New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese is slowly losing his reputation of being one of the best in the business when it comes to finding talent in NFL Drafts.
The jury is still out on Reese’s recent draft classes. Justin Pugh played well in his rookie campaign, but one cannot yet say that he will definitely be the cornerstone of a championship offensive line. Cornerback Prince Amukamara along with wide receivers Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan had fine seasons last year, but all will have to improve to have been worth being selected. Running back David Wilson very much so remains an unproven player.
That said, Reese and others within the Giants have found some true gems in the draft over the past decade.
10. Mario Manningham – WR – 95th overall in 2008
Manningham never had a single season with the Giants that rivals the best years had by the other wide receivers mentioned in this piece. He, in his best campaign as a pro (2010), had only 60 receptions, but nine of those were touchdowns.
The biggest reason Manningham makes this list has to do with the play he made in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI. His over-the-shoulder grab while tip-toeing down the sideline was the catalyst of what was a game-winning drive, and the Giants may not have defeated the New England Patriots without that history-making catch.
9. Hakeem Nicks – WR – 29th overall in 2009
I have no problem putting Nicks on this list despite the fact that he had a downright lousy season last year. Nicks flashed promise as a rookie, and he then caught 79 passes and had over 1,000 receiving yards and eleven touchdowns in his second season in the league. He never truly developed into a franchise No. 1 WR, however, due largely to the fact that he couldn’t stay healthy.
Nicks still has never played through a full 16-game season.
Then came 2013 and a contract year for Nicks. One season after he found the end zone on just three occasions, Nicks ended a campaign with zero touchdowns for the first time in his pro career. As a result he’ll be joining the Colts next season on a one-year deal.
8. Jason Pierre-Paul – DE – 15th overall in 2010
It wasn’t that long ago that Pierre-Paul would have been much higher on such a list. Following a decent first year in the league, JPP exploded for 86 tackles and 16.5 sacks in 2011. Pierre-Paul had a more modest campaign in 2012, accumulating only 6.5 sacks.
There are now concerns, however, that the Giants may have already seen the best from the pass rusher. He had back surgery last offseason, and that along with a shoulder problem slowed him significantly in 2013. Pierre-Paul being so banged up so early into his career is what keeps him this low on the list; for now.
7. Steve Smith – WR – 51st overall in 2007
Despite a lack of longevity, Smith’s contributions to the club should not and cannot be forgotten. He made a massive play in Super Bowl XLII, one that too often gets ignored. After a solid 2008, Smith emerged as quarterback Eli Manning‘s most reliable target in 2009, finishing the season with 107 receptions.
Smith tore his ACL in December 2010, and he never fully recovered. He played just 18 more NFL games over the next two years, nine for the Philadelphia Eagles and nine for the St. Louis Rams, before retiring as a player.
6. Corey Webster – CB – 43rd overall in 2005
There was once a time where some critics labelled Webster to be a bust. He had only two interceptions in his first three seasons in the NFL. While it did take some time, Webster developed into one of the better defensive backs in the league.
He had a total of 14 interceptions from 2010 through 2012. 2013 was not kind to him, however, as injuries kept him off the field for all but four games. Webster is currently a free agent.
5. Brandon Jacobs – RB – 110th overall in 2005
2007 was a big year for running backs of the Giants, and Jacobs was a big reason why. He rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his NFL career that season, something that he again accomplished the following year. Jacobs had 15 touchdowns in 2008, and, in total, he has scored on 60 occasions in eight seasons with the Giants.
Just as important as his on-the-field production was that Jacobs, to this day, bleeds Big Blue. He sacrificed his body for the team, always giving all he had in games.
4. Mathias Kiwanuka – DE – 32nd overall in 2006
There were two times when Kiwanuka and the Giants nearly parted ways; once when trade rumors arose, and once when it appeared as if a neck injury would end his career early. Neither of those events took place, and Kiwanuka has instead averaged nearly five sacks per season over his career. That’s especially impressive when you realize that he appeared in only three games in 2010.
Kiwanuka may be a rotational substitute at this stage of his career, but that doesn’t mean that he’s surplus to requirements. He had six sacks for the Giants last season. Kiwanuka is taking a considerable pay cut to stay with the team, accepting a restructuring of his contract that will see his base salary fall from $4.375 million to $1.5 million. He will receive a new $700,000 roster bonus, with another $125,000 in available bonuses.
3. Justin Tuck – DE – 74th overall in 2005
127 regular season appearances. 453 tackles. 60.5 sacks. 20 forced fumbles. Named a team captain. Two Super Bowl rings. Not too shabby for a third round pick.
Tuck had ten or more sacks in four seasons, the last of which came in 2013. His 11 sacks last year are a large part of what lead the Oakland Raiders to offer him a 2-year, $11 million deal after he was disappointed with the Giants’ efforts to keep him wearing Big Blue.
2. Ahmad Bradshaw – RB – 250th overall in 2007
The belief held by some back in 2007 was that the Bradshaw was merely a speedy play-maker who could make highlights every now and again. While that was the case early into his playing days, Bradshaw proved to be a serviceable starting running back. After rushing for 778 yards in 2009, he went for 1,235 yards on the ground the following year. Bradshaw then rushed for over 1,000 yards for the second and final time as a member of the Giants in 2012.
Injuries, most notably to his foot, prevented Bradshaw from reaching his full potential. That doesn’t mean that he was at all a miss. Quite the opposite, actually, as grabbing Bradshaw in the seventh round was nothing shy of a steal.
1. Philip Rivers (Traded for Eli Manning) – QB – 4th overall in 2004
It was Rivers – along with a bunch of draft picks – that brought Eli Manning to the NYC/NJ region back in 2004. Critics can say what they want about Manning’s bad moments in games. There have, after all, been plenty of them.
There have also been good times. Those two Super Bowl victories come to mind.
Manning will, when all is said and done, be regarded as the greatest quarterback in the history of the Giants. He could still have at least one more title run in him. All things considered, Manning will forever be known as one of the best draft gets in New York history.