I am not going to grade the 2019 draft haul for the New York Giants. A zillion other writers will do that — have, in fact, already done it. I’m not even going to give you a “Kudos & Wet Willies” breakdown of the picks. Instead, I am going to offer my views on what the Giants accomplished — and did not accomplish — over the draft’s three days.
Gettleman was right to select Daniel Jones
There. I said it. And I know many of you have already stopped reading and are heading to the comments to say all manner of vile things about what an idiot I am for thinking that, or what a shill for the Giants I am for spouting what you view as the company line.
That’s your prerogative. I believe what I believe, though. Now, allow me to explain.
I have no idea if Jones will be the best quarterback in the class. Or the worst. Or better than Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock. Despite all his training and quarterback knowledge, neither does our own Mark Schofield. Same for Patricia Traina, Chris Pflum and Dan Pizzuta. Same for you.
Jones might be the best. Then again, Trace McSorley might be the best. McSorley was the last quarterback chosen, 197th overall in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. Who already have Lamar Jackson, in whom they invested a first-round pick a year ago.
Maybe Josh Rosen will make Gettleman, and every other GM of a quarterback-needy team, look stupid for not trading for him.
None of these players — Rosen aside — has taken so much as a rookie mini-camp snap yet. You have your emotional reaction to the pick now. We won’t know how this will all turn out for several years.
Eli Manning was the first overall pick in 2004. It wasn’t until he became Super Bowl MVP after the 2007 season, four years later, that many came around to the idea that Accorsi had been right to swing the 2004 draft-day deal for him. To be honest, nowadays there are still fans who aren’t sure.
So, why was Gettleman right?
He was right, in my view, because this is the guy he believed in. This is the guy he was in “full bloom love” with after watching on film and in person. This is the guy he was convinced would be successfully leading the franchise long after he was retired to Cape Cod.
To sum it up, this is the guy he was willing to pin his legacy as Giants’ GM on. He was right to take him No. 6 overall because that’s what he believed he had to do to make sure he got the guy he wanted to build around.
“I know for a fact there were two teams that would have taken him in front of 17,” Gettleman said, refuting the idea he could have gotten the quarterback with his second first-round pick.
I have no idea if that is right. Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reported that the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins had Jones atop their quarterback boards. Some buy that, some don’t. I had one long-time NFL insider tell me that was correct. Another responded with “Donald Trump never lies, either.”
What matters here is what Gettleman believed. That the only way to get the quarterback he wanted was to take him at No. 6 and not look back.
Getting the right quarterback to succeed Manning has always been acknowledged as the most important decision Gettleman would ever make for the Giants franchise.
“It wasn’t easy for me to pass up [Kentucky edge rusher] Josh Allen. For me, my background, that was very, very difficult,” Gettleman said. “But I think that much of Daniel Jones and his future as an NFL quarterback.”
Had it been me I would have taken Sam Darnold at No. 2 a year ago. Gettleman had his conviction, took Saquon Barkley and a year later found his guy in Jones.
Scott Wright of Draft Countdown wrote something in assessing the Jones’ pick that is worth passing along:
Personally, I had Jones as the No. 4 quarterback in this class and No. 38 prospect overall. Needless to say this is not the decision I would have made. At least the Giants finally have a much-needed succession plan in place behind Eli Manning. GM David Gettleman will get criticized for “reaching” on Jones, but it’s impossible to overpay for a good quarterback. If Jones develops into even an average starter the Giants will have done well. If not their decision to pass on Sam Darnold the year prior will haunt the franchise for a decade.
As I wrote the other day, give Gettleman credit for having the guts to do this his way. Will history prove his evaluation of Jones correct? Or, did Gettleman doom the Giants to years of mediocrity — or worse?
We will know a few seasons from now.
“We needed to help this defense.”
That was Gettleman, talking about selecting seven defensive players out of the team’s 10 overall choices.
The heavy defensive emphasis should hardly be a surprise. Gettleman has been saying for months that the Giants needed more defensive playmakers, and that they would have won more games last season had they been able to make key stops at the end of games.
Trading away Olivier Vernon and seeing Landon Collins leave in free agency only furthered the importance of adding to the defense.
“We knew we were going to make some significant changes to the defense, and we already have, two safeties, Markus Golden. So we’ve done some significant things on defense prior to the draft,” Shurmur said. “We just want to try to improve our football team and make moves that are going to improve the whole team, and I think it’s pretty obvious by the way the season played out, there was a pretty -- it was pretty bright that we needed to make some significant changes in some areas, so we went into the draft trying to make our team better.”
Indeed, the Giants have significantly changed every level of their defense now.
This will be a young and athletic group, dependent across the board on players signed to rookie contracts.
Dexter Lawrence, B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson and R.J. McIntosh on the defensive line.
Deandre Baker, Julian Love, Corey Ballentine, Sam Beal and Grant Haley at cornerback.
Ryan Connelly, Tae Davis and B.J. Goodson at linebacker.
Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter on the edge.
Jabrill Peppers at safety.
There are veterans like Antoine Bethea, Janoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin. This defense, though, will live and die with the young talent that Gettleman has collected over the past two offseasons.
There will, undoubtedly, be growing pains with this many new and inexperienced pieces. If, though, the Giants have been right in their evaluations and defensive coordinator James Bettcher can properly develop and integrate these players, this defense could end up being very good. For a very long time.
