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‘Things I think’ about the Giants as draft day arrives

We will learn a lot about the direction of the Giants over the next few days

Draft Day 2021 is finally here. We will know before the clock strikes midnight what the New York Giants will do with their pick at No. 11. Edge rusher? Wide receiver? Cornerback? Linebacker? Offensive line? Everybody has an opinion.

Here are some ‘Things I Think’ heading into draft night.

A long-term deal for Barkley?

I have to start with this non-draft item. We learned on Wednesday that the Giants are picking up Saquon Barkley’s fifth-year option. That was the easy part, and an obvious decision. The hard part is when — and if — the Giants should give Barkley a rich long-term second contract.

For many reasons, I think it makes sense for the Giants to wait until next offseason to make that determination.

  • Barkley’s health: He is a great player, when healthy. he hasn’t really been healthy, though, since his 2018 rookie season. It makes sense for the Giants to see if Barkley is really Barkley before committing to a mega-deal. The Rams committed to a four-year, $57 million deal ($45 million guaranteed) with Todd Gurley in 2018, and knee issues reported as arthritis following a torn ACL have limited his effectiveness ever since. It’s a cautionary tale the Giants need to consider, especially with the shelf life or running backs generally short to begin with.
  • The salary cap: Assistant GM Kevin Abrams, the team’s chief contract negotiator, has admitted that unless there is a significant hike in the cap for the 2022 season the Giants could face some difficult decisions. The fifth-year option carries a $7.27 million cap hit, actually less than Barkley’s 2021 $10.427 million cap hit. Thus, it’s manageable.
  • Where the Giants are as a franchise: Co-owner John Mara has said in the past that he wants Barkley to be a Giants for a long time. He has, though, also been clear that he wants to see results on the field this season. If that doesn’t happen, Dave Gettleman might not be the GM any longer. Joe Judge wasn’t part of the decision-making group that drafted Barkley. He and a new GM might not want to commit big dollars to a running back, especially if the commitment the Giants made by drafting him No. 2 overall hasn’t led to winning. If the Giants are starting over again after this season, why do that by again making a big commitment to a running back?

Moving up?

Would the Giants really trade up for Oregon’s Penei Sewell, considered the consensus best offensive tackle in the 2021 draft class? There was a report Wednesday that the Giants were a “sneaky contender” to do just that should Sewell fall past the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5.

Here is what we know.

Gettleman has a history of targeting players and moving up in the draft to get them. He has been the ultimate anti- “trade down and collect picks to take more swings” GM.

There have also been plenty of reports that the Miami Dolphins (pick No. 6), Carolina Panthers (pick No. 8) and maybe even Denver Broncos (pick No. 9) would entertain the idea of moving down.

I wasn’t a fan of a proposal that would have seen the Giants move up to No. 4 (Atlanta Falcons) for tight end Kyle Pitts. That hypothetical trade would have cost the Giants the 42nd pick, a 2022 first-round pick and tight end Evan Engram. Way too much.

Using the traditional trade chart, getting to No. 6 would cost the Giants their second-round pick. The more modern Rich Hill chart shows a third-round pick and perhaps another late asset.

Moving to No. 8 would, using the traditional chart, perhaps cost the Giants the 76th overall pick (Round 3). The value is actually pretty much the same in the Hill chart with — by point value — a third-round pick getting it done.

To be honest, despite the Giants’ other needs, I might be willing to give up the 76th pick to get Sewell. I doubt it will happen, but it is an entertaining thought.

Georgia, Alabama on my mind

I don’t know who the Giants are going to select during the three days of the draft. I will be surprised, though, if they don’t end up picking at least one player from Georgia and Alabama.

This is a year when being able to trust the information you get from college coaches is paramount, and the tweet below tells you that NFL teams can’t always do that.

Gettleman has selected a player from Georgia in each of his first three drafts as Giants GM. Yes, the DeAndre Baker move was a mistake. Point is, there is history there. Judge and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart were assistants together at Alabama. You have to believe Smart will tell Judge the real story about players.

Judge and the Giants, of course, also have deep ties to Alabama.

It would be surprising to me if the Giants don’t rely on those connections in making decisions the next few days.

For what it’s worth, the Giants have two assistant coaches from Tennessee (Derek Dooley, Jeremy Pruitt) and two with ties to Penn State (Sean Spencer, Pat Flaherty).

Who’s got the con?

Gettleman always calls his work a collaboration with the coaching staff. There wasn’t much doubt, though, when Pat Shurmur was the head coach that the final call belonged to Gettleman if there was a personnel disagreement.

That has always been the Giants’ model, back to the days of George Young. As successful as the Giants were, Bill Parcells used to complain that he didn’t get to shop for the groceries. Young and the front office picked the players. Parcells coached them.

Gettleman spoke the other day about trying to deliver what the coaching staff asks for.

“I have this crazy idea that we should collaborate and this crazy idea that we should bring in players that fit coaches’ schemes,” Gettleman said during his pre-draft videoconference.

I can’t help but wonder if how the Giants handle Round 1 Thursday night will tell us anything about whether or not it is now Judge who has the loudest voice in the room.

if you believe the draft rumor mill, Judge favors Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith. If the choice is Smith, Jaylen Waddle or a trade down from No. 11 you have to wonder if that’s Judge’ call. If it’s Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, an edge rusher, offensive lineman or even a trade up, might that be Gettleman with the final say?

I do think Gettleman and judge have worked well together since Judge became head coach. I do wonder, though, if we should read anything into how Thursday turns out when it comes to the team’s power structure.