By Courtesy of the New York Giants
Tom Coughlin has high expectations for the Giants’ 2014 draft class.
“I expect everyone to come in and contribute right away,” Coughlin said soon after the Giants had selected their seventh and final player.
The Giants came out of the draft confident they have the players to meet Coughlin’s mandate. After taking offensive players in the first two rounds, the Giants went with defense on four of their last five selections. It’s a post-draft cliché, but the Giants are confident they improved their team in the draft.
“Each year, I feel good afterwards,” said vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross. “I trust our process and believe in our scouts. I believe in our coaches and the process we go through. Whether we are right or wrong or whatever happens, the process we go through, we feel we are doing the right things and we make the decisions that we feel are best at the time. We are not batting 1.000, but nobody is. Each year I come out feeling like we did the right thing.”
The Giants also added an NFL-high 16 veteran free agents this offseason, a makeover Coughlin said has him excited as the team completes its spring work and approaches training camp.
“I’m excited about this whole concept,” he said, “whether it be free agency, whether it be now the college free agency of being able to bring in players, recognize and then get players in here that we want and then put the young men that are working hard right now in this offseason program together with this new group and let’s get this thing going, let’s get the mesh going, let’s get this camaraderie thing going, let’s get out on the field and be smart about it. Compete, we’d like to be able to match up all of the positions with some competitiveness because that’s how you get better. So I’m excited about that part of it.”
The Giants added four players on the final day of the draft that will increase the competition for jobs this summer: running back Andre Williams, Boston College, 5-11, 230, fourth round, 113th overall selection; safety Nat Berhe, San Diego State, 5-10, 190, fifth round, 152nd overall selection; linebacker Devon Kennard, USC, 6-3, 255, fifth round, 174th overall selection; and cornerback Bennett Jackson, Notre Dame, 5-11, 187, sixth round, 187th overall selection.
The Giants did not have a seventh-round selection after relinquishing it in the trade last October that delivered linebacker Jon Beason.
In the draft’s first two days, the Giants selected LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round, Colorado State center Weston Richburg in the second and Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley in the third.
Here on some thoughts from the Giants’ hierarchy on the four players added today:
Ross on Williams:
“This guy is a big, strong, downhill violent runner. He is going to break tackles and pound out yards. He is going to be physical.”
General manager Jerry Reese on Berhe:
“This guy is really productive, a tackling machine, a little bit undersized but you just can’t deny how this guy is a football player. We use the term ‘football player;’ this guy is one of those guys, a football player. He’s all over the place; he’ll play on all of your special teams. (He is) very productive, a really good football player.”
Coughlin on Kennard:
“Kennard we had a guy that, when he came and visited with us he made a great impression. He’s played multiple positions. He’s a tough, hard-nosed football player. It was great on the board, he did an excellent job of that. He really convinced the coaches that he was a really sharp football player, a multiple position guy, a guy that would come in here and play the linebacker position for us which is what he’ll do. So we’re excited about that.”
Ross on Jackson:
“(He is a) size, speed corner who is still kind of developing into his position. He is a former wide receiver. We think he has a lot of upside, one of these guys late in the draft. These big corners that
have been taken that can run and you work with, you hit on. (They’re) making their way on (special) teams for a couple years and then you got a player.”
*Kennard has played both defensive end and outside linebacker, “but I feel very comfortable at the outside linebacker spot. Being able to drop into coverage and blitz at times and do different things like that is something that I feel very comfortable with and it provides me more versatility. I think I’m a smart player, so I feel like I could bring something on that aspect to the Giants organization.”
Kennard’s father, Derek, was an All-America offensive lineman at Nevada who played two years in the USFL (1984-85 with the Los Angeles Express) and 11 seasons in the NFL (1986-90 with the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals, 1991-93 with the New Orleans Saints and 1994-96 with the Dallas Cowboys), including on the 1995 Cowboys’ team that won the Super Bowl.
*Berhe was asked on a conference call what his “greatest quality” is.
“My instincts,” he said. “I have great eyes. You watch my film, and I am able to dissect plays and get to the ball. I led the team in tackles two years in a row. Getting to the ball and being very disruptive on the defensive side of the ball are what I do really well.”
*Five of the Giants’ seven draft choices were team captains last season: Richburg, Bromley, Berhe, Kennard and Jackson
“We’ve always tried to pick guys who are captains, in leadership roles for their teams,” Reese said. “We feel like you can get quality players when you do that. When guys have leadership roles, we like those guys.
“We always want to try to get guys who we call ‘clean.’ It’s not always possible. Sometimes you take some calculated risks on some guys who have some off-field issues, some checkered backgrounds. We always go into the draft looking for guys who don’t have a lot of off field issues that we have to deal with. We were fortunate enough that we were able to draft some guys who are, quote, clean. They’re all still young kids and all of them are probably going to make some bad decisions at some point. Hopefully not, but young kids make bad decisions sometimes.”