The New York Giants’ work in free agency has legitimized a number of possibilities for them in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Should one of those still be taking a wide receiver. We asked our staff for their thoughts in this week’s Big Blue View round table.
Question: With the Giants having signed Kenny Golladay, would that automatically take wide receiver off the table for you if you were making the pick at No. 11? Or, would you still consider someone like Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith at that spot?
I believe the additions of Kenny Golladay and John Ross shouldn’t fully preclude the Giants from looking at a receiver like Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. I think their additions make that selection wide open for several options. I would love for the Giants to trade out of that spot, but players like Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater’s availability is contingent on that decision as well. The Giants HAVE to invest something in their offensive line and Slater has the potential to be a very good right tackle in the league, while also having Pro Bowl upside at guard. New York can’t overlook the need for more investments in the offensive line. The Giants are optimistic that Will Hernandez, Shane Lemieux, and Matt Peart are going to be taking that next step - but what if that doesn’t happen?
Daniel Jones can’t keep hitting his back foot and getting put on the deck, it has to stop. Now, with that harangue out of the way, one may believe that I’m fully against looking at Waddle or Smith at 11, but as I wrote earlier - that’s not the case. I believe all these players should be in consideration; ultimately, I believe offensive line is the way to go, but a player like Waddle is just too good to write off. Ross is a burner as well, but he’s nowhere near Waddle as a receiver. I get it, the Giants have a lot of skilled players now, but I just watched this team trot out Golden Tate, Austin Mack (who I like), CJ Board, and Levine Toilolo for significant snaps last season. An “embarrassment of riches” isn’t a bad thing, especially with Sterling Shepard’s concussion issues and Evan Engram having one year left on his contract, Darius Slayton only has two.
The Giants like to use a lot of 12 personnel, yes, but selective usage of a player like Waddle can create so many mismatches on key third-down situations, while stretching the defense both vertically and horizontally. He’s also a consistent, and reliable, overall receiver who can have an impact on this team, with Daniel Jones, for the next five seasons (hopefully). It’s no longer my primary choice in the first round, but I don’t think it should be fully taken off the table.
The most honest way I could answer this question is “I would hope not.” I think the better way to look at this question is that the addition of Golladay would remove the urgency from the receiver position, there’s a good argument that it’s still there. Giants fans know well how a depth chart can be depleted in a heartbeat, and Golladay has had injury concerns over the course of his career. As things stand now, they are one pulled muscle or rolled ankle away from being right back where they were a week ago.
But more than that, free agency shouldn’t determine draft strategy, at least not in a vacuum. It might influence how a team values players with a similar grade, but it shouldn’t knock any position out of consideration if that player is clearly the best on the board. The draft should be about adding young talent to the roster, particularly at premium positions which carry hefty free agent price tags like wide receiver. Players who might seem like luxury picks at the time can be one play away from absolutely essential. At the time of their respective drafts, Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, Prince Amukamara, Johnathan Hankins, Odell Beckham Jr., and Dalvin Tomlinson were all “luxury” picks that didn’t fill a perceived need. But each one quickly became a core piece of their units and helped the Giants win games (and in the case of JPP, Joseph, and Prince, a Super Bowl). The number one need of every NFL team is “talent,” and if there is a clear top player on the board, a team should take him, even if it’s at a relative strength. You don’t know what your strengths, or weaknesses, will be in a day, week, or month.
And besides, would anyone REALLY turn down the opportunity to make Darius Slayton the Giants’ fourth receiver if it meant adding a player like Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase at 11th overall or Rashod Bateman at 42nd overall?
Gettleman and the Giants should still absolutely consider Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith (or Florida tight end Kyle Pitts). You cannot have too many pass-catching threats for a young signal-caller in the new receiver-centric NFL. With New York’s starting three wide receivers solidified in Golladay-Slayton-Shepard, it would take pressure off a rookie pass-catcher like Waddle, Smith or Pitts trying to find their way in the NFC East.
However, it looks like Smith and Pitts may not be on the board at pick 11, at least according to Todd McShay’s mock drafts.
But like Nick Falato wrote, Daniel Jones needs to start receiving great protection - not just good protection. That’s why ultimately it may be too much for Gettleman to resist taking an offensive lineman for the second consecutive year with his first-round selection.
