The National Football League draft is an inexact science at best. When you're taking your last selection near the end of the last round it gets even more inexact.
So as the Patriots made their second seventh-round pick (253rd overall) and selected Notre Dame's David Givens, they fell back on an old cliché: they took the best athlete available.
Givens is a 6-0, 217-pound wide receiver who was considered the best all-around player on his college team. He was a big playmaker for the Irish and did a little of everything. His versatility fits the mold of the type of player the Patriots like to have filling out the bottom of their roster. Givens' position coach at Notre Dame, Joker Phillips, believes he has the talent to play wide receiver in the NFL but will need to do other things well initially to establish himself.
"I see him making the team as a special teams player, whether it's as a return man, a flyer or blocking punts," Phillips said of Givens, who blocked three kicks in 2000. "In time, I definitely see him becoming a third or fourth receiver and playing in the league for a long time."
Givens' size and the fact that he played at a big-time program help his cause despite his modest production. He had only 33 receptions last year, but Notre Dame runs an option offense that makes it hard to tell just how good their wideouts are. He did, however, catch the eye of Denver Head Coach Mike Shanahan, who in a behind the scenes look at his war room on HBO's "Real Sports" program said the Broncos had Givens rated as a fifth rounder.
Phillips agrees with Shanahan's assessment of Givens.
"The Patriots got a steal for the round they took him in," Phillips said. "He has good agility, great hand-eye coordination, soft hands and he's very,very strong."
During his career at Notre Dame, Givens never played with any quarterback for long. Phillips believes the adjusting and re-adjusting to new passers more than the Irish's offensive scheme hurt Givens' draft status.
"He played with so many quarterbacks that he was always breaking in a new one," Phillips said. "Last year he had two very young quarterbacks, one of which was originally a linebacker."
One of the most impressive things about Givens is his size and physique. Since the end of the Notre Dame season he has been working out with local strength and conditioning guru, Mike Boyle. Boyle came to prominence in the late-'80s and early-'90s when he was the strength and conditioning coach for the Boston Bruins and worked wonders with such players as Cam Neely.
Phillips confirmed that Givens spends a good amount of time in the gym.
"He's a 400-pound bench presser, real strong," he said. "He looks like an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He's really put together and plays up to his size. Some guys who play the skill positions don't carry that size well. David takes full advantage of it."
Director of Player Personnel Scott Pioli said that the Patriots look for more than just stopwatch times and combine skills in their players. They look for things like leadership, personal behavior and make-up.
"When we look for guys we want to know how important football is to this player," Pioli said. "When we build our team, we're not looking for the best 53 players; we are looking for the right 53 players."
Givens seems to fit that mold like a glove.
"He's the type of guy you want in your locker room," Phillips said. "He was one of our captains, was never a problem, and was a very positive influence on both the older and younger guys in the locker room, as well as being one of the hardest workers on the team."
If Givens works out for the Patriots, the 2002 draft may be closer to a sweet science than an inexact one.
Strengths: Considered Notre Dame's best all-around player last year. Does a little of everything: catching, passing, running as well as special teams. Versatile player who made big plays at several positions, including three blocked punts in 2000.
Weaknesses: Because he played in a run-oriented offense at Notre Dame, it limited his production. His lack of experience in the passing game may cause him to have a hard time adjusting to the intricacies of a pro-style offense.
Personal: Givens was a design major, with a 3.0 grade point average. His brother, Jesse, played football at Yale. He earned three letters in football at Humble (Texas) High while playing eight different positions. Also was a four-year letterman in track in high school.
Comparable NFL Player: Rod Gardner, Washington — Not quite as much speed as Gardener but a nice possession receiver with the potential to make the roster.
What they're saying...
"Was somewhat limited playing in Notre Dame's run-oriented offense but has good size and hands. Willing to go over the middle and makes plays on the sidelines as well. Lacks separation speed but makes up for that with toughness and athleticism. He'll make a strong play on the ball in traffic and the Patriots got good value with him in the seventh round."
Frank Coyle, publisher Draft Insiders Digest 2002 Yearbook.