We are half-way through the 2015 season, so it makes sense to check in on the state of the New York Giants' roster. It has been well established that the Giants' roster has holes in it, some bigger than others. But I tracked down our Prodigal Poster InvictusXI to help me identify exactly how big those holes are, and some pieces the Giants could look for to fill them.
We assigned each position an "urgency level" from 1 to 10, with 1 being "no urgency" and 10 being "dumpster fire". Then we looked to free agency and the draft to address each position based on the urgency level, the value of available talent.
So without further ado, let's get to it.
Urgency Level: 1
Potential Solution: None needed. Eli Manning is playing at the top of his game, and Ryan Nassib has been great at holding the clip board.
Urgency Level: 5 - Some urgency here if Geoff Schwartz can't stay healthy. The trio of Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, and Weston Richburg are developing into a special unit, and Will Beatty is a woefully underrated offensive tackle.
Potential Solution: If the the Giants feel they can't rely on Schwartz, they could look into Ravens free agent Kelechi Osemele . If the Giatns are going to be aggressive elsewhere, or believe that Bobby Hart can develop into a starter at right guard, they could wait a year and see how the rookie develops.
Urgency Level: 3 - The Giants have four running backs who are all capable, three of whom are in or entering the prime of their careers.
Potential Solution: Getting the most out of this position might just need an adjustment in how they are used. Changes such as giving Orleans Darkwa more carries, deciding who will be the "lead" running back based on matchup rather than a strict rotation, and adopting a Pistol formation to get Andre Williams behind center rather than off to the side as in the Shotgun could help the Giants get more out of all four of their running backs.
Urgency Level: 8 - Larry Donnell is a roller coaster who still plays tight end like a quarterback. Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham could develop into weapons as H-backs, but they aren't there yet.
Potential Solution: The Giants need a legitimate contributor at tight end, and that could be free agent Dwayne Allen. The former Clemson Tiger would fit perfectly in Ben McAdoo's offense and is already a productive NFL player.
Urgency Level: 7 - Rueben Randle is a free agent, we don't know what the Giants will ever get from Victor Cruz, and Geremy Davis is a sixth-round unknown who hasn't shown the ability to consistently separate from NFL coverage.
Potential Solution: The Giants need to put resources back into the wide receiver position. The free agent market is basically Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randle, and everybody else. If they re-sign Randle at a reasonable price, drafting a receiver like Pharoh Cooper in the third round could be a good mixture of value and need. If the Giants need another outside receiver, Travin Dural of LSU brings size, speed, big play potential, and improving route running from the Giants' farm team.
Urgency Level: 6 - The Giants need to move on from Markus Kuhn and Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins was a great player in his prime, but that prime has passed. The Giants have a great DT in John Hankins, an ascending one in Jay Bromley, and good potential nose tackle in Lous Nix (assuming he isn't cut in the coming weeks to make room for a returning injured player).
Potential Solution: The Giants would be well served to draft a 3-technique to help with disrupting offenses and continue to build a young DT rotation. Baylor's Andrew Billings broke "The Strongest Man In The World" Mark Henery's powerlifting records while he was still in high school. The Giants love powerful linemen, and Billings certainly is that. OSU's Adolphus Washington and Louisville's Sheldon Rankins are also possibilities.
Urgency Level: 10 - Do we really need to explain this one? The Giants need to pour resources into this position. With Robert Ayers a 30-year-old free agent, Damontre Moore perpetually in Tom Coughlin's doghouse, Kerry Wynn as bad at rushing the passer as he is good against the run, Owa Odighizuwa still developing as a pass rusher, and JPP a one-handed free agent, the Giants pass rush might literally be nonexistent in 2016.
Potential Solution: The Giants will need a couple breaks with the development of Owa and Moore and a big infusion of talent. If JPP is able to return to his old self, the Giants absolutely should make an effort to re-sign him to a long term contract. Eagles free agent Vinny Curry is currently being wasted in a Philly's 3-4 defense. In the draft, Emmanuel Ogbah of Oklahoma State and Shaq Lawson of Clemson are both athletic -- and fairly complete -- DEs would fit the Giants' defense.
Carl Nassib (younger brother to Ryan Nassib, who leads all of FBS with 15 sacks) of Penn State and Super-Freak Shawn Oakman of Baylor could also be in consideration pending Nassib's combine workout and Oakman's interviews -- Oakman is a singularly gifted athlete, but teams will need to find out what his work ethic is like. He is too athletic to not be dominating every single OT he faces. GM's will need to find out whether Nassib is athletic enough to be an impact edge rusher at the next level.
Urgency Level: 7 - Devon Kennard is one of the under the radar stars of the NFL, and J.T. Thomas has been a solid addition. However, the Giants need more than two good linebackers.
