Twitter mailbag: The cornerback-to-safety transition

This week's New York Giants Twitter mailbag gets moved up to Friday because its author is on vacation and this is the kind of assignment he can do ahead of time. (Little trade secret for you there.) Don't worry -- the Giants blog will still update every day, as if by magic. And we have folks on hand to handle the news if any breaks. I just won't be around to respond to y'all in real time on Twitter. You can still use the #nygmail tag for your questions, which I will then see when I get back, as I saw these this week.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I'm glad this came up, because we wrote the other day about the Giants possibly converting a corner such as Bennett Jackson or Chykie Brown to help fill their void at safety. But it's a mistake to assume a guy can make such a transition just because others have in the past. The high-profile conversion success stories include Hall of Fame-caliber guys like Ronnie Lott and Charles Woodson. The Patriots' Devin McCourty is a current example of a player who has made a successful transition from corner to safety. It's generally done as a means of extending the player's career -- i.e., a move to help a veteran corner stay in the league after his speed diminishes or to give a young player an option after he and/or his team conclude that he doesn't have the kind of speed necessary to cover fleet wideouts.

But it's not as simple as, "Go play safety, it's easier." There are things about it that are much harder. A safety may be asked to cover a tight end, or to come down in the box to help in run support more frequently than a cornerback is asked. To that end, the position requires more physicality. A free safety playing "center field" is going to have to react in coverage differently than a cornerback assigned to a specific receiver or a specific zone, and must read the field more completely in the same period of time. Safeties are the players delivering the calls to the back end of the defense, so a safety may have to know everyone else's assignment in addition to his own -- have a deeper or more complete understanding of the game, possibly, than a corner who receives his assignment and goes with it.

So I would say a great deal of learning goes into such a transition, in addition to the physical requirement. And while it may be possible that the Giants have a corner or two on their roster who could convert to safety and help solve their current problems, I think it's a mistake to assume that a player can do such a thing just because his team needs him to. Jackson may be more than willing to try it, but that doesn't mean he's going to be able to pull it off. @DanGrazianoESPN: More than possible. I'd say it's almost a guarantee. The Giants have picked a running back in each of the past four drafts and in seven of their last 10. Of the seven, three were picked in the fourth round (Brandon Jacobs 2005, Andre Brown 2009, Andre Williams 2014), three were picked in the seventh round (Ahmad Bradshaw 2007, Da'Rel Scott 2011, Michael Cox 2013) and, of course, David Wilson was their first-round pick in 2012. Due to the risk, volatility and short shelf life inherent in the position, the Giants believe in depth at running back. And with eight total draft picks, including two in the seventh round, it would be very surprising to see them go all the way through the draft without selecting one. @DanGrazianoESPN: Because of the way your question is phrased, the answer is no. The Giants may decide that taking a wide receiver that early this year makes sense. And they may even be right (though I don't think so, and I'll address that in a second). But if the reason they decide to do that is because Victor Cruz may not be ready to return from his knee injury by Week 1, then they're making a poor decision. If they have a long-range concern about Cruz, that's a slightly different story. But if it's about filling in for a week or two while he completes his recovery, then that's a bad reason on which to base your first-round or second-round draft pick.

I personally think they'd be foolish to spend either of their top 40 picks in this year's draft on a wide receiver because I think they're already heavily committed at that position in terms of high-end resources and they need to commit more of those elsewhere on the roster. By "high-end resources," I mean early-round draft picks and free-agent dollars. Odell Beckham Jr. was a first-round pick last year, Rueben Randle a second-round pick in 2012 and Cruz is making $8.6 million per year on five-year contract extension that runs through 2018. You may or may not like the composition of the Giants' wide receiver corps, but you cannot deny that they have spent big on it. And if you keep devoting your major resources to the same position every year, you run the risk of major roster imbalance, which the Giants already have.

I keep getting asked things like, "If Amari Cooper is the best player available at No. 9, the Giants have to take him, right?" And again, the answer is no, because "best player available" is a GM-speak myth. Every team aligns its draft board before the draft and ranks players according to a number of factors. When putting together that board, every single team -- the Giants included -- takes need into account. And I'm not talking about short-term need (though that's in there too) as much as big-picture need -- where on the roster the major resources need to be dedicated. If the Giants are drafting smart (and there's a ton of evidence over the past seven years that they don't always do that), then they're giving extra weight on their board to players that play positions they haven't prioritized enough for the long term. Offensive line (which they only recently started prioritizing in the draft). The pass rush. Safety. Defensive tackle. They have some good players at most of those positions, but they lack depth at all of them. They don't lack depth at wide receiver, because they've spent a lot of high-end resources on it. It's time for some other position to get that attention for a change.