What is the best way for the New York Giants to approach the 2021 NFL Draft? Everyone who follows the Giants has an idea what their own ideal draft scenario would be. In response to a reader question, I shared my favorite scenarios recently.
it’s only fair that the other contributors here at Big Blue View get a chance to express their feelings on this topic. So, that’s what we did in this weeks’ Big Blue View Round Table.
Here is the question, which comes from reader Anthony Macri;
I’ve been following and reading all of the mocks, but what is your ideal draft class for the NY Giants this year? No trades, and nothing outside of reason (for example, Sewell in the 3rd round) - what would be your ideal picks for the NY Giants in each draft slot?
Here is how our contributors answered it.
My ideal draft scenario would involve a trade back. That isn’t how the Giants have historically worked, but a recent quote by Ravens GM Eric DeCosta framed the philosophy better than I ever could. DeCosta said, “I think we’ve probably had the most picks over that span. I look at the draft in many ways – and I have to say, it’s a luck-driven process. If you have more picks, you’re going to hit on more players, and that goes back to a philosophy that I think [Executive Vice President] Ozzie [Newsome] started back in 1996. We started really going after [compensatory] picks and trading back as much as we could in any given round.”
He added, “We’ve had some success, we’ve also had some big misses. We’ve had a lot of picks, and I think that’s the No. 1 indicator to see teams who have success in the draft, is how many chances they have to draft good players. Then also having the development machine, having the coaching staff, the strength and conditioning people, the wellness people, getting these good, young players in here and giving them a chance to get better – and that’s what it’s all about.”
There’s a lot of humility in that statement; to know that you aren’t the smartest person in the room, and nobody is any better at identifying and projecting prospects than anyone else.
My decision is rooted in getting as many bites of the apple as possible and giving my coaches as many chances to succeed as I can. I would pursue a trade-back scenario, targeting the Las Vegas Raiders as my trade partners. The Raiders have a definite need at several positions along their offensive line, and moving up to 11th overall would give them the chance to pick OT Christian Darrisaw or OL Rashawn Slater, either of whom could help their re-modeled line. In exchange, I would get one of the Raiders’ third-round picks (they hold the 80th and 81st overall picks), a late-round pick, and a future second-round pick (I won’t bother trying to detail those. They don’t matter for this exercise.)
After the trade, the Giants would have picks 17, 42, 76, and 81 (I took the lesser of the two to get the deal done).
First round — 17th overall: Alijah Vera-Tucker (iOL, USC)
Second round — 42nd overall: Nico Collins (WR, Michigan)
Third round — 76th overall: Quincy Roche (EDGE, Miami)
Third round — 81st overall: Pete Werner (OBLB, Ohio State)
I have been skeptical of taking an interior offensive lineman highly, and I remain so. However, Vera-Tucker’s tape and versatility make him a solid value here. He has the play strength to thrive on the inside in a man-gap blocking scheme, enough athleticism to execute zone blocks, and the versatility to transition to center or back up the offensive tackle positions if necessary. I think Collins is going to go much higher than people expect on draft day, mostly because it was obvious to see how much Michigan’s quarterbacking held him back on tape. Receivers who are 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, with 4.4 speed don’t last long, particularly when it’s pretty obvious their best football is still ahead of them. Finally, in the third round I try to bolster the defense and add Roche and Werner. Roche stood out at the Senior Bowl, an event we know always figures heavily in the Giants’ draft strategy. He also fits the mold of an EDGE defender who can play in space as well as rush the passer. Werner is a versatile piece with the size and strength to play inside or as a SAM linebacker, but also has the range and athleticism to play a WILL or off-ball role. The two players could (should) help to bring up the Giants’ weaknesses with a natural pass rush, covering the middle of the field, and containing athletic quarterbacks.
