Draft 2012: What the Giants got, from the polished L.S.U. receiver to the old rookie tackle from Germany
The following is an analysis of the Giants draft picks from Rounds 2 through 6. For my analysis of Giants first-round pick David Wilson, click here.
2nd Round (63): Rueben Randle, WR, LSU (6-3, 210)
Randle is big, smooth and polished, with good hands and the body control and coordination needed to “high-point” the ball. (That is, to catch it at its peak.) His gliding stride allows him to get out of his breaks effortlessly, helping him gain separation from defensive backs.
Another appealing thing about Randle, according to Giants general manager Jerry Reese: He’s better prepared for the pro game than most college receivers.
“He’s N.F.L.-ready," Reese said. "He runs the entire route tree. In this day and age in college football, it’s all about the spread offense, and guys don’t run the full tree. This guy runs the full tree.”
Randle likely slipped to the end of the second round for two reasons: One, he played in a run-oriented offense at L.S.U. with relatively poor quarterbacks, which precluded him from posting big numbers.
Two, his combine performance was underwhelming: He ran a below-average 4.55 40-yard dash, and his vertical leap of 31 was just one inch better than the worst receiver tested.
Speed tends to be an overrated commodity in wide receivers, but Randle’s lack of it limits him somewhat: He projects more as an intermediate threat than a deep home-run threat. Of course, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz don’t light up stopwatches either, and nobody’s accusing them of lacking big play ability.
As college scouting director Marc Ross said, “I think our guys who we have now, Hakeem and Victor, if you put them at the combine you won’t notice them, but you put them on the football field and they just take their game to another level.”
It’s usually foolish to buy into the spin front-office types put on players immediately after drafting them, but it seemed believable when Ross said that Randle “was in our stack” of players the Giants had ranked from 15th to 32nd, who they basically considered of near-equal ability.
The Giants made mention of this group of players of similar talent before the draft, which fueled speculation that they might trade down in the first round in the likelihood of still being able to land one of these players. They didn’t do that, but it looks like they lucked out and managed to get two players, in David Wilson and Randle, from this group.
Where he fits:
The Giants have a two-time Super Bowl M.VP. quarterback in his prime, and in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, they have two receivers with a chance to go down as the best the franchise has ever had.
For the next several years, the Giants will win on the strength of Eli Manning’s passing. He had the sixth-most passing yards ever last year, and he should be expected to continue putting up numbers that would have been undreamed of for a Giants quarterback several years ago.
Randle represents an investment in the passing game, and obviously a replacement for Mario Manningham, who left in free agency. And though Cruz and Nicks will hopefully be the starters for many more years, the Giants run enough multiple receiver looks for the title of “starter” to be somewhat meaningless: Randle will be on the field a lot, and soon. His frame and long strides make him best suited to be an outside receiver, thus enabling Cruz to line up in the slot. Cruz’s quickness and savviness in confined spaces, along with his telepathic communication he developed last year with Eli Manning, make him more of a weapon in the slot than on the outside.
The selection of Randle also shows that the Giants weren’t sold on the other receivers on their roster. Domenik Hixon is coming off his second ACL surgery in two years. Ramses Barden, a third round pick in 2009, has basically been a bust. Jerrel Jernigan, a third round pick in 2011, is better suited to the slot at only 5-foot-9.
3rd Round (94): Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech (5-10, 178)
The fact that Hosley’s on the small side, that this draft was deep with quality cornerbacks, and that he failed a drug test at the combine enabled the Giants to pick him where they did.
(Nobody’s elaborating on the drug test. But because Hosley was a favorite of Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, and because his stock didn’t drop too much, it’s reasonable to guess that it was marijuana, which in turn means the Giants, reasonably, didn’t hold this against him too much. It should also be noted that the last third-round pick who slipped because of unprepossessing size and a failed drug test was Mario Manningham in 2009. That worked out pretty well.)
Hosley profiles as the perfect slot corner and possibly more. His small size enables his excellent “short-area-quickness,” in scoutspeak. In other words, while he might not be cut out for running and jumping with outside receivers like Calvin Johnson, he’s well suited to shadowing smaller, quicker guys like Wes Welker and Victor Cruz.
Scouts also speak highly of his spatial instincts and route awareness. These things are hard to get a handle on when looking at college players, but they’re really the most important attributes for a player, and give hope that Hosley’s better than his middling “measurables,” like his 4.47 40-yard dash.
His ability to “play bigger than he is” was the subject of a nice turn of phrase by Jerry Reese: “He’s not a big man, but this guy has athletic arrogance. His plays like a big guy.”
Where he fits:
Hosley will likely compete with Prince Amukamara, last year’s first-round draft pick, for the slot corner position. It's is a major position of need for the Giants, whose inadequacy there almost sunk last season (it’s easy to forget how close this came to happening).
Because of injury last year to Amukamara and several other cornerbacks, Antrel Rolle was thrust into slot corner duty for much of the year, and he didn’t acquit himself well: Quarterbacks who threw his way posted a rating of 104.0, compared to the league average of 82.5.
The competition with Amukamara itself will be a good thing, maximizing the odds that the Giants will net at least one good corner from the past two drafts. Amukamara missed most of last season due to injury, the effects of which are still lingering, and performed poorly when he finally got on the field. His numbers were ghastly: He allowed quarterbacks a rating of 125.0 and a completion percentage of 70 percent.
