Surely the New York Giants were going to select an offensive lineman in Round 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Right? That’s what most Giants followers had to be thinking after the Giants went wide receiver (Kadarius Toney) and then edge rusher (Azeez Ojulari) in the first two rounds.
Offensive line, more protection for quarterback Daniel Jones, had to be the plan in the third round. Then, Trader Dave Gettleman struck. The Giants moved up from pick No. 76 overall to pick No. 71 ... and the pick wasn’t an offensive lineman.
It was UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson.
The Giants, with an uncertain guard situation, left Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis on the board. The plug-and-play right guard went 86th to the Minnesota Vikings. They bypassed interior offensive lineman Kendrick Green (87th, Pittsburgh Steelers). Guards Trey Smith (Tennessee), Deonte Brown (Alabama) and David Moore (Grambling) remain available as Round 4 begins Saturday at noon.
“Actually we were looking at offensive linemen for the last two picks, and the value didn’t meet the pick, plain and simple. 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,” Gettleman said. “So no, you always want to add, you always want competition. Whether you draft a position or not has nothing to do with how happy you are with that position. It has everything to do with the draft value at the time you’re picking.”
The GM said that Robinson was a player the Giants had in a group of five they were considering at No. 42 before trading back to No. 50 with the Miami Dolphins and selecting Ojulari.
“With the value we had on Aaron, I just didn’t want to sit and wait,” said Gettleman, explaining both the trade up with the Denver Broncos and the selection of Robinson. “We just felt — he’s a press corner and really fits what we want to do and who we want to be on defense.”
The Giants have James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson as outside cornerbacks. Robinson, scouting reports say, can play outside but is primarily a slot cornerback. The drafted Darnay Holmes as a slot cornerback in the fourth round a year ago. Several of their safeties also have the capability of playing the slot.
Still, Gettleman said Robinson has “got all the stuff” and the Giants couldn’t pass him up.
“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,” Gettleman said. “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.”
What the Giants really want to do under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is play a heavy dose of man coverage. With a revolving door at cornerback opposite James Bradberry and not enough cornerbacks really capable in man-to-man situations, the Giants played more zone in 2020 than they intended to.
Head coach Joe Judge said the Giants “didn’t want to give somebody else a chance to take” Robinson, thus they moved up.
“This is a guy that jumped out to us on tape and as well as when we were down at the Senior Bowl got to see him in person, sit down, meet with him; I had multiple meetings that week. Got the Zoom throughout this process. So we had a lot of exposure with this guy as a person, and this guy really does, he’s got a good personality, he really lights up,” Judge said. “This is a guy, he plays on the field and you see when he makes a play, his teammates immediately sprint to him. There’s a lot of excitement. You can tell he’s got a bond with his teammates, and that stands out with the energy his teammates play with as well.
“In terms of him as a player, he’s a physical player with good traits and gives us versatility to play inside, outside. This guy has some value to play in the kicking game as well. Just the demeanor he plays with, the physicality and his ability to play in both press and off, he’ll give us some options how we can use him.”