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Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Kony Ealy (47) during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Missouri won 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Giants target a pass rusher in Round 1 of the NFL draft?

The Giants’ days of having a vaunted pass rush are far behind them, particularly with Justin Tuck leaving for the Oakland Raiders via free agency this offseason.

In allowing Tuck to walk, they lost the leader of their defense along with 11.5 sacks. Tuck was “disrespected” by the Giants offer at the start of free agency and signed with the Raiders for a meager $11 million for two years. That is not much money for a player that had 9 sacks in the last half of the season.

To make the picture even murkier, he would have accepted less money than that to stay in New York, around $4 million. Why the Giants didn’t offer him that for his production last year is beyond me, but if he has a similar season in 2014, then the Jerry Reese will be regretting his decision.

Either way, that is in the past and now the Giants have a massive hole at defensive end. Sure, signing Robert Ayers from the Broncos was nice, but he should not be the top end on your team.

So, while Victor Cruz definitely wants to draft a receiver with the #12 pick, should they go to the opposite side of the ball and snag a defensive end? After all, defense wins championships.

Obviously when you are looking at defensive ends in this year’s draft, the first name that pops up is Jadeveon Clowney, but he will not be there at #12 when the Giants are up to pick.

But other players like Teddy Bridgewater, Mike Evans, Eric Ebron might, and that will cause some teams to be looking to trade up with the Giants in those situations to grab those players. Lets say the Giants trade back into the 18-26 range, this will be prime territory to pick up someone like Dee Ford or Kony Ealy.

Auburn DE Dee Ford, a first team All-Team SEC player, racked up 12.5 tackles for a loss to go with his 8.5 sacks in his senior season. His weaknesses have to do with his stature, as he is small at 6-2 252 pounds.

Kony Ealy is another name that the Giants could consider in the first round. Another All-SEC player at Mizzou, Ealy shone in 2013, tallying 43 stops, 14.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. The 6-4 273 product runs fast for his size (4.69 40 time) and can fill the role of rush outside linebacker as well.

Let’s say the Giants don’t trade back though and stay at #12, who could they select to shore up their pass rushing hole? They should consider an outside linebacker, as they can provide help in attacking the QB, as well as allowing Ayers to develop as a starter.

At #12, the prime target would be UCLA’s own Anthony Barr, who has been silently dropping these past months on boards, or is it just because other players are rising and bumping him out of the top 10? Either way, he is one of the most heralded pass rushers in this class after Mack and Clowney. He may have to develop more as a run protector and in coverage, but he is a complete nightmare off the edge. In 2013, he terrorized the PAC-12, earning first team All-Pac-12 honors for his work. He garnered a whopping 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss as a junior. He followed that up with an impressive 20 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks and 3 forced fumbles his senior year. Oh and he also ran 4.41 sec 40 yard dash at his pro day and weighs 255 pounds to go along with his 6’5 frame. He is an athletic freak.

If the Giants truly would like to patch up a hole in the defensive and add a pass-rusher, they should have plenty of options to explore.

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Tags: New York Giants NFL Draft 2014

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