The 2023 NFL Draft process is in full swing as we are currently enjoying the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock draft right on the eve of the Combine. And as we’ve quickly become accustomed to, the Giants get a wide receiver in the first round.
Wide receiver is the Giants’ greatest and most pressing need — although they can’t ignore any area of their roster in their rebuild. But right now the Giants’ wide receiving corps is depleted by injury and free agency. And while their receivers are better than many at the national stage realize, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
I expect both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley to return — one of them likely will get the franchise tag, while the other could get a long-term deal — in which case general manager Joe Schoen should add more help to this offense.
The Giants don’t have a No. 1 or No. 2 wideout on their roster, and Wan’Dale Robinson, a second-round pick last year, is most effective out of the slot. Johnston is the big, fast and physical receiver they need. At 6-foot-4, he is tremendous after the catch, breaking tackles and running for long touchdowns. He understands how to use his frame to high-point the ball in the air. Jones has improved every season, but he has never had a player who can make contested catches like Johnston. Schoen should make this happen in April.
My first thought: Why would Kiper release a mock draft right on the eve of the NFL Scouting Combine? I get that these things are big traffic drivers — after all (and pardon my fourth wall breaking) you clicked on this one — but still. Not only are people more concerned with the Combine right now, draft boards are about to get shaken up by the workouts.
Anywho, on to the pick.
I don’t expect Johnston to be available once all is said and done, so this would be a good pickup for the Giants. Johnston probably has the best blend of size and athleticism of any receiver in this draft. He’s a good vertical threat once he can lengthen his stride and he has surprising fluidity for a tall receiver.
And, of course, this will surely mollify fans who are desperate for a big receiver.
Two things give me pause with this pick. The first being that I’m not sure any of the top receivers make it to the Giants at 25th overall. The defensive group is very deep, and there’s an obvious stratification among the receivers. Teams in the top 20 picks could opt for a receiver rather than chance the depth in the second or third rounds.
As it is, Johnston is already the fourth receiver off the board for Kiper, with Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, and Zay Flowers all going before the Giants pick.
The second thing I think we need to take note of the comments made by Joe Schoen after he arrived in Indy:
“[Head Coach Brian Daboll] wants guys who can separate. If you can separate, no matter how tall, short, wide, if you can separate, we’ll find a way to use them within the offense whether it’s outside, inside or slot. That’s one of the unique skills that Daboll has is taking the players and the skill set that he has and developing the offense around their skill set.”
Kiper brings up finding a receiver who can make “contested catches”. Daboll, and by extension Schoen, seem to want to avoid the possibility of catches being contested altogether. If Schoen is to be believed, they aren’t going to force a pick at receiver if a guy who isn’t a natural separator isn’t available. Whether they make this pick in real life could well depend on whether they think Johnston has that ability to win with his route running.
If Johnston is available, and the Giants believe he fits them philosophically, he could be a fantastic pickup at the bottom of the first round.