Who are the New York Giants’ best NFL draft picks? Here are the top 10 in franchise history.
Few franchises have the long and storied history of the New York Giants, but for all the greatness and all the championships, there aren’t as many sure-thing all-time stars as you might think.
The defensive stars aren’t a problem to find, but wide receiver? That’s a bit sketchy. Running back and offensive linemen were no problem, and linebacker and pass rushing ends were plentiful, but more than anything else this is an interesting list because of the history. Outside of a few key exceptions, if you’re not in the Hall of Fame, there’s no need to apply to get in here.
To be an all-time great draft pick, you had to be drafted by the team and needed to have done most of your big things for that franchise. Eli Manning is the key exception since he was technically drafted by San Diego, but that turned into part of a trade with the Giants – he’s considered a Giant.
1. LB Lawrence Taylor, North Carolina
1981, 1st round, 2nd pick overall
Pick Before: RB George Rogers, South Carolina by New Orleans
Pick After: RB Freeman McNeil, UCLA by New York Jets
A reasonable argument could be made that Taylor is the greatest defensive player of all-time, or at the very least, one of the top five. An elite pass rushing hybrid out of North Carolina, he changed the game with his relentless combination of power and speed coming off the edge. He’s it – he’s the prototype. Even by today’s standards, he’s the defensive force everyone is looking for.
An All-Pro in each of his first six seasons and eight times overall, and a Pro Bowler in each of his first ten years, the Hall of Famer finished up with 132.5 sacks highlighted by a dominant 20.5 sack 1986 NFL MVP season.
2. RB Frank Gifford, USC
1952, 1st round, 11th pick overall
Pick Before: DB Bert Rechichar, Tennessee by Cleveland
Pick After: QB Harry Agganis, Boston University by Cleveland
The icon of 1950s pro football icons, Gifford left USC as a legend and turned into a dangerous all-around NFL star going to eight Pro Bowls and earning four All-Pro nods – and the 1956 NFL MVP – in his Hall of Fame career as a halfback and receiver. It was a different time, different game, so the stats don’t mean quite as much, but he was by modern times the ideal third down playmaker, catching 367 career passes and running for 3,609 yards to go along with 14 touchdown passes.
3. DE Michael Strahan, Texas Southern
1993, 2nd round, 40th pick overall
Pick Before: TE Troy Drayton, Penn State by St. Louis Rams
Pick After: RB Natrone Means, North Carolina by San Diego
Before Magic Mike XXL, and before becoming the new Regis, Strahan was a whale of a pass rusher and catalyst with 141.5 career sacks including 22.5 in 2001 – named Defensive Player of the Year – and 18.5 in 2003. It took a few years to get rolling, but he caught fire his fifth season in going to seven Pro Bowls and being named to the All-Pro team four times on the way to the Hall of Fame.
4. LB Harry Carson, South Carolina State
1976, 4th round, 105th pick overall
Pick Before: RB Gordon Bell, Michigan by New York Giants
Pick After: RB Tony Davis, Nebraska by Cincinnati
The steady and strong leader over his 13-year career, Carson was never named to the All-Pro team, but he went to nine Pro Bowls and was a key part of the 1986 Super Bowl season. Taken in the fourth round, he got eight starts as a rookie before becoming the mainstay in the middle for over a decade.
5. QB Eli Manning, Ole Miss*
2004, 1st round, 1st pick overall
Pick Before: None
Pick After: OT Robert Gallery, Iowa by Oakland Raiders
No, Eli wasn’t technically drafted by the New York Giants – they took Phil Rivers – but because he was a draft weekend trade, and he was a Giant from the start of his career, he’ll count as the franchise’s star quarterback.
Not flashy and not the most excitable of players, he was never given enough credit for being the type of steady star under center that the team needed. He might not have been all that charismatic, but he was unflappable on the way to two stunning Super Bowl wins and big numbers year after year after year. While he’ll never be considered the quarterback of his era – Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and big brother Peyton are going to be given more respect – he’s still a sure-thing Hall of Famer.
6. OT Rosey Brown, Morgan State
1953, 27th round, 321st pick overall
Pick Before: E Ralph McLeod, LSU by San Francisco
Pick After: B Earl Hersh, West Chester by Philadelphia
It’s as good as a 27th round pick gets. The rock at left tackle for 13 years, Brown started 162 games turning into the blocker the offense worked behind. Only 6-3 and 255 pounds, he wasn’t all that big, but he could move, and he could hit, being named to the Pro Bowl nine times and was a six-time All-Pro on the way to the Hall of Fame.
7. LB Sam Huff, West Virginia
1956, 3rd round, 30th pick overall
Pick Before: C Jim Taylor, Baylor by Pittsburgh
Pick After: QB Jon Roach, SMU by Chicago Cardinals
While he might have spent the last five years of his Hall of Fame career with Washington, he made his big name by being the star in the middle of some outstanding Giant defenses. The standard of the game for four years, he went to four straight Pro Bowls and earned two All-Pro nods.
8. QB Phil Simms, Morehead State
1979, 1st round, 7th pick overall
Pick Before: LB Barry Krauss, Alabama by Baltimore
Pick After: RB Ottis Anderson, Miami by St. Louis
While he’s not in the Hall of Fame, and he only went to two Pro Bowls, he helped lead the Giants to the 1986 Super Bowl – earning MVP honors – and did the job in the regular season for a second title. By today’s standards, the 199 touchdown passes and 33,462 yards are a bit pedestrian for a 14-year career, but for what the team needed during the Bill Parcells era, eventually, he became the right quarterback.
9. LB Jesse Armstead, Miami
1993, 8th round, 207th pick overall
Pick Before: P Jeff Buffaloe, Memphis by Los Angeles Rams
Pick After: RB Greg Robinson, ULM by Los Angeles Raiders
One of the biggest keys to the pick was when he was taken. Armstead might have been a terrific college player, but he wasn’t considered a top pro prospect. Taken in the 8th round – after a punter, mind you – he became one of the franchise’s most productive linebackers making 747 tackles and 30.5 sacks with the Giants before going off to Washington. It took three years before he became a key part of the defense, and then it all kicked in going to five straight Pro Bowls and being named to the 1997 All-Pro team.
10. FB Tuffy Leemans, Oregon
1936, 2nd round, 18th pick overall
Pick Before: B Chuck Cheshire, UCLA by Detroit
Pick After: C Wes Muller, Stanford by Philadelphia
Alphonse Emil “Tuffy” Leemans was a do-it-all player for the Giants back in the early days, working as a 6-0, 195-pound fullback, halfback and occasional quarterback throwing 25 career touchdown passes while running for 3,132 yards and 17 scores. He was a two-time Pro Bowl player and a 1939 All-Pro on the way to the Hall of Fame.