Giants draft preview: LB

This is the seventh installment in a nine-part series that will analyze the Giants' needs, position by position, in the upcoming draft.

Position: Linebackers.

Depth chart: Michael Boley, Jonathan Goff, Keith Bulluck, Clint Sintim, Gerris Wilkinson, Chase Blackburn, Phillip Dillard, Adrian Tracy, Zak DeOssie and Kenny Ingram.

Not under contract: Blackburn, Bulluck and Wilkinson.

Scouting report: Outside of the special teams, the linebacking corps is the one unit that needs major improvement. There’s a reason why the Giants didn’t have one linebacker in ESPN’s top-10 linebacker power rankings. In his first year as a starter, Goff did a solid job at MLB but the ghost of Antonio Pierce still lingers. Goff has to continue to show improvement and more experience should help. Boley is the most athletic linebacker and the Giants need more from Boley. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell often used only two linebackers and a safety as the third. Bulluck, who came back after suffering an ACL injury late the season before, was supposed to be that third linebacker but he never was able to regain his old form as a foot injury slowed him down a bit. Sintim couldn’t beat out Bulluck in camp and ended up largely playing special teams before tearing his ACL late in the year. Wilkinson, Blackburn, Dillard and DeOssie were all special teamers. Tracy spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. Bulluck wants to return but also wants to play as a full-time starter. It will be surprising if Blackburn doesn’t return. Wilkinson also could be back to help the special teams improve.

The Last Time: The Giants last drafted a linebacker in 2010 when they took Dillard in the fourth round out of Nebraska and Tracy in the sixth round from William & Mary.

Potential targets: Perhaps the greatest need the Giants have entering the draft is for an athletic playmaking linebacker. Unfortunately, the best value that will likely be available when the Giants pick at 19th overall is offensive line. However, if the Giants were to go linebacker in the first round, they could take a look at UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Georgia’s DE/LB Justin Houston. Both outside linebackers could be late first-round picks. North Carolina offers a pair of linebackers that could go in the second and third rounds in OLB Bruce Carter and ILB Quan Sturdivant. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has the Giants drafting Sturdivant in the second round in his latest mock draft. Other linebackers of interest that might go third round or later are Illinois’ Martez Wilson, Oregon’s Casey Matthews, Georgia’s Akeem Dent and Michigan State’s Greg Jones.

Need Rating (On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being of highest importance): 9.

Tomorrow: Defensive backs.