Published April 30, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The New York Giants finished the NFL draft believing they landed two of the top 15 players, improved their team speed, found a return man and acquired a bunch of guys to cure a special teams unit that probably cost them a playoff berth last season.
All they need now is a season.
And that's something that is becoming more and more uncertain with a labor impasse that has seen the NFL switch gears from a lockout to an offseason training program back to a lockout in the past 72 hours.
"It is a little strange," general manager Jerry Reese said Saturday after the Giants (10-6) drafted the last of eight players. "Everybody is upstairs looking at each other wondering what do we do now. It's usually kind of controlled chaos up there after the draft trying to sign free agents."
With the lockout, there are no free agents to sign. So, all that was left to think about was the players they had taken, and to re-evaluate the board once the draft was done.
"We're really pleased with our draft class," Reese said.
There is good reason. New York was thrilled to have Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara fall to them with the 19th pick and even happier that North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who did not play last season after taking illegal gifts from an agent, was still available in the second round with pick No. 52.
"On paper, it looks pretty good, but they have to get out there and do it," Reese said. "They have to get out there and show they are top 15 picks. I hope they do that."
Amukamara and Austin were more value picks than needs. The Giants touched need areas in the final five rounds, taking Troy receiver-returnman Jerrel Jernigan in the third round, Indiana offensive tackle James Brewer in the fourth, Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, Iowa safety Tyler Sash and South Florida linebacker Jacquian Williams in the sixth round and finally, Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott in the seventh.
Jernigan had 84 catches last season and 262 in his career. He has the athletic ability to run the wildcat, and his quickness makes him a threat on both kickoff and punt returns, which the Giants need after finishing 31st in both categories last season.
The 6-foot-6, 323-pound Brewer is a former basketball player who only turned to football late in high school.
"He is real agile for a guy his size," said Marc Ross, the Giants' director of college scouting. "He has to get stronger, get better with his fundamentals of football. But he has loads of talent. And I think, for us, the situation where we have some veteran guys, he will come in and learn and develop and won't get thrown into the fire. It is a perfect situation for him."
Jones, Sash and Williams all have size and speed and should help improve a special teams unit that is best remembered for DeSean Jackson's punt return on the final play of the game that capped Philadelphia's fourth-quarter rally from a 21-point deficit en route to a 38-31 win in December. It's a loss that cost New York the NFC East title, and eventually a playoff berth for the second straight season.
Jones is an All-American who was among the Spartans' all-time leaders in tackles for loss with 46½ and third all-time in tackles with 465.
"A lot of teams passed on me, but I'm hungrier than ever to prove myself," Jones said. "I wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school, but yet I became a four-year starter and an All-American."
Sash had 13 interceptions in three years, leaving after his junior year for the NFL. He could fit right into the rotation since veteran Deon Grant is a free agent and may not be back.
"He's a smart player, he can line up the entire defense, tell everybody what they should do," Reese said. "You love those kinds of guys."
Williams led South Florida with 71 tackles, including 11 for losses. He also had 2½ sacks and one interception.
"A lot of people didn't know him, but our scouts did a good job of digging this guy out," Reese said. "We think he can give us a boost on special teams, while he is learning how to play on this level."
Scott led the Terrapins with 708 yards rushing, and a 5.8 yard average. He also caught 14 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns. He gained 1,133 yards as a sophomore, and then saw his production slip the last two years.
"We took a flyer on the guy because he is big and fast," Reese said, alluding to his 4.34 speed in the 40-yard dash. "We hope this guy develops into a Willie Parker, one of those kinds of things."
Reese refused to discuss what needs remain for the Giants once football gets back to normal and free agency starts.