clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Putting different draft philosophies to the test

How can the Giants get the most out of the 2023 NFL Draft?

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Two general ideas of NFL roster building are that

  • A general manager should try to fill positional holes during the March free agency period, giving them the freedom to draft the best players they can regardless of position once the NFL Draft begins.
  • Certain positions in football are more important to success and more scarce than others, and these should be prioritized early in the draft, leaving lower-value positions for later rounds.

For teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, who generally have high quality across their rosters, it may be feasible to draft the best player available when their pick rolls around. But for a building team like the New York Giants, who enter the draft with a number of positional weaknesses despite a productive free agency period, needs inevitably enter the draft evaluation process as well. And any team has to ask themselves whether the luxury of a great player at a position of low value selected at an early point in the draft in today’s NFL is worth the price.

Which of these approaches the Giants’ actual draft most resembles will become clear in a little more than a week. Let’s ask a different question: What would a team’s draft look like if it adhered strictly to one of the three philosophies? Does one have an advantage over the others?

I used the NFL Mock Draft Database Simulator to conduct three drafts, each one guided solely by one of the philosophies with rules set to minimize intervention by my own personal biases. Each draft pick is determined strictly by these rules, as explained below. Let’s see what happens.

Drafting the best player available

For this draft, I simply use the Mock Draft Database’s Consensus Big Board to draft the highest-ranked player still on the board, regardless of position. No user intervention at all. Here’s what the Giants’ draft looks like:

Data from NFL Mock Draft Database

Holy quarterback controversy, Batman! I highly doubt that Anthony Richardson will fall to No. 25. If he did, surely Joe Schoen would entertain some juicy offers to trade down. But the rules are the rules.

Beyond that, it’s hard to be satisfied with this draft. I was not able to get a cornerback, a wide receiver, or a center, three of the Giants’ biggest needs. I did get a very highly thought of linebacker, Drew Sanders, in Round 2, filling one big need. I added a promising defensive tackle in Keeanu Benton, one of the best value running backs in the draft in Zach Evans and a nice backup safety in Brandon Joseph. But I also overdrafted for quarterback, taking Tanner McKee, about as different from Anthony Richardson as you can get, in Round 5.

By definition I maximized theoretical value at each pick relative to the Giants’ draft position: The big board ranks these players overall (and at their position) as Nos. 5 (QB3), 39 (LB1), 63 (IDL6), 99 (RB7), 123 (QB6), 132 (S10), 169 (TE11), 190 (EDGE23), 196 (LB15), 204 (EDGE25). So I added the best players possible to the Giants’ roster. But how much better did I make the Giants in the W-L column?

Drafting for need

This time my only priority is filling remaining positional holes in the Giants roster. Unlike the BPA draft, which was totally determined by the consensus big board, this draft requires me to intervene to define the Giants’ needs. To do so, I grouped needs into three priority levels, based on my own perception of the Giants’ strengths and weaknesses:

  • High priority: Cornerback, wide receiver, center, linebacker
  • Medium priority: Interior defensive line, safety, edge defender, guard
  • Low priority: Quarterback, running back, tight end, offensive tackle

Your priorities may differ, of course. I used the priority categories to decide which positions to draft in which order, i.e., satisfy the high priorities first, and so on. Within each priority category, at a given pick I took the best player available according to the big board among the four positions in that category without drafting the same position twice. Since there are 12 positions and only 10 picks, two positions are not taken in this draft. Here are the results:

Data from NFL Mock Draft Database

By definition this draft satisfies all the Giants’ positional needs in principle, except for tight end and quarterback, which is just how the draft fell to me. Overall I’m happier with this draft, but that’s partly because as a fan I instinctively gravitate toward filling holes in the lineup.

