57° Good Morning
57° Good Morning

An early look at the Giants' 2014 draft needs

Jadeveon Clowney of the South Carolina Gamecocks prepares

Jadeveon Clowney of the South Carolina Gamecocks prepares for his team's game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Williams-Brice Stadium. (Aug. 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Giants are tied with Jacksonville for the worst record in football, but they are among the leaders in another race -- the one for the first overall draft pick in 2014.

Thanks to their 0-6 start, the Giants may have a top-10 pick in May's NFL draft for the first time since 2004, and could even be the first team on the clock at Radio City Music Hall. Luckily for them, there's no shortage of talent available at the top of the board. Assuming that the Jaguars -- the Giants' main competition for the first overall pick -- draft a quarterback such as Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, the Giants would be in prime position to get a cornerstone player at one of several positions of need.

Here's an early look at which positions the Giants could address in the first round of the NFL draft, along with who the pick would be if the team went in that direction:

Defensive end: What was once the Giants' signature has now become one of the team's greatest weaknesses. The Giants have five sacks on the season, worst in the NFL. For perspective, 12 different players have as many or more sacks this season. The Giants have sacked the opposing quarterback 2.1 percent of the time, also worst in league.

The pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Clowney is a once-in-10-years prospect that could end up being a superstar in his first year in the league. The junior has it all -- prototypical size and length (6-5, 269 pounds), speed, technique and strength. There have been a few questions about his conditioning, however, after he appeared to take some plays off against North Carolina and sat out a game against Kentucky because of a muscle strain near his rib area. In addition, opposing teams, recognizing the threat that Clowney poses, have also run plays away from his side of the field, limiting his production this season. But still, there's no doubting his talent, and barring any serious turn of events, he will be a top-three pick, if not No. 1.

Offensive line: The Giants are only a little better on the offensive line than they are on the defensive line. They have been "stuffed" on running plays (stopped at the line of scrimmage or for a loss of yards) 29 percent of the time -- third-worst in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. The Giants have an adjusted sack rate -- an advanced stat that takes sacks and intentional grounding penalties per pass attempt and adjusts for down, distance and opponent -- of 7.8 percent, which is 22nd in the league.

The pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Before you ask -- yes, Jake Matthews is the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews (and cousin of Green Bay's Clay Matthews). The senior is just as good on run blocking as he is on pass blocking. Matthews uses his great strength and fluid footwork to keep defenders at bay at the point of attack. An added bonus: he can play either left or right tackle, which would allow the Giants' 2012 first-round pick Justin Pugh to slide inside to guard. Matthews is a likely top-five pick. Michigan’s Taylor Lewan is very athletic and could also be an option, though he’s a bit more raw in terms of technique and is projected to go just outside the top 10.

Linebacker: Not all of the Giants' pass rush woes fall on the defensive line -- of the team's five sacks, only one has been by a linebacker (Spencer Paysinger in Week 4 against the Chiefs). In addition, the Giants' linebackers have had some trouble stopping the run. The team has given up 44 first downs via run (second-worst in the NFL) and 740 rush yards (sixth-worst in the league).

The pick: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Barr, a former running back, switched to linebacker last year because he was buried on the Bruins' depth chart. The result: 21 1/2 tackles for loss, 13 1/2 sacks. Barr has very scary speed and is a surprisingly big hitter. The senior still tends to get caught up in blocks and has room to improve on his technique as a whole, but his potential is through the roof. A likely top-five pick, Barr would infuse the Giants' linebacking corps with some desperately needed athleticisim.

Cornerback: The Giants' secondary has been plagued by injury in 2013, leaving the team very thin at the position. The lack of depth has showed early on. The Giants have allowed 1,608 passing yards in six games, eighth-worst in the NFL. Their 14 passing touchdowns allowed are tied for the most in the league, while their 90 first downs allowed via the pass are fourth-worst.

The pick: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

Ekpre-Olomu had four interceptions, six forced fumbles and a Pac-12 best 20 passes defensed in 2012. The junior is fast enough to keep up with most wideouts and strong enough to deliver big hits, but he relies more on his technique over athleticism to make plays in the secondary. He's not as fast as Ohio State's Bradley Roby, who is also among the top cornerbacks in the draft, but is more well-rounded. Ekpre-Olomu is a likely mid-to-late first-rounder, meaning the Giants could afford to trade back and stockpile picks if they decide to go after him.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports