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2022 NFL Draft: Giants’ Tim McDonnell, Shea Tierney watch QB Sam Howell at UNC pro day

Why are the Giants scouting top quarterbacks?

Duke’s Mayo Bowl - North Carolina v South Carolina Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

News from the NFL Draft’s pro day circuit is usually an interesting diversion. Everybody scouts everybody, and teams usually have some level of interest in every prospect. But then sometimes news comes across that makes our ears perk up, and this is one of those times.

Jim Nagy, the Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director, teweeted that New York Giants Director of Player Personnel Tim McDonnell was among the high-ranking executives in attendance at the University of North Carolina pro day.

Nagy also notes that Giants’ QB Coach Shea Tierney is in attendance to watch UNC quarterback Sam Howell.

Howell was regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects entering the 2021 season. His rise to prominence was fueled by a breakout success in 2020, but his stock dipped over the course of 2021.

That both McDonnell and Tierney are in attendance for Howell’s workout is noteworthy, as McDonnell is the second-highest profile Giants’ executive we’ve seen attend a pro day. GM Joe Schoen attended the Georgia, Cincinnati, and Ohio State pro days — all thoroughly talented teams who are expected to field top picks in this year’s draft.

This also highlights a larger trend that hasn’t gotten much discussion: The Giants are showing fairly significant interest in this year’s top quarterbacks.

We’ve previously reported that Tierney attended both the Liberty and Pittsburgh pro days, making this his third high profile quarterback pro day in the last week. We don’t have a good feel yet for the Giants’ scouting tendencies, so it’s tough to read these tea leaves.

There are a few possible interpretations for the Giants’ high-profile interest in three top quarterback pro days in a week.

The first is that Joe Schoen wants his quarterback’s coach at the pro days to assess the passers in person. The quarterback position is notoriously difficult to scout, and having as many experienced eyes on the players as possible could lead to a more complete profile. It’s possible that one of these players could be available at the top of the second round, and the Giants should be prepared for that eventuality.

The second possibility is that the Giants are assessing the potential for a trade down at the top of the draft. The Giants might not just be watching the players, but the other teams as well. Which player are teams particularly interested in? Could some leverage develop for the Giants and an opportunity to move back arise? Moving back would give the Giants an opportunity to add more talent this year, potentially garner more picks in 2023, and also make their rookie class less expensive.

The final possibility is that the Giants are genuinely interested in, and scouting, the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Giants would draft one, but they have to get the lay of the land before they make that decision. It could be that moving forward with Daniel Jones is the Giants’ best option, but they’d need an accurate assessment of the top passers before they can make that decision. We don’t know just what Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka are looking for in a quarterback, and they might be looking to see if Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, or Sam Howell is a better option for what they want to do on offense than Daniel Jones.

It’s entirely possible that Jones is the Giants’ best option for 2022, but it’s impossible to say that without looking at Jones in the context of this year’s quarterback class.

Whatever the Giants’ intentions for sending McDonnell and Tierney to the UNC pro day, their presence is certainly noteworthy. And it’s also worth keeping an eye on the fact that the Giants seem to be making a point of scouting top quarterbacks.