Tuesday was quite the day if you are a New York Giants fan.
With new head coach Joe Judge stoking some speculation about the future of Daniel Jones by not even saying his name, to general manager Dave Gettleman backing that up by outlining how “every position is open,” things got off to a rather unexpected start for the Giants at the 2020 Scouting Combine.
However, let us dial things back with a bit of realism. Having invested an early pick in Jones a season ago, and given his improvement over the course of last year - and the fact that Jones largely surpassed expectations on him coming into the league - absent some sort of crazy scenario - Jones is the Giants’ starting quarterback Week 1.
But what about the quarterback room behind him?
With the retirement of Eli Manning, Alex Tanney is the only current quarterback besides Jones on the roster. That could put the Giants into the mix on Day 3 for a boost to the quarterback room.
Three potential options took to the podium on Tuesday to address the media, and all three could be intriguing fits for the Giants.
First up was Anthony Gordon, the Washington State product who flashed some athleticism and aggression in the Mike Leach Air Raid offense. Gordon put up impressive numbers replacing Gardner Minshew, but his mentality and growth potential make him an option for New York.
Watching Gordon, one of the things that stands out is his ability to make throws from a variety of throwing platforms. That is something that he attributes to his background as a baseball player.
“I attribute a lot of it to baseball. I grew up a baseball player, my whole life, didn’t start playing football until my freshman year of high school. A middle infielder too, so you are a lot of the time turning double plays from real awkward angles, any way you can get it out as quick as you can. So once I started playing football I figured out pretty quickly that there’s a fine line between baseball and football but you can use your baseball background to your advantage. I’ve definitely done that. Going to junior college as well, my junior college coach always encouraged me in being able to get the ball out from a bunch of different angles, it really helps against pressure and getting the ball out quick.”
What could also endear Gordon to a potential NFL coaching staff - including the Giants - is the mental approach. Despite the common misgivings about the air raid, quarterbacks in that system are asked to make a number of full field, progression reads on a given play. Perhaps more that other quarterbacks in this draft class. When speaking about his favorite design to run, the Air Raid staple Y-Cross, Gordon dove into this aspect of his play:
“I love that Y-Cross. That signature Y-Cross, it’s probably my favorite play. I think that translates to the next level. Every team pretty much has some form of Y-Cross and we read ours left to right. We start at that vertical to the sail route to the cross to the dig. So, it’s one of my favorite plays, it was on every third down script and it was something that we would always run. Teams knew it would be coming and we would still execute it.”
Gordon is not without his drawbacks as a passer. Coming from the air raid system operating under center is something he’ll need to learn. He’ll also need to fix his footwork, as he tends to be flat-footed in the pocket which at times impacts his ability to make clean throws under pressure. But with some refinement to his mechanics and some development, Gordon could be a very good fit in the Giants’ offense.
If expectations are that the Giants are going to be more aggressive in the downfield passing game, given the hire of Jason Garrett and his background in a Coryell system, then Cole McDonald from Hawaii could be the ideal fit for the Giants when it comes to Day 3 options. McDonald, on film at least, is a true roller coaster of a player. This was perhaps best exemplified by his season debut against Arizona. After a summer that saw draft evaluators start to fall for the Hawaii passer, McDonald threw four touchdowns...and four interceptions. Those turnovers sent him to the bench.
But McDonald ended his season strong, leading a game-winning drive against BYU in the Hawaii Bowl. That drive was highlighted by an aggressive decision and throw he made on a third and short, a play he was more than happy to describe:
“You know, especially in our offense. Even on third down, fourth down, we’re gonna let it rip. We’re gonna throw where the defense tells us to throw. Like I said we’re a big counter-based offense so if they’re going to play that little out route that we were running, I’m going to take advantage of that hole shot over the top. It doesn’t matter if it’s third and one or fourth and long. We’re gonna run our offense to the best of our ability.”
McDonald might be considered a more unorthodox pick for the Giants, given some of his mechanical issues and the scheme he operated in college. But his aggressive mindset and willingness to push the football downfield would be a fit for where the Giants seem to be moving as an offense.
If Gettleman and Judge want to stay more conventional with a later round quarterback, the player to watch might just be Nate Stanley from Iowa. The experienced passer checks that “pro style offense” box that NFL general managers often love to check during the evaluation process. When you study Stanley you’ll see a passer working under center, taking traditional three-, five- and seven-step drops, and doing something that actually does matter in terms of evaluation: Running play-action with his back to the defense on his fakes.
Why does that matter? Because is constricts the decision-making process for the quarterback. By taking his eyes off the defense he loses the ability to read and react to any rotations in the coverage that may occur. Those plays are great opportunities to tax and test the mindset of the quarterback prospect.
Stanley is working with quarterback guru Tony Racioppi right now, and they are working on keeping Stanley more “vertical” as a passer. But you can see how he might be the type of quarterback Gettleman will love as the draft process unfolds.
While the headlines about Daniel Jones wrote themselves the past 24 hours, given the comments from Judge and Gettleman, identifying a later round quarterback to boost the quarterback room might be rooted more in truth. These three players would be very interesting candidates for the Giants to consider.