EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Heading into his fifth draft as general manager of the New York Giants, Jerry Reese hasn’t changed much in discussing his team’s needs.

The less said the better.

His latest pre-draft news conference with the media was just like his first.

“We are going to pick the best player, guys,” Reese said.

Seven times in 30 minutes, Reese used a form of that sentence in answering questions about the draft.

So while the Giants have needs on offensive lineman, at wide receiver and linebacker, don’t be surprised if they take a defensive end or safety when they make the 19th pick in the draft on Thursday.

If there is any doubt about that philosophy, look at recent draft. New York took defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul last year despite having Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka on the roster.

It’s part of the best-player-available philosophy.

Reese has had excellent results in the draft, taking cornerback Aaron Ross (2007), safety Kenny Phillips (’08) and receiver Hakeem Nicks (’09). The only negatives with any of them have been injuries.

The lockout is what’s made this draft different from any of Reese’s previous four. There has not been a free agency period because of the current NFL labor dispute, preventing Reese from addressing any holes since the Giants missed the postseason with a 10-6 record.

“All we can do right now is to draft,” Reese said. “We are going to try to pick the best players in the draft and we will make adjustments after the draft. That’s really all you can do. Because you really don’t know what is going to happen. Right now we can control the draft.”

The Giants most pressing need seems to be on the offensive line, where four of the five starters are more than 30-years-old, and Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee is 29. Center Shaun O’Hara missed most of last season with foot and ankle problems and guard Rich Seubert needed surgery after the season to repair a kneecap injury.

Backup center Adam Koets also is coming off knee surgery and tackle Shawn Andrews battled back problems.

The two players who might combine need and the proper grade for the Giants are Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo and Florida guard Mike Pouncey, although neither may be around when New York picks.

The receiver spot also is a concern with Steve Smith’s status for the start of the season uncertain following major knee surgery. Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden also are coming off injuries.

It’s unlikely the Giants will select a receiver in the first round but if they right person plummeted, who knows?

The other areas of concern are at linebacker, where veteran Keith Bullock’s status is uncertain at age 34, and cornerback, where Ross has been bothered by hamstring problems for two seasons. The tight end spot also might need to be filled if Kevin Boss is not re-signed.

The running back position is murky because of the labor dispute.

Starter Ahmad Bradshaw is a restricted free agent, but who knows if free agency will change if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Backup Brandon Jacobs also wasn’t happy leaving the Giants locker room after the season ended, so one has to wonder whether the team will want him around.

One interesting pick at No. 19 might be Alabama back Mark Ingram, whose father (Mark) was drafted by the Giants in the first round in 1987. There are questions about Ingram because of a knee problem last year, but New York has never hesitated taking a player if they were satisfied with his physical condition.

“You always are cognizant of what your needs are,” Reese said. “But still, if we need a running back and there is high value at defensive tackle, we are not going to take a running back just because we need a running back. We are going to take that high value defensive tackle or any other position.”

Reese said he was not concerned about the draft preceding free agency this year.

“It’s just flipped,” he said. “We’ll go into the draft looking for the best players available. Then after the draft, when free agency starts, we’ll probably say, ‘OK, let’s fill some holes.’ We’ll be ready to pounce when that starts.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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