Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Giants: off season continues

Chase Blackburn had a great late season and post season run, playing solid middle LB and coming up with several huge turnovers. Recall that he was sitting home without a football job, signed with the Giants on a Tuesday, was in the starting lineup the following Sunday and made a big INT of Rodgers of the Packers in his first game back. He also made a big fumble recovery and return in the conference championship game against those same Packers, a play which really iced the game for the Giants. It turned a 2 score lead into an insurmountable 4th quarter 17 point lead. Of course he also made a big INT of Brady in the Super Bowl taking the ball away from Gronkowski in what could have been a TD for the Patriots if Brady had not underthrown the ball badly After that significant contribution, it says a lot about the Giants evaluation of their own players that they did not rush out to sign Blackburn (or Goff)  to play MLB. It indicates that the Giants are calculating and objective (some night say cold) in judging talent. They are not swept away by the emotions of the moment and instead realize that you can't elevate your assessment of the players in the post title euphoria. Blackburn is a solid player and a good special teams player, but is not a dominant player in the middle of the defense. He has not received any offers from other teams, so it looks like the Giants judgment is consistent with the rest of the league. Goff also looked like a decent player in 2010 but missed the entire 2011 season due to an ACL injury. Giants will surely wait to see who they may get in the draft before they make an offer to resign one ro both of these players, but in addition to draft and FA additions, I think it shows how highly the Giants think of last year's rookie daft LB class. They are very high on Herzlich and Williams. They also like Greg Jones and Paysinger, but they think Herzlich and Williams could be star players at the position. If so, there is no need to make a commitment to Blackburn and Goff. Another indicator that the Giants may not be interested in Blackburn is that he is at the very least a good ST player and Giants have been adding under-the-radar FAs as ST players.

Very often, the draft experts do not forecast the Giants picks correct, largely because they don't focus in on the Giants draft strategy. Draft experts tend to focus on needs that each team has and assume that the team will try to fill those needs in the draft. Giants however have several principles for their draft and one of them is: "never bring your depth chart into the draft room". You don't satisfy your needs with 1st or even 2nd round draft choices, you go for the best player you can find. If there are roughly equivalent players at two different positions and one is a player that fills a need, then you can use the need to influence your pick. But you never reach down to a player that is not first or second round talent to plug a hole in the roster. Sometimes you get lucky and find a top player that also fills a need, like the Giants did a few years ago when Hakeem Nicks was available when the Giants drafted in the first round. If the Giants had compromised this important drafting principle, they would not have ended up with JPP or Kiwanuka, two DEs drafted on a DE-rich team. These players are key contributors to making the Giants defense as good as it is.

When you get to later rounds in the draft, position can become a more important influence, because the lower round players tend to bunch together more in talent and there is less to separate one player from the next. Consequently, you may see the Giants draft on the OL or a RB past the 2nd round, this year which are positions of need. But these later round picks tend to be less impactful on the team, since the studs at OL, especially at LT tend to go in the first round.

More on Giants draft strategy in later posts

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