Last season it was all about wide receivers.
This year, the Giants go into the draft needing a linebacker. Or so everyone says. Giants general manager Jerry Reese, reluctant to reveal much at all, insists that the team will draft based on value and need but not necessarily on need alone. So, like in 2006, when the Giants took Mathias Kiwanuka despite being loaded at defensive end, it's possible Reese could go for the best talent available at 15th overall instead of trying to find Antonio Pierce's replacement at linebacker.
"We try to get value and need," Reese said Thursday at the Giants' practice facility. "That is never going to change. We try to get a combination of both. Sometimes you can get a good combination of both. But we are skeptical of drafting need."
Going into last year's draft, the Giants were desperate for a wide receiver to step up after the Plaxico Burress fiasco. They ended up taking North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks with the 29th overall pick, as many pegged them to do, to go with a receiving corps that included Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. This year, many draft experts have mentioned Alabama's inside linebacker Rolando McClain as the Giants' best bet. However, if a player who is higher on Reese's board slips to 15, the Giants' GM could go for best talent like the team did with Kiwanuka. And he can always trade up if he wants to.
"Back when we drafted Kiwanuka, we had [Michael] Strahan, we had [Justin] Tuck, and we had Osi [Umenyiora]," Reese said. "But he was the best guy on the board right there at that time. There was no way we were going to pass him up. So it doesn't preclude us from drafting even if we have depth at a position; if he is the best guy up there, it is going to be hard for us to pass him up."
Reese said he won't shy away from a linebacker or any other player based on what scheme he played in at college. So he won't steer clear of drafting a linebacker that might be better suited to play in a 3-4 scheme rather than the Giants' 4-3 base defense.
And Reese thinks there may still be a linebacker already on the team who can step up, including last year's second-round pick, Clint Sintim.
"I think there are some linebackers on our team that need to prove that they can do it," Reese said. "Just like last year, I thought there were some receivers [who could step up already on the roster]. I do have some confidence in some guys on our roster that haven't played a lot. I want them to step out of the shadows and show us what they have."
"Sintim was a high draft pick," Reese added. "We expect him to play and come in and show us what he can do. When you are picked in the second round up here, we expect you to play. So hopefully in his sophomore season here he will get in there and get it going."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.