Kyle Lauletta is used to waiting, and working, to get his chance. In an interview before the 2018 NFL Draft Lauletta told me that going all the way back to junior high he is used to “just always being the underdog.”
That should serve him well in 2018. Lauletta could one day be the starting quarterback for the Giants. The NFL Draft Report compared him to another small-school Giants’ quarterback, Phil Simms, and his 2017 offensive coordinator at Richmond, Jeff Durden, told me that the fourth-round pick is “better than advertised ... better than what people know.”
Right now, though, Lauletta comes out of spring practices as the clear third wheel in a situation where only two are likely to be invited to sit at the quarterback table on game days.
Eli Manning is the clear starter. GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur have pushed their cards to the center of the table and built their hand around the belief that the 37-year-old is still a player who can win big games.
Davis Webb, the mid-round draft pick a year ago by the previous regime, is right now well ahead of Lauletta and appears almost certain to be the No. 2 quarterback. Let’s take a closer look at Lauletta as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
Weight: 222 pounds
2017 season in review
Playing for his fourth offensive coordinator and in his third offensive system at Richmond, Lauletta completed 281-of-433 passes (64.9 percent) for 3,737 yards with 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also ran for four scores. Per The NFL Draft Report, Lauletta had a passing efficiency rating of 153.9. He was MVP of the Senior Bowl, where Giants coach Pat Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman said they really became enamored with him, and was first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association.
Unless something changes — either an injury or Lauletta is absolutely lights out during training camp — his 2018 season is likely to look a lot like Webb’s 2017. Lots of game days in street clothes and a baseball cap, with his work coming via a pre-game throwing session with other guys who probably aren’t dressing for the game.
“I don’t think there are any expectations,” Lauletta said during rookie mini-camp. “I mean all I can do is come in here and learn and develop as best I can.”
The Giants were excited to find Lauletta available to them when their pick in round 4 came along.
“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. 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,” Gettleman said. “He was just too good of a value there for us. We’re really thrilled to get him there. I really expected him to be long gone.”
Knowing that, and that many scouts — including Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio — have voiced the belief that Lauletta is a better bet to be Manning’s long-term successor than Webb it was easy to believe that Lauletta would come in and simply establish himself immediately as the No. 2 guy.
That, though, is failing to give Webb any credit. He was an unknown to Shurmur and Gettleman, but he is an intelligent young man with a big arm and an excellent work ethic. He wants to be good and he has spent a year in the NFL learning the ropes, figuring out what he doesn’t know, and finding ways to try and get better at his craft. That work showed this spring.
Lauletta is still trying to settle in, and that will take time. His calling card is accuracy and anticipation, and those have improved as his comfort level has risen. That trend should continue as he gains confidence.
“He has a nice calmness about himself that if things don’t go exactly how they are drawn out on the board, his mind works pretty fast so far and he finds the next guy, gets through his progressions,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said during mandatory mini-camp. “He has a good feel for anticipation and touch and things like that, so I think he’s off to a good start.”
Lauletta’s development in training camp will be interesting to watch. No matter how the depth chart shakes out in 2018, I continue to believe that a true winner in any Webb-Lauletta competition won’t be identified until years from now, probably after Manning is no longer a Giant.
“I’m just going to do everything I can. Obviously I have high aspirations and confidence in myself and my abilities. I’m just going to perform and be the best teammate, the best player I can be and however the coaches see fit where I am on the depth chart or whatever, that’s up to them,” Lauletta said during rookie mini-camp. “So I’m looking forward to continuing to develop relationships with these guys and learn the playbook and just developing as a player the best I can.”