<
>

Leonard Floyd? Jack Conklin? The latest on the Giants' first-round draft plans

The Giants haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1984. Leonard Floyd could end that run. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Almost incomprehensibly, the day is finally here.

Yes, after months of combine workouts and pro days and medical rechecks and anonymous scouts and mock draft after mock draft after mock draft, the NFL draft begins tonight. The first round that unfolds starting at 8 p.m. ET is no mock. It's the real deal. And it will answer all of your questions much better than any of us have been able to.

This is a dicey time of year for those of us charged with finding out what's going on behind the scenes and relaying it to you. As you have heard many times, there's a lot of lying, smoke-screening and misdirection going on from teams that don't want their competitors to know what they're up to. This is why I try to be very careful with what I report and how I report it. Before going with information, I think it's important to ask how reliable the sources are, why they're telling me what they're telling me and whether the news value of the information justifies reporting it when it could be a detriment to one of the people involved.

So with all of that in mind, I want to spend this draft-morning post filling you in on the latest I'm hearing on the New York Giants' first-round draft plans. This information is the result of many conversations I've had in recent days and weeks with people familiar with the Giants' plans. Some of it differs from information I had earlier in the process, because I've endeavored to learn more and because the Giants' plans have been fluid as the people in the building have worked to find consensus. In the past three days, for example, I've had people with direct knowledge of the situation tell me they're sure the Giants will draft a defensive player in the first round and another such person tell me they were sure they were taking an offensive player. That's what we're dealing with here. There are no definites. A year ago at this time, I was nearly 100 percent sure the pick was going to be Ereck Flowers. This year, it's a bit murkier.

Here's what I have for you at this point:

- I still think the most likely pick is Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd. The Giants haven't taken a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984, but all the things I wrote seven weeks ago about why Floyd could buck that trend hold up. He's a player the Giants' scouts and front office have loved for months, and there are people high up in the brain trust who believe he will and should be the pick.

- That said, Floyd is a hot name recently, and I've heard him connected with Tampa Bay at No. 9, Cleveland at No. 8, San Francisco at No. 7 and even Jacksonville at No. 5. So there's a chance the Giants might not be able to get him at No. 10.

- If Floyd is gone -- and possibly even if he's not -- the Giants could take an offensive player. Some in the brain trust have expressed the opinion that, after spending more than $100 million in guaranteed money on defensive free agents, it would be unwise for the Giants to also spend their top-10 pick on that side of the ball. Those people would prefer to take an offensive lineman in the top 10 for the second year in a row. The Giants' top-rated offensive lineman is Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil, but the odds are not good that he'll last until No. 10. I have been told their No. 2 offensive lineman is Michigan State's Jack Conklin, who could potentially start as a rookie at right tackle and allow the coaching staff to keep Flowers on the left side, where they believe he has elite upside.

- Multiple people have told me the Giants will not select UCLA linebacker Myles Jack at No. 10. Concerns about the condition of Jack's knee, combined with the Giants' generally lukewarm feelings about first-round linebackers (remember, they view Floyd as a pass-rusher who happens to play linebacker), have slid him far enough down their board that they think No. 10 is too high. The most-injured team in the league the past three years, the Giants aren't up for a first-round injury risk.

- I also don't expect them to take Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, mainly because they think No. 10 is too high to take a running back when that's one of the few positions on their roster that has any depth and they have so many needs elsewhere. I can't get Elliott ruled out completely by people in the know, but I think a lot of weird things would have to happen in the top nine for him to be the pick at 10.

- They liked Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves at one point in this process, and could still take him. But I have not heard a lot of serious buzz about him and the Giants in the past week.

- If the Giants take an offensive player in the first round, a second-round name to keep an eye on could be Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence -- the former five-star pass-rusher who got kicked out of Ohio State for multiple failed drug tests. Spence could get taken in the first round, but if he doesn't, he could be there for the Giants at No. 40 overall, and he brings the kind of high-end upside they crave in their young pass-rushers.

- I don't see them taking a receiver in the first round unless they trade down, which would be unprecedented in the Jerry Reese era. If you're looking for second- or third-round names to watch at wide receiver, think about Ohio State's Braxton Miller or Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard.