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Giants' Draft Preview: Linebacker

The linebacker position always seems to be an issue with the New York Giants. A team with a glorious history at linebacker, the Giants have not drafted an impact linebacker since grabbing Jessie Armstead in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL Draft.

In recent years the Giants have not really ignored the position, but neither have they often invested their top picks in trying to find impact players at the position. Gerris Wilkinson was a third-round pick in 2006, and he has never made an impact. Zak DeOssie was a fourth-round pick in 2007, and he is now strictly a long-snapper. Bryan Kehl, a fourth-round pick in 2008, was released last season and is now with St. Louis. Fifth-round pick Jonathan Goff is the team's starting middle linebacker, though a weak pass defender. In 2009, the Giants spent a second-round pick on outside linebacker Clint Sintim -- a move that has yet to pay dividends. In 2010, middle linebacker Phillip Dillard was taken in the fourth round and outside linebacker Adrian Tracy in the sixth. Neither of those players has yet had an opportunity.

Fans have been clamoring for the Giants to invest a first-round pick in a linebacker, something they have not done since taking Carl Banks way back in 1984. Will this be the year? That does not seem likely. Giants General Manager Jerry Reese historically drafts for value rather than positional need, and has promised to follow that philosophy again in the 2011 NFL Draft.

That would indicate the Giants would be unlikely to reach for UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers in the first round. If Ayers falls to the second round he could be in play, as could Washington linebacker Mason Foster and North Carolina's Bruce Carter. Other linebackers who could intrigue the Giants later in the draft include K.J. Wright of Mississippi State, Doug Hogue of Syracuse and Colin McCarthy of Syracuse.

Analysis: The Giants seem to have de-valued this position in recent years. They seem likely to add to the mix if the right player is available to them, although Reese has also expressed a desire to see more of Sintim, Tracy and Dillard.