The 2018 NFL Draft created a quandary for the New York Giants. With the second overall pick, the Giants were faced with the dilemma of drafting Sam Darnold as the heir apparent to longtime franchise quarterback Eli Manning or Saquon Barkley who was one of the most dynamic running back prospects in the past decade. We obviously know who the Giants chose, and that pick turned into the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
However, since that pick fans, analysts, and writers have debated endlessly about what the right decision was. At the moment, what was the right decision is up to speculation after only seeing one season of play from both youngsters.
But what if things went differently on draft night in 2018? What if general manager Dave Gettleman actually liked the 2018 quarterback class? What if he didn’t take Saquon, and instead selected Darnold? In the spirit of ‘What If’ week for the SB Nation flagship, let’s discuss what would have changed if Darnold was picked.
2018 NFL Draft
What if instead of being eager to snatch up Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Gettleman fell in love with the mild-mannered signal caller from USC. Now that the future of the quarterback position is taken care of, how would that have impacted the rest of the 2018 draft class?
Most of the picks would have likely stayed the same. Will Hernandez is perfect for protecting the Giants new prized possession. Young defensive pieces Lorenzo Carter, B.J. Hill, and RJ McIntosh are still important building blocks.
However, with the 108th pick in the fourth round, the Giants would not have been interested in the long-term project that is Kyle Lauletta. So who would the Giants have taken? At this point, the more notable fourth rounders are Troy Apke, DaeSean Hamilton, Da’Shawn Hand, Josh Sweat, Kentavius Street, Kalen Ballage, and Ito Smith. Without Barkley, the selection of offensive players like Ballage, Smith, or Hamilton could have made sense here.
The 2018 season and the quarterback situation
Unlike the Jets quarterback dilemma, the Giants would not have needed to start Darnold right away. There would have been no rush for him to see game action during the first half of the year. Allowing him to sit behind and learn from Manning would have been ideal.
As we all vividly remember, the Giants stumbled to a 1-7 record when they reached their bye week. While fans called for an unlikely appearance from Kyle Lauletta at the time, Darnold was more prepared to play as a rookie. Would Darnold have started in Week 10 against the San Francisco 49ers? It seems incredibly likely considering he was good enough to start 13 games with the Jets.
In the scenario Darnold starts the remainder of the season, how would those eight games look? By using his game averages from his actual 2018 season, in eight games Darnold would have thrown for 1,763 yards with 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Considering the Giants had a slightly better offensive line last year than the Jets according to Pro Football Focus, Darnold would have seen a slight bump in his performance. Add in the fact he would have significantly better receiving options with the Giants thanks to Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram. His passing numbers would have been closer to 1,900 yards and 15 touchdowns.
With a decent half season performance from Darnold, it would have opened the door for Manning’s exit. After 15 seasons as the franchise quarterback, would the Giants have parted ways with Manning?
The 2019 NFL Draft without Daniel Jones
Assuming free agency plays out the same way it did, the final question remaining is who would the Giants have drafted sixth overall instead of Daniel Jones? Assuming, of cours,e they still had the No. 6 overall pick. Selecting Josh Allen like many fans hoped for would have been ideal. Players like Ed Oliver, Devin Bush, and Rashan Gary would have also been available.
If Sam Darnold became a Giant, the roster would now look much different. In this ‘What If’ a whole team-building philosophy is altered. Ultimately, it leaves us still wondering what would it be like for the Big Blue if Gettleman did not want Saquon Barkley.