EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jerry Reese says it is a little strange for free agency to come after the draft in this locked out 2011 offseason.
But the New York Giants general manager strongly reiterated that nothing has changed his approach to the draft.
If the best player on his board is available at 19th overall, Reese is going to draft him regardless of position and need.
"If a defensive lineman is there at 19, we will be deeper at our defensive line," Reese said in his pre-draft news conference. "If a good player is there and he is the highest player on our board, we will be even deeper on our defensive line. We are going to pick the best player, guys."
The Giants enter the 2011 draft with their greatest needs at center and linebacker. The offensive line was decimated by injuries last year and Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Adam Koets all are coming off of surgeries. All three also happen to be the top three centers on the depth chart.
That is why many have Florida's guard/center Mike Pouncey as the player that makes the most sense for the Giants. O'Hara and Koets are expected to be ready by the season opener but Pouncey would protect the Giants.
At No. 19, many believe the best value available player will be at offensive line. Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo is another top prospect that could be there when the Giants pick.
Even though the Giants need to improve their linebacker corps, there may not be an impact linebacker available at that point. The best linebacker projected to be around at No. 19 is UCLA's Akeem Ayers.
"If there is a good one available at the time, we need to pick him," Reese said of drafting a linebacker. "If there is a good player that we like in our window, we will take a stab at him. We are trying to strengthen every position. Not just linebacker, every position."
Reese said he is open to moving out of No. 19.
"We're willing to move up, we're willing to move down," Reese said. "If somebody loves our spot and we don't have our guy there, we will be more than happy to move down ... or for somebody that we really love and move up and not give away the farm, we are willing to move up as well. Every year the draft changes after every pick. It is always high drama on draft day."
Last year, the Giants used five of their seven draft picks on defense, spending their top two picks on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Linval Joseph. They took safety Chad Jones in the third before drafting middle linebacker Phillip Dillard in the fourth round and linebacker/defensive end Adrian Tracy in the sixth round.
The year before that, the Giants took linebacker Clint Sintim in the second round. Sintim, Dillard and Tracy have yet to prove themselves and Reese said he wants to see more from them.
"We have a couple of guys that we don't know a lot about," Reese said. "We want to see what they can do. And Clint Sintim is a guy that we want to see what he can do. He hasn't played a lot and then he got injured so that hampered our evaluation of him. We picked this guy in the second round, we expect this guy to be an impact player for us and right now he hasn't been able to do that."
With free agency coming after the draft, Reese might have to protect himself in case he is not able to fill needs through free agency and in case any of his own free agents depart. At the moment, teams don't know who will be unrestricted or restricted free agents, depending on what the new collective bargaining agreement will be.
So the Giants could look at adding a running back, tight end, defensive lineman, safety and corner in the draft. They need more speed and athleticism to also help out on special teams as well.
The order of business may be different with free agency coming after the draft, but the approach remains the same, according to Reese.
"I think it's just flipped," Reese said. "Still, we go into the draft looking for the best players available and after the draft, when free agency starts, we will probably say, 'Let's fill some holes where we feel we need some help.' "
"You are always cognizant of what your need is," he added. "Still, if we need a running back, if there's a high value defensive tackle, we are not going to take a running back just because we need a running back. We are going to take that high value defensive tackle or any other position."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.