I’m thrilled to find Jordan Addison on the board at No. 25, and once again Drew Sanders is a great addition to the linebacking corps. Darius Rush is a low-key interesting prospect at cornerback - long (6-foot-2) and wide (33⅜-inch arms) with good ball skills. He’s there at No. 89 though because he’s not as good in coverage as the higher-ranked cornerbacks. He could have a future as a safety if he can’t make it at cornerback.

I get my center in Jarrett Patterson, but whether he’s NFL starting caliber or not is questionable - the big board does have him ranked higher than Ricky Stromberg and Olu Oluwatimi. Guard Andrew Vorhees could be a steal, having dropped on draft boards after tearing his ACL at the combine but heroically wowing in the bench press the next day. Once again Brandon Joseph pops up at safety. ut no backup quarterback or tight end.

My picks correspond to big board No. 21 (WR3), 39 (LB1), 83 (CB13), 134 (C4), 121 (G4), 132 (S10), 207 (EDGE26), 221 (IDL20), 194 (RB20), 251 (OT19). Overall this draft did better, grabbing four players who are top four at their positions, than the BPA draft, as things worked out.

Drafting by positional value

As we discussed several weeks ago, some positions are considered to be of higher positional value than others, because of their outsized impact on winning and the scarcity of truly great ones, which makes them a priority to draft early rather than late. Quarterback, offensive tackle, interior defensive line, edge defender, cornerback, and wide receiver are considered the most valued and scarce positions in today’s NFL, while guard, center, linebacker, running back, tight end, and safety are of lesser importance and can generally be found later in the draft.

The following draft uses positional value as a guide to draft priorities. For each pick I choose the highest-ranked player at the position of highest value that is no lower on the big board than five places below where the pick lies. I also only draft one player per position. The results are shown below.

Data from NFL Mock Draft Database

This draft does not please me at all. With the positional value constraint, my first selection is an offensive tackle, Anton Harrison - a perfectly fine first round choice but not one I’d expect the Giants to make despite Evan Neal’s rookie struggles. I do satisfy two big needs next, with cornerback Clark Phillips III, a good but undersized player, and wide receiver Rashee Rice, who attracted some early buzz but has drifted down draft boards as his inconsistency has been revealed on film.

Most of the rest of my picks are pretty anonymous prospects, with the exception of quarterback Aidan O’ Connell, a big tall immobile passer who is aggressive downfield but accumulates a lot of interceptions. No thanks.

My picks correspond to big board No. 30 (OT5), 58 (CB8), 73 (WR8), 104 (IDL10), 122 (G5), 144 (EDGE18), 169 (TE11), 194 (RB20), 200 (QB10), 209 (S15). Not a single pick represents a top four ranked player at his position.

A sensible approach to the draft

There is a fairly easy way to combine the three approaches to wind up with a draft that in principle maximizes the improvement of the Giants. Let’s do one more draft, this time starting with the five best players available at the time of each pick and making our choice from among those based on need, and to a lesser extent positional value, i.e., a “need meets value” approach. This is the draft that results:

Data from NFL Mock Draft Database

I would be happy if this were the Giants’ actual draft. Let’s go through each pick and the choice made:

25. The five best players on the board are, in order, RB Bijan Robinson, S Brian Branch, CB Deonte Banks, IDL Calijah Kancey, and G O’Cyrus Torrence. For reasons that Ed Valentine detailed, as good as Robinson is, he’s not right for the Giants for several reasons. Branch, Kancey, and Torrence would all be excellent choices. But Banks is the best intersection of a major need, high positional value, and high value on the board, so he’s the pick.

57. The best available players are LB Trenton Simpson, WR Josh Downs, CB Clark Phillips III, TE Sam La Porta, and CB D.J. Turner. I eliminate Phillips and Turner given the prior selection of Banks, and dismiss LaPorta because of the lower positional value of tight end and the Giants’ lesser need there after the acquisition of Darren Waller. Downs could be justified based on the higher positional value of WR relative to LB, but he is purely a slot receiver and replicates what Wan’Dale Robinson brings to the table. Simpson needs more development to reach his high ceiling, but at No. 57 I’m willing to make that leap.

