The Giants' draft philosophy has remained unchanged since George Young became general manager in 1979 and started the franchise down the path that would result in victories in Super Bowls XXI and XXV. It was passed down to Ernie Accorsi, who acquired Eli Manning, and then to Jerry Reese, who currently sits in the GM's chair and constructed the teams that won Super Bowls XLII and, last season, XLVI.
Reese, like Young and Accorsi before him, doesn't enter the draft room with a list of needs to fill in the draft. His goal is simply to acquire the best players possible, regardless of position.
That viewpoint would be in vogue whether the Giants were choosing first, 15th, or – as they are by virtue of winning the championship – 32nd in the first round, where the Giants will select their first player when the 2012 NFL Draft kicks off tomorrow night (barring a trade). The second and third rounds will be held Friday night and rounds four through seven on Saturday afternoon.
"We never try to reach in the draft," Reese said. "We're conscious of what we think our needs are, but we try to pick the best player in the draft. We do try to fill holes in free agency when we get an opportunity to do that, but we never say let's get a certain position in the draft. We just try to pick the best player."
The philosophy has served them well. Defensive end seemed to be one of their strongest positions in both 2006 and 2010, but they selected Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul with their initial picks in those drafts and have been very happy they did. Last year, cornerback was hardly a pressing need, but Prince Amukamara's grade was so much higher than any other player on the board it would have violated all of their draft principles not to take him at No. 19. Amukamara had an injury-shortened rookie season, but the Giants expect him to be an outstanding player.
When the 2012 draft begins, the Giants will have seven selections – but they don't have a pick in every round:
The Giants traded their fifth-round choice, No. 167 overall, to Cincinnati for linebacker Keith Rivers.
Because teams in front of them lost or no longer have draft choices, the Giants moved from 32nd to 31st three times. They gained a spot in the second round because New Orleans no longer owns its selection in that round as part of the penalty it received from the league in the bounty episode. Oakland used its third round selection in the 2011 supplemental draft (taking quarterback Terrelle Pryor). And Detroit forfeited its sixth-round choice because of tampering charges last year involving the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Giants cannot trade their compensatory selection.
If they don't move up or back, the Giants will make the final selection in the first round for the third time in seven drafts. In 2006, they owned the 25th pick, but traded with Pittsburgh and moved down seven spots, where they grabbed Kiwanuka. Four years ago, they owned the last choice after winning Super Bowl XLII. The Giants picked 31st, the spot New England lost as part of the sanctions levied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after Spygate. The Giants selected safety Kenny Phillips, who has been a starter most of his career.
The Giants are perfectly happy owning selection No. 32, because it goes to the Super Bowl champion. And Reese and his staff are confident they will have the opportunity this week to select several players who can come in and contribute this year.
"I think the draft has good players, a lot of value in every round," Reese said. "You just have to look deep and try to find them. The last time we picked 32 we picked some pretty good players that have helped us win a lot of football games. We picked Kenny Phillips. We got Terrell Thomas and Mario Manningham, I think we got Jon Goff in that draft, too, after we picked 32 a few years ago. So there are good players. You just have to look deep and find them."
As is his custom, and the Giants', Reese has not publicly discussed either what the he believes need strengthening nor individual players.
Most of the self-described draft experts and mock drafters seem to think the Giants need offensive help and have them taking a running back, wide receiver or tight end in the first round. Given that, it's interesting to note that in 2011 the Giants were ranked eighth in the NFL in offense and 27th in defense. In fairness, the outsider predictions seem to be based more on the offseason losses of Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham and the knee injuries suffered in the Super Bowl by Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum than on the team's 2011 performance.
No matter who the Giants bring in, Reese believes the team will essentially have 1½ draft classes this year, because the first four selections from the 2011 draft played little or not at all. Amukamara missed the first nine games with a foot injury and still played more snaps than his early-round brethren. Marvin Austin, the defensive tackle taken on the second round, missed the entire season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in a preseason game. Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, the third-round choice, returned eight kickoffs in eight regular season games. Tackle James Brewer, selected on the fourth round, never stepped on the field.
"You can judge them if you want to, but they didn't play a lot," Reese said. "It's hard to judge. I can judge them because I think I have a grasp on what I think they can do. We feel like we're going to get our first three or four picks, we're going to get those guys again because they didn't play a lot. Jernigan played a little bit at the end. Brewer didn't play. Prince played a little bit. And Marvin was out the entire time. So we're going to get some high picks even though we're not picking high. So we feel we're getting high picks still because our guys didn't play a lot. So we're fortunate to have those caliber of players coming back and they're going to be healthy. So that's a plus for us."
By Saturday evening, Reese expects to make the same statement about the players the Giants acquire in the 2012 draft.
*Michael Strahan, who owns the NFL record for sacks in a season and the Giants record for career sacks, will announce the team's second-round selection from the podium at Radio City Music Hall on Friday evening. Each team will have one of its legendary alumni announce a second or third round choice (St. Louis will have two).
The list of former players includes wide receiver Marvin Harrison (Indianapolis Colts), running back Fred Taylor (Jacksonville Jaguars) and kicker Matt Stover (Baltimore Ravens), who was the Giants' 12th-round draft choice in 1990.
Strahan played for the Giants from 1993-2007. He played in a franchise-record 216 regular season games and when he retired he was fifth on the NFL's career sack list with 141.4. In 2001, Strahan set the NFL single-season sack record with 22.5. He also topped the NFL in 2003 with 18.5 sacks, the second-highest total of his career.