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NFL Draft: Could Giants take a linebacker in first round?

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 08: Running back Myles

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 08: Running back Myles Jack #30 of the UCLA Bruins rushes against the Washington Huskies on November 8, 2014 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Otto Greule Jr

This could be the year the Giants take a linebacker in the first round of the draft for the first time since they selected Carl Banks in 1984. If they do, their choice likely will come down to two players: Myles Jack or Leonard Floyd.

Either could wind up being a dynamic defensive player for the Giants. Neither is a perfect draft pick.

For Jack, the big question is how many years his knee will hold up to the NFL grind. There are reports that eventually he will need microfracture surgery after suffering an injury last season which ended his college career.

“If you’re going to take a player in the top 10, you want him as clean as possible, both character and medical, and I think there’s going to be some concern about Myles Jack medically,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said on a conference call last week. “I know he’s running around and looks great, but I think there’s some teams that are concerned about the longevity of his career.”

The Giants may not be one of those teams despite the specter of some recent first-round picks that never reached their full potential due to injuries. Kenny Phillips, Hakeem Nicks and David Wilson all saw precipitous and premature declines after their ailments and they cost the Giants potential core players.

“I think we’ve had some bad luck with injuries,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “We had a medical meeting last (week) and we talked about the guys that are injury risks. We try to minimize our risks, but it’s football. It’s grown men hitting each other with helmets. Guys get injured. It’s a part of the business.”

Given the urgency of the franchise to return to playoff form after four seasons without a postseason appearance, perhaps it is a gamble general manager Jerry Reese would be willing to take.

“If our doctors say the risk is too high or reject guys, we don’t take them,” Reese said.

Floyd is cleaner medically, but has some other warning labels including a lack of size and pure strength.

“Leonard Floyd is one of my most conflicted players,” Mayock said. “There’s a big part of me that wants to say he’s a top-10 talent, and there’s another part of me that when I look back at my notes, and I’ve done at least six of his games, all over the place I have the word ‘underpowered’ . . . If he doesn’t win with speed, he gets stuck. That worries me.”

Floyd is also one of the oldest prospects in the draft. He’ll be 24 when his rookie season begins.

That doesn’t appear to be an issue for the Giants.

“We’re conscious of players’ ages, but how many players have played over four, five, six years?” Reese said.

That quote could also apply to Jack, too, if his knee turns out to be the time bomb some predict it will be.

Few doubt the overall ability and athleticism of Jack and Floyd despite the concerns. Both could very well wind up being long-term, dominant players in the NFL.

And if both slide down to the Giants with the 10th pick on Thursday night, Reese may have to decide which of the imperfect draft prospects he thinks will be the perfect addition to the team.

Both Myles Jack and Leonard Floyd have plusses and minuses as they prepare to enter the NFL. Here is a look at how the two top linebackers in the draft – and two potential targets for the Giants – measure up to each other:

Myles Jack

UCLA

6-1, 245

Pros: Phenomenal athlete who played both sides of the ball at UCLA … Would be the best sideline-to-sideline linebacker the Giants have had in several generations with potential for 150-plus tackles per year … Will only be 21 when the 2016 season begins … Scouts compare him to Patrick Willis and Junior Seau.

Cons: Torn meniscus in right knee ended his junior season and he left school to focus on rehab and the draft … NFL Network reports that Jack has an osteochondral defect in which the cartilage and bone have begun to separate in that right knee … If the bone and cartilage come completely apart, Jack would need more significant surgery, perhaps microfracture.

Leonard Floyd

Georgia

6-6, 244

Pros: A strong pass-rusher who can also play in space and be a true every-down outside linebacker … Can play with his hand on the turf on third downs and passing situations … Athletic enough to cover slot receivers in college … Uses his speed well and was the tallest linebacker at the Combine.

Cons: Not overwhelmingly strong and can be locked up by blockers and pushed backwards … Stands out on film but has not had dominant production numbers in college … Scouts consider him a “boom or bust” prospect … Will be 24 years old at start of his rookie season.

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