89. The ranked choices are La Porta and Turner again (seems the rest of the league agrees with my previous assessment), plus OT Matthew Bergeron, WR Cedric Tillman, and LB Daiyan Henley. I bypass La Porta and Turner for the same reasons as before, along with Bergeron since there is not a need at OT and Henley because I just drafted Simpson. Fortunately the remaining choice, Tillman, satisfies a major need (and he’s big, 6-3 and 213 lbs) at a position of high value. Perfect.

128. The big board is telling me it’s time to draft a running back. The five best players available are RB Tank Bigsby, RB Zach Evans, CB Eli Ricks, CB Roschon Johnson, and LB Nick Herbig. I don’t need CB or LB (although Herbig may well wind up at edge defender if he bulks up some). Bigsby is the highest rated of the three RBs, barely, but Zach Evans is the choice for reasons I have previously detailed.

160. The highest ranked choices are G Andrew Vorhees, QB Tanner McKee, S Brandon Joseph, C Jarrett Patterson, and RB DeWayne McBride. I already have a running back, McKee is immobile and not my cup of tea despite his ranking, and safety isn’t a big enough need for me to select Joseph (yet). Vorhees may turn out to be the better NFL player, but I take Patterson to give the Giants an option at a position of greater need.

172. The top available players are Joseph (still), McBride (still), RB Deuce Vaughan, WR Charlie Jones, and G Nick Broecker. I eliminate McBride, Vaughan, and Jones since I have satisfied those needs. The other two are a toss-up, but I go with the higher ranked player, safety Brandon Joseph, who keeps on finding his way into my draft options and who gives the Giants depth they may need at safety.

209. The best players available are WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton, TE Will Mallory, C Alex Forsyth, edge defender Villiami Fehoko, and RB Mohamed Ibrahim. Ford-Wheaton, Forsyth, and Ibrahim are bypassed because those needs have been filled. The Giants need an edge defender more than a tight end, and Fehoko is the second cousin of Vita Vea, so I’ll hope that counts for something and select him.

240. For the first time my top five don’t match my remaining needs or positional value preferences: edge defender Nick Hampton, CB Anthony Johnson Jr., RB Evan Hull, OT Carter Warren, and LB Dee Winters. So for the first time I stretch a bit and look at the next two: WR Tre Tucker and QB Jake Haener. No contest, the pick is Haener. The Giants really could use a young developmental third quarterback who can become QB2 when Tyrod Taylor’s contract is up in 2024. Haener is greatly undervalued on this big board. He’s pro-ready, has tremendous competitive spirit, and lacks only the big arm that would have made him a Day 1 or 2 pick. He was my choice for a Giants’ quarterback pick on Day 3.

243. The farther down we get in the draft, the more the Giants’ needs have been met, and the more fuzzy the rankings become. So for the last two picks I expand the field of choices to the top ten ranked available players. At 243, the only possibility at a position I haven’t yet drafted is Clemson G Jordan McFadden, who also has experience at tackle. McFadden could be a good value this late in the draft, and another option on the offensive line is welcome.

254. The one position I haven’t addressed yet among the Giants’ high- and medium-priority needs is defensive line. There hasn’t been a defensive tackle at the right time and place for me to do so. Finally with my last pick, the 10th of 10 highest-graded available players, I select Tyler Lacy (I also selected him in the needs-based draft). Lacy is too small to play inside on a regular basis, but his traits and experience suggest that he could play the Jihad Ward role, moving outside, over tackle, and even occasionally in the B gap.

This time my picks correspond to No. 20 (CB4), 45 (LB2), 67 (WR7), 104 (RB8), 137 (C4), 131 (S10), 179 (EDGE22), 204 (QB10), 180 (G9), 227 (IDL22).

Let’s see if you can beat me, Joe Schoen.