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New York Giants’ best 53-man roster, post-1970

Here’ mine ... what’s yours?

Eli Manning Announces Retirement Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Every so often a question comes to the Big Blue View Mailbag that demands more than a relatively short ‘Mailbag’ response. The question demands to stand on its own. Such is the case with the following question I have been holding onto for several weeks:

Bryan Camacho asks: Since a new era of Giants football is about to begin, eventually, and with unknown time until then, I thought now would be an interesting time for this.

If you could play GM and build your 53-man roster (or maybe just starters), with players from 1970 to present, Giants only, who would you include? I especially think it could be fascinating to compare the teams that the rest of BBV creates. I assume that some people would build a team based on their age and players they are more familiar with watching.

Do you create a 3-4 or 4-3 defense? Do you allow for players who had personal problems just based on their talent, or do you close out some names in order to build a straightforward team. Who are your running backs and wide receivers?

Offense (24)

Quarterback (2)Starter: Eli Manning; Reserve: Phil Simms

I honestly thought about adding either Jeff Hostetler, who won a Super Bowl with the Giants, or Kerry Collins, who took the Giants to one. In the end, though, there is a clear separation between Manning, Simms, and everyone else.

Running back (3)Tiki Barber, Rodney Hampton, Brandon Jacobs

This was sooooo difficult. My first decision was leaving Saquon Barkley off this 53. There are so many quality backs I left off (Ahmad Bradshaw, Ottis Anderson, Ron Johnson, Joe Morris) who had long, productive careers I could not in good conscience include Barkley after two seasons. I ended up with the players ranked first (Barber), second (Hampton) and fourth (Jacobs) in franchise rushing yards.

Fullback (1)Madison Hedgecock

I considered Henry Hynoski and Charles Way here, but Hedgecock was the clear choice. Hynoski was popular, but Hedgecock was better. Way (337 carries, 1,356 yards, 4.0 yards per carry) and 118 receptions in five seasons was as much running back as fullback.

Tight end (4)Starter: Mark Bavaro. Reserves: Jeremy Shockey, Howard Cross, Bob Tucker

Shockey was the most talented. Sadly, he was also the most combustible. Bavaro, though, was everything a tight end is supposed to be. Cross is the blocking tight end. Tucker was a talented player who led the Giants in receptions five times in six years from 1971-76.

Wide receiver (5)Odell Beckham Jr., Amani Toomer, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Plaxico Burress

Maybe you are surprised I put Beckham on this team. It’s apparent, though, that he belongs.

Offensive line (9)Starters: Jumbo Elliott (LT), Rich Seubert (LG), Bart Oates (C), Chris Snee (RG), David Diehl (RT). Reserves: Shaun O’Hara, William Roberts, Brad Benson, Doug Riesenberg

My biggest decision here was a center. Younger Giants fans would, I think, automatically expect O’Hara to get the nod. Maybe he should. O’Hara made three Pro Bowls in seven seasons with the Giants, though the last one was during a year in which he only played six games and probably didn’t deserve it. Oates played nine seasons with the Giants and made three Pro Bowls, then made two more in his final two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. It’s really a coin flip.

Benson and Diehl both played multiple positions so I could probably get away with eight linemen. I felt, though, that Riesenberg deserved a spot.

Honestly, I also feel like I have left someone off this list of linemen. You tell me.

Houston Texans v New York Giants
Antrel Rolle
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Defense (25)

What defense am I playing? I’m leaving that up to Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Steve Spagnuolo, Tom Coughlin, and any other former Giants coach you want to mention. Probably a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, a modern hybrid approach.

Here are the guys I’m doing it with:

Defensive tackle (4) — John Mendenhall, Jim Burt, Keith Hamilton, Fred Robbins

This was a harder position than I expected. It was just difficult to find players who had succeeded for long enough periods of time to be placed on this roster. Damon Harrison was a Giant for less than three seasons. Linval Joseph has been better away from New York than with the Giants. Dalvin Tomlinson or Dexter Lawrence might one day make this roster.

By the way, if you aren’t familiar with Mendenhall, look him up. A 1972 third-round pick, he was an eight-year starter and a bright spot during a dark period for the Giants.

Defensive end (6)Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, Leonard Marshall, George Martin

Darn near impossible to leave any of these guys off the list.

Linebacker (6) — Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, Brad Van Pelt, Jesse Armstead, Antonio Pierce

Again, how do you leave any of these guys off this team?

Cornerback (4) Corey Webster, Jason Sehorn, Mark Collins, Mark Haynes

A little bit light, but I couldn’t justify adding Perry Williams or Phillippi Sparks.

Safety (5)Antrel Rolle, Beasley Reece, Gibril Wilson, Landon Collins, Terry Kinard

It was difficult for me to leave Kenny Phillips off this list. Wilson, though, had 11 interceptions and six forced fumbles in 52 games as a Giant. As talented as he was, Phillips played only three full seasons for the Giants, as he was limited to two games in 2008 and seven in 2012. Reece, a guy who is easy to forget about, played six full seasons with the Giants and part of a seventh.

Houston Texans vs New York Giants - November 5, 2006
Jeff Feagles
Photo by James R. Morton/NFLPhotoLibrary

Special teams (4)

PunterJeff Feagles

PlacekickerLawrence Tynes

Long-snapperZak DeOssie

Kick returner — Dave Meggett

I had to make space for Meggett, the best return man in franchise history. He is No. 1 in franchise history with 2,230 punt return yards, averaging 11.0 per return. Meggett is No. 1 in kickoff return yards with 2,989, averaging 20.5 per return.

I chose Tynes as the placekicker simply because of the huge kicks he made in helping the Giants win two Super Bowl titles.

That’s my team. Think you can build a better one? Have at it.