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‘Valentine’s Views:’ Draft priorities, Kenny Golladay, more

Let’s discuss some things I’m thinking about today

New Orleans Saints v Detroit Lions
Kenny Golladay
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Let’s get to a few New York Giants and NFL-related items yours truly is thinking about on this chilly winter Sunday here in the Northeast.

Receiver or bust at No. 11?

The Giants’ need to add at least one play-maker to their offense is apparent. That is why mock drafts, without the benefit of seeing what the Giants do in free agency, are so heavily slanted toward receiver selections at No. 11.

Is that, though, the smart play? Over and over in recent years we have seen receivers drafted on Day 2 and, in a few cases, Day 3 outperform many of those selected in Round 1. This, once again, happens to be a draft class with a plethora of quality receivers you can find in Rounds 2-4 who should have good NFL careers.

Personally, I have always been a believer in building teams from inside out. That would mean prioritizing the offensive line and defensive front seven over the receiver group. Did you watch the Super Bowl? Patrick Mahomes had Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and a bunch of other guys at his disposal, but because the Kansas City offensive line was in tatters he was running for his life and couldn’t get the ball to them. The Chiefs never scored a touchdown in a blowout 31-9 loss. Offensive weapons aren’t useful if you can’t block, or stop the other team from parading up and down the field with the ball.

Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi issued a similar warning in The Athletic recently. He wrote:

On Super Bowl Sunday, we were reminded of the oldest lesson in winning football games: Championship teams win at the line of scrimmage. It’s a lesson we often ignore because it’s not sexy, it’s hard for many to evaluate, and at times it’s hidden by great quarterbacking and scheme. But when a team cannot run block, pass protect or keep its quarterback from getting hit, it does not matter if it has the best quarterback in all of football, or the best receiver, or even the best tight end. If the quarterback does not have time to throw, having the best isn’t much different from having the worst. The results are the same: bad. ...

We witnessed a blatant example of this lesson when the team with the greatest collection of skill players in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs, did not score a touchdown in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This is a warning the Giants might want to heed. Yes, they need to add skill for Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett. There are, though, other needs and other perhaps more important ways to improve to their football team than by drafting the flashiest, fastest guy.

Kenny Golladay rumors

So, now that I have gone on about how the trenches need to be prioritized, let’s talk about Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay and his potential free agency.

Ralph Vacchiano of SNY wrote recently that people around the NFL — not people inside the Giants, a key distinction — believe the Giants will be “very interested” in Golladay if the Lions don’t use the franchise tag on him.

I have no idea why that is news, or why it has created a fresh round of uproar in the Giants Twitter rumor mill. We knew way back at the 2020 NFL trade deadline that the Giants were sniffing around Golladay, perhaps trying to get him via trade and keep him off the market.

Golladay has pretty much always been seen as a likely target for the Giants in free agency — if he hits the market. The real news would be if someone from within the Giants came out and said the team wouldn’t pursue the talented 27-year-old.

The NFL is a-changin’

The NFL just completed a season like no other in league history, with COVID-19 forcing the league and its teams to work in ways they had never imagined pre-pandemic. Lindsay Jones of The Athletic examined many of those changes recently, writing that “the NFL may never return to normal. And that might not be a bad thing.”

Let’s look at the areas of change Jones wrote about, what may happen and what yours truly would like to see happen.

Offseason and training camp structure

There were no preseason games, no offseason programs and an extremely truncated training camp. Jones writes that, as you might expect, the NFLPA is pushing for much of that reduction in offseason time spent at team facilities by players to become permanent.

Jones writes that “A permanent change would have to be collectively bargained, but a league source told The Athletic there appears to be enough support from both sides for such a change to be possible.”

Valentine’s View: I have zero problem with players not wanting to spend weeks and weeks of what is supposed to be their “offseason” at team facilities for “voluntary” workouts that aren’t really voluntary.

There is something to the argument that players work harder in their training regimens away from the team than they might in a team setting with 90 guys where a lot of their time is spent either in meetings or standing around.

Limit players on field time during the offseason to a rookie mini-camp and maybe two or three other mandatory three-day mini-camps, then do the rest of the install work virtually. Hold a traditional training camp, reduce the preseason to two or three games. That’s all fine with me.

Roster rules

Jones writes that changes to IR and the practice squad rules necessitated by COVID-19 should “receive overwhelmingly positive reviews from coaches and general managers” when league meetings are held.

That would mean some or all of those changes — expanded practice squads that allow more veterans, loosening of IR rules so more players can be brought back from IR during the season — could be kept.

Valentine’s View: I would love that. I have long favored the loosening of injured reserve rules. To me, that improves the quality of your team and the quality of the overall NFL product. You get to bring healthy players who belong in the league back during the season, rather than filling the end of rosters with “street” free agents who probably don’t belong on an NFL roster while healthy, better players are ineligible.

As for expanded practice squads, again I think it improves the quality of play. You have more players, and more experienced players, who already know your playbook and can step in at a moment’s notice. Pull a young kid off someone else’s practice squad, or the street, who has never played in the league and it takes weeks to get that player up to speed — if you ever do.

So, yeah, I’m all in on keeping those roster changes in place.

Scouting process and the draft

There won’t be a combine this year. Player interviews will be conducted virtually. Prospects won’t be visiting team facilities.

Valentine’s View: I do hope some form of a combine returns. I could do without some of the ridiculousness, like the bench press taking place on a makeshift platform in front fans on makeshift bleachers. I can do without the traveling circus of prospect visits. In my view, the process takes too long, there’s too much over-analysis. I do want to see an in-person, live draft experience return although I’m enough of a curmudgeon not to care about all of the over the top pageantry.

Other stuff

  • I had a ton of fun talking to Giants linebacker Tae Crowder the other day. Here is that podcast, in the extremely unlikely event you haven’t listened to it yet.
  • I spoke late last week Brent Taylor of SB Nation’s RollBamaRoll, which covers the Alabama Crimson Tide. I expect to drop a podcast including that interview on Monday, and with the number of Alabama prospects who will be selected in the draft’s early rounds you won’t want to miss it. HINT: Taylor has some very interesting thoughts on wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.