Everyone loves the NFL Draft.
We love to follow the stories of young men from all walks of life pursuing their dreams. We love to watch incredible athletes do incredibly athletic things at the Scouting Combine. We love the hope that draft season brings that a poor team can change its fortunes or a good team can solidify itself as a dynasty.
And after every draft we love the race to provide our hot take grades for each team’s performance. But we also know that we can’t accurately grade any draft class in the moment, and we have to see the team on the field and how the various prospects develop into pros — or don’t develop, as the case may be.
Dan Duggan of the Athletic recently set out to use the benefit of hindsight grade each team’s performance in the 2018 NFL Draft. He cites each team’s best player, biggest value, and biggest miss, then ranks the teams on a scale of 1 to 32.
The New York Giants landed squarely in the middle of the pack with the 17th best class, so let’s find out why Duggan put them there.
17. New York Giants
1st round - 2nd overall - Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)*
2nd round - 34th overall - Will Hernandez (OG, UTEP)*
3rd round - 66th overall - Lorenzo Carter (OLB, Georgia) *
3rd round - 69th overall - B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)*
4th round - 108th overall - Kyle Lauletta (QB, Richmond)
5th round - 139th overall - R.J. McIntosh (DT, Miami)*
* Player is still with original team
Best player: Saquon Barkley
The debate about his value as the No. 2 selection is certainly valid, but there is no question that Barkley is the best player among the Giants’ haul. And to draft a running back that high, he better be. Despite missing almost all of the 2020 season due to an ACL tear, Barkley has been one of the most dynamic weapons since he was drafted. Since 2018, only Christian McCaffrey (135.2) and Dalvin Cook (115.2) have averaged more scrimmage yards per game than Barkley (114.9).
Best value (outside the first round): Lorenzo Carter
After recording four sacks as a rookie, Carter became a full-time starting edge rusher in 2019, posting 45 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble and five passes defended. He appeared to take another step in his development in year three, but a torn Achilles ended his 2020 season after only five games. Carter is expected back at full health.
Biggest miss: Kyle Lauletta
The lone member of the Giants’ class no longer on the roster, Lauletta was drafted with the idea that he would compete for the long-term job when Eli Manning retired. A two-time team captain at Richmond, he was billed as a high-character prospect, but pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct offense in 2019 after an incident with police and played in only two games. Lauletta didn’t make the 2019 roster and has bounced among several teams the past two seasons (he has still yet to complete an NFL pass).
Of everything Duggan wrote, I can’t help but agree with his lead the most.
“Grades immediately after the NFL Draft are generally self-serving and reflect pre-draft bias on prospects and their projections. However, the more interesting exercise is to revisit past NFL Draft classes and use on-field evidence to reflect on how teams made out.”
While I spend a massive chunk of my year watching tape and evaluating prospects traits, I’m always hesitant to assign grades and rankings. There is just so much we don’t, can’t, know sitting in the moment on the outside that will determine whether a pick pans out or not. However, many of the things we couldn’t know in the moment become clearer with the benefit of hindsight, which is why it’s so common to say that we can’t fully evaluate a draft class for (at least) three years.
I don’t think there’s any doubt or argument that Saquon Barkley is the best player to come from this draft class for the Giants. Barkley is, when healthy, an explosive and dynamic weapon in both the running and passing game, even if there are some legitimate holes in his game (pass protection and running against heavy boxes or short yardage situations). We can, and probably should, have discussions as to whether or not drafting Saquon Barkley was the right move at second overall. Those discussions could loom large as the Giants face the reality of Barkley’s fifth year option and a potential long-term (and massive money) contract extension.
But at least the Giants didn’t fall into the trap of drafting Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen.
Moving on, is Lorenzo Carter the best value from this draft class? I suppose, if only by default.
Going by pre-draft rankings, Will Hernandez was widely regarded as a first-round talent, but he has yet to build on his rookie season. Likewise, B.J. Hill looked to be a potential steal after his rookie season but has yet to match his rookie year impact. Carter hasn’t truly played up to the athletic traits that had so many of us excited when he was selected. And while there have been “signs” (as Duggan puts it) or flashes of what Carter could be, it hasn’t been sustained. But the fact that there’s still legitimate hope for the 66th overall pick, which
As for biggest miss? I might actually disagree with Duggan and list B.J. Hill. Yes, there was a lot of talk that Lauletta could be the heir to Eli Manning and the Giants’ version of Dak Prescott. However, he was also a fourth round pick, and those players generally only have a 10 percent (or less) chance of panning out anyway. There is still a serious expectation for a third round pick to be a major contributor, and Hill has only seen his production, and share of the defense, drop since his rookie season. Adding to matters is the cost associated with acquiring him. Hill was selected with the third round pick acquired in the Jason Pierre-Paul trade. The Giants could have just hung on to JPP and have been 30.5 sacks richer over the last three seasons — or selected one of Fred Warner, Michael Gallup, or Orlando Brown, all of whom were selected after Hill.
Elsewhere in the NFC East