So, how was everyone else's Tuesday morning? I know mine started out nice: blue skies, warm sun, looking forward to a morning spent chasing a little white (or possibly yellow) ball around while dressed far better than I ordinarily would be.
...Then came this news:
Now, I want to be clear about this: I am solidly in "wait and see" mode with regards to this news. Right now all we know is that Hill failed a drug test. We don't know when and we don't know for what. It could be for PEDs or a ... recreational drug, or it could be for something that he legitimately has a prescription for, but the paperwork was misfiled.
However that turns out, the safety position suddenly bears consideration for the New York Giants with respect to the 2014 NFL Draft. They Giants try to plan for every contingency, so we should probably look at the the possibility that the Giants could find themselves in need of a future safety.
First, let's set Hill aside and see what the rest of the depth chart looks like at safety.
1) Antrel Rolle - Rolle joined the Giants following the 2009 season and immediately started butting heads with head coach Tom Coughlin. However, like former Giant and Coughlin hater Michael Strahan, Rolle ultimately became one of Coughlin's biggest and most public supporters, and grew into one of the unquestioned leaders of a Superbowl winning defense. The 31-year-old Rolle has since earned his captaincy and is coming off of his best year as a Giant. He is a "do-it-all" safety who is can play center field as well as up close to the line of scrimmage.
2) Stevie Brown - Brown was an unheralded offseason signing in 2012 who became a starter following a combination of Addrall suspensions (one of which being Will Hill) and injuries to the safety corps. Brown took advantage of his opportunity and lead the league with eight interceptions (with another 11 passes defensed). That year he played in all 16 games, but only started 16. Brown missed the 2013 season after tearing an ACL in the preseason (on an interception return, as it so happens). While he seems encouraged about his recovery, it is certainly possible, even likely, that Brown won't be the same player in 2014 that he was in 2012.
3) Cooper Taylor - The sophomore out of Richmond might not even be a safety in 2014, but he's currently listed there, so that's what we'll look at him as. Taylor is a truly massive defensive back, measuring in at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Taylor hasn't shown much on defense (though he has been a good special teamer), but his calling card is his upside. Despite his size he is a special athlete, posting measurables in line with players 30 pounds lighter in his draft class. In college and through the draft process he has shown good range and instincts in coverage, and he is bigger than some linebackers. Since his physique could still be recovering since overcoming Wolfe-Parkinson-White syndrome (which revved his metabolism up to hummingbird speeds), it's possible that he might grow out of the secondary and become a full-time linebacker.
4) Quintin Demps - The newcomer to the New York Giants safety corps, Demps was signed this year from Kansas City. While it was initially believed that Demps was brought in as a return specialist he also played in 16 games last year for KC, recording 4 INTs, 10 passes defensed, and 25 tackles (plus 11 assists). Demps is an athletic free safety who is obviously a capable defender.
So, now let's take a look at some draft prospects the Giants could be interested in.
Ha'sean Clinton-Dix (Alabama): Ha-Ha is a big, rangy, hard-hitting safety. He's capable in zone coverage but shouldn't be in man coverage. [Prospect Profile]
Calvin Pryor (Louisville): Calvin Pryor is the other top safety in this year's class. The biggest difference between Pryor and Clinton-Dix is about two inches in height. Otherwise, they are similar athletes. Like Clinton-Dix, Pryor is a hard-hitting, rangy center fielder with coverage ability and decent ball skills. [Scouting Report]
LaMarcus Joyner (Florida State): Joyner hardly fits the Giants' mold for a defensive player. They generally like big, long, athletes. Joyner, while a good athlete, isn't a H/W/S phenom. He is, however, a very good football player. Joyner is versatile (able to play safety and cornerback), a play-maker, and a leader in Florida State's locker room. He's capable in coverage, has no fear playing the run, and is excellent at separating player from ball. All along my comparison has been Tyrann Mathieu without the drama.
Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois): Ward is the type of safety scouts might not love (due to being shorter than ideal, and not an elite athlete), but he is also the type of safety every defensive coordinator loves. He is very, very fluid, with good feet and hips for coverage. He takes good angles in the open field and plays the run well. Ward has production as well, with seven INTs and 10 pass breakups in 2013), and 62 solo tackles.
Deone Bucannon (Washington St.): Bucannon is a big, physical safety. He isn't a great coverage safety, but he is the kind of defenders that receivers fear going over the middle. Bucannon has great size and length, and looks to use his size, seeking contact. He would bring the same kind of physical presence that the Giants could lack if Hill is no longer on the team. On the other hand, Bucannon might struggle in man coverage, and his aggressiveness can hurt him with missed tackles or falling for fakes. Bucannon has the mentally to be a good, even great, special teamer while he adjusts to the pro game.
Ed Reynolds (Stanford): Reynolds was in the conversation for top safety prospect before the start of the 2013 season. However, because he hasn't consistently produced turnovers, he hasn't been getting much press through the draft process. He has the ideal frame for the position, and is coming off a productive season. However, like many of Stanford's defenders, Reynolds is smart and instinctive, but could be summed up as a better football player than athlete.
Tre Boston (North Carolina): I just had to tack Tre Boston on here as he's one of my top hidden gems. Boston is a good athlete who is remarkably fluid in coverage (played cornerback in the past), with ball-hawking skills and the range to play center field. He is also a tremendously hard hitter. In fact, the swagger and almost reckless abandon he plays with reminds a bit of Will Hill. He's prone to not believing what he sees and sometimes takes false steps, though he has the athleticism to recover. If he can iron that out and trust instincts, Boston has the potential to be a tremendous player.
So there we have it. If the worst happens and Hill and the Giants part ways and the Giants feel the need to add to their depth chart at safety, this is not a bad draft in which to do so. While they might not look to the top prospects (barring potential trade or some nightmare scenario where no quarterbacks go in the top 11, and all their primary targets are gone), there is some solid and versatile depth at the safety position in this draft.
It also bears mentioning that Rolle is in the final year of his contract. The Giants do try to plan ahead when drafting, and the possibility that Rolle might not retire a Giant has to have occurred to them. That scenario has to carry more weight in light of Hill's continued troubles.