Thursday, April 26, 2012

New York Giants Draft Preview: Tight End

This is the fourth installment in the series of posts breaking down the Giants position by position for the upcoming NFL Draft.  The next position up is Tight End.

The depth chart for the Giants at tight end currently includes Martellus Bennett, Jake Ballard, Bear Pascoe, Travis Beckum, Christian Hopkins, Ryan Purvis, and Larry Donnell.

Heading into the off-season, tight end was definitely a position of concern for the Giants, quite possibly the biggest concern for the team.  Ballard and Beckum both suffered serious knee injuries in the Super Bowl, leaving the Giants deathly thin at the position entering free agency.  Beckum says his rehab is going extremely well; so well he could be ready to go by opening night after tearing his ACL.  Ballard had to have micro-fracture surgery in addition to ACL surgery on his knee.  He will be lucky to return after mid-season, if at all this year. 

The Giants took a flier on Bennett, the former second round pick of the Dallas Cowboys.  The Giants are holding out hope that Bennett can finally have that breakout season he seems capable of. This will be the first opportunity Bennett has to be the starting tight end and primary pass catcher in his career now that he is out of the shadow of Jason Witten in Dallas.  Bennett brings all the tools you could ask for out of a tight end as he has size, good hands and is an above average blocker. They gave Bennett a one year 2.5 million dollar contract, a sort of lets see what your made of contract.  If he does well, the Giants got great production at a great rate and if he fails and flames out the Giants are not on the hook for anything past this season. 

Pascoe is another player the Giants are high on.  He is capable of playing multiple roles for the Giants, being a jack of all trades playing tight end, fullback and being put on the field as an extra blocker.  Hopkins has also received his fair share of hype from the Giants brass after spending last season on the teams practice squad.  It is not out of the realm of possibilities for the Giants to have one of these tight ends develop into a capable pass catcher.  Eli Manning did it last season with Ballard and there is no reason to believe he cannot do it again this year.  The Giants have one of the best Tight End coaches in the NFL in Mike Pope, who is highly respected around the NFL by his peers. 

The last time the Giants used a selection in the draft on a tight end was when they drafted Beckum in the third round in 2009 out of Wisconsin.  No one ever knows what GM Jerry Reese is thinking in respect to the draft, so it remains to be seen if he is willing to use such a high pick on a tight end after signing Bennett this off-season.
Many draft experts still have the Giants still selecting Coby Fleener out of Stanford.  Fleener is rated as the best tight end in the draft, and would definitely be a great addition to a Giants squad who likes using two tight end sets.  If Reese is not comfortable using a first round pick on Fleener, look for the Giants to entertain the idea of drafting Dwayne Allen of Clemson in the second round or Orson Charles a little later in the draft.

The Giants have hit it big with undrafted free agent tight ends the last few seasons, so developing one is not a problem for them if they do not feel comfortable drafting one.  Because of this, I would rate the necessity of adding a tight end in the draft as a 6 on a scale of 1-10. 

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