During the 2013 NFL draft, the New York Giants finally addressed their glaring hole at right tackle and beefed up their defensive line. Of course, there are still several areas the team should be focused on improving.
1. Linebacker: Incredibly enough, the Giants didn’t draft a single linebacker this year, the second consecutive they chose not to pick one. Tentatively, the expected starting linebacker core is Jacquian Williams at weakside, Dan Connor in the middle and Keith Rivers at strongside. This is not exactly an encouraging group to say the least. Williams has graded out negatively in each of his first two seasons according to Pro Football Focus. Connor did very well in the Carolina Panther’s 4-3 in 2010-2011 but struggled mightily as a 3-4 ILB for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 and has never been particularly strong against the pass. Rivers is talented but has struggled mightily with injuries the past couple of years and was ineffective when he did play for the Giants this year.
Luckily enough, the linebacker market never really developed and there are still many options out there who could help the Giants. The best guy out there is middle linebacker Karlos Dansby. Cut loose by the Miami Dolphins despite a strong season, Dansby visited with the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals but got turned away. At age 31, he’s still a very productive player and would immediately become the best linebacker on the Giants. Dansby is strong against both the pass and run, plus he can play outside or inside. The other linebacker the Giants could target is former Buffalo Bill Nick Barnett. Barnett spent the previous two seasons with the Bills and was very productive, producing the 11th best and 9th best grade amongst 4-3 outside linebackers during his time there. Barnett would be an upgrade over Rivers and allow the Giants to use the oft-injured linebacker as a valuable reserve.
2. Safety: The Giants have done very little to address the position this offseason, drafting Cooper Taylor in the fifth round and adding mediocre Steelers safety Ryan Mundy. With the loss of Kenny Phillips, an already shaky safety core got worse. The Giants project to go with Antrel Rolle at SS and Stevie Brown at FS, with Will Hill as the third safety. Considering Rolle isn’t very good and Brown used an abnormally high number of turnovers to cover up the fact that he wasn’t very good in coverage or at stopping the run, the Giants could use help there.
Two top-tier safeties still remain on the market, in Kerry Rhodes and Quintin Mikell. Rhodes excelled in coverage, allowing just a 64.5 QB rating at passes thrown in his vicinity. Mikell isn’t quite the marveloso in coverage Rhodes is, but he’s an effective pass rusher and excellent at stopping the run. Mikell might be a better fit than Rhodes as Mikell has played in a 4-3 his entire career whereas Rhodes has played in mostly a 3-4 the last few years.
3. Cornerback: The Giants made minimal moves at corner this offseason, signing former Giant Aaron Ross and bringing back Terrell Thomas. The team also elected to bring back Corey Webster despite a career worst year from him in 2012. The outlook for 2013 is grim. Prince Amukamura was an above average corner in 2012 and should only improve in 2013, but he’s the only corner on the roster who doesn’t have huge question marks. Thomas is coming off two torn ACLs, while Ross, Jay’Ron Hosley and the aforementioned Webster were ripped apart in 2012.
Unfortunately for the Giants, the corner market is bare thin at this point. While names like Quentin Jammer and Marcus Trufant are out there, those guys don’t have much on the field impact anymore. The only corner out there who figures to provide a noticeable upgrade over any of the other Giants corners is former Cleveland Brown Sheldon Brown.
4. Running Back: With David Wilson and Andre Brown both averaging over five yards per carry in 2012 and the Giants drafting Michael Cox in the seventh round, running back would not seem to be an area to focus on. However, it would not be crazy to see the Giants bring back Ahmad Bradshaw. Wilson, while he excelled in short bursts, still has concerns about his pass protection and Brown is coming off a broken fibula. Despite chronic leg injuries, Bradshaw was excellent in 2012, running for over 1,000 yards on 4.6 YPC and more notably, doing well in pass protection. Bradshaw’s market has bottomed out, as the two teams most likely to sign him, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, both drafted running backs relatively high in the draft. While it’s possible Bradshaw could find another suitor, teams seem legitimately scared off by his medical reports and thus the Giants could potentially bring him back on a veteran minimum deal.