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‘Valentine’s Views’: Why Mel Kiper is right, and more thoughts

A few things I’m thinking about as the NFL offseason cranks up

New York Giants v Washington Redskins
Ale Tanney
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

No football today. And for several months of Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays to come. Still, that doesn’t mean we have nothing to discuss. Here are some New York Giants-related things I’m thinking about as we wait to see how the Giants’ offseason will unfold.

Thank you, Mel Kiper

OK, so let me admit up front that I am not thrilled about being in lockstep with ESPN’s Mel Kiper about anything. That, though, is where I find myself after what Kiper told Jordan Ranaan of ESPN on a recent edition of Ranaan’s ‘Breaking Big Blue’ podcast.

Emily Iannaconi wrote about this on Friday. Here, though, is Kiper’s money quote:

“I think Daniel Jones is a better quarterback in this draft than everybody except Trevor Lawrence,” Kiper said. “Zach Wilson would be the closest to him and then Justin Fields. But I would say that Daniel Jones in this draft would be the second quarterback behind Trevor Lawrence. Coming out of Duke, he would have been the second highest-rated quarterback.”

Bingo!

This an argument I have been making for months. If you can’t get Trevor Lawrence in the draft — and the Giants can’t — it makes zero sense to draft any of the other top quarterbacks. Because there is no guarantee that any of them will be better than Jones.

The Giants also don’t have the resources to get into any DeShaun Watson derby, and why would they want to go anywhere near Carson Wentz. The best alternative they have right now is to stick with Jones and see where that goes, rather than bail on the 2019 No. 6 overall pick at least a year too early.

The Giants drafted Jones largely because he reminded them so much of Eli Manning. Kiper is bullish enough on Jones to believe he can be as good as the best quarterback in Giants franchise history.

“Let’s get him Saquon Barkley for the full year healthy, let’s get him the offensive line that’s in sync and cohesive, let’s get him Evan Engram catching balls on a regular basis, let’s get all of those receivers all out there at the same time together. And then let’s see what Daniel Jones does in year three. This is the year where I think he can answer all of the skeptics and doubters. He’ll try to do what Josh Allen did and shut up the skeptics and doubters once and for all.

“Evidence suggests that he can be a really good quarterback in this league, certainly as good as Eli and Eli won two Super Bowls.”

I don’t know if Jones will make that leap. I do know I think the Giants are right to give him the chance. And I’ll take the high-profile backup.

J.J. Watt?

Five-time All-Pro and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt has been set free by the Houston Texans. The New York Giants remain in need of pass rush help. Even entering his age 32 season, Watt can still provide it.

Voters in our Big Blue View poll are split on the idea of whether or not the Giants should pursue Watt. In the article preceding that poll, Chris Pflum laid out many of the reasons why Watt would be an excellent get for the Giants.

Thing is, it isn’t going to happen.

This is just a reality check. Watt is 32. He’s taken 10 seasons of NFL beatings. Injuries and age have taken a toll, though he remains a wonderful and impactful player. Fact is Watt probably doesn’t have a lot of time left in his NFL career, and he doesn’t have time to sign with a team like the Giants and hope they can get to a championship level.

He needs to sign with a team that is already at a championship level, or one close enough that his contribution can push them to that mountaintop. Here is a list of potential landing spots.

The Green Bay Packers, who went 13-3 in 2020 and happen to play in Watt’s home state. the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers if they lose Shaq Barrett in free agency. The Kansas City Chiefs, where Steve Spagnuolo loves 4-3 defensive ends and knows what to do with them. Maybe the Buffalo Bills, who aren’t all that far away from being a Super Bowl team. Maybe the pass rush-needy Seattle Seahawks.

You get the drift. Watt needs to land with a team that, as we sit here right now, has a realistic and obvious shot at reaching Super Bowl 56. That’s not the Giants.

Trevor Lawrence Pro Day

Trevor Lawrence, who will land with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, held his Pro Day workout on Friday. It had to raise an eyebrow that the Giants had two representatives at the workout. They have no shot at Lawrence, so just forget speculating about them trading Daniel Jones and a gazillion No. 1 draft picks for the rights to select Lawrence.

Why did they have two reps there? To my knowledge, the only other draftable prospect at the workout was Clemson wide receiver Cornell Powell. Our man Chris watched the live stream of the workout. Here is his report:

“Let’s start at the top: Trevor Lawrence looked good, because he should look good in this situation. Lawrence has been the presumptive first-overall selection in whichever draft he chose to enter since his true freshman campaign back in 2018. The only question is which team would be picking first overall when Lawrence was ready to enter the NFL. This was a completely controlled environment — a pro day indoors, with completely scripted throws in shorts and a tee shirt, and the closest thing to “pressure” being a coach jogging slowly toward the quarterback. Everyone already knows he’s great and he should look good in pristine condition. The only way Lawrence’s performance would really be noteworthy in these circumstances is if he looked terrible.

And yes, the Giants sent a pair of representatives to the workout but, barring some WandaVision level reality manipulation, Lawrence isn’t going to be a Giant. I was more interested in wide receiver Cornell Powell. We saw a lot of Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers at the Senior Bowl, but we didn’t see or hear much of Powell.

Weighing in at 6-foot, 205 pounds, Powell has solid size and honestly looked bigger than he measured — both at the Senior Bowl and on the field at Lawrence’s pro day. Powell moved pretty well, coming off the line smoothly and showing some bend to sink his hips and break at the top of his routes. His speed was tough to gauge playing without a defensive back for reference, but my guess is that he would time somewhere in the 4.45 to 4.55 range.

I thought that Powell located and tracked the ball well, adjusting well on deep passes as well as presenting a good target on shorter routes. He does a good job of extending to maximize his catch radius and plucking the ball out of the air. But just as I started to feel good about his ball skills, Powell let the ball hit the ground just a bit too often. There were a couple catchable balls which just slipped through his hands. There have been some questions regarding his consistency, and having some drops in perfect conditions are a concern. That being said, he could be a solid value on the third day of the draft.”

Good luck, Alex Tanney

When I had the opportunity to speak with Tanney a couple of years ago it was clear then that the now-former Giants’ backup quarterback had his eye on a coaching career when he was done. He is, of course, starting that journey with a low-level job on the staff of the Philadelphia Eagles.

My guess is Tanney will do quite well in his new career.

Snicker all you want at Tanney’s career — appearing in only two games and throwing 15 passes (11 completions) with eight different franchises over nine seasons. I’m sure he wishes more playing opportunities had come along. Still, he spent nine years in NFL locker and meeting rooms contributing and learning.

I think he is going to put all that he has learned to good use in a successful coaching career. Good luck, Alex!

Freddie’s rise

The tweet from Jordan Ranaan of ESPN on Saturday stating that Freddie Kitchens will be elevated by the Giants from tight ends coach to senior offensive assistant confirms something that has really been obvious for a while. Whenever Jason Garrett moves on, or gets moved on, as the team’s offensive coordinator it is a pretty solid bet that Kitchens would be next in line. I raised that possibility more than a month ago.

Kitchens and Joe Judge have a relationship dating back to their days at Mississippi State. Kitchens has been a play-caller, and a head coach, before. Judge turned to Kitchens when Garrett missed time with COVID-19 in 2020. Now, he is promoting him.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the day comes that Kitchens is the man running the Giants’ offense.