Palladino: Will Picks Pan Out? Jets, Giants Find Plenty Of Potential In Draft
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By Ernie Palladino
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The St. Louis Rams took Michael Sam in the seventh round, making him the first openly gay player to be drafted in NFL history.
With that said, let’s get to Jets and Giants football, and the stuff that will actually impact the locals’ 2014 season.
Whether the Giants found the next, great, small wide receiver in LSU’s Odell Beckham or the Jets mined a scourge of pass-catchers in Louisville safety Calvin Pryor won’t come into focus for a while. We all know how first-round picks go, which is you never know how first-round picks go.
What we do know is that both teams went into Sunday just like the league’s other 30 teams — with high hopes that the previous three days brought a mother-lode of young talent that will help them reach the next level sooner than later.
The Jets might have done themselves some major favors by keeping all 12 of their picks. In the veritable cavalry charge that was their draft, they filled a need at tight end with second-rounder Jace Amaro of Texas Tech, who by the way has no shortage of confidence. At 6-5, 265, he’ll make a nice target for whoever wins the upcoming quarterback battle, Michael Vick or Geno Smith.
Showing wisdom in addressing the short-term nature of Vick and the uncertainty surrounding Smith, John Idzik backed himself up with yet another quarterback with his sixth-round compensatory pick when he plucked Tajh Boyd of Clemson. There’s nothing like taking a guy the head coach has an intimate knowledge of. Rex Ryan’s son roomed with Boyd. He’ll undoubtedly be a project, but a GM can’t go wrong in burning one of a dozen picks on a thrower. If nothing else, he shows well in camp and unseats the popular but seldom-used Matt Simms as the emergency backup.
They also pulled three wide receivers out of the pool for a roster sorely in need of someone besides Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley. Going back-to-back receivers in the fourth round with smallish (5-foot-9, 165) Jalen Saunders of Oklahoma at No. 104 overall and bulky possession-type Shaq Evans of UCLA at No. 115 overall was smart, but so was grabbing Nebraska’s Quincy Enunwa in the sixth round. He’s got long arms and, though he can use some work on his route running, he might eventually become an target for the end zone fade.
The Giants might have found a triple-threat in Beckham, who not only is a speedster on offense, but proved himself an outstanding kickoff and punt returner. At 5-11, he’s not exactly the ideal size, and he’s probably not going to out-jump anyone in the corner of the end zone. But he’s quick, and that’s what offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo needs as he installs his version of the short-pass oriented West Coast offense.
Jerry Reese recognized that Eli Manning isn’t going to get those passes off without adequate protection — something the quarterback didn’t have last year — so he grabbed center Weston Richburg of Colorado State in the second round. If he’s anything, he’s durable, which is a quality the Giants lacked at that position last year. Richburg probably won’t step in right way, which is why they signed free agent J.D. Walton on March 12. But the door is open a crack, since Walton hasn’t practiced or played since 2012 due to complications from a broken ankle.
In the third round, they got some help for the middle of the defensive front in Jayson Bromley, a double-digit sacker. If he can break into the rotation, he’ll make a nice addition to a pass rush in need of middle pressure.
Fifth-rounder Devon Kennard of USC can add pass rush and coverage from either the linebacker or defensive end spot, while fellow fifth-rounder, strong safety Nat Behre of San Diego State, can add depth to a secondary that was shored up in free agency.
Notre Dame cornerback Bennett Jackson could be the most intriguing pick of the Giants’ draft because of his hands. He came into college as a wide receiver, and could well become a ball hawking defender in his latest incarnation.
Whether any of these guys pan out is for the future. For now, needs were met, expectations were raised. While history was made in St. Louis, the Giants and Jets quietly pulled a bunch of potential out of the talent lake.
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