Yesterday, we discussed the merits of evaluating a draft class after three years.
Today, let's break that rule. The New York Giants' 2010 draft class was one of the most critical in recent years considering the 2009 season had ended with an 8-8 record and no postseason appearance. Any momentum -- there was plenty, of course -- the Giants reaped from their Super Bowl XLII victory was erased, especially after a 12-4 2008 season was spoiled by Plaxico Burress' accidental shooting.
In hindsight, the Giants probably had enough pieces in place to warrant a brighter outlook. Eli Manning was quietly entering the prime alongside a trio of receivers (Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham) briefly nicknamed "Jet Blue" and a defense that was steadily stockpiling talented pass-rushers.
When General Manager Jerry Reese selected Jason Pierre-Paul with the 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft, initial reactions deemed the pick unnecessary, given all those defensive ends New York already had. Linebacker, running back and defensive back topped a list of needs many Giants fans considered more pressing, and as impressive as Pierre-Paul's viral video of his 13 back flips was, Reese faced a heavy backlash.
2009 iBowl Back Flip Contest Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Kion Wilson (via BullsVision)
Two seasons, 21 sacks and one Super Bowl championship later, that criticism was erased. Perhaps the most notable outcome of the 2010 draft, even beyond obtaining perhaps the game's best young pass-rusher, was the subsequent patience Reese now demands from Giants fans. New York does indeed draft according to a "best player available" approach quite frequently, but Reese and the front office have proven they'll adequately address whatever needs deemed present.
Round 1, pick 15: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
Beyond the numbers -- the aforementioned 21 sacks, 116 tackles and 13 passes broken up -- the greatest result of Reese taking Pierre-Paul has been the flexibility provided to the Giants' defense. From those injury questions that have somehow dogged the great majority of Tom Coughlin's tenure in New York to Osi Umenyiora's consistent frustration with his contract, the Giants have relied on flexibility to keep their defense potent.
In 2011, though, Pierre-Paul became a superstar. From his 4.5 sacks, 30 tackles and six passes defended in 2010, Pierre-Paul recorded 16.5 sacks (fourth-most in the league), 86 tackles and seven passes defended. ProFootballFocus.com graded him at plus-30.3 for the regular season, sixth among 4-3 defensive ends. In the postseason, Pierre-Paul was second at plus-8.8, behind only teammate Justin Tuck.
Moving forward, the Giants' defense will continue to change. Umenyiora, even if he isn't traded this offseason, likely doesn't have many years left in New York. Tuck has also begun to face injury questions, leaving Pierre-Paul as the most valuable pass-rusher moving forward.
That makes the fact that JPP was so widely regarded as "too raw" of a first-round prospect in 2010 all the more laughable, and provides even more vindication to Reese nearly three months after his second Super Bowl title.
Round 2, pick 46: DT Linval Joseph, East Carolina
With the Giants' second pick in 2010, Reese picked another small-school defensive lineman -- swelling the flood of criticism he received in the immediate aftermath.
Joseph is certainly no Pierre-Paul, but he's lived up to the primary draft expectations of him as a massive (6-foot-4, 328 pounds) run-stopping force to eventually replace Barry Cofield. Initially, the results weren't there, as Cofield started all 16 games in 2010 while Joseph played in only six games and didn't start any.
Cofield eventually left after the season, allowing Joseph to start 15 of the 16 games he played in last season and record 49 tackles and two sacks. Pro Football Focus graded him at plus-1.1 for the season, 48th among defensive tackles and nose tackles, but his run defense was even better. PFF's Run Stop Percentage statistic determines the percentage of plays in which a defender caused an offensive failure against the run. Joseph ranked fifth, according to PFF's calculations, at 8.7 percent -- equivalent to that of the New England Patriots' Vince Wilfork.
Round 3, pick 76: DB Chad Jones, Louisiana State
As a dual-star athlete at LSU starring in football and baseball, Jones was a remarkably promising pick in 2010. Along with one of his teammates, Jones is one of the only two collegiate athletes to win both a BCS national championship and a baseball national title.
Barely more than two months after the draft, however, Jones was involved in a single-car crash in New Orleans when he lost control of his Range Rover on streetcar tracks and collided with a pole. Jones suffered a broken fibula and tibia, among other injuries that placed his short-term future in doubt, let alone any possibility of resuming his football career.
Almost two years later, diligent rehab as brought Jones to the brink of returning to the NFL. Jones is participating in offseason workouts at the Giants' facility, his first activity with teammates since the accident. However, Jones still awaits clearance to fully resume football activities, a sign that he still faces significant odds before making the Giants' 2012 roster.
Round 4, pick 115: LB Phillip Dillard, Nebraska
As always, given the team's storied linebacker history, Giants fans were clamoring for another LB in the 2010 draft. Dillard wasn't quite the solution they craved, playing in just seven games as a rookie and recording only four tackles. One year later, he was waived by the Giants and eventually wound up on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad.
Reese clearly didn't find an answer at linebacker with Dillard, paving the way for the Giants to select two linebackers in 2011. We'll take a look at those picks on Thursday.
Round 5, pick 147: G Mitch Petrus, Arkansas
As unheralded middle-round draft picks go, Petrus is laying the groundwork for a solid NFL career. As a rookie, he appeared in 11 games. In 2011, he played in just six, though he did start three games as an injury replacement in Weeks 13, 14 and 15.
The Giants continue to face a steady amount of uncertainty along the offensive line, even one year removed from the releases of Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert. Kareem McKenzie is a free agent and unlikely to be re-signed, while David Diehl and David Baas aren't getting any younger or healthier. If Petrus can build on his solid performances in spot duty, the Giants could have a gem of a replacement along the offensive line.
Round 6, pick 184: DE Adrian Tracy, William & Mary
Tracy was an explosive pass-rusher at FCS school William & Mary, but a dislocated in his first NFL training camp greatly hindered his progress as a developmental prospect. He landed on injured reserve shortly thereafter, and after competing for a spot last preseason, he was waived on Sept. 3.
Reese went with a developmental prospect with this sixth-round pick, so it's hard to fault him for looking ahead at one of the team's strongest positions.
Round 7, pick 221: P Matt Dodge, East Carolina
Oh boy, Matt Dodge. For a very brief period of time, Dodge was an exciting punter prospect for the Giants. Then came the 36-yard punt to DeSean Jackson that effectively ruined his future with the Giants in late-December 2010.
New York signed Steve Weatherford last preseason to compete with Dodge, and he proceeded to win that job and enjoy a fairly successful season. Dodge ended up a free agent with ample time to watch Weatherford provide Giants with this gem of a playoff moment:
Steve Weatherford "Muthafu*king Super Bowl" (via NunoTmp)