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Big Blue View mailbag: Draft results bring new batch of questions

The mail’s here!

Our first post-NFL Draft Big Blue View Mailbag is here. So, let’s get right to it and see what New York Giants-related questions we can answer.

David Matuozzi asks: Given what we know now, how do you think Schoen and Co. graded KT in comparison to Sauce Gardner? How would our selections have played out if the Jets had taken KT instead of Sauce?

Ed says: By KT, you are of course referring to Kayvon Thibodeaux. In the scenario you describe, I “think” the Giants would have taken Gardner at No. 5 and Evan Neal at No. 7, basically following the same blueprint toward helping their defense and getting a top-tier right tackle.

What would have really interested me is if both Thibodeaux and Gardner had been available at No. 5. Had that choice presented itself it would have been revealing. In our discussions at Big Blue View, we believed that everything we know about Wink Martindale would indicate he would prefer a No. 1 cornerback to a premier edge defender. The flip side of that is that is the Giants admitted spending more time with and working harder on getting to know Thibodeaux than any other prospect in the 2022 draft class.

I would love to have seen which player they would have selected given a choice.

Bob Donnelly asks: A top priority for Mr. Schoen is evaluating Daniel Jones to determine if he is the franchise QB. Do you think our GM has done a sufficient job providing Jones the supporting cast for a fair evaluation?

Ed says: Bob, in case you missed it I also answered this question on a ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast this week. Here is the way I see it.

I don’t know if Schoen has done a “sufficient job providing Jones the supporting case for a fair evaluation.”

What I do believe is that Schoen, with limited resources and needs to fill across the roster, did everything he could to accomplish just that. He brought in a quality coach to help run the offense in Mike Kafka. The Giants signed a bevy of experienced, competent offensive linemen. They did the best they could to fill the tight end hole with Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins. They used a premium draft pick on the player many thought was the the best offensive lineman in the draft, and a second-round pick on a play-making receiver. They added a tight end and a potential starting guard.

Schoen also appears to be intent on keeping both Kadarius Toney and Saquon Barkley in Giants uniforms for the 2022 season. I’m not sure how much more he could have done.

Douglas asks: Now that the draft is over, this is my personal question. What is the status of Niko Lalos? I saw that he was at the initial mini-camp. I thought he might move with Patrick Graham as a quasi coach being of one of his guys, but I still would love to see him get a shot with the Giants.

Ed says: Lalos is still on the roster, so he still has a chance. Honestly, I don’t think it’s a good one with a new regime in place but we shall see. When the Giants make their UDFA signings official they will likely have to make some moves to fit them on the 90-man roster. I wonder if Lalos is vulnerable to being dropped when that happens.

Jon Hilsenrath asks: UNC allowed 3.77 sacks per game in 2021, fourth-worst in the entire FBS. Why did the Giants take two of their lineman with that kind of record?

Ed says: Jon, I actually asked offensive line analyst Brandon Thorn about that this week. He said “Their [North Carolina’s] offensive line wasn’t good. It wasn’t good at all.”

Thing is, he also said this about third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu:

“Ezeudu was the best player on the line, no doubt. Ezeudu was good. You can have good players on bad lines, and that’s kinda the case here with him.”

For what it’s worth, Sports Info Solutions tracked blown-block rates for collegiate offensive linemen last season. Ezeudu’s 1.1 percent blown-block rate was better than Neal’s 1.3 percent. In pass protection, both were at 1.3 percent.

Thorn is not high on fifth-round pick Marcus McKethan, not nearly as high as Schoen and the Giants appear to be. McKethan’s blown-block rate? Just 1.3 percent overall and 1.1 percent in pass protection. So, despite Thorn being down on McKethan he and Ezeudu do not appear to have been the problem on the Tar Heel line.

Schoen, as far as I know, saw North Carolina play in person last season. Obviously, he and the Giants think there is something there with both players that they want to work with. We’ll see if they’re right.

Gino Phillips asks: Given the deep list of potential left guard starters and iOL backups, among the guard candidates, which ones have the ability to provide additional value as a back to the center position?

Ed says: Gino, the primary center backup would likely be Max Garcia. He has played mostly guard in his career, but played some center (297 snaps) for the Arizona Cardinals last year. Jamil Douglas has some center experience. Nick Gates is also still on the roster. We don’t know if Gates will be healthy enough to play in 2022 after last season’s gruesome leg injury, but we can hope. Shane Lemieux hasn’t done it, but there was also some though a year ago that he could play center.

Kolnerbigblue asks: Ed, now that the draft is over, how do the draft prognosticators make money besides from publications and TV appearances? Do the people whose job depend upon successful drafts (the GMs) pay for more detailed analyses than what us simple-minded peons read? I can go out and buy generalized Business Mgmt. publications or I can get a consultant to come into my firm and give me personalized analyses. If the GMs don’t give credence to the talking heads, why should we since so many people use the “consensus” big board to determine if a player is a steal or a reach before they ever play a NFL game?

Ed says: Kolner, you know as well as I do that the NFL is 24/7/365. These “talking heads” don’t just show up on draft night. These are obviously full-time employees of various companies who cover, study and talk about football year-round.

What I will say is that I do know that NFL teams will look for information, and an edge, anywhere they can get it. NFL teams get data from Pro Football Focus on college and pro players, some of which is publicly available and some which is not. There are teams that pay for data from Sports Info Solutions, as well.

