But the draft rolls on and after watching the next 28 selections to see who they might be choosing from, the Giants have likely narrowed their choice of player for the 36th overall selection down to a few candidates.
Will the Giants now turn to the defense and draft a player like Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matoss [Prospect Profile], Wisconsin’s Zack Baun [Prospect Profile], or LSU’s Grant Delpit [Prospect Profile]? Or perhaps they could go off the radar a bit and pick Antoine Winfield Jr. [Prospect Profile] out of Minnesota or Jeremy Chinn out of Southern Illinois [Prospect Profile].
Or will the Giants double down on the offensive side of the ball. They could further reinforce the offensive line with a center like Lloyd Cushenberry III out of LSU [Prospect Profile] or Temple’s Matt Hennessy [Prospect Profile]. Or they could try to find the “X” receiver the offense currently lacks and select a player like Baylor’s Denzel Mims [Prospect Profile] or Michael Pittman Jr. out of USC [Prospect Profile].
There figures to be fantastic value available today, so I decided to check with the rest of the Big Blue View staff to see who they think will be pick at 36th overall.
Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Beyond the biggest surprise of the night in which the Packers traded up to draft quarterback Jordan Love, there were a number of players drafted in the first round that many predicted would fall to the second or third rounds, particularly CB Damon Arnette. Because CeeDee Lamb fell so far, the Cowboys also passed on the chance to fill their need at cornerback. This means that Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos is still available. Considered by many to be the second-best edge rusher in this year’s draft class, I think the Giants have the chance to land a first-round caliber talent in Gross-Matos.
Grant Delpit, Safety, LSU
This might seem like an out-of-the-box player for this choice, but you look at it more deeply, and it makes a ton of sense. The Giants have seemingly prioritized big school players in the early rounds. Is there a school any bigger than LSU? Next, you look at what the Cowboys and the Eagles have done in the draft and both have greatly upgraded their WR corps. I’m a fan of adding strength on top of strength (to a degree...I’m not saying go get another DT!). Joe Judge will have his fingerprints all over this draft and Bill Belicheck has long prioritized elite secondary over elite pass rush.
That’s what we’re trying to do here. We’ve got a very good box safety in Jabrill Peppers, invested a lot in DeAndre Baker, have Julian Love and Corey Ballentine as up and comers, drafted Sam Beal, and just signed James Bradberry. What we need is that rangy deep half safety. Minkah Fitzpatrick (though he didn’t get along with Patrick Graham) did a great job of that in Miami. Patrick Graham is going to want a FS of his own. You could argue Antoine Winfield has similar range, but like I said, the Giants like big school players. Delpit could be the guy at #36.
A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa [Prospect Profile]
Another prospect that was expected to be a first round selection falls out of Day One in A.J. Epenesa from Iowa. Epenesa was viewed as a potential first-rounder a mere few weeks ago, but slid a bit after a disappointing Combine performance. He might project best as a 3-4 defensive end, and that is exactly the situations he finds himself in with the Giants. With questions about the long-term standing of Leonard Williams, the organization now has a viable Plan B.
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
The Giants lucked out with the number of reaches allowing first round graded prospects to slide to the beginning of the second. Prospects like Yetur Gross-Matos and Zack Baun, who many expected to go in the first, are in a prime spot for the Giants to snag. Considering the fourth overall pick was spent on building the offensive line, the focus will likely be shifted to defense players. If the Giants don’t make a move to trade up and Baun is still available, he will be the guy for the Giants.
Zack Baun, LB/EDGE, Wisconsin
After addressing the offensive side of the ball, it seems likely that the Giants are going to look at the defense. I’m going with Zack Baun out of Wisconsin here for a couple reasons. The first is that the Giants showed a lot of interest in Baun during the brief bit of the draft process in which scouts and coaches were on the road. Second, Patrick Graham seems to want to run a “multiple” defense, and Baun can be used in a variety of ways as both a pass rusher and as a space player — both things the Giants desperately need. And finally, their entire offseason has been a very safe one. Baun is a very high floor player with good athleticism to go with great competitive toughness and football IQ. If he’s still there at 36, I don’t expect them to take long to turn in the pick.
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
He would give Daniel Jones a taller, athletic, stretch player, who is capable of playing above the rim. His version of Plaxico Burress.
Zack Baun, LB/EDGE, Wisconsin
If the Giants fail to find a trade partner again, then they should draft Wisconsin EDGE/LB Zack Baun at 36. Baun is a versatile piece, who may be best suited as an off-ball linebacker, but he’ll add juice to the pass rush, and would fit in nicely with Patrick Graham’s multiple type defense. I expect him to fill a role similar to Kyle Van Noy’s role with New England. In 2019, Baun had 19.5 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks. I love the fit, the player, and the potential of adding a defensive play-maker.
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
It is really tempting to double up on the offensive line, as I wrote earlier on Friday. I just don’t, though, believe that the Giants would pick another offensive tackle. As much as I believe they love Temple center Matt Hennessy, I also wonder if this might be a touch early for him.
Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett would love a wide receiver like Tee Higgins or Denzel Mims. Me, too.
I have mocked Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun to the Giants a number of times, though, and that is the direction I’m going here. The Giants need defensive difference makers, and Baun could be one. Versatile enough to play off-ball or on the edge in the front seven, Baun would be a nice chess piece for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
The defense hasn’t been good the past couple of years, and even after a few solid free agent signings ignoring it early in the draft doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.