The New York Giants are currently 0-3, with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. They can still claw their way out of the hole they dug for themselves, but their margin for error is effectively nil. To paraphrase the inimitable Yogi Berra, it’s getting late early out there.
Should they fall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend, we can safely say that Draft Season starts about four months early.
But, for some of us (most notably the NFL itself) “Draft Season” never truly ends. There is a new mock draft up over at CBSsports, and it’s notable enough that we have to talk about it, even in September.
4. New York Giants
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. If Ezekiel Elliott can go No. 4 overall, so can Saquon Barkley. The Giants need to improve up front, and in this scenario they spend in free agency to fix their offensive-line woes. Barkley looks more electric every week he's on the field and is an ox between the tackles. He'll energize a G-Men run game that's been anemic for years now. He's the current front-runner for the Heisman.
I would probably be excited on draft night -- after all, I’ve already raved about Barkley and he is, simply put, the best player in college football. He is big, fast, agile, explosively powerful, has great vision, is a polished pass protecter, and a dependable receiver. The current scouting report on Barkley is basically summed up as “Ezekiel Elliott, but better in just about every regard, and worse in none.”
Unless you are genetically engineering a mutant hybrid of Emmett Smith and Bo Jackson, it is basically impossible to ask for anything more in a running back.
How much use is a running back for a team with an offensive line as unsettled as the Giants? Barkley is a legitimately special talent, but even he can’t run through holes that aren’t there. I also have to wonder if it is worth investing so much in a running back if the team is almost a full five carries per game behind the 31st-ranked offense in rushing attempts per game at 15.7 (31st is 20.0, 30th is 20.7)
IF Ereck Flowers is able to build on his game against the Philadelphia Eagles (or if Chad Wheeler is able to emerge and justify the first-round hype he got before the draft), and IF the Giants are able to re-sign Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, and IF D.J. Fluker is able to force his way onto the field and prove to be an answer at right guard.
If all those things fall into place, then I think the Giants would have to take Barkley and run — but if all those things fall into place, they aren’t picking fourth overall.
If I were going to make a ridiculously early mock draft, it would look something like this:
Round 1 - Mike McGlinchey (OT, Notre Dame)
The Giants need to figure out both tackle positions. McGlinchey doesn’t look like a spectacular athlete at left tackle, but he is a tough-minded competitor with good enough athleticism and an understanding of leverage and angles. Coming from a Pro Style system, he should adjust quickly to the NFL. He reminds me a bit of Jack Conklin, who the Giants reportedly loved two years ago. A former right tackle, He, Flowers, Wheeler, and Hart can all compete and let the best four players play at their best positions.
Round 2 - Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
The Giants definitely need to cement their running back position. Chubb has definite first round talent, but his 2015 knee injury might be enough to convince teams to stay away in the first round. If Chubb proves to be healthy and back to his 2014 form, he isn’t far behind Barkley as a running back. He is so explosively powerful and agile that when he commits to a run he is almost impossible for a single defender to bring down.
Round 3 - Braden Smith (OT, Auburn)
Another OT? Yeah, but with a caveat: I view Smith as a guard at the next level, in the mold of Justin Pugh, Zach Martin, or Joel Bitonio. The Green Bay Packers have excelled at finding talent outside of the first two rounds to add to constantly reload their offensive line, and one of their favorite tactics is to take players who were left tackles in college but aren’t quite fit for the position at the NFL level and transitioning them. Smith has the frame to add size, already has a solid strength base (Pugh’s biggest problem) and plays in a run-first offense. He will have the double learning curve of adapting from a non-pro style college offense to an NFL offense and moving inside (likely to right guard). However, he has the reputation of a heady lineman with solid, dependable technique.