New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese did not mince words when he described this year's draft class. He stated that there were between 15 and 20 first-round prospects, but that after that there was a significant drop off in talent. And while the Giants select 32nd overall, but that doesn't mean they won't grab one of the aforementioned 15 to 20 players.
Reese has stated a number of times that he likes to take "the best player available" and even went as far as to say that he drafts "as if he has no team."
While I am not sure Reese is being totally honest there, the general concept still applies. Picking dead last in the first round does not give a team much of a choice: go with the best player. Based on a number of factors including projected availability, here is whom I think Reese may be targeting in the first round come Thursday.
1. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Mercilus is a vastly under-rated player in this year's draft. So often players with "potential" rocket up draft boards and the hype around them grows. Despite bursting onto the scene in 2011, Mercilus seems to be flying pretty well under the radar to this point. His consistent ability to show up in games week in and week out really separated his 2011 season from a lot of other prospects. He only had two games where he did not record a sack and he truly turned the corner as a prospect.
Reese and the Giants scouting department don't need four years of consistent tape to grade players highly. If they believe the talent is there and that their coaches can work with it, they select a guy.
Perhaps a pass-rusher starved team like Kansas City or Jacksonville unexpectedly swoops in early and grabs him but if he slips I believe he could be New York's top target.
2. Luke Keuchly, Linebacker, Boston College
The NFL invited Luke Keuchly to the Draft this year, but he declined.. I happen to think that he will slip on draft day. I have seen him mocked to Seattle and Philadelphia but no not believe either will pick him. Seattle has cut their payroll at linebacker by 90% since Pete Carroll arrived and just resigned two of their linebackers. Philadelphia filled a need with Demeco Ryans and will likely be looking elsewhere on draft day itself.
Yes, it would be out of the ordinary for the Giants to go linebacker this early, but selecting a player who has flexibility in a 4-3 scheme who could pair with Keith Rivers and Michael Boley would give the team its best linebacking corps in arguably a decade while also letting Mathias Kiwanuka work on the defensive line.
Jacquian Williams has a bright future but even with one full season under his belt is still more raw than Keuchly is. Williams will certainly compete for a starting role in 2012, but right now he thrives in nickel packages.
3. Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
It is hard to understand why as the draft inches closer there is less talk about this guy. He was productive all four years at Baylor and displayed almost every key attribute needed to be a successful wide receiver at the next level during his time at Baylor. He has strong hands, works the vertical routes exceptionally well, and comes in and out of his breaks fast.
Not quite as explosive speed wise as the man many have compared him to as a pro, Carolina's Steve Smith, but he does have the football savvy to make up for it.
4. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Talent, talent, talent. That's the buzz word when it comes to Hill. He comes from a program that runs the triple option, so passing games are hampered quite a bit. Still though, talented receivers love Georgia Tech because the opportunities that they do get yield them big yardage. Most notably Calvin Johnson and more recently Demaryius Thomas have both come out of GT and seen great success in the NFL.
That will cause one to look back and put the tape of Georgia Tech receivers on again.
I think Hill fits what the Giants want in their flankers and could very easily help out in that department which would help keep Victor Cruz where he thrives: in the slot.
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