivate him.

Overall, it was a difference of about 20 hours and one position in the draft that separated Collins from being a first-round pick on Thursday night and going to the Giants with the first selection in the second round Friday night. But the safety from Alabama made it clear that minuscule difference will be carried with him as he goes through his NFL career.

"I was hurt overall," he said from his home in Louisiana. "My dream was to always go in the first round . . . [I said] whatever team gets me, I'll have a chip on my shoulder to prove why I should have been a first-round candidate. I'll definitely showcase it when I start playing this upcoming season."

The Giants didn't want to take any chances on missing out on Collins, who was not only the best player they had remaining in the draft but filled what was becoming a dire need on their roster. That's why they traded to the 33rd overall selection, giving the Titans three picks (their second-, fourth- and seventh-rounders) to move up from 40th overall.

"We had a real nice relationship between a need and an outstanding player," coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's already been mentioned how motivated this young man is. Couldn't be a better situation for us."

Collins had a productive career at Alabama, where he was a multi-dimensional force on defense, and many analysts had him projected as a first-round pick.

So why did he slip?

"Just circumstances," Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross said. "The label of him being just a box safety, some people may have been scared away. He didn't blow anybody away at the Combine with some of the gym numbers, which again scares teams away. But if you go back to the tape and just watch this guy and take his whole body of work into account, we felt he was first round-worthy."

So much so that the Giants had all but discounted the idea of Collins being available at the start of the second round. When they left the building on Thursday night, though, he still was on the board and stuck out.

General manager Jerry Reese started talking right away with the Titans, who were looking to add picks to complement their first-round selection of quarterback Marcus Mariota. They worked on the deal throughout the day Friday and finalized it just as the second round opened in Chicago.

In the third round, the Giants added another defensive player with the selection of Owa Odighizuwa, a pass rusher from UCLA who had two surgeries on his hips in 2013 but was a team captain with 111/2 sacks in 2014.

Collins has drawn comparisons with physical safeties such as Kam Chancellor and the late Sean Taylor, heavy hitters who punished ballcarriers. The Giants are expected to use him near the line of scrimmage as an enforcer, but Coughlin noted that to play in the NFL, a safety still has to be able to cover the back end.

Collins insists that he can. Now he's going to try to convince others. Said Ross, "This guy is coming to prove that he's the best safety in this draft and one of the best football players in this draft, no matter where he gets taken."

All I know," Collins said, "is I'm going to be a dominant player when I touch the field."

Don't go anywhere! We're only 12.5 percent of the way through this 256-pick NFL Draft and the Giants still have seven more selections to make.

Recent history has shown that winning teams are made more in rounds two through five than the others, so when Tom Coughlin spoke about the selection of Ereck Flowers on Thursday night and called it "a good start," he wasn't talking about the offensive line. He was talking about the long weekend that lies ahead.

Coughlin may also have tipped the Giants' intentions (or maybe just his own hopes) when he noted that Flowers helped fill a desire to improve on both the offensive and defensive lines in this draft. With that said, let's take a look at who is still available going into Friday night's second and third rounds, and who the Giants could be targeting.

The two names that pop out also happen to fit needs of the Giants: DE Randy Gregory of Nebraska and S Landon Collins of Alabama. Gregory had some marijuana issues at Nebraska and at the Combine. He's also slight for a defensive end (6-4, 235 pounds) and doesn't look like he could withstand much from an NFL offensive line (the Giants' Ereck Flowers apparently "buried" him in the run game when Miami played Nebraska last season).

Other defensive linemen who could fit into the Giants' plans include Preston Smith from Mississippi State, Owamagabe Odighizuwa from UCLA or Danielle Hunter from LSU as pass rushers; or perhaps better value, some defensive tackles such as Jordan Phillips from Oklahoma and Eddie Goldman from Florida State.

As for that safety spot, Collins was projected as a first-rounder for most of the pre-draft build-up but was not the first safety taken. Damarious Randall, a better coverage safety, went to the Packers in Round 1 on Thursday night. Collins could get gobbled up early in the second round. The Giants pick eighth in the second round on Friday (No. 40 overall).

There are other values available at the position, including an intriguing one in Eric Rowe from Utah who could convert from corner to safety and help the Giants with their coverage in nickel situations. There also is Anthony Harris from Virginia, Derron Smith from Fresno State, and an intriguing player in Jaquiski Tartt from Samford.

The Giants still have seven picks left, including two tonight.

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