Potential Solutions: The free agency class is lacking, so they will need to turn to the draft to reload (or just plain load?) their linebacker corps. Myles Jack (UCLA) , Reggie Ragland (Alabama), Kendell Beckwith (LSU), Scooby Wright (Arizona), and Joshua Perry (OSU) could all be in play for the Giants. Myles Jack is undersized but probably the most versatile of the bunch, with an explosive and fluid athleticism that, combined with superb instincts, lets him cover, rush the passer, and defend the run equally well.
In that scenario Devon Kennard would likely be moving inside and calling the defense. In "Finding Giants" it was mentioned that Kennard could be the Giants starting middle linebacker, and Jon Beason has heaped praise upon the sophomore for his intelligence and preparation.
Urgency Level: 8 - A large part of this grade is due to Prince Amukamara's status as a free agent. However, even with him re-signed they could use more. Jayron Hosley is a fine backup outside corner, but Trumaine McBride has taken steps back as a slot defender and the Giants don't really have anything behind him.
Potential Solutions: They could look at Casey Hayward from Green Bay as a free agent. They could also look at UCLA's Fabian Moreau to provide depth. Moreau is out with an injury, but he is a competitive and athletic corner who can play on an island or in the slot. He is disciplined in defending passes but doesn't come down with many interceptions. That and a foot injury costing him his senior season may knock him down draft charts
Urgency Level: 8 - Brandon Meriweather has been much better than many thought, and Landon Collins is improving quickly. However, with three quarters of the Giants' anticipated safety depth chart on the IR, there is almost no clarity moving forward.
Potential Solution: To solidify the position, and the back-end of the defense, the Giants could look to sign Tashaun Gipson from the Browns. He is a young and talented free safety with experience playing against one of the best receivers in the league. He would also likely be very expensive. Tony Jefferson of Arizona and Tavon Wilson of New England are a pair of young (23 and 25 respectively) safeties from sophisticated defenses that might be much better deals.
First off: No, we are by no means writing the 2015 season off. Simply taking a look at the state of the roster and which positions need to be addressed first and most aggressively as it stands right now. The team's needs today likely won't be the same as in in Week 12, and those won't be the same needs as after the season. But putting a marker down about where the team is mid-season and comparing it to where they are whenever their season ends could make for an interesting contrast.
As of right now, the Giants would be drafting 21st overall -- in the playoffs, but only better than the Indianapolis Colts.
Using our urgency levels and potential solutions, let's take a look at how a moderately aggressive 2016 off-season could change the Giants:
-- Beason might stick as a backup and veteran mentor to the young linebackers, but not at his current cap number.
Jason Pierre-Paul (pending the finish to his 2015 season.)
-- The re-signing of Randle and Hosley might raise a few eyebrows. Randle is one of the top FA receivers out there and Hosley has proven adequate as a back-up and spot starter. He should improve with more reps outside in Spags' defense.
Free Agency Signings
Vinny Curry (DE, Philadelphia) - Curry will likely be the best edge rusher on the market who fits the Giants' system. It also takes an asset away from a division rival.
Casey Hayward (CB, Green Bay) - Hayward is a "do it all" corner who is a great slot corner and blitzer who can help shut down quick passes and add more teeth to the Giants' pass rush
Tony Jefferson (S, Arizona) - Jefferson is a playmaker with lots of experience in an aggressive, sophisticated defense. He could be the perfect compliment to Landon Collins and Nat Berhe. (Sadly, with a pair of leg injuries in two years, we can't count on Bennett Jackson to contribute going forwards)
Dwayne Allen (TE, Indianapolis) - Allen's build, athleticism, and well-rounded skill set are perfect for the Giants' offense. He can line up in-line, in the slot, or in the backfield and be effective.
1) Myles Jack (LB, UCLA) - Jack can play inside or outside, is a natural athlete who would instantly improve the Giants ability to cover the middle of the field and is explosive enough to ad a legitimate speed threat to the Giants' pass rush as a blitzer. He should be a top-15 pick, but falls due to his knee injury. Good thing, because he has tremendous value and improves the Giants' EDGE and LB position with a single pick.
2) Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville) - Rankins isn't a widely known name yet, but in Lorenzo Mauldin's last year, Rankins lead Louisville in sacks and tackles for loss. He is powerful, athletic, disruptive, and a natural 3-technique
3) Pharoh Cooper (WR, South Carolina) - Cooper is a Swiss army knife of a receiver who can line up inside, outside, in the backfield, go in motion, and be used as a returner. If Cruz isn't able to return to form after his injuries, Cooper could be a nice successor and help take some load off of Dwayne Harris. Coming out of Steve Spurrier's offense he has a pretty complete route tree, solid route running, and can contribute right away.
4) Karl Joseph (FS, West Virginia) - This is a flier, but Joseph is a physical playmaker for the Mountaineers' defense. His knee injury is a definite risk for a team that always has to deal with injury concerns, but healthy he is a borderline 1st round talent. It's worth the risk.
5) Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA) - Moreau went down with a foot injury so this is a flier as well. However he is a nice combination of talented and disciplined. Two traits the Giants' defense could use more of.