Faced with one of the most hyped-up quarterback classes in recent memory in 2018, the New York Giants chose to make no choice at all and punt on the decision for another year (at least).
We’re not here to re-litigate the decision to draft Saquon Barkley. That decision has been made and it is water under the bridge... Or perhaps “defender under the running back.” So, unless Kyle Lauletta defies the odds and emerges as a viable starting quarterback (let alone a franchise QB), the Giants were going to have to wait until 2019 to try and find Eli Manning’s successor.
But according to Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN, the Giants might just have to wait until 2020 to try and find their next franchise quarterback. ESPN’s dynamic draft duo answered 30 questions about the upcoming draft [Insider only], and their insights (informed by what they’re hearing from around the scouting community), could mean serious implications for the Giants.
On the quarterback position
Describe the 2019 quarterback class in one word.
“Can I have two words?” Kiper asked. “Because I’ll say extremely intriguing. The reason? Oregon’s Justin Herbert isn’t the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback anymore. Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) is breathing down his neck after a phenomenal stretch to end the season. There’s also Daniel Jones (Duke), who could be a mid-first-round pick. Then you have guys like Will Grier (West Virginia), Drew Lock (Missouri) and Ryan Finley (NC State) jockeying for position as potential Day 2 picks. There’s a loooooong time to go until April, though, and all three of my top-ranked QBs are underclassmen who could return to school.”
“That’s a tough one, but give me the under,” Kiper added, when asked what he thought of an over/under of three and a half quarterbacks taken in the first round.
“If Herbert, Haskins and Jones all stay in the draft, they’re the three. And if one of them decides to return to school, I feel great about going under. By the way, it’s not unprecedented for top-ranked quarterbacks to come back for another year. Andrew Luck did it. Peyton Manning did it. Matt Leinart did it. And Herbert, Haskins and Jones aren’t perfect prospects -- they could really improve with another year. That’s what makes this QB class interesting -- we’ll know definitively by Jan. 14, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft.”
So then, what does it mean for the Giants? Should quarterback still be a priority for their draft plans?
Kiper said, “It’s a priority in the offseason, not necessarily in the draft. Could they sign a guy like Teddy Bridgewater in free agency? New York has a bunch of needs -- quarterback, right tackle, edge rusher, cornerback. GM Dave Gettleman needs to get the best player available with what is likely to be a top-10 pick.”
(Note: To that list I would probably add free safety, linebacker, and center.)
So, if not QB, which positions could the Giants draft?
If the Giants address the QB position in free agency, or roll with Manning and Lauletta for another year, and possibly use one of their many Day 3 picks on the position, where else could they look at the top of the first round?
“It’s the defensive line,” Kiper said. “Ten of my top 25 prospects are defensive ends or tackles. I have 17 down defensive linemen with first-or second-round grades. This class is loaded with instant-impact pass-rushers and disruptors on the edge and in the interior. You should know about Ohio State’s Nick Bosa by now, but keep an eye on Quinnen Williams (Alabama), Ed Oliver (Houston), Rashan Gary (Michigan) and Clelin Ferrell (Clemson) as potential top-10 picks.”
There’s also another name who could get Giants’ fans excited come draft time: Kentucky EDGE/linebacker Josh Allen.
Kiper, continuing his love affair with players named “Josh Allen” from last year’s draft class, stated that the OLB, and 2018 Nagurski Award winner is his second-rated EDGE rusher.
When asked who was number two behind Nick Bosa, Kiper said, “It’s Kentucky’s Josh Allen, a ferocious 6-foot-5, 230-pound outside linebacker who is perfect for a team that runs a 3-4 defense. He can bend the edge with a quick first step, and he has the length to move offensive tackles. I moved him up to No. 4 overall on my Big Board.”
Kiper also mentioned cornerback as a potential position of need for the Giants, and Todd McShay listed two who could intrigue in the first round in LSU’s Greedy Williams and Georgia’s Deandre Baker.
McShay said, “Greedy Williams is the most talented -- he’s No. 2 overall on my board -- but the guy I think a lot of people are sleeping on is Georgia’s Deandre Baker. This dude is one of the more instinctive corners I’ve evaluated in years, and he is so tough for his size. Those are often the most overlooked traits when looking at corners. Again, Williams is ranked a little higher, but I’m betting on Baker to become a really good NFL starter.”
What about the offensive line?
It’s clear from the fact that Eli Manning has already been sacked a career-worst 41 times though just 12 games, and that the Giants have generally had the league’s worst “adjusted line yards” per FootballOutsiders (a metric that measures how well a team run blocks independently of the running back’s performance), that the Giants’ rebuilt offensive line is still a serious work in progress.
So then, which offensive lineman might interest the Giants at the top of the draft?
The consensus top lineman is Alabama’s Jonah Williams, who’s tenacity and technical proficiency has made him a stalwart on the Alabama offensive line.
According to Kiper, however, Williams might not even be an offensive tackle i The best tackle on my board might not even be a tackle in the NFL. It’s Alabama’s Jonah Williams, who could be this year’s Brandon Scherff, a big, physical lineman who either moves from left tackle to right tackle or down to guard at the next level. Greg Little (Ole Miss) is the best true tackle, and he has the feet to stay on the left side. College football isn’t producing the Day 1 left tackle starters like it used to.”
(Philosoraptor here: First, I really wish somebody told Joe Thomas way back when that he was too small and his arms were too short to play tackle. He could have moved to a position he could have thrived at, instead of wasting all those years at left tackle. Second, can we please do away with the narrative that left tackle is harder or more important than right? Pretty please?)
In fact, there is a distinct chance that the Giants draft a player from Alabama.
According to McShay, Alabama could have as many as five or six first round picks this year. “Quinnen Williams, Jonah Williams and [safety] Deionte Thompson sure seem like locks,” Mcshay said, “but then it gets a little hazy. I think Irv Smith Jr. will get taken on Day 1, as well, and then Mack Wilson or Damien Harris could push the number over. But none of those three are guarantees, and Raekwon Davis is pretty much out of the first-round conversation at the moment. I could very well see another four-player first round for Bama.”
We are just starting to get the vague outlines of what the 2019 draft class could look like, and we have no clue what the Giants will look like by that time. But, McShay and Kiper gave us some things to think about in the meantime.