When the 2015 NFL Draft finally arrives on Thursday night, the New York Giants will have the earliest selection they have ever had during Jerry Reese's tenure as general manager -- ninth overall. Reese expects to select a player who can have an immediate impact.
"If you draft at nine, it is a premium position, regardless of what it is. It doesn't matter what position. If you draft him at nine, he is a guy you expect to come in and play and play quickly," Reese said Thursday during his annual pre-draft press conference.
"The higher you pick - that is how the system is.If you pick high in the draft - that is the way the whole system is built. If you pick high in the draft, you are supposed to get better players to help you have a better football team. If you are picking last in the draft, you get penalized for being successful. You get penalized, so you get lesser players. Whoever you pick at nine should be a better player than you pick at 32. That is the way the system is and obviously we are picking nine and expect to get a good player. A really good player."
The last time the Giants picked in the top 10 was 2004. That year, of course, they drafted quarterback Philip Rivers and traded him to the San Diego Chargers for Eli Manning.
Let's take a look at the players picked ninth overall from 2005 through last season. We will compare those to the player selected first by the Giants to see if, indeed,
Ninth pick -- Carlos Rogers, CB (Washington Redskins)
Rogers spent six seasons with the Redskins, three with the San Francisco 49ers and played last season for the Oakland Raiders. He is currently unsigned. Rogers appeared in one Pro Bowl and has 17 career interceptions. He is currently a free agent. Whether he finds a team in 2015 or not, Rogers lasted 10 seasons in the NFL as a starter.
Giants' pick (Round 2, 43rd) -- Corey Webster, CB
The Giants did not have a first-round pick due to the 204 Eli Manning-Philip Rivers trade. The Giants sent their first-round pick to the Chargers, which turned out to be 12th overall. The Chargers used that pick to select linebacker Shawne Marriman, who made three Pro Bowls and was once named All-Pro in an eight-year career.
Webster played nine seasons for the Giants, his last as a full-time starter coming in 2011. Webster was a quality player at his best, but surprisingly was only a full-time starter in five of his nine NFL seasons.
Better pick: Rogers.
Ninth pick -- Ernie Sims, LB (Detroit Lions)
As ninth picks go, Sims has never really measured up to the "really good player" standard Reese mentioned. He has become a useful journeyman who has now played for four teams, spending the last two seasons in and out of the lineup with the Dallas Cowboys.
Giants' pick (32nd, via trade with Pittsburgh Steelers) -- Mathias Kiwanuka, DE
Kiwanuka, whose career is likely now over, had an excellent nine-year career with the Giants. He was never a great player, but for most of his career was a very good one.He played defensive end. He played outside linebacker. He rushed at times from the defensive tackle spot. He did whatever was asked of him, helped the Giants win two Super Bowl titles and spent his entire career with one team.
Better pick: Kiwanuka
Ninth pick -- Ted Ginn, WR (Miami Dolphins)
No question that Ginn has not lived up to being the ninth overall pick in the draft. He has made only 40 starts as a receiver in eight seasons and has caught more than 50 passes just once -- in 2008. Since 2010, Ginn has been primarily a return man, with just one season of more than 20 catches. You don't draft a kick returner ninth overall, let alone in the first round. That said, Ginn has been an excellent return man throughout his career. He has played for four teams in his career, and will return to the Carolina Panthers for a second stint in 2015.
Giants' pick (20th) -- Aaron Ross, CB
Ross started 52 games during a seven-year career, six of which were spent with the Giants. He earned a pair of Super Bowl rings along the way. Ross, though, never really played like a first-round pick. It is hard to make the case that he was ever more than an adequate player for the Giants, and at times was a liability in coverage.
Better pick: Ginn. He's always been an impact player, even if just as a returner. Ross was never an impact player. Plus, Ginn is still in the league. What really stinks for the Giants are some of the players they passed on who went later in the first round. Those include:
Ninth pick -- Keith Rivers, LB (Cincinnati Bengals)
A lot like Sims, Rivers has never really played up to his status as a top 10 pick. Injuries held him back early in his career, and he has now become a journeyman linebacker. You recall that he did spend two seasons with the Giants, starting 14 games but barely being noticed on the field. He will play for the Dallas Cowboys, his fourth team, in 2015.
Giants' pick (32nd) -- Kenny Phillips, S
Phillips should have been a star. An arthritic knee, however, had other ideas. Phillips spent the 2009 season on IR, playing just two games, due to the knee condition. He had terrific seasons for the Giants in 2010 and 2011, but was limited to just seven games in 2012 and has not played since. He is attempting a comeback this season with the New Orleans Saints.
Better pick: Even. Phillips was the better player, far better in fact. Rivers, though, has had the longer career and remains at least a useful player.
