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Big Blue View mailbag: Bryce Ford-Wheaton, draft questions, cap management, more

The mail’s here!

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Spring is turning to summer, but football seems ever-present. So, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and see what New York Giants questions we can answer.

sjcomic asks: I’m confused by the Banks pick.

I do like Banks and I respect the talent evaluation of Wink and the Giants.

But at the same time Joey Porter Jr. was also available. even if the Giants didn’t get Banks with 24, they could have had Porter. And many had him ranked higher than Banks.

I’ll be interested to see if switching picks and moving up to get Banks was worth the two fifth-round picks it cost to switch. Especially with the holes they still need to fill

Would the Giants have been better off not trading up the one slot?

Ed says: SJ, I’m not sure why you are confused. The fact that “many” had Porter ranked above Deonte Banks means absolutely nothing, other than that “some” had Banks ranked ahead of Porter. There was actually a lot of chatter in the last couple of weeks before the draft that Banks had moved ahead of Joey Porter Jr. in the eyes of at least some NFL teams. That turned out to be accurate, but really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that once the run on wide receivers happened Banks was the player ranked the highest on the Giants’ board. What Joe Schoen and the Giants thought is all that mattered, not media or draft analyst consensus. They knew exactly what skill set they wanted, they have far more information about and knowledge of these players than media, fans and draft analysts do.

They clearly wanted Banks over Porter, and made sure it happened. Wink Martindale’s jubilation at the selection tells you how badly he wanted that player. If they had looked at the two as equal players, they would would have stayed at 25. Might Banks have been there at 25? Maybe? They didn’t want to take the risk.

Will their evaluation be right? We’ll know in six or seven years, maybe.

Let’s be clear about something else — the Giants did not give up two fifth-round picks for Banks. They gave up a fifth-round pick, No. 160 overall, and one of their THREE seventh-round picks. Nobody wants to have three seventh-round picks.

Here are the last five players drafted No. 160 overall, not including this year:

  • 2022 — Defensive tackle Otito Ogbannia
  • 2021 — Cornerback Shawn Wade
  • 2020 — Center Nick Harris
  • 2019 — Defensive tackle Daylon Mack
  • 2018 — Defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

Out of that group, how many impact players are there? How many of those names do you even know? Okoronkwo had 5.0 sacks for the Houston Texans last year, and he might be the best of that group.

Considering the odds of hitting on a fifth-round pick I would say it is silly to let a fifth-round pick stand between you and a first-round caliber player you really want.

Here are the Giants’ last 10 fifth-round selections, starting in 2022:

  • 2022 — Micah McFadden, D.J. Davidson, Marcus McKethan
  • 2021 — None
  • 2020 — Shane Lemieux
  • 2019 — Ryan Connelly, Darius Slayton
  • 2018 — R.J. McIntosh
  • 2017 — Avery Moss
  • 2016 — Paul Perkins
  • 2015 — Mykkele Thompson

That’s one impact player — Slayton — out of 10. So, let’s stop obsessing about giving up a fifth-round pick. Especially when the Giants still had another one.

Siloeye asks: Regarding Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Bleacher Report listed these positive attributes:

— Excellent build. Tall, thick frame with plenty of muscle.

— Great speed. Can threaten the full vertical route tree at a high level.

— Good play strength. Seldom bullied into the sideline or at the catch point.

— Above-average ball location and flexibility to find the ball. Plays with hands away from frame comfortably.

— Above-average YAC skills. Strong, fast, explosive.

— Great blocker. Plays with good strength and a physical demeanor.

Would you be surprised if the Giants plan is to convert him to a tight end at some point? It would be an excellent way to get him on the field more often.

Ed says: Yes, I would be very surprised if the plan is to convert him to tight end.

Darren Waller was converted from wide receiver to tight end when he came out of college. Waller, though, came out of Georgia Tech at 6-foot-6, 238 pounds. The Giants now list him at 245 pounds.

Ford-Wheaton is 6-3½, 221 pounds. That is significantly smaller. The Giants have said they were attracted to Ford-Wheaton because, aside from the 6-6, 220-pound Collin Johnson, they have no else of his body type at wide receiver.

Let’s not anoint this guy as something he’s not and start creating ways to get him on the field already. There were 33 wide receivers selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Ford-Wheaton was, to the surprise of some, not one of them. We aren’t talking about Jalin Hyatt here.

Ford-Wheaton has intriguing size and athleticism, and the Giants obviously want to try and develop him. The problem is he has a serious issue catching the football. Giants fans tired of watching Evan Engram drop passes, and he dropped 7.3% of the passes thrown to him in four seasons with the Giants. Ford-Wheaton had an 11.2% drop rate in four seasons at West Virginia.

The Giants gave Ford-Wheaton a significant guarantee for an undrafted free agent of $236,000, but that doesn’t mean they are going to guarantee him anything else. Let’s see if he can earn it.

