Why were the New York Giants forced to be more aggressive in free agency this offseason that at any time in recent memory? More importantly, why have the Giants failed to make the playoffs in four of the past five seasons?
The short answer, and the most accurate one, is that during that five-year period their work in the NFL Draft has not been good enough. In their own ways, both co-owner John Mara and general manager Jerry Reese have admitted as much.
"It's personnel and there's nobody batting 1.000 in personnel," Reese said last week during his pre-draft press conference. "We sure want to do better that what we've done in the past, in the last few drafts, with the middle and late-round picks."
Mara was more direct in his end-of-season press conference in January: "I think we have not gotten the production that we wanted out of certain draft slots," Mara said. "We have missed on some guys. We've had some bad luck with second- and third-round picks being hurt, first round picks in the case of Kenny Phillips, who I thought was going to be a Pro Bowl safety for us for years. We have missed on guys, no question about it.
"There are a few cases where we took a chance, knowing that we were taking a chance, thinking that if we hit on this guy, maybe we'll knock it out of the park. If we miss, we miss, and we missed a few times, but that's going to happen."
Reese often says two things about the draft. First, he says all the time that when you take players in the first three rounds you expect those players to contribute quickly. Players taken in rounds 4-7, on what is now the draft's third day, are developmental projects you hope become useful players down the road.
Let's look at each of the Giants' last five drafts using those two criteria.
Round 1 (29th) -- Hakeem Nicks
Round 2 (45th) -- Clint Sintim
Round 2 (60th) -- Will Beatty
Round 3 (85th) -- Ramses Barden
Round 3 (100th) -- Travis Beckum
Round 4 (129th) -- Andre Brown
Round 5 (151st) -- Rhett Bomar
Round 6 (200) -- DeAndre Wright
Round 7 (238) -- Stoney Woodson
This is commonly considered Reese's worst draft, and you can see why. Entering 2014, all the Giants have left to show for it is Will Beatty -- and we still really aren't sure if he is a good left tackle, an average left tackle, or a below-average left tackle. The Giants, of course, got two oustanding years from Hakeem Nicks, and two not-so-good ones. In reality, they got little to nothing from Ramses Barden (29 career catches) and Travis Beckum (26). That's five picks in the top 100 and only two truly useful players. Not good enough.
As for rounds 4-7, only Andre Brown has done anything. Brown, in fact, is the only player still in the league. Rhett Bomar bounced around for a couple of years but never played a down. Cornerbacks DeAndre Wright and Stoney Woodson never made it out of training camp. Again, not good enough.
Round 1 (15th) -- Jason Pierre-Paul
Round 2 (46th) -- Linval Joseph
Round 3 (76th) -- Chad Jones
Round 4 (115th) -- Philip Dillard
Round 5 (147th) -- Mitch Petrus
Round 6 (184th) -- Adrian Tracy
Round 7 (221st) -- Matt Dodge
Jason Pierre-Paul has the only Pro Bowl appearance of any player the Giants have selected during the past five years. Linval Joseph is a good player, but he is now gone. Despite what happened to Chad Jones, the first three rounds of this draft were a success.
The last four picks? We won't even discuss Matt Dodge, but there isn't a single player from that group who is either still in the league or did anything truly productive as an NFL player. The back half of this draft is a monumental flop.
Round 1 (19th) -- Prince Amukamara
Round 2 (52nd) -- Marvin Austin
Round 3 (83rd) -- Jerrel Jernigan
Round 4 (117th) -- James Brewer
Round 6 (185th) -- Greg Jones
Round 6 (198th) -- Tyler Sash
Round 6 (202nd) -- Jacquian Williams
Round 7 (221st) -- Da'Rel Scott
A mixed bag here. In the first three rounds Amukamara has proven to be a good player who might yet improve. Austin was a total failure. Jernigan? Two-and-three-quarter seasons of nothing and then three spectacular games at the end of last year. Who knows what we will get in 2014?
The back half of the draft delivered Jacquian Williams, who has helped at linebacker. James Brewer is still around, but he's little more than depth.
In the end, probably not enough has come from this class. The Austin flop is one the Giants have spent tons of resources attempting to recover from.
Round 1 (32nd) -- David Wilson
Round 2 (63rd) -- Rueben Randle
Round 3 (94th) -- Jayron Hosley
Round 4 (127th) -- Adrien Robinson
Round 4 (131st) -- Brandon Mosley
Round 6 (201st) -- Matt McCants
Round 7 239th) -- Markus Kuhn
What do the Giants have out of this class? Your guess is really as good as mine.
Wilson's future remains in doubt, and even if he plays there is the question of how good he actually is. Hosley is buried on the depth chart and the Giants seem to be doing everything possible to ensure he never plays. Randle? The Giants need him to step up, but no one seems certain he can.
The back half of the draft? Markus Kuhn is, at best, a rotational fourth or fifth defensive tackle. McCants is gone. We don't yet know what Robinson and Mosley can be.
This may yet turn out to be an excellent class. To date, though, the Giants have not gotten nearly enough from it.
Round 1 (19th) -- Justin Pugh
Round 2 (49th) -- Johnathan Hankins
Round 3 81st) -- Damontre Moore
Round 4 (110th) -- Ryan Nassib
Round 5 (152nd) -- Cooper Taylor
Round 7 225th) -- Eric Herman
Round 7 (253rd) -- Michael Cox
Pugh started all 16 games at right tackle, had an excellent season and might end up being the best Giants' draft pick of the past five years. That depends largely on what happens with Pierre-Paul.
The rest of this class? Too early to tell. Hankins looks like a good player. Moore proved to be a developmental guy who gave the Giants little. As for what the Giants get from the last four picks, it's too early to pass judgment.
Out of those five draft classes the Giants have gotten one Pro Bowl -- Pierre-Paul in 2011. There are four players -- Pugh, Pierre-Paul, Amukamara and Beatty -- who look like certain starters. Randle, Hankins, Adrien Robinson and Jacquian Williams.
Really that is nowhere near good enough to be a team that consistently makes the playoffs. It is also why Mara was right when he said that this time around the Giants "really need to have a great draft."