The New York Giants recently traded for linebacker Keith Rivers, which may not have changed the teams draft plans, but it changed how avid followers of the team envision the teams plan. They haven't gone out of their way to hide the fact that their defense is predicated on a fierce pass rush. A stable of defensive ends with the skill-sets to play all over the defensive line have caused problems for offensive lines across the league over the last five seasons.
After shoring up the linebacker position with Keith Rivers and Chase Blackburn, as well as adding offensive line and cornerback depth in the form of Sean Locklear and Antwaun Molden, it appears as if General Manager Jerry Reese's plan is coming together. He has bolstered need positions with solid depth that will compete from the start of camp and that takes some of the pressure off of the team to reach for players in the draft.
When evaluating the draft process, this caused me to revert my attention to the defensive end position, particularly Whitney Mercilus.
I watched him in a number of games and he is a difficult prospect to peg. I sought out the opinions of pro scouts on Mercilus, and they said they "wished he had stayed in school" but that he was an "explosive athlete." Both parts are tough to argue with. As much as Mercilus can struggle to get off blocks at times and has issues maintaining gap integrity, he makes impact plays in every game he plays in.
His first three seasons at Illinois he did not have much production. Last season though, he had 22.5 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks, a testament to his ability to make plays. He also has some fantastic flexibility along the line, playing all four positions.
Had Mercilus stayed in school and repeated his production, he would be considered a top 15 pick next year. Truth is though, Jerry Reese and his scouting staff don't need the extra year. Jason Pierre-Paul did not have an overly productive college career yet Reese knew what he had in Pierre- Paul from day one.
I suspect the same will hold true for whomever Reese picks in the first round this season. Mercilus along with Vinny Curry and Nick Perry figure to be on the team's radar come the end of the first round.
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