Hosley can also return punts. His teammate at Virginia Tech, David Wilson, can return kicks, meaning that the Giants might just have overhauled their poor return game with their first two picks. Last year, according to FootballOutsiders’ DVOA metric, the Giants were tenth worst in kick returns, and third worst in punt returns.
4th round (127): Adrien Robinson, TE, Cincinnati (6-4, 267)
A throwback to the “Planet Theory” drafts under Bill Parcells and George Young, which held that people with rare size and speed combinations are worth taking flyers on because there are only a certain number of people on the planet who possess them.
Robinson is 6-4, 267, and ran a wide-receiver-like 4.56 40-yard dash. Scouts say he has sure hands. As a blocker, has a strong lower body and a good base.
But that’s all projection. Because Robinson’s downside is obvious: For as impressive as his workouts have been, he’s shown very little in terms of results on the field. At Cincinnati, in an offense that frequently employs four or five wide receivers running quick horizontal routes, the tight end was marginalized in both the passing and running games.
Last year was Robinson’s first as a nominal starter. He posted career highs in receptions and yards with 12, and 183, respectively. So Robinson is all theory at this point, making him a classic “boom or bust” pick.
Reese evidently thinks the former is more likely. Pointing to Robinson’s size-speed combination and the fact that “he hasn’t scratched the surface” of his talent, he said Robinson “is kind of a JPP of tight ends. We like these kinds of people.”
Reese also alluded to the Midas Touch of tight ends coach Mike Pope, whose record at developing tight ends has been stellar ever since the Giants used a fourth round draft pick 27 years ago on Mark Bavaro. More recently, Pope is credited with turning Jeremy Shockey into a good blocker, and turning theretofore nobodies Kevin Boss (a sixth-round pick) and Jake Ballard (an undrafted free agent) into somebodies.
Where he fits:
Probably nowhere but special teams for this coming year. Martellus Bennett, signed to a one-year contract, is the undisputed starter at tight end, with Bear Pascoe entrenched as the second tight end in running situations that call for a good blocker.
Reese expressed excitement about Robinson’s potential contribution on special teams: “He is going to be one of those big guys that can run down on special teams and be a solid contributor to your big for special teams with that height, weight, and speed.”
4th round (131): Brandon Mosley, OT, Auburn (6-6, 314)
Mosely is a quick and agile lineman who played both right and left tackle spots in college. Tom Coughlin said he might start his pro career at guard. In junior college, Mosley played tight end and defensive end.
On the downside, Mosley is susceptible to power moves and is unpolished technique-wise. That’s understandable, given his relative inexperience as an offensive lineman at the top college level. As with Robinson, the success of the Mosley pick hinges on how Mosley will develop more than whether or not the Giants guessed right on what he is now.
Then there’s this: As proof that everything you hear, from everybody, about the N.F.L draft has to be taken with a grain of salt, here’s two takes on Mosley’s intelligence:
From Scouts, Inc.: Keeping academics in order has been a struggle however and there are concerns regarding mental capacity. Did not quality academically coming out of high school so enrolled Georgia Military School and transferred to Coffeyville [Junior College] a year later. Turns 24 in December.
From Jerry Reese: Big, tough, smart. Just like we like in our offensive line room…. The guy has a good concept. He understands, knows how to play.
Where he fits:
Somewhere in the offensive-line mix. He likely won’t play much this year, but probably will in the not-too-distant future. How much Mosley develops, and where on the line he does, is anybody’s guess.
Restocking the offensive line is a priority, given that Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe, both of whom played key roles last year, are free agents after this year.
6th Round (201): Matt McCants, OT, UAB (6-6, 308)
McCants is a similar project to Mosley: Both are athletic but raw in terms of technique, and susceptible to being pushed around. McCants didn’t even play football until his senior year of high school. Before then, he was the tuba player in his high school marching band.
McCants’s best attributes are quickness and his long arms, which are ideal for a left tackle. The key is working on technique and adding bulk.
Said Reese, “I think at the combine he was 308. I think he’s 315 now. I think he will be 325 pounds in a blink. A very interesting prospect for us. We think in a year from now he could really make some headway and challenge for a spot in our starting lineup.”
Where he fits:
In the offensive line mix, competing for playing time at tackle, likely by 2013 at the earliest.
Who plays tackle this year for the Giants is up in the air. The presumptive starters are Will Beatty at left tackle and David Diehl at right tackle, although that’s very much subject to change. Sean Locklear, who played both right and left tackle last year for the Washington Redskins, was signed as a free agent. James Brewer, a second-year man, has been praised in the press by the front office.
Markus Kuhn, DT, NC State (6-5, 300)
An inexperienced player with marginal on-field productivity but good combine numbers: Kuhn ran a 4.9 in the 40-yard dash, and performed well above average in the 3-cone, 20-yard shuffle, and vertical and broad jumps.
But he wasn’t a starter in college until his senior year, and he’s old for a rookie: He turns 26 this training camp. He’s also a native of Germany.
Where he fits:
Sixth-round picks are not guaranteed to make the team, but Kuhn might help his cause on special teams.
Said Reese, “He’s fast, a straight-line fast guy so we think he can run down on kickoffs. Again, when we get this late in the draft we look for special things that guys can do and he’s big and strong and can run fast and he plays hard.”