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Draft Preview

EAST RUTHERFORD - For the first time in 40 years, the Giants enter the NFL Draft owning the 15th selection in the first round. In 1970, they stayed at No. 15 and chose Jim Files, a linebacker from Oklahoma. Files went on to have an undistinguished four-year NFL career, all with the Giants.

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The 2010 draft begins Thursday night and because of their 8-8 finish last season, the Giants again own pick No. 15, their highest first-round slot since they chose quarterback Philip Rivers No. 4 overall in 2004. Rivers, of course, was sent to San Diego in the trade that delivered Eli Manning to the Giants.

About a million individuals, websites and blogs release mock drafts (okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration) and many are projecting that all these years later, the Giants will again use the 15th selection on a linebacker. Their line of reasoning is that the Giants allowed 427 points in 2009, the third-highest total in the NFL, and that team leader and middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, as well as strongside linebacker Danny Clark, are no longer with the team. That leads to their logical conclusion that the Giants will select a linebacker in the first round.

But when it comes to the Giants and the draft, it is often unwise to make assumptions. This is a franchise that traditionally keeps its thoughts and opinions close to the vest. General manager Jerry Reese was typically bland at his pre-draft meeting with the media last week. As in past years, Reese spoke only in generalities. The only time he mentioned a draft eligible player's name is when he hoped out loud that the Giants might be able to include quarterback Sam Bradford, or defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy in the discussion at No. 15. All three players are expected to be long gone by then. So even questions about linebackers offer scant clues about what the Giants might do.

"I think there are good players at linebacker just like at other positions," Reese said. "So I don't have a lot of comment of what the depth is like. But I think there are good players at that position, yeah.

"I think we could improve our team at every position probably; so not just linebacker, any other position. We are looking for seven good players who can give us depth or maybe be a starter at any position – not necessarily linebacker."

The Giants own a selection in each of the seven rounds of the draft, which we will a three-day event for the first time (Rounds 2 and 3 will be Friday, and 4 through 7 on Saturday). For the first time in several years, they did not receive any compensatory picks.

In addition to their first-round choice, the Giants will choose 14th in the second round (No. 46 overall), 12th in the third (No. 76), 17th in the fourth round (No. 115), 16th in the fifth (No. 147), 15th in the sixth (No. 184) and 14th in the seventh (No. 221).

"We are looking for good players," Reese said. "If we can hit home runs, that is good. If we can get a double, that is good. If we can get a single - we just want to get on base in the draft. We don't want to have a bunch of strikeouts. It is tough when you have a bunch of strikeouts."

Of course Reese, and every other general manager in the league, would prefer not to own a selection in the first half of the opening round. Teams get those only by trading for them or, more frequently, finishing with a record that was mediocre or worse. The Giants were one of five teams to finish 8-8 in 2009 and will make their first-round selection in the middle of the group (San Francisco owns the first and last of those five selections, thanks to a trade with Carolina).

"Obviously we don't like that," Reese said of the high draft choice. "If you are picking in the first half, you didn't play that well. So in that respect we don't like it, but we do feel like we are going to be able to pick a good player there at 15."

Moving closer to the top of the draft hasn't changed the Giants' objective. Reese does not want to make a pick based on the depth chart, which could cause him to reach for a lesser player to fill a need.

"We try to get value and need," Reese said. "That is never going to change. We try to get a combination of both. Sometimes you can get a good combination of both. But we are skeptical of drafting need. We try to get a combination of value and need."

The formula worked well a year ago. The Giants had an opening in their wide receiver corps and used the 29th overall pick to secure Hakeem Nicks. The former University of North Carolina star caught 47 passes and tied for the NFL rookie lead with 790 yards, a team-best 16.8-yard average.

But the Giants have always shown a willingness to take the highest-graded player on their draft board even if he happens to play a position where they are already well-stocked. They did it in 2006, when they traded down to the 32nd and final selection in the first round and chose Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka – despite already having Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.

"You can never have enough pass rushers and big people up front, especially in the league that we play in," Reese said. "You run the ball in our league and there are some big powerful offensive linemen, defensive linemen in our league. So you have to have big people to match up.

"(Kiwanuka) was the best guy on the board right there at that time. There was no way we were going to pass him up. So it doesn't preclude us from drafting even if we have depth at a position; if he is the best guy up there, it is going to be hard for us to pass him up."

That's not to say there was no debate on the subject in the draft room. The scouts and coaches are encouraged to give their opinions. Some likely preferred choosing a player at a position where the Giants had less talent than they did at defensive end. But under Reese, and his predecessor, Ernie Accorsi, a consensus is always reached.

"There was conversation about that," Reese said of the Kiwanuka pick. "We had a great conversation about it. It is great conversation when a situation like that arises. But you just have to make the best decision for your team. You are not just looking for what is going to happen tomorrow. You have to look into what is happening in the future with your team as well and try to see the big picture from where I'm standing."

What does that mean for this week? Only Reese and the team's inner circle know that answer. But right now, anything is possible.

"All drafts are good drafts," Reese said. "We only have seven picks. We are just looking for seven guys that can help us. I don't want to qualify what the draft is – good or bad. I think there will be seven good players for us.

"I think every position on our football team – I think there could be some improvement in every area – defensive front, the linebackers, secondary, offensive line, running backs, receivers, quarterbacks – it really doesn't matter. We are looking for good football players. And really that is what is important to us. We try to stockpile good players and try to create competition. That is what is important, to create competition."

*Three Giants linebackers have changed their uniform numbers for the 2010 season. Michael Boley has switched from No. 52 to 59 (worn last season by Gerris Wilkinson). Wilkinson will wear No. 58 (which previously belonged to Antonio Pierce). And Clint Sintim has turned in the No. 97 he wore as a rookie to wear No. 52. The Giants signed two veteran safeties this offseason. Antrel Rolle is wearing No. 26 (worn last season by Aaron Rouse) and Deon Grant has been assigned No. 34. New backup quarterback Jim Sorgi has jersey No. 19.


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