Ninth pick -- B.J. Raji, DT (Green Bay Packers)
Raji had really one outstanding season for Green Bay. In 2010, he had 6.5 sacks and a positive grade from Pro Football Focus. Otherwise, his PFF grades have been atrocious and his production has been lacking. His run defense grades (-26.8 in 2011, -4.2 in 2012, -20.9) in 2013) are awful for a 334-pound nose tackle.
Giants' pick (29th) -- Hakeem Nicks, WR
It seems like a long time ago, but there was a time when Nicks was a terrific player. Big body. Huge, powerful hands. Aggression with the ball in the air and a will to make catches in traffic. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, catching a total of 155 passes in those two years. Sadly, injuries have taken their toll on him both physically and mentally. That player has not existed for a long time.
Better pick: Nicks
Ninth pick -- C.J. Spiller, RB (Buffalo Bills)
Spiller had five very productive seasons in Buffalo as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Spiller went to one Pro Bowl and has 6,281 all-purpose yards over those five seasons. He has moved on to the New Orleans Saints after the Bills' trade for LeSean McCoy.
Giants' pick (15th) -- Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
One great All-Pro season with 16.5 sacks in 2011. One very good 12.5 sack season in 2014. After five years we're still trying to figure out what Pierre-Paul is. A great player? A good one? His career has been maddeingly inconsistent, albeit affected by injuries.
Better pick: Pierre-Paul. Barely.
Ninth pick -- Tyron Smith, OT (Dallas Cowboys)
Smith has emerged as one of the game's best left tackles. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro, the best lineman on what might be the best offensive line in football.
Giants' pick (19th) -- Prince Amukamara, CB
Amukamara showed signs last season of becoming the top-tier cornerback the Giants hoped they had drafted, but lost half the season to a torn biceps. He's a good player. He has yet to become the shut-down guy the Giants envisioned.
Better pick: Smith
Ninth pick -- Luke Kuechly, LB, (Carolina Panthers)
Kuechly quickly pushed Beason aside in Carolina and is one of the premier linebackers in the league. A two-time All-Pro in his three seasons.
Giants' pick (32nd) -- David Wilson, RB
You know the deal. Wilson was out of the league after just two seasons due to a career-ending neck injury. We'll never know for sure what he could have become. Problem is, he always seemed like a misfit with the Giants, anyway. They drafted him to be their No. 1 "bell cow" back, and it's a role he didn't seem suited for.
Better pick: Kuechly
Ninth pick -- Dee Milliner, CB (New York Jets)
Let's just say the Jets got this one wrong. Milliner was terrible as a rookie, and injuries ended his season after just three games in 2014.
Giants' pick (19th) -- Justin Pugh, OT
Whether he ultimately ends up at guard or stays at right tackle, Pugh has been a good player for the Giants. He may never be a perennial All-Pro, but he should remain a solid anchor the Giants' offensive line for years to come. Regardless of what position he plays.
Better pick: Pugh
Ninth pick -- Anthony Barr, LB (Minnesota Vikings)
There were many Giants fans -- starved for an impact linebacker -- who wanted the Giants to pick Barr if he lasted until the 12th pick. Those voices were right that Barr looks like a fantastic player. Four sacks, three fumble recoveries, three passes defensed. 70 tackles as a rookie. Pretty darn good.
Giants' pick (12th) -- Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Do we really have to recite the litany of accomplishments? AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and best player selected in the entire draft despite playing only 12 games. Enough said.
Better pick: Beckham
The draft is an in-exact science. Maybe it isn't even a science at all. Despite the reams of information and the months -- sometimes years of study -- of prospects, it's still a whole lot like going to Las Vegas and pushing all your chips to the middle of the table. It's a total crap shoot. A gamble. Despite all the home work, all the study, despite having the odds stacked heavily in your favor if you pick early, you still have no clue exactly what you are getting when you pick a player.
The opportunity is certainly there to get better players when you pick earlier in the draft, in the first round and subsequent rounds. Reese is right that you should get better players. It doesn't always work that way, though. Sometimes you get unlucky. Sometimes you just mess up in your evaluation process. Sometimes the teams picking at the end of the draft are just plain smarter than the ones picking at the beginning -- there is a reason why some organizations consistently win and some, even with yearly high picks, always manage to lose.
Our study of the last 10 drafts shows a mixed bag. Some years the Giants have done better than the team with the ninth pick, even when picking at the end. Some years they have not.
We only really know this much leading into Thursday night -- the 2015 season is an absolutely critical one for the Giants. Reese can't be expected to hit a Beckham-style grand slam, that doesn't happen very often. He absolutely, however, has to get the Giants a player here who can help them as a rookie and be an impact player for the next several seasons.