Amari Cooper of Alabama, Kevin White of West Virginia and Devante Parker are all excellent NFL prospects. All will probably have good, maybe better than good, NFL careers. All are probably worthy of being selected ninth, or higher, in the 2015 NFL Draft. That, however, doesn't mean it would be a good idea for the New York Giants, who have that ninth overall pick, to select any of the three should they still be on the board. Then again, maybe it would be a good idea.
There are two sides to every story, and a great many factors to consider. Who is left on the board when the Giants pick? How do they have the players rated? How do they REALLY feel about the health of Victor Cruz? About the ability of Rueben Randle? About young guys like Marcus Harris or Corey Washington? Do they believe they can fill positions where there appears to be greater need in later rounds? In free agency? With internal candidates? Do they think defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul or left tackle Will Beatty will be Giants beyond this season?
We don't know. We will ask GM Jerry Reese about these things when he meets the media next Thursday in his pre-draft press conference, but Reese most likely will shed little to no light on any of those questions. So, we're left to debate what we think is the best course of action for the Giants with whatever information we have available.
Let's do a 'making the case' today not for a specific player, but for the position of wide receiver itself. I have long held the belief that snagging a wide receiver at No. 9 would not be the right thing to do. It would be fun, and might look nice on paper, but with the current state of the roster it would not be the right thing to do. I have softened somewhat on that stance to the point where I can see the argument and would understand the selection of a receiver. It probably wouldn't be my choice, but that doesn't matter.
Let's do this a little different. 'Rap' is a big believer in going wide receiver at No. 9 if the opportunity presents itself. So, 'Rap' will make the case for selecting a receiver ninth overall. Yours truly will play the role of the bad guy here and lay out the argument for why drafting a receiver in the first round would be the wrong move.
Why the Giants should draft a wide receiver at No. 9
Simply put, the draft is about adding talent for the future to your roster. Everyone from the fan next to you at the bar to John Mara will agree that the Giants need to continue to draft 'safe' -- because no prospect is a guaranteed success -- prospects who help the team get better.
Well, it's my belief that if the board falls such that one of the "Big 3" wide receivers, Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, and Kevin White, are available, that's why they should be the pick.
To me, those three players are the safest in the draft, at least for the Giants. I feel there are fewer questions about the top receiving prospects than any of the top offensive line prospects. Or the edge rushers for that matter.
The three receivers, Cooper and Parker in particular, don't seem to have these questions. Cooper and Parker are both excellent athletes who are also polished route runners. They can immediately step in and contribute in the offense at a high level with a minimum learning curve.
More than that is the effect that adding another number 1 receiver could have on the rest of the offense. While Odell Beckham took the league by storm and was basically indefensible, defensive coordinators will have had seven months to analyze tape of him, and the Giants offense as a whole.The Giants can't take Beckham's torrid pace over the last nine games of the season for granted. Drafting Cooper, Parker, or White adds another threat that defensive coordinators simply must account for while allowing offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to move Beckham all around the offense and create match-up problems.
If the Giants have two receivers who absolutely have to be double covered, that severely limits how the defense can play. It makes it significantly more difficult for them into smaller personnel packages and taking players out of the tackle box, helping the run game. It also puts the third, fourth, and fifth receiving options in very favorable match-ups. It most likely means that Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell, and Shane Vereen, are either single covered, or even uncovered if the defense decides to blitz.
This doesn't mean that a receiver taken later in the draft, or one already on the Giants roster, couldn't have the same effect. We saw Victor Cruz's meteoric rise first-hand, and Antonio Brown or TY Hilton both came from the middle of the draft. However, History shows that the Giants' best bet to turn a good offense into a juggernaut this year is in the first round. Wide receivers with athleticism, polished route running, and good hands don't last all that long.
In short, drafting one of the "Big 3" receivers, will help the Giants dictate the terms of the game to opposing defenses, sustain drives, score points, and put pressure on opposing offenses. If the Giants want to maximize the value of the ninth overall pick, then it likely means drafting a wide receiver.
Why the Giants should NOT draft a wide receiver at No. 9
As acknowledged above, my stance against drafting a wide receiver ninth overall has softened. That doesn't mean it has changed completely, just that depending on how the first eight picks fall there are situations where taking a wide receiver can be justified. And with Jerry Reese's history it certainly is possible -- maybe more than possible. I just believe there are clear arguments for why the Giants can get better value by drafting a player at a different position.
I wrote recently that I believe the Giants will look for the biggest difference-maker available regardless of position at No. 9. An experienced scout recently told me that in draft war rooms 'best player available' really means 'best grade available.' We have no idea what grades the Giants have put on any draft prospects. If we use the NFL.com draft grades, however, we see that wide receivers Amari Cooper and Kevin White are the second- and third-highest graded players. If, somehow, one of those two players falls to No. 9 it's hard to argue that picking one of them would not represent tremendous value.
The argument really starts with Devante Parker, or even Breshad Perriman if you believe Mel Kiper that Perriman could be a top 10 pick.
If grades are relatively even, need becomes a determining factor. NFL.com gives grades of 6.2 to both Parker and Perriman. Among players we have connected to the Giants, Shane Ray, Randy Gregory, Arik Armstread, Brandon Scherff, Danny Shelton, Trae Waynes and Landon Collins all have higher grades. So does Todd Gurley. Offensive tackles Andrus Peat and D.J. Humphries have equal grades to Parker and Perriman, as does defensive tackle Malcom Brown.
My argument is simply this. With grades being relatively even, or with the wide receivers having the lower grade, the value/need for the Giants is greater at positions other than wide receiver. The biggest difference maker would be a player who fills a hole, not yet another wide receiver who will have to fight for a handful of snaps.
I know there are questions about the health of Victor Cruz, and I know Reese has talked about being prepared in the event Cruz is not completely healthy. But, haven't the Giants already prepared for that? They spent $17 million ($7.1 million guaranteed) on Dwayne Harris. Are you going to use the No. 9 overall pick on 'insurance' and make your $17 million dollar man your fifth wide receiver? You have Odell Beckham. You still have Preston Parker, a capable slot receiver who had a nice 2014 season. You have veteran Kevin Ogletree. You have a youngster in Corey Washington the Giants have a year of development invested in. You have another talented youngster in Marcus Harris returning from injury. Rueben Randle, despite his inconsistencies, caught 71 passes a year ago. You already have depth and talent at wide receiver, regardless of Cruz's status.
You simply can't say that when you look at the offensive or defensive lines. You can't say that when you look at the safety position. You can't say that when you look at cornerback. For me, the biggest difference-maker is a guy who can give you something you don't already have. For me, drafting a wide receiver at No. 9 is a luxury, it's redundant. The Giants simply need too many players in too many other places to continue stockpiling all their chips in the wide receiver basket.
There is also this. Star wide receivers are flashy and fun, they dance, they make headlines because they get to have dinner with Lebron, they do cool things that land on SportsCenter highlights. They don't, however, win you Super Bowl titles. Look at recent history and name me the last title-winning team built around its wide receivers. It's boring and it's old-school, but you still have to be solid in the trenches to make all of those play-makers important.