Round 1 (No. 11 overall) - Rashawn Slater (OL, Northwestern)
Round 2 (No. 42) - Joseph Ossai (EDGE, Texas)
Round 3 (No. 76) - Amari Rodgers (WR, Clemson)
The top positions of need for the Giants heading into the 2021 NFL Draft are offensive lineman, edge rusher and wide receiver, particularly in the early rounds. When I did my mock draft for Big Blue View a couple of weeks ago, I chose Alabama WR DeVonta Smith in the first round. But I also made that pick because Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater was no longer on the board. Slater not only promises to make an immediate impact at the NFL level, but he fills a pressing need for the Giants. Additionally, we have to think about value. If Slater does fall to No. 11, the Giants would be getting someone who is more than worthy of the pick. Slater opted out last season but delivered a stellar performance against Ohio State’s Chase Young that turned heads. He did not allow any sacks in 2019 and promises to be a smart, technically sound player.
The edge and receiving prospects in this year’s draft run deep so the Giants can afford to wait those positions out a little. If a receiver like Smith or Jaylen Waddle falls to 11, I think it is tempting to take one of them and certainly not a bad option. But Slater could be a game-changer for a Giants offensive line that allowed 50 sacks last year and 43 the year before. Daniel Jones is to blame for some of those but better protection upfront might help him deliver the breakout year he is due for this season.
Then in the second round, we shift focus to edge rusher. The Giants would be thrilled if Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Michigan’s Kwity Paye or Miami’s Jaelan Phillips — slid to No. 42, but that seems unlikely. They will more realistic options are Texas’ Joseph Ossai, Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, Washington’s Joe Tryon or Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham. I think Ossai, who combined for 29.5 tackles for loss and 145 tackles over 22 starts the last two seasons, is a realistic and strong option here for New York.
Then, if all goes as planned, I think the Giants try to snag a wide receiver. Clemson’s Amari Rodgers, USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown and Michigan’s Nico Collins are projected to get picked in this range. New York signed Kenny Golladay in free agency but it should still be on the hunt for playmakers in this draft. And after cutting Golden Tate, Rodgers seems like a strong replacement as the two have a similar playing style. Rodgers recorded 1,020 receiving yards and seven touchdowns for Clemson last year and could provide Jones with an additional weapon on offense.
Round 1, Pick 11: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
Round 2, Pick 42: Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Round 3, Pick 76: Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
I have a feeling you might see a lot of us picking Slater in Round 1. As most of you know, there is a really simple reason why: Slater is very good. A player with his technical prowess and five-position versatility on the o-line makes him an extremely enticing player to teams in need of OT and IOL help alike. You can go back and watch the tape he has against Chase Young, the reigning NFL Rookie of the Year and member of NFC East rival Washington Football Team, and you get a sense of the kind of player he can be at the pro level. He could slot in at right guard on Day 1 for the Giants and be an All-Pro caliber player, or he could slide over to tackle if Matthew Peart or Andrew Thomas don’t pan out.
While Slater is a great pickup, he does not address the Giants’ primary need of EDGE help. Now there are plenty of players who would be solid additions that might slip to Round 2 (Azeez Ojulari, Gregory Rousseau, Jaelan Philips, Joseph Ossai, etc), but what the Giants really need to do is get a player with game-wrecking talent to overhaul a unit that has underperformed in recent years. And there is no player who’s ceiling better matches that description than Penn State’s Jayson Oweh. At 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, Oweh ran a 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.39 seconds while also throwing up 19 reps on the bench to go along with a 10-foot-6-inch broad jump at his pro day (where Giants head coach Joe Judge was in attendance). His scary athletic profile has landed Oweh high praise and even comparisons to Vikings star Danielle Hunter.
Oweh’s production does leave a lot to be desired after he only registered 7 career sacks with none coming in 2020. Pairing him back up with Giants DL coach and run-game coordinator Sean Spencer (who recruited Oweh to Penn State and coached him to those 7 sacks in a stacked Nittany Lions D-Line rotation) could prove to be the key towards unlocking Oweh’s potential. And if he does hit his ceiling, Oweh could reign terror on opposing QBs for years to come.
Finally, every year I find myself pounding the table for a player (usually a defensive one) who I believe potentially offers something unique or versatile to the Giants. Last year, it was the human Swiss Army Knife in now-Cardinals LB/S Isaiah Simmons. The year before that was Jacksonville’s Josh Allen (the EDGE, not the QB). And before that it was actually Saquon. My 2021 pick was really close to being Oweh. However, there was one player who managed to steal it from him, and with my third and final pick I will take my 2021 “draft crush” in North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt.
