EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — While they filled big needs on the offensive and defensive lines and added some help in the secondary and at running back, the biggest news the New York Giants made in the NFL draft will filling a need they seemingly never need — backup quarterback.
The Giants created a little buzz early Saturday, making a trade to move up and grab Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib as a backup for two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
“If he doesn’t ever play, that would be great,” general manager Jerry Reese said after the pick. “That’s a good problem to have. If he needs to play, we’re hoping that whatever time that is that he’ll be up and ready to go if it ever happens that way.”
Being Manning’s backup is akin to not playing. Manning has started 135 straight regular-season games and 11 consecutive postseason contests. The last player to start for New York other than Manning was Kurt Warner in 2004.
Veteran David Carr has been Manning’s backup in recent years and just the latest veteran to back up the 32-year-old Manning. That could change this year if Nassib beats out Carr or Tom Coughlin elects to go with three quarterbacks on his roster, something that he hasn’t done in recent years.
Nassib is the first quarterback drafted by the Giants since Sam Houston State’s Rhett Bomar in the fifth round in 2009. The previous year, they selected Kentucky’s Andre’ Woodson in round six. Each of them had a short stay with the Giants, as did free agent Ryan Perrilloux in 2011.
Entering the fourth round, Reese said Nassib, who started the past three years for the Orange, stuck out like a sore thumb.
“He had too much value,” Reese said. “We had been talking about developing a quarterback to back up Eli for a while and this was the perfect opportunity for us to get a young quarterback with a lot of talent.”
So the Giants shipped their fourth- and sixth-round picks to the Arizona Cardinals to move up six spots and grab Nassib, who some felt had first-round talent.
Marc Ross, the team’s director of college scouting, said Nassib has more than arm strength.
“That’s something secondary to me,” Ross said. “I look at leaders and winners and players who raise the level of the team and when they are on the field have a presence about them and those are attributes about him that stood out to me.”
Coughlin didn’t want to say how many quarterbacks the team will keep this season, but he believes the competition between Carr and Nassib will help the team.
“This is a great opportunity for Ryan,” said Coughlin, who noted he had not called Manning to explain the pick, saying there was no need to discuss something with a quarterback who still getting better. “He’ll be in the classroom with Eli and he’ll get a chance to learn.”
Nassib completed 791 of 1,312 passes for 9,190 yards and 70 touchdown passes with the Orange, leading them to 21 wins in three seasons as a starter.
Nassib had just gotten home to West Chester, Pa., when Coughlin telephoned him after the pick.
“To be honest with you, I blacked out,” said Nassib, who had not talked with the Giants much before the draft. “I didn’t get everything. What I did get from him was that first off I had to cut my ties with the Philadelphia Eagles and switch, which won’t be a problem. He complimented me on coming from a good school and being a good football player and told me what I great opportunity I had to play behind Eli.”
The 23-year-old wasn’t shy when asked about his abilities. He’s confident and said that he is somewhat like Manning in that he was durable in his final three years in college, never missing a game or a practice. He was admittedly disappointed staying on the board until the fourth round.
“I always compared myself to Eli so it is going to be crazy that I am going to be playing with him,” Nassib said. “He is a tough, durable, smart guy who doesn’t say much. That’s the kind of quarterback I always wanted to be. Being able to sit behind him and learn from him, like some great quarterbacks did in the past, an elite veteran like Aaron Rodgers, it’s going to be a great opportunity for me.”
Nassib is going to have some company with the Giants. They drafted Syracuse offensive tackle Justin Pugh in the first round. Pugh is from Holland, Pa., about 30 miles from Philadelphia.
“We’re from the same area and had many a drive home from Syracuse,” Nassib said. “I can’t believe that of all the situations that we are going to be back together again.”
Pugh, the 19th pick overall, is expected to push David Diehl for the starting job at right tackle. The other offensive line taken was guard Eric Herman of Ohio University.
Bills turn to defense
After stocking up on offense early in the NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills turned to a glaring need on defense on the draft’s third and final day.
Buffalo selected safeties with back-to-back picks on Saturday, selecting Nevada’s Michael `Duke’ Williams 105th overall and Clemson’s Jonathan Meeks 143rd overall.
The Bills had a need on the back end due to the departure of veteran safety George Wilson, who has since joined the Tennessee Titans, and the uncertain future of standout Jairus Byrd. Byrd, one of Buffalo’s top playmakers, is unsigned after receiving the franchise tag on March 1. The Bills had no update regarding Byrd but team president Russ Brandon said there has been dialogue between the Bills and Byrd’s agent, Eugene Parker.
“They were the two best guys up there at the time we were picking,” general manager Buddy Nix said. “Obviously we want to be prepared for whatever happens.”
Listed at 5-foot-11, 201 pounds, Williams is considered a playmaker in the secondary and is known for his speed and physicality. Williams played mostly at strong safety at Nevada and finished with 292 tackles, 18 pass breakups and four interceptions.
Williams is the second Bills draft pick to have encountered off-field problems. He was arrested in 2009 for underage possession of alcohol and in 2011 for driving with a suspended license and without insurance after being involved in a car accident.
Meeks, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, had 157 tackles, seven interceptions and 13 pass breakups in 50 career games, including 24 starts. Meeks is a versatile prospect who could play at strong or free safety in the pros and has good size and range.
The additions of Williams and Meeks give new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine more options to work with as he attempts to overhaul a Bills defense that finished in the bottom third of the league in most major defensive categories. The Bills are switching to a hybrid 3-4 scheme under Pettine, the former New York Jets defensive coordinator, that will benefit from more versatile additions.
Jets, Ivory agree
A source said the New York Jets and newly acquired running back Chris Ivory have agreed in principle to a three-year, $10 million deal.
The deal Saturday comes after the Jets traded a fourth-round draft pick to the New Orleans Saints on Friday night.
Ivory has a shot at being the Jets’ starter in a backfield that includes Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight and recently signed Mike Goodson.
Ivory, undrafted out of Tiffin in 2010, rushed for 217 yards and two TDs on 40 carries last year. He was stuck on the Saints’ depth chart behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.