The work done in the 2021 NFL Draft by New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman surprised and impressed many who follow the NFL. That work included the first two trades back in nine drafts as a GM, players considered good value at each of the Giants’ six picks, three picks added in the first four rounds of the 2022 draft, including a first-rounder.
Scouting Academy Director Dan Hatman, who worked briefly in the Giants’ scouting deparment while Gettleman was the team’s top pro personnel man, thinks the draft was really Gettleman showing his true colors. Especially the idea that Gettleman would willingly accumulate future assets when, if the Giants aren’t good in 2021, he might not be the GM deciding how to use them.
“I think this is the thing that people don’t want to admit or don’t want to take into consideration with him. What he says is what he means. This isn’t a cover, this isn’t a facade he puts forth for people. He believes there’s a way to conduct business, he honestly believes every move he makes is in the best interests of the organization,” Hatman said on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast.
‘I bet if you asked him about this he’d say I put what was best for the organization on the table. If we lose, I’ll bow out with grace … but this is what’s best for the team. He’s not someone that’s going to put himself above the team. That’s just never been my experience with him. He’s going to put whatever he thinks is best for the organization first, and whatever happens after that he’ll take it in stride because that was the decision he made.”
Gettleman might be on the hot seat with the Giants never having produced a winning team in his first three seasons, but Hatman said the recently-complete draft showed the 70-year-old is “a guy that doesn’t feel like he’s on the hot seat.”
“If you’re going to move all that capital into next year you do it under the assumption that I’m going to be using that capital next year. Otherwise, I don’t think you see that,” Hatman said. “To watch Dave shift capital into next year, I’m not saying he has assurances of getting his job back but he’s not playing scared as if he’s not going to have his job. He’s just doing what he thinks is best.”
With the Scouting Academy having placed dozens of its graduates in NFL jobs, Hatman is well-connected around the league. He knows the reaction around the league to the Giants’ draft is a mixed one, based almost entirely on the team’s decision to use the 20th overall pick Kadarius Toney, a divisive player in the scouting community.
“It all comes down to Kadarius Toney in terms of where it breaks. I don’t think anybody had a problem with [Azeez] Ojulari going in the second, everybody knows about the lower leg and the risk that you’re buying there. But, what the player can do I think everybody was comfortable with that,” Hatman said.
“The evaluation of the draft class comes down to did that scout or team like Toney or did they not.”
Hatman called Toney “clearly unique and exciting. But ...
“What is the concern? Some of the concern just has to do with the fact that for a player that might have been the most dynamic athlete on the Florida campus for all four years he was there why did it take until his senior year to break open? Why couldn’t he put together yards and production before this last season?,” Hatman said
“Is he really going to become a professional? Is he going to take and apply coaching? Can you really maximize him?
“This pairing of Jason Garrett and Kadarius Toney is huge for how this draft class returns.”
Hatman said he wasn’t surprised by the Giants’ decision to add an offensive weapon with their first pick.
‘Daniel Jones has to become what that investment says he’s supposed to be. When you invest that pick he’s supposed to be the guy that brings you to NFC Championship Games and brings you to Super Bowls, and makes this team that kind of competitor,” Hatman said.
“There’s an attention here, a clear focus on making sure that there are people than can get open and give Daniel solutions from a player standpoint, and not put all the onus on him.”
“They’re adding guys that can go make those plays.
“To put the first pick into another weapon for him makes total sense in putting all your chips in the middle of the table on Daniel Jones.”
Back to the idea that the 2021 draft was philosophically different than any Gettleman had previously run. There are some saying that it means the voice of Joe Judge, participating in his second draft as the team’s head coach, is getting louder.
“You look at New England’s track record, they’re a trade down team. It’s plausible that when you’re sitting there having those meetings about who’s going to be available at the 11th pick Joe might say something like ‘none of those guys are so drastically superior to the guys we could get later on that I wouldn’t want to go down and add other players.’ I could totally see that,” Hatman said
“I think the longer that a GM and a head coach spend together the more they just understand each other and what they’re looking for … it’s an evolution. It’s an ongoing dynamic every single day, every single year. There’s no way they don’t spend that much time together and don’t impact each other.”
In terms of Gettleman, though, Hatman said the evolution in thinking — moving around the board and selecting with a passing game first mindset — speak volumes about Gettleman’s willingness to listen.
Much of the Giants’ front office and scouting staff has been revamped since Gettleman became GM. Judge, the second head coach of his tenure, brought new, college-oriented assistant coaches and a different way of seeing things than Gettleman had perhaps been associated with in the past.
“He’s not going to block out the people around him when they bring up an intelligent point,” Hatman said. “From afar it seems like the people around him have showed him enough information that he’s ready to commit to support our quarterback and our passing attack and let’s rush their passer and let’s stop them from throwing the ball, and we’ll go from there.
“I honestly believe that when they select Joe Judge as their coach he sees himself in a support role to Joe. What do you need? What are you looking for. And I do believe it’s a collaboration.”
The one thing that has been criticized about the Giants’ draft is the team’s inability to add help for an offensive line that played poorly in 2020.
When asked about that, Gettleman said “It’s really apparent that we have a little more confidence in our offensive linemen than you guys do.”
Hatman said that another Gettleman belief, shown when he kept Ron Rivera as head coach of the Carolina Panthers is that “He honestly believes a lot of times the answer to your problem is in your building.”
That seems to be how the Giants feel about their young offensive line after using three draft picks on that group in 2020.
“Their position on this is clearly that they could go into September with what they had prior to the draft and they could play football,” Hatman said.
“It’s really a strong strategy. You try to tell yourself when you go into that free agency period if you can put together my 53 right here. Like, we could go to September and I could play a ballgame with the players I’ve got right now then you really can approach the draft as close to best player available as possible.”
Hatman added that the Giants seem to believe “We can put Nate and Matt in competition. We can put Shane and Zach Fulton in competition with Will. We could win with that and if we get a better player, great, but it’s not a mandate.”
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