By Paul Dottino
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Jerry Reese always maintains his poise going into the NFL Draft, insisting there’s no reason to panic because he knows he and his staff have properly prepared.
And what about the difficulty in dealing with the ever-changing legal parameters of the lockout and its impact on filling the Giants’ needs, given that free agency has been on hold?
“The process is the same as far as the preparation for the draft in (our) meetings,” said Reese, entering his fifth season as the Giants’ general manager. “It is a little strange not to have the free agency period before – that is a little bit strange. But everybody is in the same boat in that respect. So we will make the adjustment as we go.”
The Giants already know at least one thing – Reese’s policy is to expect immediate production out of those taken in the first three rounds. In this case, these picks better have a higher than usual football acumen since rookies won’t be allowed to talk football with their coaches or view team-issued materials during the lockout.
“The learning curve will be really quick for them,” Reese said. “(The coaches) will have to get them ready quickly because they are going to miss some time if we don’t get things squared away quickly with the rookie mini-camps and things like that. So when they come in there will be a (lot) for them to learn in a short time.”
Which means the Giants likely will put more of an emphasis on prospects who come from larger programs, show a strong mental capacity for the game and are easily coachable.
And that brings us to our projection for the Giants’ pick at No. 19. We’ve been burning up the phone lines and email servers over the past 48 hours, trying to correctly predict their top selection for the 10th time in the past 13 years. Although we’ve received hints at several players – one informant suggested the Giants will trade down – the strongest and most reliable sources insisted Reese will make every attempt to draft an offensive lineman with the 19th choice.
Dallas (No. 9), Detroit (13), and Miami (15) are the teams most likely to grab an offensive lineman before the Giants. USC tackle Tyson Smith will be the first to go, perhaps followed by Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo. Miami is said to be vacillating between Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey and Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi also grades out to a mid-first round pick.
However, the Giants hope Pouncey makes it through, which should allow them to choose between him and Colorado tackle Nate Solder. It’s a close call, but the Giants will go with Pouncey.
“Pouncey’s a real player,” said one veteran NFC personnel man. “He’s perfect for them and they really need to address the offensive line. This guy is smart. I saw him a few times and he can play. … And I wouldn’t be surprised, with the value on the offensive line this year, if the Giants take a lineman one-two in this draft.”
Pouncey provides immediate quality and versatility for a team that’s got medical questions with four of its linemen — C Shaun O’Hara (ankle, foot), LG Rich Seubert (knee), C Adam Koets (knee) and T Shawn Andrews (back).
Pouncey recently said he’d be “shocked” if he’s not picked by Dallas. Should he be gone, the Giants won’t be disappointed to be left with Solder, having sent three different scouts – including veteran watchdog Jerry Shay – to a total of three Colorado games last fall and they sent a rep to his Pro Day.
FINAL WORD: One other name came up in these last-minute conversations — Alabama tackle James Carpenter, mostly as a potential second-round dark horse who’s make a late rise on many draft boards. He’s rated as high as a low first-rounder, depending on who’s watching the film. Carpenter (6-4, 321) is more bulky than the Giants prefer but they must admire that he’s versatile, pro-ready and has shown great power in the run game.
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