COMMENTARY | Seasons like that of the past two NFL champions only underscore the significance of adding depth to a team that’s already a serious championship contender.
No team knows that better than the New York Giants, who have recently been on both sides of that equation.
Learning From the Past
Two years ago, the Green Bay Packers, severely decimated by several key injuries on both offense and defense, were a mediocre 8-6 before they got healthy enough and also relied on a deep enough roster to end the Giants’ season with a late-season win over New York that sparked an historic run as the first NFC six seed to win a Super Bowl.
Last year, the Giants unintentionally copied the Packers by grinding their way to a 7-7 record before finally overcoming their own far-reaching rash of injuries to close the 2011 season with six straight victories and likewise, a Super Bowl a title.
So, when selecting in this year’s NFL draft, one could hardly blame Giants general manager Jerry Reese for holding off on some pressing needs in favor of bolstering other areas where stockpiling talent could become another Big Blue-print to success.
It seems safe to assume that when the New York uses its final four selections (two in Round 4, and one each in Rounds 6 and 7) as the draft concludes on Saturday afternoon, Reese will still be looking to fill voids on the Giants’ offensive line and at tight end (thanks to some further injuries) to name just a couple of the more immediate areas of need.
But, with some of Reese’s targeted prospects at those positions already gone, and others not quite grading out to justify being taken when New York chose 63rd (in Round 2) and 94th (in Round 3), Reese quite possibly thought of the 2010 Packers and his own Giants from last season when he selected at those spots.
Round 2, Pick #63 – WR Rueben Randle:
Thus, even though one of New York’s biggest strengths is at the wide receiver positions – with two of the game’s best, in 2009 first-round pick Hakeem Nicks and the undrafted FCS free agent from UMass, Victor Cruz – Reese aptly addressed the offseason, free agent departure of Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham, and tried to replace him with a pure value pick in former LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle.
While Randle isn’t exactly the playmaker that Nicks and Cruz are, he wouldn’t need to be. Where he excels however, is between the 40-yard lines, where nearly half of his career-high 53 receptions and almost 60 percent of his career-best 917 receiving yards came as a junior last season.
Randle can also be a go-to guy when trying to take a lead or while protecting a close lead, as 32 of his catches and five of his eight career-high touchdowns last year came in close junctures of games, with the score tied or with LSU leading by a touchdown or less.
He doesn’t possess great speed and he needs work with route running (where have we heard that before, Mr. Ramses Barden?) but, at 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds, Randle is a tough cover downfield, that along with Barden and Domenic Hixon (each of whom have already come back from injuries before), help the Giants follow something that major league baseball teams know when dealing with the unknown of potential injuries down the road – that, just like you can never have enough pitching in baseball, you can often never have enough solid receivers in football.
Round 3, Pick #94 – S Jayron Hosley:
Perhaps with New York’s next pick, Reese was thinking along those same lines on the other side of the ball, in taking Virginia Tech safety Jayron Hosley. As with their receiving corps, the Giants in their secondary, have an abundance of raw talent with the likes of past first-round picks Kenny Phillips and Prince Amukamara, and former second-round pick Terrell Thomas, along with veteran Antrel Rolle, an ex-first-round pick by Arizona. However, the first three among that group has each had to overcome serious injuries, especially Thomas, who missed all of last season after leading the Giants in tackles the year before.
So, there’s that need for depth and insurance, just in case. And, therefore, enter Hosley, who at only 5-foot-10 and 178 pounds, is undersized, and he did fail his NFL combine drug test for using marijuana, but he also has a nose for the football. Hosley had 12 interceptions in three college seasons, including a career-high and nation-leading nine as a sophomore.
And, it will only help his adjustment to the NFL that Hosley accomplished what he did at Virginia Tech, where he was a teammate of the Giants’ first-round pick on Thursday night, running back David Wilson.
Those two also shared another thing in common which makes Hosley even more valuable. Just as Wilson was a proven kick returner in college, Hosley ranked 11th nationally with a 12.67-yard punt return average last year.
Reese’s Pieces Have Fit Well Before:
Has Reese always gotten it right over his tenure in New York? Certainly not, just as no general manager in any sport is perfect. But, he was the architect of a pair of Super Bowl winning teams for the Giants in a span of just five seasons, even with all of New York’s injury woes last season.
Giants’ fans should take heart that Reese is actively seeking to fill other holes on their team’s roster, but they should also know that sometimes, as we’ve seen with what it took to win championships over the past two seasons in the NFL, being patient on larger needs, and first going deep elsewhere, can sometimes be the right call.