This is the seventh of an eight-part series analyzing each Giants draft choice.

Michael Johnson, Round 7 (224):

Our two starting safeties are set: Will Demps, who was a huge disappointment in his first year in Big Blue but improved considerably towards season’s end (possibly as a result of his finally getting over the effects of a partially torn ACL he suffered in 2005), will start at free safety. Gibril Wilson, who has not quite matched the excitement he generated in his 2004 rookie season but is nonetheless a good player, will start at strong safety.

These guys don’t comprise the best safety tandem in the league, but behind them isn’t much either. James Butler, a third-year undrafted free-agent, has shown flashes of competence, but nothing to get especially excited about. The recently signed Michael Stone, a bust of a second-round draft pick for Arizona in 2001, is mostly a special teams guy.

Of our four safeties, Gibril is really the only guy you would consider an asset at his position. But he’ll also be an unrestricted free-agent after the year if we don’t resign him to a long-term deal.

So the logic behind drafting a safety was is obvious. And even though Johnson lasted until pick number 224, we may have gotten ourselves a potential starter to either replace a departed Gibril or to supplant Demps if he doesn’t improve his play.

At 6-3, Johnson is a rangy guy known for taking good paths to balls in the air, a smooth stride and ability to change directions, and most importantly, good hands, timing, and leaping ability. Though he played strong safety at Arizona, these qualities show that he has the versatility to play both spots if need be.

On the negative side, his speed (4.55 in the 40) is kind of on the slow side for safeties, but is certainly well within the acceptable range and can probably be compensated for by his outstanding instincts. And his lean frame (he weighed in at 211 at the combine, but the scouting report thinks he can add another 15 pounds) makes him vulnerable to getting blown off the ball on running plays, although scouting reports say that he has no qualms about sticking his nose in there.

Still, Johnson projects as a better talent than his seventh round status would indicate. One of the reasons he may have slipped is his injury history during his two years at Arizona after he transferred from Tyler (TX) Junior College (the hometown of Giants first rounder Aaron Ross). A spring injury in 2005 precluded him from competing for the starting job – he didn’t get much burn until he took over the job with four games remaining in the season. His senior year was marred by a series of injuries, including a quad contusion that kept him out of practice for a month (though he played in the games), and a deep hamstring pull that cost him the last two and a half-games.

There are two ways to look at this injury history: 1) That he is injury prone, which is a legitimate reason for his slippage; or 2) That because his injuries rendered him not at his best, we got the opportunity to draft a classic undervalued commodity who could turn into a steal.

But I like the pick, and so does Mike Tanier of FootballOutsiders’ and Fox Sports, who counts Johnson as one of the best picks in the seventh round:

Johnson battled nagging injuries throughout his career at Arizona. When healthy, he looked like a first-day prospect and future NFL starter. He’ll need seasoning, but he projects as a big, rangy free safety.

So there’s really no reason not to like this pick. We needed a safety, and we took a chance on a pretty talented one who slipped because of his injuries. But for a seventh round pick? I’ll take it.