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Cover 3: Best draft class in Giants history

LAWRENCE-TAYLOR

The Giants.com crew debates the best draft class in franchise history:

John Schmeelk: This is a really tough question. The best players in Giants history are spread out over a number of different drafts. My first criteria is the draft class must include a Hall of Fame or Ring of Honor caliber player. From there, I looked at those classes to see if there was another player of that caliber, or close to it, in the class.

There weren't a lot of great options. The Giants drafted Chris Snee the same year they acquired Eli Manning, but since Manning was not technically a draft pick in 2004, I hesitate to include him. Going back, 1993 jumps out to me even though the Giants didn't have a first round pick (they had used it on quarterback Dave Brown in the supplemental draft). Hall of Famer Michael Strahan was selected in the second round, and Ring of Honor member Jessie Armstead was selected in the eighth.

Billy Ard and Byron Hunt were drafted in 1981, the same year as Lawrence Taylor, but no one else pops from that class. Neither Carl Banks, Harry Carson nor Phil Simms had any other all-timers drafted the same year they were.

Going back to the pre-Super Bowl days, Spider Lockhart and Tucker Frederickson were picked in 1965. Sam Huff, Jim Katcavage and Don Chandler were drafted in 1956. Rosey Brown was a 27th round pick in 1953 but otherwise that class was barren. Frank Gifford was picked in the first round the year prior, but no one else of significance was selected that year.

I'm probably showing recency bias here, but I'm going to go with Michael Strahan and Jessie Armstead, two of the best players at their positions in their era and helped the Giants reach a Super Bowl. The Giants' best draft class was 1993.

View photos of Hall of Famer Michael Strahan through the years.

Dan Salomone: I'm going to disagree with Schmeelk. You can count Eli Manning in the 2004 class, and the recently-retired two-time Super MVP makes it the best one in franchise history. Even when you count Philip Rivers as the pick, he was still an asset that helped acquire Manning. Therefore, 2004 stands. In addition to Manning, it produced Chris Snee, who will be joined by No. 10 in short order in the Ring of Honor. Additionally, Gibril Wilson was a fifth-round choice in the same class. Just ask Randy Moss and Tom Brady about his impact in Super Bowl XLII.

But don't take our word for it. The fans actually voted on this very subject a few years ago in our "Giants Bracket Challenge" on Giants.com. What we discovered is that no matter what the category is, Lawrence Taylor always wins.

Beginning with a pool of 16, fans voted round by round each week, whittling the bracket down to eight and then to a final four, which consisted of 1981 (L.T., Billy Ard, Byron Hunt) vs. 2003 (Osi Umenyiora, David Diehl, David Tyree) and 1984 (Carl Banks, William Roberts, Jeff Hostetler, Gary Reasons) vs. 2005 (Corey Webster, Justin Tuck, Brandon Jacobs).

The two classes from the 1980s prevailed and in a tight championship race, 1981 edged out 1984 by 49 votes, or 53-47 percent. To get there, 1981 knocked out 2004 (72-28 percent), 1956 (81-19), and 2003 in the semifinals (67-33).

Here were the 16 classes:

GIANTS STADIUM REGION

  • 1983: DB Terry Kinard, DE Leonard Marshall, TE Jamie Williams, T Karl Nelson, DB Perry Williams, LB Andy Headen, K Ali Haji-Sheikh
  • 1965: RB Tucker Frederickson, RB Chuck Mercein, DB Willie Williams, RB Ernie Koy, DB Spider Lockhart
  • 1987: WR Mark Ingram, WR Stephen Baker, WR Odessa Turner, T Doug Riesenberg,
  • 2003: DT William Joseph, DE Osi Umenyiora, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, DB Rod Babers, T David Diehl, WR Willie Ponder, CB Frank Walker, WR David Tyree

POLO GROUNDS REGION

  • 2004: QB Philip Rivers, G Chris Snee, LB Reggie Torbor, S Gibril Wilson
  • 1981: LB Lawrence Taylor, G Billy Ard, LB Byron Hunt
  • 1986: DE Eric Dorsey, DB Mark Collins, NT Erik Howard, LB Pepper Johnson
  • 1956: LB Sam Huff, DE Jim Katcavage, K Don Chandler

METLIFE STADIUM REGION

  • 1984: LB Carl Banks, G William Roberts, QB Jeff Hostetler, LB Gary Reasons, WR Lionel Manuel
  • 1979: QB Phil Simms, WR Earnest Gray
  • 2007: CB Aaron Ross, WR Steve Smith, NT Jay Alford, LB Zak DeOssie, TE Kevin Boss, S Michael Johnson, RB Ahmad Bradshaw
  • 1993: DE Michael Strahan, LB Jessie Armstead

YANKEE STADIUM REGION

  • 1989: C Brian Williams, G Bob Kratch, DB Greg Jackson, RB Dave Meggett, TE Howard Cross, DB Myron Guyton
  • 1997: WR Ike Hilliard, RB Tiki Barber, LB Ryan Phillips, P Brad Maynard, SS Sam Garnes
  • 2005: CB Corey Webster, DE Justin Tuck, RB Brandon Jacobs
  • 1955: DT Rosey Grier, FB Mel Triplett, DB Jimmy Patton

Lance Medow: There's a few strong candidates. You can go with 1984, which showcased Carl Banks, William Roberts, Jeff Hostetler, Gary Reasons and Lionel Manuel. The 2003 class had Osi Umenyiora, David Diehl and David Tyree, and 2007 wasn't too shabby with Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Zak DeOssie, Kevin Boss and Ahmad Bradshaw. You can make a case for all three of those groups, but to me, the one that tops the list is 2005. That year the Giants had just four picks (none in the first round because of the Eli Manning trade) and wound up with Corey Webster (2nd round), Justin Tuck (third round) and Brandon Jacobs (4th round) with their top three picks. All three of those players helped the team win a pair of Super Bowls in the span of five seasons and all three played at least eight seasons with the team.

From a value standpoint, the Giants hit a home run with this class because Webster, Tuck and Jacobs all became key starters and all earned second contracts with the team. That's the goal with any draft class. You're not just renting the players for the length of their rookie deals. You want them to give you a reason to offer a new deal and that happened with all three of these players. In a year when the Giants had no first round picks, they still walked away with plenty of substance and depth. That's pretty impressive. The 1984 class also runs deep and contributed to two Super Bowl victories, so you can't go wrong with that group, but I'd give 2005 the slight edge because the Giants didn't make a selection until the 43rd pick and managed to retain all three of those players during the salary cap era. It's important to take into consideration the environment surrounding the class as much as the individual talent.

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