With Christmas only 5 days away, now’s a great time to look at what we have and what we need. For the New York Giants, the emphasis is on the latter. Big Blue better hope that Santa Claus is a Giants fan, because a lump of coal isn’t going to help out the Giants’ playoff chances this year or next. Here’s the New York Giants’ 2015 Christmas Wish List.
Major Award: Defensive Playmakers in the Draft/Free Agency
Simply put, the New York Giants need a better defense. While major defensive overhauls don’t just happen overnight, the Giants need a strong draft to help expedite the process. With the Giants projected to pick anywhere from 10-15, there will certainly be a defensive player ripe for the picking for Big Blue. It is critical for the Giants to get this draft right so they don’t continue to fall victim to the same problems that have plagued them in seasons past. After selecting an offensive player in the last 4 years (David Wilson, Justin Pugh, Odell Beckham Jr., Ereck Flowers), it’s time for the Giants to target defense in the first round.
Because we don’t know exactly what spot that the Giants will be picking from, some of these picks could end up seeming like stretches in the coming weeks. But there’s no doubt that the Giants need to select a stud defensive lineman or a playmaking linebacker with their first selection. Emmanuel Oghbah will likely be long gone by the time the Giants are on the clock, but Clemson DE Shaq Lawson (6’3″, 275 lbs, 9.5 sacks), Baylor DT Andrew Billings (6″2″, 300 lbs, mega run-stopper), speedy Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd (6’4″, 231 lbs, 68 tackles), or Notre Dame tackling machine Jaylon Smith (6’2″, 240 lbs, 113 tackles) will probably all be available. These players are all excellent at shedding blocks, stopping the run, and ultimately pressuring the quarterback, which is what the Giants need oh so badly.
The Giants could also look to free agency to improve their defense. I think it is imperative for the Giants to first re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara before venturing into other options. This defense doesn’t have many quality players, so it is important for the Giants to keep the ones that they have now. Linebacker Danny Trevathan (80 tackles), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (3 interceptions), or Bruce Irvin (5.5 sacks, can play linebacker or defensive end) could be nice mid-range buys for the Giants. But I’d hope to see the Giants go all-in on superstars like Muhammad Wilkerson (12.0 sacks) or Eric Weddle (30-year-old, hard-hitting safety). While adding free agency depth is imperative for the Giants (more on that later), they may also need to venture out of their comfort zone and splurge a bit for a star that can be an impact player for the Giants for a long time.
Under the Tree: A partner for Odell Beckham Jr.
The New York Giants also have major issues on their offense. While Eli Manning is still a top-10 quarterback and Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the NFL’s top 3 wide receivers, this team needs other ways to score points. With inconsistent Rueben Randle a free agent, it will be interesting to see how his negotiations go. Even if he returns, the Giants need a better option beside Beckham. Dwayne Harris probably isn’t that guy and Victor Cruz is anything but certain to return, so this mystery receiver is going to have to come from the draft or free agency.
There aren’t many elite wideouts available in free agency this year (Alshon Jeffrey fits the bill but will probably be too expensive for the Giants’ liking), which means that the draft will have to produce the Giants’ threat opposite Odell Beckham Jr. Western Michigan’s Corey Davis is a big receiver that Eli Manning would love throwing to in the red zone (6’3″, 205 lbs, 11 TDs), as is Mississippi State beast De’Runnya Wilson (6’5″, 215 lbs, 9 TDs). These guys are projected to be second-to-third round picks, and the Giants should definitely target them.
Another present the Giants are asking for is a legitimate starting running back. Rashad Jennings has put together a quality 2015 season when he actually gets the ball (his 154 carries are 24th in the league, a far cry from most “starting” running backs). Jennings could be a great complement as a power back to a speedy running back. Lamar Miller seems like a nice fit for Big Blue, but if his price is too high, Denver’s Ronnie Hillman could be a nice value buy. If the Giants were able to draft a big wideout and sign a back to partner with Jennings, their offense would be among the league’s best.
Stocking Stuffer: Better Depth
The thing that has hurt the Giants the most over the last 5 years has been their lack of depth at key positions. When injuries inevitably strike, the Giants don’t have trustworthy backups to plug into the starting lineup. In free agency and in the mid-to-late rounds of the NFL Draft, it is possible to change the face of your team by acquiring sound players that can step in when need be and be counted on. Guys like Trevin Wade, Jayron Hosley, Craig Dahl, Marshall Newhouse might not even be in the NFL right now if they were let go by the Giants today, yet they play large roles due to the Giants’ inability to stockpile reliable depth.
Linemen Josh LeRibeus, Mike McGlynn, and Jake Long are guys who have been starters in this league before and could feasibly jump on board with the Giants as depth in case of emergency. While they could cost more than guys like Newhouse, John Jerry, or Dallas Reynolds did, they may be able to play at a higher level.
The Giants also need better depth in their secondary. When you look at the Super Bowl contenders in the NFL, they aren’t routinely playing guys like Wade, Hosley, or Dahl. Their plan B is much stronger than the Giants’. The Giants could target guys like Jaiquwan Jarrett, Marcus Sherels, Darrin Walls, or D.J. Swearinger as young backups.
The draft is supposed to be where you find solid backups, but the Giants haven’t had much success there. Still, maybe the team can get it right this year and acquire reliable depth in rounds 4-7. Doing so would be a much-appreciated stocking stuffer for Big Blue.
The Giants need a lot of pieces this Christmas season. Chief among them are a young defensive stud and a big wide receiver in the draft, a shifty running back to partner with Rashad Jennings and a defensive starter in free agency, as well as overall better depth. I firmly believe that the Giants’ lapses over the last couple of seasons have more to do with poor roster construction than Tom Coughlin’s own fault, and if the Giants are able to follow the aforementioned blueprint, they will be one step closer to contention.