“We are getting better, boys and girls.”
That was New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman concluding his remarks to the media on Friday night after the second and third rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Getting better. That’s the point of drafting players, isn’t it? To try to make your team better.
Did the Giants accomplish that during the draft? Let’s break down what the Giants did, and did not, accomplish.
Saquon vs. Sam
This is the elephant in the room. Face it, this draft is always going to be judged by the careers of Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold. The running back the Giants did take No. 2 overall, and the quarterback they didn’t take.
That is especially compounded by the fact that Darnold went to the New York Jets with the very next pick in the draft. The New York media is going to have a field day dissecting the twists and turns of each player’s career and playing judge and jury to determine which team made the better move. You thought the Eli Manning vs. Ben Roethlisberger debates that have occurred over the years have been heated? Just wait.
Truth is, we won’t know how all of this turns out for years. It is weird to argue that taking the player commonly considered the best one in the draft — Barkley — could be the wrong move. But, it could be. I’m not saying or predicting that it will be, but no running back will ever hold the positional value a top-tier quarterback does.
Will the Giants, no matter how Barkley’s career plays out, have made a mistake by passing on Darnold? Or Josh Allen? Or Josh Rosen? Or Lamar Jackson?
Maybe we will know the answer in 10 or 12 years.
Run the ball, stop the run, rush the passer
An old-school NFL guy at 67, Gettleman talks incessantly about the importance of those three things. He is absolutely right. Run the ball effectively, stop the run, rush the passer and you put yourself in position to win a healthy number of football games.
In recent years, the Giants haven’t done any of those things with any degree of consistency. And they haven’t won a lot of games, missing the playoffs in five of the past six seasons.
“I really believe in those three truths, I really do. Running the ball makes your defense better and there is that old saying that I told you guys, a good team runs when they want to and they run when they have to,” Gettleman said. “If you don’t stop the run, you can take your pass rushers and tell them to go home because they’re not going to be able to rush the passer on 2nd-and-3 and 3rd-and-1, it just doesn’t work.”
Gettleman’s first four selections in the draft addressed all of those areas.
Run the ball
The best running back in the draft class — Barkley — will help with that. So, too, will the mauling second-round pick Will Hernandez. I still chuckle when I think of The NFL Draft Report comparing the Giants’ new offensive to guard to WWE behemoth Braun Strowman, who goes by the moniker “the monster among men.” Sign me up for offensive linemen like that.
“Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez, you talk about running the ball, I think we got a little better at that,” Gettleman said on Friday night.
Yes. Yes, they did.
Stop the run
When fans think of EDGE players they think “pass-rusher.” And yes, part of the reason why the Giants drafted Lorenzo Carter in the third round was because of his potential as a pass rusher. Gettleman called him “a pretty darn good run player.”
The GM called Hill “an inside power broker” and “a powerful, tough son of a gun.”
Both will help the Giants against the run, and will add much-needed depth to the team’s defensive front seven.
Rush the passer
Carter is the great hope here. He didn’t put up great sack numbers at Georgia, but the potential is there for him to become an excellent pass rusher.
“Who doesn’t want to draft a kid that has 58,000 sacks? What you have to appreciate is his unseen production. If he is flying off the edge, he is creating pressure. Sometimes you are looking at guys that create plays for others. You have to look at that. That is part of it,” Gettleman said. “At the end of the day, he does not have ginormous sack numbers, not a lot of these guys do. A lot of these kids don’t have pass rush plans or pass rush variety. Our job is to teach them that. Lorenzo has great speed off the edge. He is explosive. We really believe he is going to help be part of that pressure.”
Heir to the QB throne?
The selection of Kyle Lauletta in the fourth round left many perplexed. The Giants already have Davis Webb, last year’s third-round pick from the previous regime, and Shurmur was praising him just a few days ago.
So, why draft another quarterback? Reality is, Manning is 37. The Giants are saying they are all-in on him for the next couple of years. No matter what they saw from Webb during the recent mini-camp, they obviously aren’t sold on him as the future. Or even as the 2018 backup quarterback. Lauletta doesn’t have a big arm, but beyond that he seems capable of doing everything an NFL quarterback needs to do.
“He was just too good of a value to pass up there. He’s got all the stuff – he’s tough, he’s not shy in the pocket, he’s got pocket presence, patience and feel, which, again, those are instinctive things that you can’t teach,” Gettleman said. “He throws a really nice ball, he’s accurate, he’s got a sense of anticipation and timing and the other part is he’s a runner. He’s got legitimate escape dimensions and we’re really pleased about that. He was just too good of a value there for us.”
The Giants have set up a nice competition between Webb and Lauletta to be the heir to Manning’s throne.
Here’s a thought: What if the Giants end up coming out of this draft with a star running back in Barkley and their quarterback of the future in Lauletta? Not bad.
Ereck Flowers is still a Giant
With the fourth-year tackle a no-show from the team’s voluntary offseason workouts and mini-camp, apparently unhappy about being moved from left tackle and forced to compete for the right tackle job, the Giants were expected to try and trade Flowers during the draft.
Apparently, no takers. Not even for the lowest of all prices, the conditional seventh-round pick. A long fall for a guy who was the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft.
What now? It’s hard to envision Flowers returning to the Giants, working his way into the good graces of Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur, and being the team’s starting right tackle. More likely is a divorce. If the Giants are forced to release Flowers, they would take a $4.579 million cap hit regardless of whether it is a pre- or post-June 1 cut.
They didn’t get everything
I have said this for years — you never get everything you want in one draft, or fill every need you think you have in offseason. The Giants went 3-13 last season. Heading into the draft there was an argument to be made for adding players at virtually every position on the roster. That was never going to happen — the Giants had six picks.
They didn’t get an offensive tackle, which seems like the most glaring issue. They didn’t find help at cornerback or wide receiver, either. They took a quarterback and a pair of defensive tackles instead. Their choice, that’s where they thought the value was. Besides, they needed the defensive linemen. The quarterback? I think this is a guy Pat Shurmur really wanted. Let’s just see how that plays out. Should be a nice competition between Kyle Lauletta and Davis Webb the next couple of years.
“Has any GM ever sat in this presser and said we just drafted crap? No. I’m thrilled. I felt like we did really well,” Gettleman said. “Again, you’re talking about a first rounder in the second round, two-second rounders you draft in the third round, we had Kyle where we had him rated and we had RJ where we had him rated. I’m thrilled with this draft. We got big butts, we got power, we got speed. Sorry if that was inappropriate. And we got a quarterback that we really liked, so I’m not angry.”
There are picks everyone will quibble with. Maybe you wanted a quarterback at No. 2, or defensive end Bradley Chubb instead of Barkley. Maybe you wanted a different offensive lineman or edge rusher Harold Landry at No. 34 instead of guard Will Hernandez. Maybe you’re a Davis Webb backer and struggling to understand why the Giants drafted Kyle Lauletta, another mid-round developmental quarterback, to compete with him.
Everyone has, and is entitled to, an opinion. We won’t really know for years whether this draft was a success or a failure, but looking at it right now it looks like Gettleman and the Giants accomplished what they set out to do.
They got better.