Surratt takes the term “quarterback of the defense” to an entirely new level, having started his career in Chapel Hill as a highly touted dual-threat quarterback who started plenty of games on offense as a redshirt freshman. After being benched before his junior year, the 6-foot-2, 230 pound Surratt transitioned from QB to ILB in 2019 and became a force for the Tar Heels to the tune of 115 tackles (good for second in the ACC), 15 TFLs (fifth in the ACC), 6.5 sacks and 10 QB hurries while being named First Team All-ACC and runner-up for ACC Defensive Player of the Year (which was, coincidentally, Isaiah Simmons). He followed that up with another First Team All-ACC in 2020 as the Tar Heels Defensive MVP and team captain with 91 tackles (6th in ACC) along with 7.5 TFLs and 6 sacks. To cap it all off, he ran a 4.59 40 yard dash while posting a 31.5 inch vertical jump and 25 reps on the bench press.
NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread had the following to say in an article about Surratt:
“The speed he used as a dual-threat passer for the Tar Heels in 2017 is now what he utilizes to chase down sweeps and blanket receivers on third down. He’s using a quarterback’s understanding of offensive football to help him anticipate play calls and make plays at linebacker. He’s a different piece now, one that can roam and strike and change games in ways he never did as a quarterback.”
His production as a two-year starter alone should earn him a third round grade, but with the best still to come for a player with his unique understanding of the game and providing him with a creative defensive mind in DC Patrick Graham, Surratt rounds out my ideal Giants draft. Besides, the Giants have found success taking North Carolina linebackers.
My ideal draft for the New York Football Giants would involve a trade back to acquire more draft capital in this years class. The Giants are set to have 46 free agents after the 2021 season; as Giants assistant general manager Kevin Abrams stated, the team may be in some tricky cap situations in 2022. I would like to add more “cheap labor” as Dave Gettleman eloquently expressed. While using PFN’s mock draft simulator, the Giants found the aggressive Chicago Bears and Ryan Pace as trade partners. New York sent the 11th pick and selection 201 to the Bears for pick 20 and selection 52. Here’s how the draft transpired.
Round 1, Pick 20: OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Round 2, Pick 42: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Gettleman trades back once again with the Cleveland Browns to acquire the 59th and 89th selection while shipping the 52nd and 116th to Cleveland.
Round 2, Pick 59: WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina
Round 3, Pick 76: EDGE Payton Turner, Houston
The Buffalo Bills requested a trade up, so I obliged and dropped to the 93rd selection while picking up the 161st pick in the draft as well.
I wanted to do a full mock draft for this post. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind staying put and just selecting either Rashawn Slater, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, or Micah Parsons, but I do believe a trade back is wise to collect value for the 2021 season, and some picks for next year (which were also acquired in some of these trades). Once I traded back, I didn’t want to miss out on a talent like Alijah Vera-Tucker; I could have went with my top EDGE, but I felt like the value in the second round at that position may still be adequate, which it was. The best receiver available, in my opinion, was Rashod Bateman and I figured I could receive a Josh Palmer at value and possibly another solid receiver with another Day 2 pick, which also happened with Dyami Brown.
Focus was necessary at the EDGE spot and I like both players. Oweh hasn’t realized quite yet his physical capabilities and the upside is through the sky. As for Turner, slap 20 pounds on him and he can play the 4i or 3-Technique position on a down alignment; have him lose some weight and he’ll be a solid EDGE for Graham on the outside. Shelvin will just eat space and play in a situational role early on unless he’s his 2019 dominant self and he can just steal the nose tackle spot from journeyman Danny Shelton. Shelvin’s immovable at times and will help replace the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson. Bates is a blocking tight end who is an adequate receiving threat in the short areas of the field. At worst, he’ll latch onto the practice squad and be a developmental player if the Giants choose not to carry four tight ends on their active roster.
I can envision a lot of drafts that come out a bit more desirable for the Giants, but I wanted to keep it true to the mock draft simulator. New York can trade back, go best player available, or even just focus on two areas of need early on: the EDGE position and WR. They could go EDGE in round one, and WR in round two, or they could flip that; either way, the Giants have to find contributors that can help them seize this winnable division while maximizing the effectiveness of third-year quarterback Daniel Jones.