- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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As the clock ticked away and the Giants were nearing a decision on who to take with their third-round pick, general manager Jerry Reese and his lieutenants debated what to do with the 76th overall pick.
There were some in the room who wanted to address the team's biggest need at middle linebacker by taking Nebraska's Phillip Dillard. Most, though, felt that LSU's athletic safety, Chad Jones, would not last much longer.
So the Giants did what they did in the previous two picks -- they went for what they felt was the best value over need.
"There was some good discussion about it," said Marc Ross, the Giants' director of college scouting. "We thought there was a chance that [Dillard would] be available [in the fourth round] and that Chad wouldn't be, so we decided to go that route and hold our breath, and we got him. It was a restless night's sleep, but it was worth it."
"We weren't going to force anything," Ross emphasized. "When you force players and you think it's a need and then you get burned, and then they don't play anyway, then you have a bad pick. We were going to wait for the right person at the right time."
And with that philosophy, the Giants drafted five defensive players with their seven picks but emerged with just one middle linebacker. Despite needing to replace the departed Antonio Pierce, the Giants said they refused to reach for a middle linebacker. Instead, they drafted a defensive end with limitless potential, a space-eating defensive tackle and an athletic safety who can throw a 91 mph fastball before they found a middle linebacker in the fourth round they felt was worth taking, after Alabama's Rolando McClain was grabbed eighth by the Raiders.
The Giants set the tone of their draft by first selecting South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at 15th overall with other linebackers available and one spot ahead of Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan. Morgan may be considered more polished, but the Giants believe Pierre-Paul will become the bigger star with his "freakish" athleticism. Never mind that the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Pierre-Paul only has one year of football at a major college under his belt and is considered very "raw." The Giants called the defensive end capable of doing 13 consecutive back-flips a value pick.
The word "upside" was used a lot this weekend with the Giants' picks. After all, they used their first three picks on juniors. They went for guys who are athletic, have some versatility and some who have something to prove.
East Carolina defensive tackle Linval Joseph decided to make a change in his life and shed 70 pounds of weight after he ballooned to 370 pounds and needed minor back surgery after his freshman year. When he saw that only three people really made an effort to visit him in the hospital, the 6-4, 315-pound Joseph decided to focus on football and he worked his way into a second-round pick.
The 6-2, 221-pound Jones was a dual-sport star who helped LSU win national titles in baseball and football. Like Pierre-Paul, Jones will benefit from going through a full offseason football workout program and could make an impact on special teams. Jones is clearly a value pick considering the Giants loaded up at safety in the offseason by acquiring Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant to provide security for the recovering Kenny Phillips.
The 6-foot, 245-pound Dillard, who overcame a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him pretty much all of the 2006 season, butted heads with the coaching staff at Nebraska and fell out of the starting lineup while enduring the death of his mother before his fifth year in Lincoln. He promised his mother, Martha Dillard, he would turn his attitude around and he earned his way back into the starting lineup and into the good graces of Bo Pelini's staff at Nebraska.
Now he has a chance to compete for Pierce's job. Needless to say, Dillard was a need pick.
"We rolled the dice and we came out with the guy we wanted at middle linebacker," Reese said of passing on Dillard in the third round.
The Giants' only offensive draft pick was a need and value choice with Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus, whom the Giants describe as nasty, vicious and ready to compete immediately. The 6-3 Petrus, taken in the fifth round, tied the scouting combine record for most bench presses with 45 and started his college career as a walk-on who played tight end and fullback as well.
The Giants' sixth-round pick was a value one and he's another former walk-on. William & Mary's Adrian Tracy played defensive end and now will play outside linebacker in the pros. And with their last pick, the Giants drafted East Carolina punter Matt Dodge with Jeff Feagles considering retirement this week.
Even though the Giants came away with just one middle linebacker, Reese believes he's added depth, versatility and talent to push the veterans and improve a defense that was nonexistent at times last year.
"We hope to accomplish that these guys, with our first two or three picks, that you can get some contributions from them right away," said Reese, who did not discount bringing in another veteran middle linebacker. "Hopefully, you might get a starter or two out of those picks. We think we have helped our defense. We think we have improved defensively, and the guard [Petrus] will create competition at the guard spot."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.