“Puppies he’s got to train”
One of the truly flabbergasting things about the reconfiguration of the Giants’ roster since Gettleman became GM 17 months ago is that Janoris Jenkins is still part of it. The same Jenkins who, in 2016 under Ben McAdoo, was suspended for going AWOL after a bye week and had his on-field effort questioned at times.
To be honest, with the emphasis Gettleman and Shurmur placed on changing the culture of the Giants I figured Jackrabbit would be one of the first people sent hopping out the door.
Instead, the seven-year veteran, now 30, is an elder statesman in a room full of newbies.
“Janoris has a bunch of puppies he’s got to train,” Gettleman said.
“He’ll become a good teacher. I admire Janoris. He’s tough. He’s competitive. He always answers the bell, and I’ve gained a huge appreciation for him coaching him over the last year or so,” Shurmur said. “Put all these young guys in a room with him, and I think Janoris will be Janoris, and if these young guys are smart enough to listen, then they’re going to learn a lot of really good stuff.”
Thing is, Jenkins is probably going to mentor himself out of a job. If enough of these youngsters show they can play, and Tony Lippett perhaps shows that he is all the way back from his Achilles injury, there seems little chance Jackrabbit will be a Giant in 2020. That’s the last year of his five-year, contract, it carries a $14.75 million cap hit and the Giants could save $11.25 million by cutting him.
If the Giants have a plethora of young, cost-controlled corners ready to see the field that seems like a no-brainer.
But, three corners in one draft?
The Giants passed on the premier edge rusher in the first round, taking Jones instead of Josh Allen. They added Lawrence and Ximines who, hopefully, will contribute to the pass rush in different ways.
As the old saying goes, though, there are more ways than one to skin a cat.
Our Dan Pizzuta has advocated a back-to-front approach that relies on coverage and scheme to generate pass rush. Maybe that is part of what was at work here. Or, maybe it was just about value.
Gettleman said he wasn’t going to reach to fill other positions when the organizations felt the corners selected were value picks.
“You can never have too many corners, either. Let’s let them compete. We’ve got some really good-quality -- some good returning guys. Really another draft pick for us is Sam Beal. He had the surgery. He’s coming along well,” Gettleman said, then chided the media just a bit. “The way the league is, you guys are the ones that keep banging at us, pass rushers, corners, that’s what we did. We listened to you, you know.”
What about right tackle?
There was a lot of screaming in the comments and in the Big Blue View Twitter feed that the Giants didn’t address right tackle. Or, no offense to George Afaso-Adjei, didn’t address it early enough in the draft.
The Giants did not have a second-round pick after the Baker deal and had only the late Round 3 pick they used on Ximines. They used their fourth-round pick on Love.
By that point, Gettleman said he felt the “value was pretty much wiped out” at offensive tackle.
The Giants have been connected to veteran right tackle Mike Remmers, formerly of both the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings. Remmers visited the Giants near the beginning of free agency, and he remains on the Giants’ radar.
“Well, he’s still rehabbing [from back surgery], and we’re continuing to talk with him, so we’ll see,” Gettleman said. “Going to bring him in and take another look eventually.”
If it doesn’t end up being Remmers, the belief here is that the Giants will eventually find another veteran right tackle. Remember, those types of players become available throughout the summer. In fact, they become available right up to the opening week of the season. So, just because the Giants have not aggressively addressed the position yet doesn’t mean they won’t.
The haul for Odell
When they traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns the Giants got the 17th and 95 picks in the draft along with Jabrill Peppers. Ultimately, that makes Peppers, Lawrence (17th) and Ximines (95th) the return for Beckham.
Will that have been worth it? You have your own opinion on that, and perhaps the eventual performances of those three players won’t sway it. Still, if they are all good players and they help the Giants become a winning, playoff-caliber team the Giants will be able to argue they got what they were looking for.
It probably makes you crazy when I say it, but we haven’t seen any of these guys on the field so it’s too soon to judge. Time will tell.
George Young is still the man
I have often said over the years that the influence of George Young, the GM who built the Giants’ first two Super Bowl teams and trained Ernie Accorsi, who had a hand in the last two, is still felt around the Giants.
Gettleman was not a direct Young disciple, but he is an old-school GM who is still influenced by Accorsi. Pick after pick I couldn’t help but think the draft Gettleman just conducted is one Young would have approved of.
Gettleman gambled his legacy on an unpopular quarterback selection at No. 6, just like Young stuck his neck out for an unknown quarterback in the first round of the 1979 draft. Phil Simms worked out OK.
Lawrence is a classic Giants defensive tackle. A predictable pick for a team that has had guys like Keith Hamilton, Barry Cofield, Linval Joseph, Johnathan Hankins and now Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill.
The Giants have long been thought of in the scouting community as a “size-speed” team that looked for certain physical attributes whenever possible.
Wide receiver Darius Slayton is a 4.3 40-yard dash guy. Cornerback Corey Ballentine is a guy who’s athletic profile is similar to former Giant Bennett Jackson, and who is in the upper half of most Combine testing scores. Aside from short 30 7/8-inch arms, linebacker Ryan Connelly tested well.
Another Young staple was grabbing linemen late. The Giants took Afaso-Adjei and defensive tackle Chris Slayton with their final two picks.