NFL Draft week is finally upon us, but there is still plenty of time to speculate how the first round will shake out Thursday night for the Giants, who could go in almost any direction with their 23rd overall selection, particularly if they follow Jerry Reese’s promised “best player available” strategy.
So here are some rumblings, best guesses and deliberations on how Big Blue might proceed, beginning with the most intriguing position: quarterback.
1. I FIRMLY BELIEVE BEN MCADOO WANTS TO GET HIS NEXT QB IN THE BUILDING ASAP. I ALSO BELIEVE REESE AND MCADOO ARE ON THE SAME PAGE
Yes, Ben McAdoo was the head coach for last year’s draft, when Reese took corner Eli Apple at 10th overall. But the Giants’ defense was in shambles coming off the 2015 season, and McAdoo now has a full year under his belt including a trip to the playoffs bolstering his credibility and voice on big decisions.
Now, this much seems clear to me: Reese is buying into what McAdoo is selling, and by that I mean the GM recently has accommodated what the coach wants his roster to look like. Look no further than the signing of free agent blocking tight end Rhett Ellison as a prime example of Reese hearing what McAdoo wants and acting to go get it, a fullback/tight end combo who makes the Giants more formidable at the line of scrimmage and point of attack.
This seeming synergy between McAdoo and Reese is a major reason why I believe that, if there is a quarterback in this draft whom the coach loves, I wouldn’t look past the Giants to take him anywhere all the way up to the first round.
I agree that spending their first-round pick on a quarterback is unlikely. However, I do think hypothetically that if, for example, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes is McAdoo’s one and only guy, and he’s there at 23, the Giants would take him. Or even trade up.
Similarly, if Pitt’s Nathan Peterman, who might be a good system fit for the Giants, is McAdoo’s one and only guy and he’s available in the second or third round, I firmly believe the Giants will take him.
Hear this now: Do NOT underestimate McAdoo’s confidence in himself, his offense and his ability to evaluate and develop talent on that side of the ball.
McAdoo used to work with Aaron Rodgers. Now he has Eli Manning. Manning’s numbers went up in the first two seasons in McAdoo’s offense, but last season the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback struggled, and McAdoo had issues with everything from Manning’s footwork to his decision-making.
Maybe the Giants’ next franchise quarterback isn’t in this draft. Maybe McAdoo instead intends to focus on rebuilding Geno Smith into a capable and confident starter down the line. Maybe.
But remember: while Reese and McAdoo are keeping their wagon hitched to Manning for now, McAdoo is a 39-year-old head coach running his own offense who still probably doesn’t believe he has his quarterback of three years from now in the building.
I think he wants to get him into the building now, and my hunch is, within the first three rounds — IF the draft breaks the right way — the Giants will take him.
2. OR MAYBE WE’RE ALL OVERTHINKING THE GIANTS’ STRATEGY AND THEY’RE PRIORITIZING THEIR GREATEST POSITION OF NEED: LEFT TACKLE ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE
A large amount of mock drafts recently have projected that the Giants actually might draft defense in round one, and sure, there are pass rushers aplenty and linebackers such as Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham who are intriguing and could/should/will be solid NFL pros.
However, all the speculation may be clouding that, in the end, Reese is simply going to draft the best left tackle on the board to address Ereck Flowers’ struggles on Manning’s blind side, since the GM was not able to buy a top veteran left tackle in an expensive year for that position on the free agent market.
Months ago, former NFL GM Charley Casserly predicted the Giants would trade up to 18 with Tennessee to draft Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk. And now on Monday, three days before the draft, Peter King of MMQB dropped a similar note on Big Blue’s potential intentions:
“I won’t be surprised if the Giants (seeking a tackle), scheduled to pick 23rd, or the Texans (seeking a quarterback), scheduled to pick 25th, move up into the teens,” he wrote. “Baltimore (16) and Tennessee (18) would be happy to move down.”
Again, the names to keep in mind here: Ramczyk, Alabama’s Cam Robinson and the guy with the nasty streak — who I like best as a McAdoo fit (again, with Reese heeding the coach’s wishes) — Utah’s Garett Bolles.
3. THESE TIGHT ENDS, THOUGH …. IT MIGHT BE TOUGH TO PASS THEM UP
When the Giants cancelled Miami tight end David Njoku’s scheduled visit to East Rutherford last week, did that indicate a thawing in Big Blue’s interest, or was that a strategic decision designed to squash the non-stop hype about Njoku going to the Giants? No one will know for sure until Thursday night.
The truth is, though, in addition to my confidence that the Giants will select a quarterback somewhere fairly high in this draft, the tight end position is also to intriguing and too much of a need for McAdoo’s offense for Reese not to address it early.
O.J. Howard seems destined to go way too high for the Giants to have a shot (even though the Daily News first reported the Giants’ interest in him, and he’s not out of the question). But then there is Njoku, a local product of Cedar Grove, N.J., and the consensus second-best tight end prospect in a deep class.
The caveat is that there are other talents, such as South Alabama’s Gerald Everett, who put some great football on tape. So the Giants may be content to land one of five tight ends that they know will help them right away.
Still, keep in mind that canceled Njoku visit. If it was designed to get his name out of the headlines and off people’s minds, perhaps the Giants are crossing their fingers that he slips slightly — and maybe an offensive tackle wouldn’t be the only player they’d trade up to acquire.