Commentary

Moss, Kiwanuka tell story of 2006 draft

Five years ago, the Giants grabbed some key defensive cogs but lost out at receiver

Updated: April 23, 2011, 2:14 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

The success or failure of a draft can't be accurately judged until five years later. We decided to take a look back and review the Giants' 2006 draft.

Justin Tuck remembers munching on wings and watching the 2006 NFL draft with his cousin at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Alabama when the New York Giants shocked him and seemingly everybody outside of their war room.

Already loaded at defensive end with Pro Bowl pass rushers Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, the Giants traded down from 25th to 32nd and selected Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka with the last pick of the first round.

Tuck, another promising defensive end picked by the Giants in the third round the year before, probably felt indigestion thanks to the selection.

"I remember it very well," Tuck recalled. "At first I was kind of upset about it. Obviously, we already had Stray, Osi and myself, and taking another defensive end, who I felt was very talented in the first round, ... it is a threat obviously."

While Tuck initially viewed Kiwanuka as a threat to his playing time, Strahan looked at the choice as a wise one in the final draft by general manager Ernie Accorsi.

"I was happy," Strahan said recently. "Because I knew I wasn't going to play forever."

The Giants' 2006 draft may have started off with a surprise but ended up producing two very good defensive players: Kiwanuka and defensive tackle Barry Cofield, whom Accorsi grabbed in the fourth round.

Even though Kiwanuka has dealt with two season-ending injuries -- a broken leg in 2007 and a neck injury last year -- he has become the team's most versatile defensive player, capable of playing both defensive end and linebacker.

And Cofield won a starting job in training camp as a rookie and has been the starter ever since.

[+] EnlargeSinorice Moss
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesMoss spent much of his Giants career on the sidelines.

"I think they did pretty well," Cofield said. "Me being at the time a second-day pick, the bottom half of the draft, a fourth-round guy ... it makes them look good. Kiwi's best football is ahead of him, and mine is also."

Most of the other 2006 picks didn't pan out the way the Giants envisioned. New York traded up in the second round to take wide receiver Sinorice Moss, before taking linebacker Gerris Wilkinson in the third round, and rounded out its draft by selecting offensive lineman Guy Whimper in the fourth round, defensive back Charlie Peprah in the fifth round and defensive back Gerrick McPhearson in the sixth round.

Only Kiwanuka, Cofield and Wilkinson, a contributor on special teams last year, were on the team at the end of the 2010 season.

Whimper was a backup until his release last year. The Giants waived Peprah after the 2006 training camp, but the defensive back started 11 games this past season for the Packers and had 10 tackles in the Super Bowl win over the Steelers. McPherson was a practice squad player waived prior to 2007.

Moss couldn't beat the injury bug nor the talent ahead of him. He left the Giants having played in just 37 regular-season games and two postseason games, hauling in just 39 receptions for 421 yards and three touchdowns while also averaging 19.4 yards on 24 kickoff returns. Those aren't the type of statistics the Giants dreamed of when they traded their second- and third-round picks to the Baltimore Ravens to move up 12 spots in the second round and select Moss.

The Giants passed on taking a receiver in the first round when they dealt their 25th overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for Pittsburgh's first-round (No. 32), third-round and fourth-round picks. The Steelers promptly took Ohio State wide receiver Santonio Holmes at No. 25. The Giants also took Moss eight picks before the Green Bay Packers would select standout receiver Greg Jennings.

Now, five years after the 2006 draft, the Giants would like to hold on to their two best picks from that year -- Kiwanuka and Cofield. Both will be either restricted free agents or unrestricted free agents, depending on the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement.

After having his best season as a pro with 54 tackles and four sacks, Cofield is hoping to cash in on his first big contract and has said he will consider asking for a trade if he has to play another season under a one-year, restricted free-agent tender.

Kiwanuka has been cleared to resume playing again after missing all but three games last year with a herniated disc in his neck. The Giants would like to retain Kiwanuka, but he has made it no secret that he wants to be a starter. After shifting positions, Kiwanuka wants to be a starting defensive end.

"It's been rough for him," Cofield said of Kiwanuka, who has started a total of 41 games in five seasons. "[But] he would love to come back, too. There are economics involved. I think he feels he is good enough to be a starter. We all want to eat, so I don't know if there is enough [playing time] to feed everybody. We love to play together so we will see."

Tuck hopes the Giants can keep both players. After all, Kiwanuka turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

"For me, everything worked out right," Tuck said. "In the end, it might have pushed me to become a better player."

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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