Avoid 'Draft Rage:' 'Raptor' says relax and enjoy the process

Ezra Shaw

Take a step back and appreciate the process. The offseason won't go how you think it will.

Okay, I'm going to start out by saying that it's looking to me like people are setting themselves up for (another) case of "Draft Rage".

The draft process is a fluid one, and the draft itself is volatile to say the least. Anyone who gets tunnel vision, focusing on a specific player, position, or strategy is setting themselves up for disappointment.

There are a number of reasons for that, and a few of them we aren't privy to.

Evaluation

The first part of the process happens behind closed doors. The New York Giants' brass -- John Mara, Jerry Reese, and Tom Coughlin -- have to evaluate the team as a whole. They need to take inventory of the roster and the coaching staff. Their evaluation will determine the way they move forward through the offseason.

Take the offensive line for example: Everybody agrees that it needs to be fixed, however the team might disagree with the fans on exactly HOW it should be done.

Last year they agreed that the linebackers needed fixing, however they went about that by beefing up the defensive tackle rotation to keep opposing offensive lines off the linebackers, so they have the freedom to make plays.

When Coughlin, Reese, and Mara talk about evaluating the organization, this is part of what they're talking about. Looking forward, they need to evaluate what they have in personnel. They need to decide if Justin Pugh's future is at right tackle and whether or not Will Beatty will return to his 2011-2012 form. They need to decide if the problems on the interior of the line are due to a lack of talent in place or if schematic adjustments will allow the guys in-house to play to their strengths.

From the outside we might look at the roster and say "they need talent". But, being in the trenches (as it were), they might decide "The guys we have are talented, we just haven't been putting them in position to succeed". Perhaps the evaluation will conclude (or concluded) that switching from a man blocking scheme to a zone blocking scheme will put the players on the roster in the best position to succeed, and that offensive line isn't actually as dire a need as those on the outside believe it to be.

(I'd like to note that every potential offensive coordinator, other than Mike Sullivan, came from an offense that used a zone blocking scheme. That might be telling of a conclusion that a schematic change might allow the existing talent to flourish and make better use of existing resources than keeping the same system and rebuilding 60 percent of the line)

Free Agency

It is my firm belief that the primary need of EVERY team is talent. Regardless of position.There are positions that by their nature have higher leverage than others, but overall every team needs talent.

Philosophically, I believe that the purpose of the draft is to add talent to the roster. Granted, consideration should be given to leverage positions and the context of the team.

On the flip side, I believe that the purpose of free agency is to fill immediate needs.

So, with that in mind, before we go into the draft the Giants need to evaluate their free agency needs.

First and foremost, they need (absolutely NEED) to create cap space. With 25 - 30 unrestricted and restricted free agents, the roughly $16 million in cap space isn't enough to fill out the roster with veteran minimum contracts, let alone build a team that can compete.

Part of this is the post-season evaluation process, where they look at the roster and decide who will be a cap casualty, and who to approach about extensions, pay cuts, and restructures.

They need to evaluate who their priority players are, the players they cannot allow to leave.

Then they need to look at the roster and see which positions & holes can be filled from within, which holes can't, and which free agents can fill them for good value. And again, this needs to be done in the context of the team. They need players who fit the team concept and schemes.

Only THEN does the draft enter into it, and the team's landscape will likely be dramatically different from what it is now, whether it looks like it from the outside or not.

The Draft

By the time the draft rolls around what we think the Giants HAVE to do may already have been addressed. As well, they may feel that adding a certain player or addressing a certain position may have a multiplicative effect on the roster rather than an additive one.

From my example earlier, you'll remember that last year instead of directly addressing the linebacker position, they invested heavily in the defensive tackle position.

Not only did that result in improved the defensive line play, it improved the linebacker position by keeping opposing offensive lines off of them and allowing them to make plays more freely, and even back to the secondary.

As an NFL team, the Giants need talent. Therefore, the only logical solution is to add the most talent, but within the context of the team. The Giants need to draft players who fit their team concept.

It's my personal opinion that positional depth should be the tiebreaker between prospects. If, for instance, two players of a different position are rated equally, they should take the one with the better chance of making a more immediate contribution. However, talent should rule the day.

I can't help but feel as though it's short-sighted to pass on a more talented player because a less-talented one would fill the needs of a previous year.Not only does it take time for rookies to get up to speed, but we have seen time and again, the needs you think you have in January are not the needs you have in February. And those aren't the needs you have in April (May this year)...

And those are seldom the needs you have in October.

So, I said all that to say this: Fans shouldn't get tunnel-vision looking at a particular prospect, position, or plan.

The prospect might not be there or might be dramatically overshadowed by a superior talent.

The position might have already been addressed and the Giants might not even be interested.

And to quote Mike Tyson: "Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face". The draft is completely unpredictable. Teams trade up, players fall, teams make picks that nobody saw coming.

Nobody saw Prince falling. Everybody had the Giants taking Anthony Castonzo (remember, they had Will Beatty getting ready to take over at left tackle), but they took JPP instead. Nobody saw the Falcons jumping up for Julio Jones, and the Cowboys traded back with the plan of taking Justin Pugh.

Conclusion

Quite frankly I can almost guarantee that the Giants will not go through the Evaluation, Free Agency, and Draft processes the way "everyone" thinks they will or should. If anyone gets focused on a single thing they "HAVE" to do to be successful next year, they probably won't be happy.

It's perfectly okay to have draft prospects and free agents you like or love, and really want the Giants to take, or to have prospects and free agents you hate and want the Giants to avoid like the plague.

I just want to caution against getting obsessed to the point where you think there is a way it "has" to be done. Odds are, it won't go that way, and remember, these men are responsible for building two championship teams in the last eight years.

There's only one other team that can say that.

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