The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone. The New York Giants focused entirely on three units with their 10 picks. They drafted three offensive linemen, three defensive backs, and four linebackers over the course of the draft’s three days.
So, based on the impact of their picks on the current roster, who were the Giants’ winners and losers after draft weekend?
Winner - Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman
Both of the Giants’ running backs are winners in the aftermath of the draft, but for very different reasons.
Barkley is a winner because the addition of Andrew Thomas should, hopefully, improve the Giants’ run blocking. The Giants haven’t run blocked well since drafting Barkley in 2018, ranking 28th and 25th in the league (down from 15th in 2017) in Adjusted Line Yards per Football Outsiders. Run blocking was Thomas’ forte in college, and the Giants will likely hope that he can work with Will Hernandez or Kevin Zeitler to open holes for Barkley.
Gallman is a preliminary winner as well, as the Giants didn’t draft a running back. That suggests they’re at least satisfied with who is already in-house to compete as Barkley’s backup. Gallman is a reliable back who can pick up what is blocked for him, pass protect, and catch the ball. If the Giants have succeeded in improving their run blocking, Gallman should see an uptick as well.
Gallman might even be a bigger winner than Barkley, as Thomas’ best fit is in a man/gap scheme, and that is Jason Garrett’s preferred blocking scheme as well. Gallman’s direct, “one-cut and go” running style fits better in that style of offense than in a zone scheme.
Loser - Nate Solder
The selections of Thomas and Matt Peart have pretty well sealed Solder’s fate with the Giants. You don’t draft two players with starting upside in the same unit in the top-100 and expect them to NOT start within a year or two. The 32-year-old Solder will carry a $20 million cap hit with $6.5 million in guaranteed money in 2021, and the Giants seem to be signaling pretty clearly that they’re willing to take that off ramp.
(Note: I’m going to leave the pass protection aspect of the offensive line selections alone for the time being. I think that is a deeper and more nuanced issue than I can properly address here.)
Winner - Patrick Graham
If Graham wants to run a “multiple” and flexible defensive scheme that morphs to match opposing offenses, the Giants got another piece in Xavier McKinney. He played a variety of roles for the Alabama defense, from slot corner, to safety, to linebacker. Along with Lorenzo Carter, Jabrill Peppers, and Julian Love, McKinney gives the Giants a fourth player with a hybrid skill set.
In all honesty, I could have gone either way here. The Giants have largely neglected the EDGE position for the second year in a row. I have reservations that they’ll be able to scheme a pass rush when their best rusher (in terms of win rate compared to double team rate), is Dalvin Tomlinson.
But if Graham wanted versatile, “positionless” players, he certainly has them.
Winner - DeAndre Baker
Nick Falato noted that the Miami Dolphins played a lot of “Middle of Field Closed” coverage schemes — basically either Cover 1 or Cover 3 schemes — in his breakdown of their defense under Graham. The Giants used a wide variety of coverage schemes to try and account for their personnel limitations last year, but communication issues plagued the secondary when in zone coverage. James Bradberry should be able to handle the communication aspect of those schemes as an experienced veteran, but Baker was frequently involved in the Giants’ miscommunications.
McKinney should help here as well, as his football IQ is evident on tape, and he was an active communicator in the secondary on plays when his role required it of him. Having that communicator in the secondary will hopefully avoid the issues which contributed to the Giants giving up far too many big plays through the air.
Loser - The passing attack
Perhaps the most surprising part of the entire draft was that the Giants didn’t draft a single wide receiver in what was the deepest and most thoroughly talented wide receiver class in recent memory — maybe even ever. We consistently noted throughout the draft process that a wide receiver was probably going to be the best player available whenever the Giants were drafting, outside of fourth overall. and yet the Giants consistently bypassed the position.
The rest of the NFC East engaged in an arms race, with the Dallas Cowboys lucking into CeeDee Lamb, the Philadelphia Eagles taking a trio of receivers, and the Washington Redskins taking two as well.
The Giants’ depth at receiver is a big question mark after Sterling Shepard missed so much time due to concussions, Darius Slayton missed time to a hamstring injury, and Corey Coleman missed the entire season to a torn ACL.
Combined with the Giants’ receivers’ struggles in creating separation in a scheme designed to get them separation, the receiving corps is still a big concern for me, particularly considering the importance of top-flight receivers to (what we anticipate to be) their new offensive scheme.
Bonus: Loser - The Beezer Brigade
Big Blue View’s contingent of long-suffering fans who just want the team to draft a linebacker highly are going to have to wait another year. But this year was especially cruel because of the circumstances. The Giants still need an athletic playmaking linebacker and there were impact players available for both the fourth and 36th overall picks. We spent months looking at Isaiah Simmons and Zack Baun only to pass each time. The Giants did draft four linebackers, but they were in the sixth and seventh rounds, including picking a linebacker to be “Mr. Irrelevant,” which just seems like a painful dig.
I’m poking a bit of fun here, but you do have my sympathies for your frustrations. Maybe Graham will do the right thing and make Lorenzo Carter and Jabrill Peppers off-ball linebackers.