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Big Blue View round table: Defense at No. 11?

Did Joe Judge’s presence at Penn State, Miami pro days give away Giants’ draft intentions?

NFL Draft Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We have written previously that the New York Giants’ extensive work in free agency has put them in a position where the draft board should be wide open for them at No. 11 a few weeks from now. Does the presence of head coach Joe Judge at the Penn State and Miami pro days, where highly-ranked defensive players were the main attractions, indicate the Giants are thinking about bolstering their defense with that pick?

That is the question we asked Big Blue View contributors in this week’s Big Blue View round table.

Question: “Do you think Joe Judge’s presence at the Penn State and Miami pro days is a “tell” that the Giants plan to draft a defensive player at No. 11? Do you believe a defensive difference-maker would be a good selection in that spot.?”

Chris Pflum

I won’t go so far as to say that Judge’s presence at those Pro Days are “tells,” but I will venture a guess that the Giants are curious about this year’s edge class and want to see more in person. That shouldn’t even be particularly surprising, considering the state of this year’s class of edge defenders. There really isn’t a “top” player and while there are five or six really good players at the position, all of them come with red flags. Gregory Rousseau, Azeez Ojulari, and Jayson Oweh are all inexperienced and in need of further development, Kwitty Paye has questions about his agility and lower-body fluidity (and therefore scheme diversity), Micah Parsons — if you want to put him with the edge group — has questions about his character, and Jaelen Phillips has injury concerns after a string of concussions at UCLA.

Considering how little contact the NFL can have with any prospect this year, teams are going to have to work harder to get comfortable with (read: talk themselves into) prospects who have red flags.

Now, as for whether or not an impact defender is a good pick: Absolutely, if he’s the best player on the board. I’m going to echo my reply from last week’s round table and say that, by far, the biggest need of every team is “talent,” and it doesn’t matter the position. We’ve seen how seemingly strong positions can be wiped out by one bad day, and “luxury” picks can turn into godsends. If the best player on the board is a cornerback like Surtain, Horn, or Fairley or one of the edge rushers, then by all means, take him. Both are premium positions that can turn the tide of a game in one play. If Ja’Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts happens to fall, turn in the card. If the team doesn’t believe in Matt Peart and an offensive tackle is the best player on the board, make that the pick.

Of course, this is the Giants we’re talking about, so maybe the Photoshop folks should start working on mocking up a blue jersey for defensive tackle Christian Barmore.

Emily Iannaconi

I think Joe Judge, albeit just a second-year coach, is a bit too seasoned for “tells.” Attending the Penn State and Miami Pro Days could mean Judge is interested in choosing an edge rusher in the first round or he could be scouting players for later rounds, too.

Like Chris said, coaches should be after talent first and foremost. The Giants have filled their biggest needs of the offseason by adding receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. Acquiring an edge rusher remains a pressing need for New York heading into the draft. This year’s draft class is, of course, not particularly strong when it comes to edge rushers. But following the blockbuster trade last week in which the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles all swapped picks, it remains increasingly likely that at least four quarterback will be off the board by the time the Giants select. Then there are the highly-sought after receivers in Devonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase and Kyle Pitts. Because of these elite offensive players, it is likely that the top edge rushers of the class will be available by time the Giants pick at No. 11.

That being said, I think the Giants have to jump on one of the top receivers if one remains available. If not though, I think adding a player like Miami’s defensive end Jaelan Phillips could be productive. Phillips delivered a very strong Pro Day on Monday, perhaps giving him a slight edge over his teammate Gregory Rousseau. I would still have a hard time choosing a player like Phillips over a guy like Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater because I think the Giants need to prioritize protecting Daniel Jones. So I still lean towards choosing an offensive player, but would be comfortable with the Giants selecting one of the top edge rushers in this year’s draft class.

Ryan Magill

The moment the Giants signed wide receiver Kenny Golladay, I immediately believed they would likely gear up to go for the defensive side in April, though I felt like cornerback was the likely option until the team signed Adoree’ Jackson. I have been covering the pro days as part of our ongoing “Pro Day Watch,” so I noticed immediately when Judge was in attendance at Miami and Penn State. To me, I feel it is a sign the team intends to draft one of the players from either school. Jayson Oweh and Micah Parsons from Penn State, as well as Gregory Rousseau, Jaelan Philips and Quincy Roche from Miami, are all players who were evaluated personally by Judge. They are all very talented and play positions of need for the Giants.

Would I take one of them at 11? Not necessarily. I have (as my fellow writers have as well) advocated for a trade down for some time. Parsons and Rousseau are the only ones who make sense at 11. However, each of them have issues: Parsons has character questions and Rousseau’s game has been picked apart by analysts. Plus, both opted out in 2020 and GM Dave Gettleman has said that has to be factored in to the evaluation process.

Meanwhile, if the Giants trade down to the mid-to-late first, they can grab one of these players (or Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari or Texas’ Joesph Ossai) at a better value and grab extra assets to bolster the roster even further. I’d call up either the Patriots or the Football Team after last week’s blockbuster trades and offer them the chance at Mac Jones or Trey Lance should one fall to pick 11. As for who I’d go with, personally I take Oweh due to his immense potential (sub 4.4 40-yard dash at 257 pounds!!), though I wouldn’t complain about any of these guys at the right spot in the draft.

Valentine’s View

The Giants are in a great spot at No. 11 in the 2021 NFL Draft. With the strong possibility that five quarterbacks come off the board in the top 10 picks the Giants are almost certain to see one or more of the premier players in this draft class available to them when they are on the clock. There are four receivers, two offensive linemen and two cornerbacks most analysts agree are Top 10-worthy players. You can bet there are a handful of other players individual teams have in their own top 10s.

The Giants have used free agency the way it should be used. Now, that does not mean I am guaranteeing that all of their signings will work out. That never happens. Some will, some won’t. They have, though, filled two huge needs with the signings of wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. They have sprinkled in depth signings pretty much across the roster.

They have, as others have also indicated, put themselves in position to chase talent rather than positions in the draft.

Now, obviously it would be nice if the Giants came out of the draft with an impact edge rusher and a starting-caliber offensive lineman. There is, though, no need to force a pick at any spot.

Take the player at 11, 42, 76 or wherever that you feel will make the biggest positive impact on your football team. To me, at 11 the board is wide open. It may also be open to a trade down, should a team behind the Giants (preferably in the top 20) see a “must-have” player.

I’m reminded of a chat I had recently with ex-Minnesota Vikings Gm Jeff Diamond on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. In 1997, the Vikings had 1,000-yard receivers Cris Carter and Jake Reed. In the 1998 draft, they selected future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss at No. 21. He posted a 1,300-yard receiving season as Minnesota went 15-1.

Point is, the Giants are in a great spot to take whichever player they believe will make the biggest impact on their football team regardless of position. That’s what they should do. Is Judge’s presence at Penn State and Miami a “tell?” Maybe in the sense that they are considering players from those schools and have/had questions they needed answered. It doesn’t guarantee, though, that they will select any of those players.