Zac’s Note: This was first published on my Examiner page.
NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has put together his mock draft for the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. As a surprise to some fans, Kiper has the New York Giants taking Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis with pick number 29. The surprise isn’t the fact that Kiper has Big Blue taking the All American linebacker. Many people don’t believe that Laurinaitis will still be around at that point.
More than likely, Mathias Kiwanuka will go back to linebacker in 2009 with the return of Osi Umenyiora. Nobody knows what the mental state of Antonio Pierce will be once camp starts. Pierce was never the same after the Plaxico Burress incident and reports suggest that the clubhouse leader may be unhappy with his current contract. Gerris Wilkinson missed half the season due to injury and Danny Clark is a solid linebacker who isn’t getting any younger.
Laurinaitis would be a great pick up for any team. In 2006, he was awared the Nagurski Award, the award given out to the best defensive player in college football. In 2007, Laurinaitis won the Butkus Award (best linebacker in the nation). Laurinaitis was also named an All American in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
As a Penn State grad, I can honestly say that I’m very happy to see this young man leave Columbus. Laurinaitis is a linebacker with outstanding closing speed and tackling ability. He can play the run, get to the quarterback with ease and even defend the pass over the middle. Simply put, Laurinaitis has all of the physical and mental attributes to be one of the best linebackers in the game within 3-5 years.
I will never claim to be any sort of NFL Draft expert. Still, I was surprised to read that Kiper has Laurinaitis lasting until number 29. Most Giants pessimists, myself included, believe that New York may have to trade up in order to grab Laurinaitis. Is this something the Giants should consider?
Why not? The Giants finished 12-4, won their division and finished with the best record in 2008. This is truly a team that is just a few players away from being the best team in football (if they won’t already be in September of 2009). New York could easily give away an extra draft pick in order to draft Laurinaitis. Of course, I would prefer that Mel Kiper be right and New York be able to get Laurinaitis free and clear at the end of the first round. I’m just not convinced that’s going to be an option.
Laurinaitis won’t be the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009. He doesn’t need to be, though. If Laurinaitis can make some big third down plays and help to ease the burden off of the defensive line next year, I’ll be very happy. If the Giants do decide to let Plaxico Burress go, they won’t be able to replace him with the 29 pick in the Draft. Defense wins championships and there won’t be a better choice on that side of the ball for New York than Laurinaitis.