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‘Things I think’ about the Giants after Day 2 of the NFL Draft

No joke — Trader Dave sets Giants up for special 2022 draft

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Trader Dave!

That is what New York Giants Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit called GM Dave Gettleman on Friday night after Gettleman’s third trade — two down, one up — in three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.

“Trader Dave has brought some excitement to the room, so it’s been fun. Trader Dave is hearing it from a lot of people throughout the league, so it’s been fun. There’s been a little ribbing,” Pettit said. “Like I said, it’s not like we haven’t tried. Dave said it; I’ll say it. It worked out. It’s exciting. It gave a little juice. It’s been different.”

This is not standard operating procedure for the Giants, a staid, generally conservative franchise not prone to wheeling and dealing and trying to play the board to seek an advantage.

As an assistant coach in new England, Judge watched for years as Bill Belichick maneuvered the board seeking an advantage. Is all of the moving around — the first two trades back in Dave Gettleman’s nine drafts as an NFL GM and a trade up — Judge bringing his New England influence to the Giants? Teaching an old dog new tricks, if you will? Or, simply a matter of circumstance?

Maybe a little of both.

“It’s making the best decision for the team at the time. We had an opportunity to move down and gain more value because there are a number of players we feel in that range are going to be available, we’ll go ahead and look at that option,” Judge said Friday night. “As you saw with A-Rob, we didn’t want to give somebody else a chance to take him at that point; he was a priority for us to get, so we used the pick to trade on up.

“I feel good about what we did today in the draft. I’m sure Dave has got a concussion or something, so make sure we check on him overnight and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”

Gettleman was asked if he had suddenly becoming addicted to trading back.

“It’s all about if the opportunity is right. It’s about your board. It’s about value meeting need. It’s all those things,” Gettleman said. “And like I told you guys last week, I’ve tried in the past and it just hasn’t worked. We thought we got just really good value here.

“And you know, again, it’s one of those deals where, for example, we move from 42 back to 50, so that’s eight slots and we had five guys there that we would take at 50. The odds are, eight slots, it’s five guys, there’s going to be — one of those five is going to be there for you. We’ve just been able to do that.”

One calculation the Giants obviously made is that the 2021 draft class, which will swell significantly in numbers with many players gaining an extra season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, should be talent-laden.

The Giants now have 10 picks in the 2022 draft. The breakdown is as follows:

Round 1 (two picks)
Round 2
Round 3 (two picks)
Round 4 (two picks)
Round 5
Round 6
Round 7

Gettleman admitted the Giants were chasing 2022 picks.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a priority. It was important to us,” Gettleman said. “This draft right now, in terms of unknowns, you have more unknowns than you can shake a stick at. You have kids that didn’t play this year. You have a lot of incomplete medical information. It’s really kind of an odd draft class. It’s an odd year. The NCAA allowed all those players to get another year and a ton of them did. One of the SEC schools, they had 13 kids decide to go back and play next year, 13 kids that could have been in this draft. That was pretty heavy throughout the Power Five conferences. We really have a feeling that next year’s draft is going to be really strong and it just gives you options.”

Credit to the Giants for having a plan and executing it the first two days of the draft.

They reacted well Thursday when the players they apparently wanted were gone by their pick at 11, executing a trade back that brought them a number of picks in return.

They made two more moves on Friday, one down and one up, for specific reasons.

All along, they seem to have laid out a long-range goal of creating a 2022 stockpile of draft selections. They have.

Now, somebody just needs to see if Gettleman can pass the concussion protocol.

Azeez Ojulari’s fall

I’m blown away that the Giants were able to get Ojulari at 50. Entering the draft, I had him pegged as the best edge rusher in the class. So did Dane Brugler, terrific draft analyst for The Athletic. Prior to the draft, this is what Brugler told me on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast:

“There’s a lot to like with Azeez Ojulari, just the natural tools, but then you also factor in he has the instincts. He can play the run and the pass. He’s not just a one-trick pony. With Azeez Ojulari I do not think 11 would be too early. I think in a lot of ways that makes sense.

“If he were the pick at 11, hat tip to the Giants. I think they would get the best pass rusher in the draft and I think they get a good player.”

Ojulari didn’t go at 11. He didn’t go on Day 1. Concern from some teams about a torn ACL in high school leading to a degenerative leg condition (probably arthritis, per an orthopedic surgeon I contacted) dropped him into the Giants’ lap.

The Giants, obviously, were not one of the concerned teams.

“I trust our medical team, Ronnie (Barnes) and his guys do a great job. We have some of the best doctors in the world who look in these guys and constantly update us on what they think the current risk is,” Judge said. “All I can go back to is this guy came back, he played, this guy doesn’t miss practices at Georgia. He played with very high effort, high intensity. I’m very pleased with what you saw on tape in terms of the medical expertise. I leave that on Ronnie Barnes and his staff and I let them go ahead and give us the information, and with that information make the decisions.”

Ojulari said he was surprised his knee was an issue for NFL teams because he said he had no problems with it during the past two seasons.

“My knee is good. Everything is good and solid. Everything is perfect,” Ojulari said.

The Giants said they were willing to take Ojulari at No. 42, but also had him in a group of five players they felt could last until the 50th pick. So, they made the deal with the Miami Dolphins.

Whither Darnay Holmes?

You can’t help but think that if everyone is healthy, 2020 fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes is the player most likely to lose playing time to 2021 third-round pick Aaron Robinson.

I have wondered for a while now if the Giants might not be completely sold on Holmes, and the selection of Robinson in the the third round — especially since the Giants moved up to get him — makes me think I’m right about that.

Gettleman said Robinson has “got all the stuff” and is “a press corner and really fits what we want to do and who we want to be on defense.”

“Where Aaron fits in is he gives us more perimeter muscle, so to speak, and he’s also got that flexibility to play the nickel and play the star. We think he’s a great fit, obviously, because we traded up, hello, stating the obvious. Captain Obvious. We think he’s a great fit for our defense and our back end and we feel like you can never have too many assets back there because players come and go. You have injuries. People will say it’s a passing league and it is to a degree. And the other thing that we really liked about Aaron is you do the studies, you do the analytics — I do do it, people — and the best defenses have the best tackling secondaries, and Aaron Robinson is a really good tackling corner.”

Judge said the Giants moved up to select Robinson because “we didn’t want to give somebody else a chance to take him at that point; he was a priority for us to get.”

Offensive line

The one curious thing about the Giants draft is that they have not yet addressed the offensive line.

“Actually we were looking at offensive linemen for the last two picks, and the value didn’t meet the pick, plain and simple,” Gettleman said. “We had one guy we had our eye on, two guys specifically we had our eyes on and they got taken before they got to us.”

Entering the fourth round, guards Trey Smith and Deonte Brown are still available.

The Georgia connection

The selection of Ojulari means five players (Ojulari, Andrew Thomas, DeAndre Baker, Tae Crowder, Lorenzo Carter) were taken fom Georgia.

One reason the Giants have leaned so heavily into Georgia prospects is Judge’s relationship with Georgia coach Kirby Smart. The two were assistant coaches together at Alabama.