- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jerry Reese learned years ago that there are a few guidelines to abide by on draft day.
Picking the best player available on the board usually seems safer than picking based on need.
And when things suddenly don't go your way and the players you wanted vanish right before your pick, remain cool.
During the 1996 draft, the Giants owned the fifth overall pick and had their eyes set on a can't-miss offensive tackle in UCLA's Jonathan Ogden.
But when the Ravens selected Ogden in front of them at fourth, the Giants were on the clock, scrambling to figure out what to do next with Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy and defensive end Simeon Rice also already gone.
Reese, then a young scout, will never forget the pressure-packed war room.
"We thought we were going to get this incredible left tackle, and then all of the sudden he got picked," Reese said. "We had to make some quick adjustments. That was one of the pressure times in the draft."
The Giants ended up settling for Oklahoma defensive end Cedric Jones, who turned out to be a bust.
Reese has seen things change seemingly as fast as some prospects can run the 40-yard dash.
So as he enters his fifth draft as the Giants' general manager, Reese promises to be as calm as a monk and to consider the best player available.
"You go in here and you try to pick the best player available," Reese said. "You try not to reach. And again, you try not to panic when something happens, because it is pretty intense during draft time. You have to be ready for anything to happen. Strange things can happen on draft day. You just try to keep a cool head during draft time.
"The best thing to do on draft day is not to panic."
That approach has helped him draft the likes of Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss, Terrell Thomas and Mario Manningham. While Reese is still waiting for some of his picks to develop, such as 2009 second-round picks Clint Sintim and Will Beatty, the general manager has more often than not made the right moves.
Reese has been with the Giants since 1994, moving his way up from the scouting department to director of player personnel by 2002. He oversaw the organization's college scouting, spearheaded the team's draft preparation and ran the war room during the draft.
After succeeding Ernie Accorsi in 2007, Reese quickly become one of the league's best general managers.
This year's draft already has thrown one wrinkle at Reese and every other GM with the fact that it precedes free agency due to the lockout. So Reese might have to take some players specifically to address needs in case he can't fill them in free agency, whenever that takes place.
This year, with no free agency, Reese has had more time to scout players than usual. But other than that, he says he is treating this draft like any other.
Reese says that if the best player available on the Giants' board is there at 19 when they pick in the first round, he will take that player regardless of whether the team needs a linebacker or center more.
"Well, I just think you make less mistakes when you do that," Reese said. "If you start reaching for need, I think you can make gigantic mistakes when you do that. You can protect your franchise and pick the best player available and you can't go wrong there most of the time."
Last year, Reese selected defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a raw talent filled with immense potential. Even though the Giants already had Umenyiora, Tuck and Kiwanuka, Reese picked another pass-rusher instead of going for a linebacker, which the Giants arguably needed more.
This year, linebacker and center are the Giants' two greatest needs, and Florida guard/center Mike Pouncey and Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo are possibilities at 19 to bolster the offensive line.
An impact linebacker is not expected to be around at 19, but there could be a few talented defensive linemen, and Reese says he is not ruling out the possibility of taking another defensive lineman despite the fact that he used his first two picks to strengthen the front line for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell last year.
Reese has favored defense in the draft as a general manager. In three of his four drafts, Reese has taken a defensive player in the first round with Aaron Ross (2007), Kenny Phillips (2008) and Pierre-Paul (2010). Overall, he has gone defense on 17 of his 31 draft picks.
Reese developed his draft philosophy working alongside the late Tom Boisture, the former longtime director of player personnel who helped build some of the powerful Giants teams of the '80s.
Working under Giants general managers George Young and Accorsi, Reese learned the Giants' approach to the draft.
"[Boisture] taught me more than anybody else. Just the scouting process and just watching George and Ernie, I kind of adopted [their approach]," said Reese, who was a defensive back at the University of Tennessee at Martin. "I think we may have tweaked it and made some changes a little bit but it really is not a lot different from the overall picture of how we do things in the draft process."
The draft might be unpredictable no matter how much Reese and his staff plan ahead. But one thing is certain; Reese is going to remain calm and collected no matter what is thrown his way.
"Funny things happen on draft day, never be surprised, never be caught off guard," Reese says. "Keep your composure, pick the best player on your board, you are going to be all right most of the time if you do that."
"I am pretty calm all the time," Reese adds. "So I am pretty calm on draft day, yep."
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