Thursday, April 25, 2013

New York Giants Draft Preview: Special Teams

Al Bello/Getty Images

By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)

The NFL Draft is quickly approaching, as we get closer to the primetime opening round April 25th.  This will be the sixth part in a series where I will discuss the current and needs for the upcoming NFL Draft for the Giants.

The sixth position I will take a look at is special teams.

Currently on the depth chart the Giants have Steve Weatherford at punter, Josh Brown and David Buehler at kicker, Jake Rogers who is a kicker/punter, long snapper Zak DeOssie, David Wilson, Andre Brown and Jerrel Jernigan at kick returner and Rueben Randle at punt returner. From last season, the Giants have let kicker Lawrence Tynes and punt returner Domenik Hixon leave; Tynes remains a free agent and Hixon signed with the Panthers.

Punter is set for the Giants with Weatherford on the roster.  He has been solid since taking over for Matt Dodge, who averaged 47.5 yards per punt and landed 22 of his 58 punts inside the red zone. Long Snapper DeOssie has been with the team for a number of years now and adds stability and chemistry as the special teams captain.

Kicker is where the Giants will see the biggest change this season.  They are moving on from Tynes and have brought in three kickers to compete for his spot.  Brown is expected to be the guy to replace Tynes, but Buehler will have a chance to compete as well.  Brown has been solid throughout his career, showing a strong leg as he has season longs of at least 52-yards every year of his career.  He has a career average of 81.3 percent on his kicks and 64.1 yards per kickoff. 

Buehler has the bigger leg on kickoffs, averaging 66.8 yards on kickoffs in his one season as kicker for the Cowboys in 2010, but struggled with field goals going 24 of 32. 

The return game may seem some changes now as well.  With Wilson assuming a bigger role in the offense, his presence in the return game will most likely diminish.  Last season Wilson was electric in the return game, giving the Giants a spark as he amassed 1533 yards and one touchdown.  If the Giants choose to use him less in the return game Jernigan and Brown are expected to get the first cracks at the position. 

Randle was good in punt return duties last season, averaging 7.2 yards per return.  Once again, Jernigan can help out here as well as newly returning Aaron Ross.  Second year player Jayron Hosley also has experience returning punts and could find himself in the mix as well. Last season the Giants improve immensely in return coverage thanks to the likes of DeOssie, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger.

The last time the Giants selected a kicker or punter in the draft was 2010 when they selected Dodge; do not expect that to happen this season.  If the Giants are going to add anyone to help on special teams it will most likely be a player capable of helping in the return game.

One intriguing option is former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who is an explosive return man with big play capabilities that could also help in the Giants defensive backfield.  He would come with a lot of baggage after being dismissed from LSU but would have a mentor in former LSU cornerback Corey Webster.  He has the talent but are the Giants willing to take a risk on the baggage he brings with him?

Another player that could help the Giants is Mississippi State’s Jonathan Banks.  He is a top rated corner but can also help the Giants in the return game as well.  Reggie Dunn is another name to keep an eye on as he is quite possibly the most explosive return man available in the draft.  He holds the record for most 100-yard returns in NCAA history with five and would presumably add the same explosiveness and big play potential Wilson gave the Giants last season.

Special teams are not a pressing need for the Giants in the draft this year as they have plenty of in house options in the return game and are set at both kicker and punter.  On a scale of 1-10 the Giants need for a special teamer in the draft is a 3.

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