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Pat’s Perspectives: Thoughts on the Giants first-round draft strategy

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What general manager Dave Gettleman did was risky, but if it pans out, the Giants could surprise people.

NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been covering the Giants for more than 20 seasons and never have I been able to recall such a weird and wacky first round for the team.

Having slept on it, things are starting to make a bit more sense to me. Oh sure, I don’t agree with everything they did — for example, if Josh Allen and Daniel Jones both had equivalent grades at No. 6, I would have gone for the defensive player ahead of the quarterback — but I think I see where Dave Gettleman was going with his moves.

One of the things general manager Dave Gettleman learned from working with Ernie Accorsi is that when you have a conviction on a player, get him and don’t tempt fate by thinking he might be there a few picks down.

Just as the Giants threw up some excellent smokescreens that had everyone guessing and spinning as to what they might do, so too do most of the other teams (well, except the Arizona Cardinals, who fooled no one in their desire to acquire quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick).

Gettleman has acknowledged several times that Eli Manning is getting closer to the end of his career. He has also acknowledged that you can’t continue to kick the can down the road, which probably would have been the case had they not gone quarterback at No. 6.

So he did what he had to do in selecting Jones, a safe pick who is David Cutcliffe trained like Manning and who carries himself in a method eerily similar to Manning to the point where you’d swear they were separated at birth.

The problem, I think, with the Jones pick is not that the Giants selected a quarterback at that spot (how many of you would have had the same reaction had the Giants selected Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock at that spot?). Instead, they went with a player who needs a little more polish (like all rookies generally do).

Jones is going to get a chance to get that polish sitting behind Manning, unlike some of his contemporaries who are likely to be thrown into the deep end of the pool without a life raft. Look for example at Arizona where Kyler Murray is probably going to be called upon to sink or swim in his first season, just as Josh Rosen was a year prior.

Sure, Murray might be familiar with head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s system, but there is still a matter of adjusting to the speed of the game, which no system can really prepare you for, just as there is a matter of learning how to watch film, something prior Giants rookies such as Saquon Barkley have credited Manning for showing them.

Jones may or may not turn out to be the next long-term answer, but one thing is for sure: the Giants are going to do everything possible to put him into a position to succeed. And if Jones is willing to come in here and work his tail off and turn that work into productivity, something tells me people won’t have as big of a problem with where he was taken in a few years as they do now.

On the defense

There was some surprise over Gettleman’s decision to draft 342-pound defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who had a screw inserted into his foot after breaking the fifth metatarsal instead of an edge rusher, but that was a pick with which I agreed.

If you look at Gettleman’s history, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Why? Gettleman believes in building football teams from the inside out, so after no doubt seeing far too many instances last year of the edge rushers squeezing the outer pocket only to have the quarterback escape up the middle and through the tackles, he decided (rightfully so) to add resources there.

“Defensive tackles can affect the pass rush if they get a consistent inside push,” Gettleman said. “How many times have you guys watched a game, and the ends come screaming off the corner, and the quarterback steps up, and there’s nobody there?

“You get inside pass rush, those ends come screaming off the corner, they’re going to affect it, and if the guy is getting a push, the quarterback is going to step up, and Dexter will give him a kiss.”

Gettleman then went on to remind reporters who kept questioning why the Giants didn’t address the edge rushers when they had a chance that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

That, to me, means that they’re going to look at potential edge rushers in Days 2 and 3, but even if they don’t find them and they decide to ride the season with Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, and Kareem Martin as their outside linebackers, there are other ways Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher can generate a pass rush.

The bottom line is that while yes, you’d like to have edge rushers capable of getting to the quarterback, you also need your interior guys to do the same. In 2011, the year the Giants won their last Super Bowl, interior linemen Chris Canty and Linval Joseph combined to contribute six sacks, with Canty’s 4 tying him for fifth on the team in sacks with defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.

So yes, edge rushers are essential, but without that push up the middle by the interior linemen, that’s like having a Mercedes without the engine.

Thoughts on cornerback

I’ve seen several articles that have chronicled Dave Gettleman’s draft history. And if you look at it carefully, you’ll see that as a rule, he picks up at least one cornerback per draft.

Yes, even last year, though the cornerback (Sam Beal) didn’t come until the supplemental draft.

I don’t think there is any question that the Giants needed to add another cornerback, what with Janoris Jenkins unlikely to finish out his contract here.

Certainly, Deandre Baker has some impressive credentials behind his name to give one hope that he’ll be a solid addition to the defense. He is a guy who can not only break up passes but who should be able to apply air-tight coverage on receivers down the field, hence forcing opposing quarterbacks to hold the ball longer than usual (and increasing the chance of the pass rush getting home).

I think, as is the case with Jones, what has people up in arms is the value the Giants placed on Baker. ESPN apparently has its own draft value chart, and according to their chart, the Giants gave up 30 percent more than what they should have to move up to get Baker.

However, it’s unclear if the Giants use ESPN’s proprietary chart or something similar to this trade value chart, which shows that the Giants came out ahead value-wise in the trade.

According to the chart, the spot where the Giants traded up to get Baker was worth 630 points.

The Giants, in giving up the bounty of picks they did (No. 37, 132 and 142), surrendered a package worth 604.5 points, making it not as bad of a deal as it first appeared to be.

Of course, if Baker turns out to be a bust, then obviously all bets are off, no matter which chart you follow. As with any draft pick in any draft class, only time will tell.

The Green Bay model?

Gettleman raised a few eyebrows with his answer to a question about what happens if Eli Manning continues to play at a satisfactory level.

“Maybe we are going to the Green Bay model, where (Aaron) Rodgers sat for three years. Who knows? It’s one of the deals where it doesn’t make a difference what position it is. You can never have too many good players at one position,” he said.

The argument against Gettleman’s statement has been to point out that unlike Jones, Rodgers was drafted 24th in the first round.

But here is where Gettleman and Shurmur have differed. Once a player is drafted, over time, where he was drafted is no longer a factor. So in other words, unlike the previous regime, where draft picks were put on scholarship — in some cases ahead of players who were more worthy of playing time than their drafted counterparts — that won’t exist under this regime.

So really the argument that ones being a sixth overall pick means nothing once he and the rest of the rookies come in and start competing. If and when he’s ready to play, he’ll play. And if he’s not better than Eli Manning, then he won’t.

Final word

By acquiring a third first-round pick, the Giants put themselves into a position to where they will have three young players under contract for up to five years instead of four.

That’s because all first-round picks’ contracts come with an option year; if the Giants like what they’re getting from Jones, Lawrence, and Baker, they can exercise the option year. If not, then it’s onto the next chapter.

That’s a critical element of roster building, being able to retain your top talent while also having the flexibility of getting away from those players who don’t work out.

And if by chance the players the Giants chose in the first round don’t work out?

No guts, no glory, right?