By: Evan Slavit
The draft is an exciting time, and while it is fun to postulate on where all the prospects will get drafted, it is well documented that the majority of these players will not have a big impact for their clubs in the upcoming season. So instead, this article is going to focus on some of the young Giant players that are ready for breakout seasons.
Before he was injured he was having a great season and the entire coaching staff was excited to see his progression. Phillips was considered a top-flight safety at Miami, the college dubbed "Safety U" but fell down on some people's draft boards with a sub-par senior season. That was perfect for the Giants as it meant he was still there when they picked him with the 31st pick. Since coming into the league people have gushed over his range and football knowledge, not to mention his top-notch tackling. He claims to be healthy now, so he should start off where he left off and form one of the top safety tandems with newly acquired Antrel Rolle.
Considered a late first-round talent, the Giants were able to snag him with their second pick in the second round. He was given some playing time last season when Kareem Mckenzie got injured. While he did not light things up, he showed an ability to be a mauler in the run game while blocking on the right side. In addition he has quick feet which should help with the speed rushers he will face each week. The rumor is the Giants are going to insert him in at left tackle to slide David Diehl over to guard, his natural position. Beatty should play great on the left side as he is quicker than Diehl and so should be an upgrade in pass coverage, and as he showed last season, he can push a few people when it comes to the run game.
Nicks had an extremely impressive rookie season, pushing himself into the starting line-up before the season ended. The complaint for Nicks was he was not very tall or fast, however, that did not seem to slow him down much. He just always seemed to make a big play, knowing how to use his body to box out defenders, jumping at the best time, and showing very strong and reliable hands. Not only did he make some big catches, but he proved to be explosive with the ball in his hands. There were quite a few short passes he took for much bigger gains, with the play in the Chiefs and second Eagles game sticking out most in my mind. Flat out this guy seems like a football player and, if he can avoid the sophomore slump, could overtake Smith as the number one receiver for the team.
Manningham showed some of the ability he displayed back in his days on the Michigan Wolverines last season. He is very fast and quick, getting in and out of cuts very smoothly. His problem was a lack of focus. Manningham would run his routes too close to the sideline, bobble some easy passes, and fail to secure the ball. There is the belief out there that he will always be this way, because Manningham has been accused of being immature and lacking focus for all of his career, one of the main reasons he fell into the third round. It is possible he will never figure it out, but many plays seemed to be rookie mistakes, as last season was his first with significant playing time. After being demoted in favor of Nicks late last season, I believe Manningham has reason to put a lot of work in this training camp and could give Smith and Nicks a fight for a starting spot. If he can get past his mistakes, he has proven he has the talent to be a real explosive receiver.
Before the season started many people believed he was ready to break-out. Unfortunately he had a season-ending injury during the preseason and never got to make an impact. Alford was a third-round pick a couple years ago for the Giants, and was a player that fit the one-gap mold then-defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo was looking for. Alford has a quick first-step and a high-motor. For a team that did not get a push from their defensive tackles, Alford will be a huge boost. If he plays at the level that many believe he can, the Giants pass-rush should reach the levels we were used to just a few seasons ago.
Coming into the season there are a lot of question marks for the running backs. Jacobs had a bad year, Bradshaw suffered a big injury, and Ware did not take advantage of his opportunities. Brown is a player that is similar to Derrick Ward, a player that got over 1,000 yards in 2008 with the Giants. Brown is a quick runner, whose biggest asset is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Outside of Bradshaw the Giants do not have a running back who is a threat to make a catch. Brown was supposed to have a big role in the offense last season, but like several people from this list, got injured early on. If he stays healthy he should easily make the rotation, especially if the Giants expect to go with three running backs like they did two years ago.
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