I had the opportunity Thursday to spend some time talking New York Giants with Wes Bunting, director of college scouting for the National Football Post. Bunting had some interesting thoughts on the upcoming draft, the Giants' overall draft philosophy and the futures of some of the recently-drafted players currently on the team's roster.
Since such a spirited debate broke out here Thursday thanks to 'EliManCrushing' and his anti-MIke Pouncey post, let's start with this. In their most recent writers' mock draft, NFP has the Giants selecting -- you guessed it -- Pouncey with the 19th pick of the first round. Offensive tackles Tyron Smith (USC) and Anthony Castonzo (Boston College) were off the board in the NFP mock, and Bunting explained the pick this way:
"He's the best offensive lineman on the board and he gives them some versatility. I think this is a guy who could start pretty early in his NFL career, guard or center. I could definitely see them going offensive tackle as well," Bunting said. "Gabe Carimi I think makes the most sense for them if he would be on the board, but I just think there's more of a need from Day 1 inside than there is out, and that's why I gave them Pouncey."
I pressed Bunting a little on his statement about Carimi [full profile], since most analysts seem to think the 6-foot-7, 327-pounder from Wisconsin is a right-side player and the Giants offensive line needs are in the middle and on the left side.
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I think he's certainly athletic enough to play on the left side. Is he better suited to play on the right side, I would say yes. But he understands angles and he's a real velcro player. I mean once he gets those big paws on you and he has these long arms it's really tough to disengage from," Bunting said.
"Jumbo Elliott (a former Giant) was a left tackle and he didn't have the prototype physical and athletic makeup, but he made it work because he understood angles, good run blocker, strong hands. I think with the New York Giants playing in cold weather they want to run the football. No one gets after the run game as well as Carimi, and I think he would be a really nice left tackle there in New York.
"He could start on the right side, he could stay there. You could kick him over to the left with some time."
There has been so much discussion about the Giants targeting an offensive lineman with their first pick I asked Bunting if he could see the Giants going in any other direction in the first round. The only name he brought up was Akeem Ayers [full profile], the UCLA outside linebacker. He called Ayers "a little safer" for the Giants than some other linebackers "because he is a 4-3 guy."
In the end, though, Bunting thinks the Giants will grab the best lineman -- offensive or defensive -- on their draft board.
"You build from the inside out," he said. "The Giants love drafting d-linemen and they have holes at o-line, so honestly if there's a guy that grades out highly at one of those areas I think they just stick to the line."
I asked Bunting if he could characterize the Giants' draft philosophy under General Manager Jerry Reese. He said he sees them as a "best player available" team and again mentioned the "inside out" theory.
""The thing that I do like about the Giants is they go d-line early in the draft, and we've seen that consistently. Jason Pierre-Paul's gonna end up being a really good player," Bunting said. ""It seems like first couple rounds they're gonna build inside out. Usually they take the best player somewhere along the interior of their line.
"That's why I really like the Giants. That's pretty much what I would do if I have a quarterback in place, which they do with Eli. You just keep strengthening those lines year after year."
One thing Giants' fans have been mystified by in recent years is, of course, the team's inability to draft and develop a dominant play-making linebacker. Most recently, the Giants used a second-round pick on Clint Sintim in 2009. The move has yet to pay dividends.
"Sintim was a pretty good football player (in college). It was just a conversion, he hasn't been able to do it," Bunting said. "A lot of people saw him as a 3-4 guy that the Giants took. He's a stiffer-hipped kid, he's not a great athlete. He's better in a phone booth. They try to make him play in the 4-3 and I think whenever you have a conversion player it's gonna take a little more time. You have to tailor your expectations a bit because of it."
Bunting's there is "not a real great crop of linebackers" this year. His advice for the Giants, who most analysts and fans agree really need to find a good one?
"Try to find that 4-3 guy that works for you, try to find a value that fits. I wouldn't fox with any of these conversion players or potential 3-4 4-3 hybrid guys."
Amen to that.
Is there a linebacker Bunting really likes who would fit with the Giants? Try Washington's Mason Foster [full profile].
"He gives you versatility. I've talked to scouts and most of them feel like he's a better weak-side guy, but some feel like he can play on the strong. Some think he's the best middle linebacker in the draft. So he gives you three spots where you can fill him," Bunting said.
"He's not overly big, he's not overly physical, he's not overly fast. He's just good enough in all three areas and he tackles well, finds the football and has a good feel in zone coverage. He's gonna be a guy that will start 6-8 years for you in the league and he can come in pretty early in his rookie year and start in that linebacking corps."
Here are Bunting's quick takes on a few other topics.
The impact of the NFL Lockout on the draft:
"I think we'll see overall a more need-based draft from teams that are sometimes on the fence," he said. "But I think the teams that are already established, that have head coaches that know they're going to be here for two, three years -- they don't have to worry about their future -- they're going to take the best player on the board."
Linval Joseph, the defensive tackle drafted by the Giants in the second round a year ago:
"Linval Joseph is a talented kid. He's a big guy who wants to get up the field, we'll see if that works out," Bunting said. "He was a real boom or bust guy in my opinion last year. Lot of talent, it's just how long is it gonna take him to figure it out and put it all together?
"I don't know if it's gonna only be two years. I think he's gonna be more of a three, four-year guy."
Mitch Petrus, the offensive guard taken in the fifth round of Arkansas a year ago.
"I like Petrus. He was really a violent guy. But when I watched Mitch Petrus I thought he was a better zone player. Watching him get out in space and chop people down. The Giants, they want to move more people off the football, a little more in-line," Bunting said.
"I thought he was a better move player than in-line. That was a case where I just didn't think it was a great fit for him going to the Giants even though I thought he was a pretty good football player."
Thanks to Wes for taking a few minutes out of his schedule during a crazy time of year for NFL Draft analysts. Be sure to check his work, and the work done by the other fabulous staff members, at National Football Post.