A few weeks ago, I wrote in one of my columns that I would never want to trade a second-round pick, as they are like "gold." With second-round picks, a team gets a four-year contract for a potential starter at a very modest price. What is not to like about that? So, naturally this week, two teams traded second-round picks for players: the Redskins got Jason Taylor from the Dolphins and the Saints obtained Jeremy Shockey from the Giants. Here's what we learned from the latter trade.
We have heard for some time how much the Saints wanted the Giants tight end. Finally he is reunited with Sean Payton, the former offensive coordinator of the Giants and now Saints head coach. The Saints offense was powerful and could move the ball before it got Shockey, but now it is going to be even more explosive.
If you look over the history and origins of the West Coast offense and find the guidelines left behind from Bill Walsh, the father of the offense, the one requirement to make this offense function at a high-octane level is a great pass-catching tight end. Walsh was relentless in his pursuit of finding the right tight end. His first draft with the 49ers, his first pick overall, in the second round was a tight end, Earl Cooper, from Rice. Walsh traded a bunch of picks to New England for retired tight end Russ Francis in 1982 and convinced him to keep playing. So the Shockey trade does not surprise me at all. The Saints have been trying to find the right player at tight end since Payton arrived.
What this does for the Saints offense is force teams to respect their inside passing game. Along with Mark Campbell as the blocking tight end, the Saints have the ability to run the ball against nickel coverage. Tight ends who can run routes and block are a very challenging matchup for most defenses. And the way the Saints can throw the ball with Drew Brees at the helm, Shockey's pass receiving skill set will blend in very well. He can win on man-to-man coverage and he can be a matchup problem for smaller defensive backs who attempt to cover him.
Tight ends are like knights in chess: They are versatile, they can strike from far away, and if used and deployed correctly they can make the other pieces fit well around them. Wideout Marques Colston, for one, will greatly benefit from having Shockey around. He'll see less rolled coverages and will have the freedom to beat some one-on-one matchups on the outside. And if the Saints were not already proficient in the red zone (No. 2 in the NFL last year in red-zone scoring), having Shockey will make them better as he can win in the middle of the field, which is where most red-zone defenses will force the ball to be thrown.
I like that the Saints were proactive. It makes me proud I picked them to make the playoffs. Now just go and sign a big back....
The one thing the 2007 season taught us is the Giants can win without Shockey in their offense. And with this trade, the Giants play into their strength, which is being very solid at drafting players. Acquiring the second-round pick -- even though it likely will be late in the second -- will enable the Giants to add more youth and talent to their team. When you draft well, then adding more picks is always a smart idea.
There is really no pressure at all on starting tight end Kevin Boss. He is not a main cog in the offense, so he can just go about doing his job, which is to block and catch the ball when thrown in his direction. The Giants needed some complimentary players for their offense, ones who accept their role and do the dirty work. Boss did all those things very well last year and will improve even more this season.
The Giants did the smart thing being patient with this trade. They held firm and got their price. Whether the Giants make a return visit to the Super Bowl has little to do with this trade. With the smell of success all around the Giants this camp, they can look to the future and not have to worry as much about proving themselves this year.
Now the city of New York is down to one unhappy tight end, New York Jet Chris Baker. And with all the second-round picks being traded, I wonder if there's anyone willing to give one to the Eagles for Lito Sheppard?