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Cover 3: Best draft pick since Lawrence Taylor?

Posted Apr 16, 2018

The Giants.com staff debates the team's best draft pick since selecting Lawrence Taylor in 1981:

The New York Giants currently hold their highest draft pick since 1981, the year they made one of the best selections in NFL history by taking Lawrence Taylor second overall. But what is the team’s best draft pick since then? We asked our writers that question while taking into consideration value and round.

JOHN SCHMEELK

Salomone is always making us do work here and research. Here are my finalists:

Justin Tuck, Round 3, 2005
Philip Rivers, Round 1, 2004
David Diehl, Round 5, 2003
Tiki Barber, Round 2, 1997
Michael Strahan, Round 2, 1993

The best late pick has to be David Diehl. He was the starting left tackle for two Super Bowl championship teams and was only a fifth-round pick. Excellent value. Justin Tuck fell to the third round in 2005 due to an injury and he is in the Ring of Honor. Tiki Barber has the best numbers of any running back in Giants history and they got him in the second round. Those players, however, take a back seat to Philip Rivers (who became Eli Manning) and Michael Strahan. Those are the only two Hall of Famers on that list (though an argument can be made for Tiki) and they trump the value of being picked in a later round.

Obviously, the pick used to get Rivers was a premium pick, and then it cost a few more in a trade to get Eli Manning. The price was high, but Manning won two Super Bowls and played quarterback, the most important position on the field. That said, I’m going with Michael Strahan. He was only a second-round pick, was one of the best players at a premium position (defensive end), won a Super Bowl and is in the Hall of Fame. Strahan is the way to go.

DAN SALOMONE

It is a four-way tie between Philip Rivers, Nate Kaeding, Shawne Merriman and Jerome Collins. That turned out to be the package that delivered Eli Manning to the Giants, who sent over their 2004 fourth overall pick (Rivers), their 2004 third-round choice (Kaeding), and their 2005 first-round (Merriman) and fifth-round (Collins) selections. It is safe to say the two-time Super Bowl MVP was worth it and beats any late-round steal John or Lance bring up.

Ernie Accorsi, the general manager who pulled the trigger on the deal, was on our radio show a few years ago when he was inducted into the Ring of Honor and told the story of how it all went down. Pay attention to the last line, which is the most important and makes the answer to this “Cover 3” an easy one. He said, “If I wouldn’t have been in the fourth spot, we wouldn’t have gotten him. We would have had to go too far to get him. I would have been satisfied with [Ben] Roethlisberger. I felt very good about Roethlisberger and all our scouts did, Tom [Coughlin] did, the Maras did, we felt real solid about Roethlisberger. They’re about as close as you can get as far as what they’ve done, but it was just something about Eli that he was the one I wanted, but I didn’t really expect to get him at that point because it looked like they weren’t going to trade him. They were asking for Osi Umenyiora, which we were not going to give them. So that’s how the whole thing evolved because I just felt that with the quarterback, you have to reach for greatness if you have a chance.”

LANCE MEDOW

I was going to make a case for Jeff Hostetler (1984 3rd Round) and then Mark Bavaro (1985 4th Round), but the more and more I perused the Giants draft history since Lawrence Taylor was selected with the second overall pick in 1981, the more and more one player in particular jumped out. And that’s Jessie Armstead. When you combine production and where he was selected, I’d like to see someone make the case the Giants received better value than Armstead.  He was taken with the 207th overall pick (8th Round) in the 1993 NFL Draft and in nine seasons made the Pro Bowl five times (1997-2001), was named All-Pro four times (1997-2000) and helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl appearance following the 2000 season.  Armstead recorded at least three sacks in seven of his nine seasons and led the Giants in tackles in five of his last six seasons with team.

If Armstead didn’t tear his ACL as a sophomore at Miami, he probably doesn’t fall that low to the Giants, but the reality is he did and aside from making a case for Ahmad Bradshaw, who was taken in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Armstead is easily the team’s best late-round pick since 1981.