The 2021 NFL Draft is creeping closer, and this week’s Big Blue View Mailbag is filled with questions about how the New York Giants might approach it. So, let’s get to it.
Jeff Newman asks: Ed, most people feel offensive line is our biggest question mark heading into the draft. Let’s assume the Giants only devote one early round pick to it. I feel unless we somehow get Sewell, who is probably good to pass up, or Slater who could play tackle or guard, the bigger need is interior o-line. We have Peart and Solder at tackle, neither of which project well to guard. Do you feel we’d be better off drafting a guard and keeping Gates at center for continuity or drafting a natural center and moving Gates back to guard so both our center and guard would potentially have higher ceilings?
Ed says: Jeff, your question strikes a nerve. Why are so many Giants fans in a rush to move Nick Gates from the center spot? After what he admitted was a rough transition at the beginning of the season to a position he had never played, Gates was really good at center the second half of the season. Over the final six games he allowed two total pressures. In run blocking, he had a grade above 60.0 in seven of nine games. He is a good center, with both the right skills and the right personality. Just leave him alone and let him grow as the leader of the offensive line.
ctscan123 asks (after a looooong speech): Like most other Giants fans, I am ecstatic about the off-season thus far and am optimistic about our potential competitiveness this year. This optimism is 100% predicated on the draft though. While Gettleman did a really nice job filling some glaring holes in free agency, I feel like some in Giants nation are not taking deficiencies on the offensive line seriously enough.
There are zero players on that unit that do not need to take a significant step forward to just be average. PFF, not the end all and be all, rates every single one of them to be below average and some to be significantly so. say for arguments sake that three out of the five take that step, That’s still an offensive line with real problems. Our most important free agent acquisition and all of Gettleman’s most important draft picks rely directly on that line to be actualized.
I know that the received wisdom is to draft best player available and have heard this reiterated repeatedly on BBV round tables. And in mock drafts, under the circumstances though, I completely disagree and firmly believe that NEED absolutely trumps all else this draft. I understand that we made three picks on the line last year and the associated belief that “the kids have to play,“ but let’s not kid ourselves here. The line currently consists of a first that under performed for most of the year, a second that the coaching staff seems to have lost faith in, an undrafted player, a late third, and a fifth-round selection. Again, all of whom underwhelmed. Is too much riding on it to roll with five players in need of improvement on the line. The second coming of LT is not going to keep Jones on his feet, open a hole for Barkley, or give Gollaway time to get down field. I am completely flummoxed as to how anyone could think that the addition of Kyle Pitts or Micah Parsons could have a more likely positive effect than improving the chances of our offensive line being functional. I also understand. Are you comfortable enough with the line as it stands to wait until day two or three to pick a second tier lineman? Why?
Ed says: CT, I think that if you have read my recent work my position on the offensive line is pretty clear. I am bullish on the young tackles, Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart. I think those two will be fine. I am bullish on Nick Gates, and I wish people would stop suggesting the Giants need to move him off the center spot. I am optimistic about Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez, but far from completely sold.
I think I was pretty clear this week that if Rashawn Slater of Northwestern is available at No. 11 he would be very difficult for me to pass on. He could begin his career at any of three positions for the Giants and feels to me like the perfect chess piece to complete the line’s transformation. I like Alijah Vera-Tucker of USC, but there is a dropoff from Swell-Slater to Vera-Tucker, and I think the could do better than Vera-Tucker at 11.
I have been clear that I think the Giants need to add a starting-caliber guard in the draft. Zach Fulton is veteran insurance for Lemieux and Hernandez, but more is needed. Am I comfortable with waiting until Day 2 or Day 3 to add that guard? Absolutely. I’m not selecting Vera-Tucker — probably a guard only in the NFL — and leaving Parsons, Waddle or Pitts on the board. There are a bunch of guys in that draft range — Alex Leatherwood, Wyatt Davis, Landon Dickerson, Jackson Carman, Aaron Banks, Deonte Brown, Josh Myers, Quinn Mienerz, Trey Smith and maybe others — who could compete with Lemieux and Hernandez for a starting spot.
Jon Hilsenrath asks: Hi. Here’s a new mailbox question, although it’s more an assertion, so I suppose my question would be what do you think of it. If the Giants can’t land a generational talent with their 11th pick (Sewell or Pitts, and maybe Chase and Parsons depending on how the scouting looks on them) they should trade down in round one, perhaps more than once, and trade up from rounds 4 and 6 as needed to load up on as many picks between 20 and 75 as possible. There are going to be lots of good offensive lineman, edge rushers, linebackers and wide receivers in that zone this year. If it’s not a generational talent at #11, best to grab as many of those very good players as possible, and maybe grab some extra 2022 picks while they’re at it. Of course it depends on what other teams are offering, but demand for quarterbacks, receivers and corners could make that #11 spot very valuable.
