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spags4prez
04-17-2012, 11:11 PM
Why do we care about the draft?

Because it matters and we know players being drafted. This may seem simple, but it is not the case in the other 4 major sports. In baseball, only the die-hards know the high-schoolers and college players who are drafted in the first round, let alone in the fifth round. A similar situation exists in hockey. In basketball, we may know the players, but recently championship teams have relied more on trades and free agency signings in creating their team than the draft.

In football, there is no more important way to build your team than the draft. A team cannot be both bad at drafting players and be a contender. We need look no further than the world champion New York Football Giants.

Last year, the Giants were led by Eli Manning. Eli was the first overall pick in the draft, and while early in his career he looked a lot like a little boy wearing his dad’s clothes, he has turned into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. It is common knowledge that teams don’t win Super Bowls without great quarterbacks – Trent Dilfer is the exception not the rule – and the only real way to obtain one is through the draft. Occasionally, this happens via trade (Drew Brees), but again, acquiring an elite QB through a trade is the exception, not the rule.

But Eli did not win the Super Bowl alone, so let’s examine the other crucial pieces in the Giants’ Super Bowl victory to exemplify the importance of the draft. For purposes of this evaluation, players will fall into one of three categories – (1) elite talent in the early rounds, (2) solid contributors in the middle rounds, (3) finding steals late.

Elite talent in the early rounds...

Eli Manning has already been discussed, but the conversation about the Giants’ early round successes does not end there. Hakeem Nicks was a first round pick, and has translated into a #1 WR. His catch against the Packers at the end of the half was the single most important grab in the Giants’ season (with no disrespect to Victor Cruz’s run after catch against the Jets and Mario Manningham’s Super Bowl catch). Jason Pierre-Paul has turned into a pro-bowl DE in only his second year, and his field goal block against Dallas was probably the Giants’ most important defensive play of the year. Other first round talent drafted by the Giants include Mathias Kiwanuka, an important pass-rushing linebacker in the Giants’ rotation last year, and Kenny Phillips, an underrated safety who has been an important part of the Giants’ secondary despite suffering a severe injury only two years ago.

Corey Webster had a shaky start to his Giants career, but has emerged into the Giants’ #1 DB and was essential in shutting down receivers in the Giants’ Super Bowl run. Many Giants fans feel that Chris Snee had a drop off last year, but no one can argue that he has been an integral part of the Giants’ offensive line for years. Osi Umenyiora has had contract disputes and provided off-field distractions, but his presence as a dominant pass-rusher was essential in the Giants’ playoff run (remember his strip of Rodgers?). All these guys were 2nd round picks for the Giants.

Solid contributors in the middle rounds...

Calling Justin Tuck a solid contributor is like calling Kobe Bryant a decent basketball player. Tuck is arguably the most important member of the Giants aside from Eli Manning, and the Giants scooped him up in the third round of 2005 draft despite a pre-draft grade worthy of first round consideration. Clearly few draft picks will produce like Tuck has for the Giants, but the draft provides a team, through scouting and luck, to get a franchise defining player in the middle or late rounds (Tom Brady anyone?). This possibility perhaps explains the how the perennially elite teams distinguish themselves from the teams who wish to be elite. But absent a Tuck-like selection, the middle rounds still provide a place where good teams can accumulate the solid contributors necessary to becoming champions. For example, the Giants got Brandon Jacobs in the 4th and Mario Manningham in the 3rd. Anyone who watched the playoffs last year need not be reminded of the essential contributions of these two middle round picks.

Finding steals late...

If there is one area of the draft where the Giants have made the most impact, it is probably in finding steals later in the draft process. Last year, undrafted free agent Victor Cruz became probably the single most unlikely but important contributor to his team’s success. Likewise, it is no secret that Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw has proven that he was worth a pick much higher than his seventh round selection in 2007. Along with Nicks and obviously Eli Manning, Cruz and Bradshaw were probably the two most important offensive skill position players for the Giants in their Super Bowl run last year.

It is important to note, in discussing the importance of the draft, that many of the guys mentioned in this article were also key pieces to the Giants’ championship in 2007/08. Additionally, it is important to note that many other men the Giants drafted, who were not mentioned in this article, were key to the Giants’ championship last year. As everyone knows, teams who win the Super Bowl get pilfered – as guys who contributed to a championship team are given exorbitant contracts to bring their winning ways to a new franchise. This year, we lost former first rounder Aaron Ross, a solid 3rd rounder Mario Manningham, and one of our better fourth round picks ever – Brandon Jacobs. But, similar losses were endured by the Giants after their last Super Bowl and that draft set the stage for last year’s run – including picking up Kenny Phillips, Terrell Thomas, and the aforementioned Mario Manningham. It is clear that the 2008 post-Super Bowl draft was essential in setting the stage for last year’s championship, and there is no reason to believe this year’s draft won’t translate directly into the possibility of future Giants’ successes.

So why do we care about the draft? Because our team is built around it. We know the guys coming in from their time in college, and we follow their progression from the first mini-camp to raising the Lombardi trophy. You can’t win without a good draft, and every April there is a chance that one man can change the course of your franchise. Whether this is a highly touted first round QB from Ole Miss, a third rounder from Notre Dame, an overlooked seventh rounder from Marshall or an undrafted free agent from UMass, the guys who will define your team will be assigned a team in a few weeks. And those guys will eventually determine whether your team raises the Lombardi trophy in the coming years.

midnite_nj
04-17-2012, 11:19 PM
Nice job. It was a good read for me.

spags4prez
04-17-2012, 11:32 PM
Thanks midnite...just something I was thinking about today that I thought was worth writing and sharing. Glad you read and enjoyed.

Shockeystays08
04-18-2012, 12:06 PM
You did a great job with that! Enjoyed reading it!

spags4prez
04-19-2012, 03:56 PM
Glad you enjoyed it, Shockeystays. BTW, I like how outdated both of our names are at this point...