Draft preview: Defensive line

April, 22, 2013
4/22/13
6:00
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Bjoern WernerJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesBjoern Werner might be the Giants' best selection with the 19th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
This is the seventh installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Giants as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Defensive line.

Depth chart: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Justin Tuck, DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Adrian Tracy, DE Adewale Ojomo, DE Justin Trattou, DE Matt Broha, DT Linval Joseph, DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Mike Patterson, DT Shaun Rogers, DT Marvin Austin, DT Markus Kuhn, DT Bobby Skinner, DT Michael Jasper.

The departed: DE Osi Umenyiora (Atlanta), DT Chris Canty (Baltimore), DT Rocky Bernard (free agent).

Scouting report: Defensive line, specifically the interior, is an area the Giants focused on during the offseason. The defense finished 25th against the run last year so Jerry Reese added former Eagles’ defensive tackles Jenkins and Patterson.

Joseph should continue to get better after having 59 tackles and four sacks last season. The Giants have great depth at defensive tackle with Patterson, Rogers (who missed all of last season due to a blood clot), Austin and Kuhn.

The Giants’ sacks went down from 48 in 2011 to 33 in 2012. They'll need to alleviate some of the attention on Pierre-Paul, who was limited to 6.5 sacks last year. The Giants also will need a bounce-back season from Tuck, who had only four sacks. Umenyiora’s departure will have an impact but Kiwanuka could fill that role and perhaps Tracy, Ojomo or Trattou can step up as the end in the rotation.

The last time: The Giants drafted Kuhn in the seventh round in 2012.

Potential targets: With Umenyiora gone and Tuck entering the final year of his deal, the Giants can use another young pass rusher. And considering how their salary cap is and how they want to lock up Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to long-term extensions, the Giants probably need to go the draft route to add another defensive end to groom at an affordable rookie contract in case Tuck isn't back in '14. Remember, when thinking about what the Giants might do in the draft, always consider the team’s future and how Reese is always looking for starters/contributors for upcoming seasons, not necessarily this year.

After BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah and LSU’s Barkevious Mingo –- both expected to be gone by when the Giants pick at 19 –- Florida State’s Bjoern Werner is widely considered the next best defensive end. Werner, who had 13.0 sacks last year, is the only other first-round caliber defensive end on Scouts Inc’s draft board.

UCLA’s Datone Jones, Florida State’s Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, SMU’s Margus Hunt, LSU’s Sam Montgomery and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore are all defensive ends who could go late in the first round or after.

Reese might have to go with a defensive end at some point with his first two picks given the depth of quality pass rushers.

“There are some pass rushers in the draft, yeah,” Reese said. “How deep it is, I’m not sure.”

Other pass rushers that could go in the mid-rounds are Texas’ Alex Okafor, Michigan State’s William Gholston, Illinois’ Michael Buchanan, Ohio State’s John Simon, Auburn’s Corey Lemonier, Georgia’s Cornelius Washington and Western Kentucky’s Quanterus Smith, who has drawn interest from the Giants according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt. Okafor finished in the top-10 in sacks in the nation with 12.5 last year.

The Giants are set at defensive tackle for this season but Joseph is entering the final year of his deal. Patterson and Rogers are also on one-year deals. Reese can opt to keep plugging defensive tackle with cheap one-year veterans in free agency if Austin isn't ready in '14 or he could select one in a draft that is considered to be deep at defensive tackle.

If a stud defensive tackle that is expected to go high falls to 19, Reese’s best player available formula will be tested. Scouts Inc. has five defensive tackles – Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson, North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams and Georgia’s Johnathan Jenkins as worthy first-round talent.

The Giants, though, could find value later if they feel they need a DT. Alabama’s Jesse Williams, Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins, LSU’s Bennie Logan, Georgia’s Kwame Geathers, South Florida’s Cory Grissom, Mississippi State’s Josh Boyd, Michigan State’s Anthony Rashad White and Bowling Green’s Christopher Jones, who had 12.5 sacks last year, are all defensive tackles who could be drafted.

Maryland’s A.J. Francis, Mississippi’s Gilbert Pena and Mississippi State’s Dewayne Cherrington are on the Giants’ radar according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 9 (for a pass rusher for the future).
Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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