Eli Manning hasnít ventured in to get a peek at the Giantsí draft board and he admits heís not intrusive when it comes to making suggestions, saying "I donít get too involved with the process and giving my opinion, ĎHey, draft this guy, draft that guy.í "
He does have opinions, though, and he shared one of them Monday night with The Post. Acknowledging the talent drain with the losses in free agency of Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs and the serious injuries to tight ends Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, Manning is thinking offensive skill player is a smart way to go early and often in next weekís NFL Draft.
"When we go into the draft, that could be an area we try to attack. Get a skill-position guy who can help us get carries, get catches, in some ways get that same production from the guys we lost last year," Manning told The Post prior to his appearance at the Steiner Sports roundtable discussion at the TimesCenter, accompanied by teammate Victor Cruz.
One player who unquestionably fills Manningís criteria is Stanfordís Coby Fleener, considered the top tight end in the draft and someone who could be sitting there when the Giantsí turn comes at No. 32. Manning nodded in agreement, as if he already knew, when he was told that Fleener has been likened to a taller, more athletic Dallas Clark, a player who turned into a prolific pass-catcher with the Colts, with help from Eliís older brother, Peyton.
"Any time you can get a skilled player or a talented guy who can catch and make plays thatís always helpful," Eli said of Fleener. "We lost two tight ends last year, we picked up Martellus Bennett from Dallas, a guy whoís been working hard, talked to him a bunch. He definitely is going to have to help us this year. But losing two tight ends, donít know when theyíre going to be back. We may need that tight end where Travis played some, can play in the slot, can move around and give you some different options."
That certainly describes Fleener. Manning said heís also heard plenty about Boise State running back Doug Martin. "Strong, little guy but powerful .§.§. I see that he catches the ball well," Manning said. "Good player."
Told that Martin has been compared to the Ravensí Ray Rice, Manning said "That sounds good."
Of course, Manning always is a supporter of the Giants going in another direction.
"As an offensive player Iíve always learned you can never go wrong drafting offensive lineman," he said. "Thatís how a quarterback thinks."
These are rarified times for Manning. Now that he is a two-time Super Bowl MVP, Manning has signed 20 percent more items to keep up with the demand, and Steiner Sports pays him 10 percent more per signature. Sales of Eli Manning memorabilia since the start of last season are up 100 percent, with the top-selling items signed footballs ($600), signed Super Bowl MVP footballs ($800) and 8"x10" Super Bowl photos going for $279.
Manning said "I got word from a few buddies around the neighborhood," that new Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has rented an apartment in Hoboken, N.J., only two blocks away from the Manning residence.
"Weíll definitely welcome him to Hoboken," Eli said, not concerned that his neighborhood is not big enough for the both of them.
"Itís a big little town," Manning said, smiling.
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