ESPN has released a re-selection of the first two rounds of last year’s NFL Draft. NFL Nation’s reporters were tasked to redraft their team’s selection, and it was ESPN’s Jordan Raanan who put on his Dave Gettleman hat for the re-draft.
In the exercise, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Joe Burrow, quarterback out of LSU, the Washington Football Team selected Justin Herbert, quarterback out of Oregon, and the Detroit Lions selected EDGE rusher Chase Young out of Ohio State. Herbert’s 4,336 passing yards, and 31 to 10 touchdown/interception ratio vaulted him to the second selection in the draft - something that’s difficult to argue coming off a Rookie of the Year season.
That set the Giants up in a position that resembled the real-life scenario. New York was still in desperate need of a left tackle. The coveted EDGE rusher was selected and the only player that slipped in this exercise, who wasn’t around for the pick in real life, was Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah - a player who spent much of the 2020 season injured.
Raanan selected Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs over Georgia’s Andrew Thomas with the fourth selection in the draft. It’s difficult to argue with Raanan’s pick; Thomas surrendered the second-most pressures and the second-most sacks in the league. Only Jacksonville tackle Jawaan Taylor had more pressures allowed, and Houston guard Zach Fulton had more sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.
It was a brutal start to the season for Thomas, but the massive tackle took to coaching and significantly improved down the stretch of the season. After the Week 11 bye, Thomas had three games where he didn’t allow a pressure. His technique from a set standpoint, his use of hands, and his ability to adapt to counters were all ameliorated.
It was very encouraging to see Thomas’ progression at the end of the year, but Wirfs didn’t need to significantly improve - he came into the league and was incredibly effective from the jump. Wirfs allowed one sack and 23 pressures all season. It’s safe to say that Wirfs was in a better position than Thomas all season, but he’s also performed at a higher level within that better position.
Brandon Thorn, offensive line analyst at Establish the Run, came out with his midseason offensive line team and Wirfs was the starting right tackle - the best in the league as a rookie in Thorn’s view. Wirfs can pass protect and block in the running game; he’s ahead of Thomas with his development and will be playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Does this mean Thomas was a bust or that he can’t continue to develop past Wirfs someday? Absolutely not. I like Andrew Thomas and think he really cares about his craft. It’s been less than a year since these two players were drafted in the NFL, but it’s difficult to argue the immediate return on investment that the Buccaneers received by selecting Wirfs at 13.
Both players just turned 22 (Thomas is older by two days) and their careers will always be associated and evaluated together, along with the Jets’ Mekhi Becton and the Browns’ Jedrick Wills. I feel the Giants really like what they have in Thomas, and so do I, but Wirfs has proven to be the best of the four tackles in year one.
Just like in the regular draft, Xavier McKinney fell to the 36th pick and Raanan selected the versatile defensive back. I agree with the selection and feel McKinney was a victim of unfortunate circumstances. The truncated offseason was going to be difficult for rookies throughout the season - there was going to be a bigger learning curve. McKinney ended up breaking his foot in training camp and didn’t see the field until Week 12 at Cincinnati.
Everything about McKinney seems to translate well to Patrick Graham’s system. McKinney is a smooth-moving versatile defender, whose mental processing ability suggests he can handle whatever Graham throws at him. McKinney was a pivotal member of Nick Saban’s defense at Alabama, so attention to detail and football intelligence shouldn’t be an issue.
The arrow is trending upward for McKinney who really started to show his potential in the final few games of the season. Between McKinney, Jabrill Peppers, and Logan Ryan, the Giants have one of the most dynamic safety trios in the NFL. It was a somewhat lost season for the 22-year-old, but greener pastures are ahead.
It’s premature to make declarative long-term statements about a draft class that happened less than a year ago. There is so much time left for development. However, after Year 1, Wirfs has been the much cleaner prospect in pass protection while also being an effective run blocker. Hindsight is 2020 - there’s no doubting that - but since the Giants were purportedly really high on both Wirfs and Thomas, questions involving the Giants selecting Wirfs over Thomas, if they could re-draft, are fair. Ultimately, time will tell the story of both these promising prospects. As for McKinney, Raanan hit the nail on the head. The Alabama product’s rookie season was mostly derailed because of a foot injury. He showed glimpses down the stretch of the season, and his growth within Graham’s scheme should be fun to watch and work to the betterment of the Giants’ defense.