There is no consensus on how the Giants will spend their 23rd overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, and that is no doubt how Jerry Reese likes it.
But Big Blue’s brass still is going to have a tough decision to make even if it doesn’t telegraph its intentions, so Reese and Co. have to be prepared to answer the tough questions while on the clock.
Here, then, are the five most pressing questions the Giants must ask themselves as their pick approaches:
1. If the Giants really are drafting the best player available at 23rd overall, as Reese said he would, doesn’t that rule out a quarterback or a left tackle?
There may be a quarterback that Ben McAdoo loves in this draft. One of the top three left tackles could be there for the taking to address arguably the Giants’ greatest need. But this is a weak year for both QBs and tackles, so if Reese goes best player available, doesn’t that rule out those positions and make it more likely the Giants select a defensive player?
If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster falls, Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis is there (more likely), or Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis is still on the board (he should be), aren’t all of them a better option than any of the top QBs or tackles in this draft?
Even Michigan safety/jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers arguably would be a more attractive pick when talking best available players at 23.
If Reese sticks to that guiding principle, in other words, the Giants have a much lower chance of going offense in the first round as many believe they will and should.
2. Should Ben McAdoo push to take a quarterback as high as the first round anyway if his guy – be it Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes or Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, for example – is there at 23 and won’t be on board at the Giants’ next pick at 55?
There is no guarantee that McAdoo has found the quarterback he covets in this year’s class, and even if he has, there’s no certainty that Giants brass could come to an agreement that it was prudent to take Eli Manning’s eventual successor this high.
However, given McAdoo’s displeasure with Manning’s play last season and the 39-year-old head coach’s likely desire to get his next QB in the building ASAP, this remains the most intriguing storyline of the Giants’ potential direction in the first round.
If the Giants took a QB in round one, it would be the biggest story of the night, and it’s not impossible, especially because Kansas City back at pick 27 might be interested in Mahomes, as well.
3. Should Reese trade up to get a coveted player, such as a tight end like O.J. Howard or David Njoku?
If forced to pick a position that the Giants will draft in round one, it would be tight end. While left tackle and offensive line is an obvious need, if Reese is taking the best player available on offense, he is taking a tight end or even a running back way before he takes one of these linemen – the possible exception is Ryan Ramczyk, from a Wisconsin program with a great track record for offensive linemen.
While Ole Miss’ Evan Engram might be a good option at 23 and is expected to be available there, Alabama’s Howard and Miami’s Njoku are better combos of both receiving and blocking for McAdoo’s liking. Gerald Everett out of South Alabama, too. But Howard and Njoku both are players the Giants likely would need to trade up to get.
Howard is a rumored potential Top 10 pick. If he is still available in the mid-teens, don’t be surprised if the Giants are moving down and taking him.
4. Is it more important to give Eli Manning more help on offense to win now, or should the priority be to draft the best player that can help the Giants in the future?
The Giants are trying to marry both of these goals with their pick, which is another reason why tight end is a good fit. But Reese can’t be thinking solely to get a player that can help this year, immediately, because what if a quarterback or a tackle that might require development such as Mahomes or Utah’s Garett Bolles makes more sense for them down the road?
The Giants shouldn’t let the fact that they are trying to win now pigeon-hole them into forcing a decision on a player that might not be the best player for them down the road. For example, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is an intriguing home-run hitter-type back that would make this offense much better immediately. However, his injury history (three shoulder surgeries) and laundry list of off-field issues would make him a huge risk for the long-term.
Better to sign free agent back LeGarrette Blount, who could be a great fit for the Giants at the right price since the day Big Blue lost in Green Bay in the playoffs — and I’m sure Reese has, too.
5. Is the Giants’ defense good enough that offense is unquestionably the way to go at 23?
This is a tough one. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense was excellent for most of a bounce-back 2016 season, but then got obliterated by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers with no pass rush and a torn-up secondary in Green Bay. All of that is to say, yes, offense is the priority given how poor McAdoo’s attack was last season, but there certainly are some defensive players in this draft that might help solve Giants needs on the other side of the ball, including getting to the quarterback even with Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon on massive contracts.
The sky is the limit, for example, for a prospect like Temple’s Haason Reddick, a 6-1, 237-pound specimen who played on the edge in college but might be an off-ball linebacker in the pros, on a level of the defense where the Giants could use an upgrade most. A trade up for a player like Reddick if he falls (though not likely), or plucking one of the other linebackers and ends that trickle down might be a better idea than trying to fill a need on offense with an inferior player.