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‘Things I think’ after Round 1 of Giants’ draft: Joe Schoen did this right, and much more

Thursday was a good, well-executed day for the Giants

NFL: NFL Draft Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen worked the first round of his first NFL draft like a chess Grandmaster on Thursday night.

No one had to leak the Giants’ intentions. Everyone who pays attention to such things knew that the Giants NEEDED to come out of Round 1, where they had the fifth and seventh overall picks, with a right tackle. They also knew that the Giants, if they didn’t trade down, wanted a premier cornerback or edge defender.

Schoen came away with an impressive package of edge Kayvon Thibodeaux and tackle Evan Neal, transforming both the Giants’ defensive front seven and offensive line in a matter of minutes.

“It worked out great,” Schoen said. “We are happy with both of the players that we were able to procure tonight.”

As impressive as the haul Schoen came away with was the manner in which he did it.

Giants’ fans are used to watching drafts get bungled.

  • In 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Giants did not draft an offensive lineman before Round 4 despite pleas from offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to do so.
  • In 2012, they watched as the Giants selected David Wilson. Rueben Randle and Jayron Hosley with their first three picks.
  • In 2015, they watched as the Giants reached for offensive tackle Ereck Flowers at No. 9 overall, a move that turned disastrous.
  • In 2016, they watched as the Giants helplessly stood by as the Tennessee Titans (offensive tackle Jack Conklin) and Chicago Bears (linebacker Leonard Floyd) traded ahead of New York to take the players they were targeting. The Giants took cornerback Eli Apple, and that didn’t work out so well.
  • In 2018, Dave Gettleman refused to even entertain phone calls for the No. 2 overall pick, ignored positional value and modern thinking, and selected Saquon Barkley with his first pick as GM.
  • In 2019, the Giants ignored red flags about his attitude and work ethic and engineered a trade up for cornerback DeAndre Baker.

These are just some of the examples of how the Giants have mismanaged the draft in previous years. Right now we have no idea if Thibodeaux and Neal will justify expectations and live up to being picked in the top 10 of the draft. What we know is it certainly feels like Schoen and the Giants managed Round 1 as well as they could. No bungling here.

The way the draft board unfolded the Giants ended up in an interesting position at No. 5. All three of the top offensive tackles remained on the board, but both of the top cornerbacks — Derek Stingley Jr. and Sauce Gardner — were gone.

Knowing he would still be able to choose between two of the three offensive tackles at No. 7, Schoen took the player he thought was the best pass rusher on the board. And got Neal at No. 7.

“We have been through these scenarios a million times,” Schoen said. “We had seven or eight cards, and we just kept switching them back and forth based on different scenarios, and this is a scenario we went over. And if there were tackles on board and the pass rusher, we were going pass rusher knowing we could get a tackle at 7. We were ecstatic when that scenario came up.”

Head coach Brian Daboll praised Schoen’s preparation.

“I told you he was prepared. There was not a lot of talking at all (when the Giants were on the clock). It was calm, composed,” Daboll said. “And I think you can be that way when you’re prepared, when you put the time in and you have the conversations before they happen.

“Again, I can’t tell you how many different scenarios we went through the past week, so we felt however it was going to unfold, that, you know, we would be ready for whatever decisions we had to make.”

The work paid off. In just a matter of moments, two moves made the Giants offensive line and defensive front seven suddenly look much better.

Oh, and the Giants suddenly look like they are run by someone who knows what he’s doing.

I think this was really cool

These were the reactions from the Giants’ draft party in MetLife Stadium when the Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal picks were announced. And, yeah, it’s been a while since we have seen that kind of jubilation from Giants fans.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York a perfect match?

I had been thinking about that for a while. Then, I saw the interview below and really started thinking about it. The way his face lit up and as excited as he seemed about the possibility I couldn’t help but think Thibodeaux would be really inspired by playing in the New York-New Jersey market.

When asked on Thursday night why New York was the right spot for him, Thibodeaux said this:

“Because I’m hungry. I’m really competitive and hungry and I feel like New York is the pinnacle of a dog-eat-dog world.”

He also talked about how Michael Strahan, whose post-NFL success Thibodeaux seemingly strives to emulate, has become someone he relies on.

“He literally is one of my mentors and he’s been talking to me throughout this process. He actually came to visit me when I was on my visit with the team, so seeing him out there that was really dope because he’s given me wisdom and he even was able to speak on my behalf because we have built a relationship over the year,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s really dope because he has literally walked in my footsteps and can show me the ropes on the field and off the field.”

To me, Thibodeaux seems like a young man who wants to be a star — in football and away from it. Being a star on the field can help him be one away from it, and the combination of Strahan plus the bright lights of New York might help him get there.

Smoked out

The closer we got to the draft, the more we heard about the Giants’ love for Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross. There was so much of it, in fact, that yours truly even bit on the idea that the Giants would select Cross instead of Neal, even though logically Neal seemed like the more natural fit.

I think that is just another lesson in remembering

Fifth-year options

I think the Giants got it right with both of their fifth-year option decisions, declining to pick up the option for quarterback Daniel Jones while exercising the option for defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.

There was no good reason for the Giants to pick up Jones’ fifth-year option. They appear committed to giving Jones the 2022 season, the final one on his rookie deal, to convince new GM Joe Schoen and new head coach Brian Daboll he is the quarterback the franchise should go forward with.

Jones’ fifth-year option would have been worth $22.384 million. Schoen was correct not to commit that kind of money when he isn’t sure Jones will be the team’s quarterback next season. If they want to move on, that turns into a $23 million mistake.

If the Giants want to keep Jones in 2023 they can either negotiate a long-term deal or use the franchise tag at an estimated one-year cost of $31.497 million, per Over The Cap. Yes, that is $9 million more than the option. The Giants would be paying it to a player they had decided they wanted, though, rather than forking over $22.384 million to one they didn’t want.

As for Lawrence, the Giants are spending $10.753 million to make sure the 17th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft is with them in 2023. That is a good thing. Lawrence has not become a star, but he is a good player who still has upside on a team that needs more players who fit that description.

I told you so

I told you the first round of the draft was going to be unpredictable and that you would end up wondering what the heck just happened when it had concluded. Well, I think I was right.

  • I quite honestly lost track of how many trades there were in Round 1. But, there were a bunch. After the Giants’ picks I was writing and when I looked up a whole bunch of teams were picking, or had picked, in places they weren’t supposed to be picking. My head hurts trying to figure it all out.

[Chris here: By my count there were 27 total trades dating back to the Giants’ trade with the Bears last year. I think I think the NFL went to Vegas and was really feeling the venue.]

  • Kenny Pickett (20th, Pittsburgh Steelers) was the only quarterback selected. Malik Willis, who some thought could go No. 6 to the Carolina Panthers, will wait until Friday night to hear his name called.
  • Somehow, the Baltimore Ravens ended up with Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum at No. 25.
  • Quay Walker (22nd, Green Bay Packers) was the first linebacker off the board.
  • Edge Jermaine Johnson, thought by many to be a player who would not get out of the top 10, went No. 26 to the New York Jets.
  • Tennessee-Chattanooga center Cole Strange, thought to be a mid-round value, was selected No. 29 by the New England Patriots.

Go figure.