Ed says: Jon, thanks for the question. First of all, let me say that this whole “generational talent” phrase is tossed around way too freely. It’s hyperbole, and it’s actually kind of silly, at least in my view. So, let’s please just stop with the whole “gotta get a generational talent” thing. The Giants are at No. 11, not No. 1 or No. 2. You get the best, most useful player you can.
As for the original intent of your question, let’s get to that. Of course the Giants should consider a trade down in the right circumstances. Let’s say, for example, the offensive tackles (Rashawn Slater and Penei Sewell) are gone, and tight end Kyle Pitts and linebacker Micah Parsons are also gone. The Giants are then starting at a board where they have a couple of wide receivers, an edge rusher if they want to go that way, or a guy like USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.
I’ve run a lot of simulations at this point, and the lowest I would go is down to 20, the pick currently owned by the Chicago Bears. Stay between 12 and 20 and you probably still have several edge rushers, a receiver like Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman and perhaps Vera-Tucker available to choose from. Oh, and some extra picks.
Jason Byam asks: With the recent hirings to the coaching staff, what is the total number on staff? How does this compare to previous Giants coaches and around the league? A lot is made of Joe Judge’s connection to the Patriots Bill B but it sure seems like he has really embraced his Saban connection. How many of these hires have worked with Judge at Alabama?
Ed says: Jason, the team’s official website lists 22 coaches. That, though, does not include the reported additions of Russ Callaway as an offensive assistant and Carter Blount. Nor does it include the strength and conditioning staff. So, the number of coaches on the Giants’ staff is in the high 20s.
I was curious how that compared to other NFL teams. I did not look at the total number of coaches on every staff, but I went through a few. I found a couple with 20 coaches listed on their team sites. The most I found was the Kansas City Chiefs with 30. So, the Giants are on the high end but the large coaching staff in not extraordinary. Joe Judge is finding roles for good people he believes can contribute, and that’s fine.
Now, how many have connections to Judge from Alabama? It’s a lengthy list.
Running backs coach Burton Burns, offensive line coach Rob Sale, offensive quality control coach Russ Callaway, offensive assistant Jody Wright, defensive quality control coach Carter Blount, senior defensive assistant Jeremy Pruitt and linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer all worked at Alabama with Judge.
Tight ends coach Derek Dooley never worked with Judge before coming to the Giants, but did work under Alabama coach Nick Saban with the Miami Dolphins. Senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens was a coach at Mississippi State when Judge was still a player there, as was special projects coach Amos Jones. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski worked with Judge in New England.
Marcus Mewborn asks: If the Giants aren’t going to trade out of the. No. 11 pick, are there any players you would be concerned with them reaching on at that spot and why?
Ed says: Marcus, the one who jumps immediately to mind in Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau. He is a tantalizing prospect and he could be terrific. He draws Jason Pierre-Paul or Danielle Hunter comparisons because of his physical gifts. Thing is, he is raw, he is undisciplined, he has no idea who has the ball sometimes and whether or not he will be able to develop the physical gifts he has is anyone’s guess. For me, he is way too big of a gamble at No. 11.
Taj Siddiqi asks: With arrival of new generation mobile QBs and pass catching RBs does the formula of defending your backfield and disrupting opponents has become outdated?Doesn’t battle in the trenches still dictates the outcome of a game?
Shouldn’t Giants be using this draft to strengthen OL and Edge considering additions made in free agency and healthy return of Barkley?
Ed says: Taj, maybe i’m old-fashioned (or just old), but in my view the game is still won and lost at the line of scrimmage. Always has been. Until they completely outlaw tackling and hitting, always will be.
Look no farther than the Super Bowl. The Kansas City Chiefs have the best quarterback on the planet right now in his prime and the best weapons of anyone in the NFL, and they scored nine points because their offensive tackles were hurt and they couldn’t block anyone.
Ideally, yes, the Giants should be aiming to add to find offensive line and edge help. But listen, if my choice in Round 1 is Jaylen Waddle vs. Gregory Rousseau or Alijah Vera-Tucker I’m taking Waddle every time. Because Waddle is going to be a great player. Vera-Tucker is going to be a good guard. I have no clue what Rousseau is going to be.
The draft is more than one round. The general idea is to focus on needs in free agency and the most talented players you can add for the long term in the draft. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it is the goal.
Bruce Frazer asks: I am curious as to how the free agent players are paid and when. As the newly signed free agents have yet to play a game for the Giants, when do they begin to receive payments? Is guaranteed money paid up front before a player puts on the pads? What happens to that money if for some reason a player is waived before the season?
Ed says: Bruce, guaranteed money is GUARANTEED MONEY. You will see the phrase “guaranteed at signing.” That means it doesn’t matter if a guy is waived the next day, he gets that amount of money. Kenny Golladay, for example, is getting $28 million from the Giants whether or not he ever plays a snap. Adoree Jackson is getting $24.5 million no matter what happens.
Signing bonus money is, for accounting purposes, spread over the life of the contract. That doesn’t mean the player gets a pro-rated portion each year, it’s just shown that way on the books for salary cap purposes.