There are a couple of draft analysts whose work I know the league respects and uses to cross-check their own. Dane Brugler of The Athletic is one. Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio is another whose work on skill position players finds its way to the desks of some personnel people in the league.

As for “consensus” or media big boards, NFL teams really don’t care. Witness the Giants drafting players like Wan’Dale Robinson, CorDale Flott and Marcus McKethan earlier than media big boards would have suggested. Teams know know their own needs, know what they think of players and how they would use them, have their own grades, and stack their own boards.

On the outside, we use the consensus big boards and opinions of Mel Kiper, Daniel Jeremiah, Todd McShay and others because it’s what we have at our disposal. They have access to film and to people that we do not. Reality is, people LOVE to debate the draft. They spend months doing it. If there wasn’t an insatiable thirst for what they provide, whether they end up right or wrong, those draft analysts wouldn’t have jobs. Come draft time we always find out that media opinion and NFL opinion are not the same. Insiders do the best they can to ferret out what teams really think, but at the same time teams are playing the misdirection game. So, we never really know for sure.

Scott Coghlan asks: Assuming Bradberry is released, do you think his replacement is on the current roster?

Ed says: Scott, I think the Giants will continue to look at available free agents to see if there is a match. They will continue to monitor the waiver wire during training camp as teams make cuts. The Giants, though, don’t — and won’t — have the money to do much more than offer veteran minimum or veteran salary benefit deals or make waiver claims on guys with low-cost contracts. So, the replacement could have to come from the current roster. Guys like Aaron Robinson, Rodarius Williams, even Jarren Williams if he isn’t moved permanently to safety, come to mind.

Seth Weissman asks: I always see you as the voice of reason when it comes to fans complaining about moves being made by the team. I know you’re going to share your thoughts on everything once the draft is over, but please share something that gives me reason to believe that Schoen knows what he’s doing. He received tons of praise for the first two picks, which, let’s be honest, were no-brainers. But I question every pick he made subsequently. He easily could have had Robinson in round 3, if not rounds 4 or 5. He could have had so many other good players at various positions of need. After that pick, I thought. “Well, okay, he can redeem himself.” Nope. One incredulous pick after another ensued. He drafted for positions of need, but to me, he outmaneuvered himself the whole time. Basically, he looked like a rookie GM who got fleeced by the rest of the league. And now the Bears have Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker, the Vikings have Andrew Booth, the Steelers have George Pickens, the Commanders have Phidarian Mathis, the Texans have Christian Harris, the Ravens have Travis Jones, etc. etc. etc.

Ed says: Well, Seth, you didn’t really ask a question. You just kinda vented, and I think you want me to talk you off the ledge. You probably aren’t the only one. So, let me try.

Honestly, I don’t at all think the first two picks were no-brainers. Kayvon Thibodeaux is a guy many had questions about, and the Giants did an extraordinary amount of work before making that decision. Evan Neal seems like an obvious choice now, but there was a ton of debate before the draft. The Giants could have perhaps taken an offensive tackle with one pick and traded down with the other, so I don’t see it as a no-brainer.

Lots of analysts questioned some of the Day 2 and Day 3 choices Schoen made in the immediate aftermath of the draft. I know that analytics charts looking at where players were on pre-draft big board hate the value the Giants got with their picks.

If Thibodeaux and Neal are stars for the next six to eight years, no one is really going to care about the rest of the draft.

As for the rest of that draft, though, I really don’t care what the charts say, or what the consensus big boards think. Schoen had a plan — collect picks, get more at-bats, find players who fit what the coaching staff needs at as many positions as possible. I think he executed it beautifully.

Now, did he pick all the right players? Probably not. No GM ever does. If half of the players are selected are valuable to the Giants throughout the lives of their rookie contracts, that’s probably a good batting average.

Schoen and the Giants identified players they were interested in. They took Wan’Dale Robinson earlier than Mel Kiper would have. Big deal. They studied him, I would guess waaaaay more than any media draft analyst did. They knew exactly why they wanted him and how they would use him.

  • They needed offensive line depth — they got three offensive linemen.
  • They needed a wide receiver — they got Robinson.
  • They needed linebacker help — they got Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers.
  • They needed a versatile safety — they got one in Dane Belton.
  • They needed an all-around tight end — they got Daniel Bellinger.

I don’t think he got “fleeced” at all. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and why. He executed the plan he laid out. That’s all you can do.

It’s an interesting thing. I got an e-mail this week that I didn’t use in the mailbag [I see you, ‘ctscan’], and part of that asked if teams really watch more film and have more information that media draft analysts. The answer is yes, absolutely.

Realize that many media scouting reports are written after analysts watch three or four games, sometimes with All-22 and sometimes without it.

Teams have had area scouts watch every single game of players they were interested in. Probably several other scouts, as well. They have met with players in person on a number of occasions, which media members have not. They have an army of people talked to college coaches, high school coaches, offseason trainers, pretty much everyone who has ever touched the players they are interested in.

Teams have reams of data from players like Pro Football Focus, Sports Info Solutions and their own data analysis departments.

Media analysts lucky enough to be able to call GMs, coaches, scouting directors, etc., get some useful information. They also get lied to a lot. Which is why we all thought the Giants “loved” Charles Cross when, in fact, they left him on the board to select Neal. Teams are good at subterfuge.

Did Schoen pick the right players? He doesn’t know. I don’t know. You don’t know. Kiper doesn’t know. Daniel Jeremiah doesn’t know.

We’ll know a few years down the road. I just think you should feel good that he had a well-thought out plan that made sense, and he followed it.