And just imagine if the Giants could nab Northwestern mauler tackle Rashawn Slater at 11. In two drafts, Big Blue could end up locking down its franchise offensive tackles in two consecutive drafts in Andrew Thomas and Slater. If the Giants grab Slater and if Thomas’ breakout season happens as many expect it to in 2021, we could be looking at just that scenario.
If there was any position on the offense where the Giants could take another highly-rated player even after it has become a team strength post-free agency, it would be wide receiver. Like Dallas did last year when the Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb despite having glaring needs on defense AND Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup on the roster, sometimes a player is so good you have to take them anyways. And with a wide receiver rotation, you can keep guys fresh while still producing if your depth players are talented enough. If the Giants feel so strongly about Waddle or Smith or Pitts (if he somehow fell) that they had to take them at 11, I would be surprised but certainly wouldn’t be complaining.
Personally, the Giants current situation screams “let’s trade down.” Only six picks in the draft right now, QB-needy teams looking to make moves up for guys like Trey Lance or Mac Jones, and a strong team after free agency means the Giants can take later talent and still improve.
However, there are certainly players who fit more pressing positions of need that could be in play at 11. Nick and Joseph have gone in depth on Slater (who I would absolutely love), but I will take a moment to highlight Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari. A player who is quickly rising up draft boards, Ojulari could find himself as a top 15 player with no other clear-cut top edge rusher in the class. He fits the Giants need of an edge threat, he’s an athletic freak with decent-yet-improvable technique, and Gettleman has drafted at least one Georgia guy in every draft with the Giants thus far. Chris Pflum did a piece scouting him the other day, so go check that out.
When it comes to answering this question, I find myself thinking about a podcast Mel Kiper Jr. did with ESPN at the start of the offseason. In the podcast, Kiper said without hesitation that Daniel Jones is better than any quarterback in this year’s draft other than Trevor Lawrence - a controversial statement for some Giants fans. But Kiper walked the listener through Jones’ first two seasons, illustrating the many ways in which the signal caller had many obstacles working against him in terms of injuries (notably, Saquon Barkley) and key drops (Evan Engram).
The Giants might have added Kenny Golladay this offseason, but I say give Jones a chance at real success by making more weapons available to him. Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are poised to make an immediate impact at the NFL level. And I think Florida’s TE Kyle Pitts would be an incredible asset.
Like Ryan, I thought of the Cowboys who, for better or worse, drafted CeeDee Lamb in the 2020 NFL Draft instead of addressing their many defensive needs. Now with Dak Prescott returning, Dallas is an offensive force with Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Let’s give Jones a chance to have weapons like that and see what he can do with them. While I understand that an offensive tackle like Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater would also help Jones, I say the former Blue Devil needs explosiveness more than protection.
Not only did the Giants sign a top receiver to a large contract in free agency, but they also added a former first-rounder with strong upside in John Ross. Both of these moves drastically change the Giants' draft strategy. We’ve seen Dave Gettleman draft best available in past drafts, so I would not entirely eliminate the selection of a receiver or even a cornerback at the 11th pick. However, now that receiver isn’t the glaring need it was before free agency they have a lot more flexibility.
Based on how the board stacks up, the Giants are now able to address other spots on their roster that need fixing. Before free agency, the thought of drafting an interior offensive lineman was rarely floated out there. After cutting Kevin Zeitler and improving at receiver, the Giants can focus on turning an improved offensive line into a great one with prospects like Rashawn Slater or Alijah Vera-Tucker. EDGE is also now prominently on the table, with a player like Azeez Ojulari presenting an intriguing option. The firm takeaway after signing Ross and Golladay is the Giants are less pressed to take a receiver. With their needs shifting, they can be more open to taking players at other positions.
I believe that what the Giants have accomplished in free agency has opened up all sorts of possibilities, but that should not preclude them from taking a wide receiver if that is how the board falls on April 29.
Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are the two receivers most likely to remain available at No. 11, if mock draft trends are accurate. Both are different types of receivers than Kenny Golladay. Waddle offers a pure speed and big-play element along with return ability that makes me think about DeSean Jackson in his younger days. Smith is slight at 170 pounds, but polished.
Selecting an offensive lineman, an edge rusher, or trading down a few spots and adding an additional Day 2 pick are all viable scenarios. In my view, so is adding another receiving threat.