Derick Gross asks: The Giants traded up for Hyatt, the “consensus” No. 39 player available. Given how the draft played out, they could have traded back for Tyler Scott, Xavier Hutchinson and Andrei Iosivas, and had an open competition. If it’s clear that following the trade back strategy over several drafts will result in a stronger roster, do you think the culture element of being able to tell a guy “we traded up for you because we believe in you” makes the difference? Or do teams really just have that much faith in their process and draft board?

(I used Scott, Hutchinson and Iosivas in this example because The Draft Network had second ground grades on Hyatt and those three receivers)

Ed says: Derick, I’m confused. Are you saying they should have drafted all three of Scott, Hutchinson and Iosivas? Or, just taken one of those players later? Either way, the Giants are going to have plenty of competition for both roster spots and playing time at wide receiver. On paper, they have a surplus of NFL-caliber players at wide receiver.

If you have ever read the ‘Big Blue View rules for draft success’ you know that I support the idea of trading down more often than you trade up. There are, though, times when trading up is OK. Here is what the rules say:

“When is it OK to move up? First and foremost, if you are moving for a guy you believe will be a franchise quarterback. If you are moving for a player at another position you believe is a franchise-changer or the one piece you need to put you over the top and into the Super Bowl, that is OK. Also, if you have accumulated extra picks via trading down or accumulating compensatory picks perhaps then you can use that flexibility to target a player or two in the middle rounds.”

I should probably amend the rules to eliminate the “middle rounds” reference.

Every GM or former GM will tell you draft picks are capital. That is why GMs love to accumulate extra ones — because when they do it gives them options. They can simply pick more players, which is what GM Joe Schoen did in 2022. Or, they can use that capital to go get a player or players they feel can be difference makers for them. That’s what Schoen did this time.

The Giants ended up with three players some thought would go in Round 1 in the top 73 picks. I’m not sure what there is to complain about. Will Schoen be right about Banks and Hyatt? Time will tell. I applaud the effort, though. The Giants believe Banks and Hyatt can be difference makers, and that’s something they need if they are going to compete with the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.

As for the three receivers you mentioned, I really like Tyler Scott. No one, though, thought Scott was a first-round type player. Hutchinson and Iosivas were selected in Round 6.

ctscan123 asks: Like many Giants fans, I have been more satisfied with this off season than any I can remember. From signing Jones to a reasonable contract and not overpaying Barkley to a value meets need free agent class and draft it has all seemed very professional, purposeful and rational.

If I were going to nit pick, my only gripes would be the lack of depth at ILB and the loss of Love. What about you? What is your least favorite move or lack there of so far this off season? How big a deal do you think it is in what is reliably a weakest link proposition? Can you imagine it being addressed before the season?

Ed says: CT, I’m not sure I have a ‘least favorite’ draft decision. There are things I might wish had played out differently, but I have expressed my support for the two decisions to trade up, and certainly understand the choices Joe Schoen made.

I would have liked it had Zay Flowers fallen to the Giants, but I also thought Tae Banks would be a great get for the Giants. By 2024, he might be their best cornerback. I was a Joe Tippmann guy, but feel good about John Michael Schmitz, as well.

There is an opportunity cost to any decision that you make, and the trades cost the Giants picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. It might have been nice to have the pick at No. 128 that the Giants gave up to go get Jalin Hyatt, but then they wouldn’t have Hyatt.

I enter every offseason and every draft reminding people that every perceived hole or weakness can’t be fixed in one offseason or one draft.

Vincent Moody asks: Hi, my question is about the Giants third pick, Jalin Hyatt. There are some questioning his ability to thrive in a NFL offense and run NFL routes due to the offense he played in during college. I don’t follow college football much, but how was the Tennessee offense that much different from anyone else’s? And if it was, and allowed them to put up big numbers and easy receptions, why don’t more people incorporate elements of it? And now that he is on the Giants, how hard can it be for a fast, talented athlete to learn new routes?

Ed says: Vincent, let’s start with why the Tennessee offense is so much different than what NFL teams run. The Athletic did a fantastic breakdown of this last fall. If you have a subscription, it’s worth the time to gain an understanding. If not, let me summarize some of the key differences.

  • The Volunteers play fast, snapping the ball in less time than almost every other college football team.
  • The entire width of the field is used, with two wide receivers — and sometimes more — aligned outside the numbers. NFL teams don’t do that. The idea is that the wider the split the more likely you are to get a one-on-one matchup, even vs. zone coverage.
  • Most of the time there is really one wide receiver in the pass route. If that is a receiver to the quarterback’s right, the receivers on the left won’t even bother to get off the line of scrimmage. They aren’t part of the play.
  • There are two receivers on each side. The one who is not the “tagged” target, just runs down the field to get his defender out of the way.
  • The “tagged” or targeted receivers don’t run the traditional route tree. They generally run a go route, a slant or post based on coverage, or a hitch if they can’t get even or on top of a cornerback.
  • Quarterbacks in this system have the one and only one place they are supposed to throw the football. That’s why watching Hendon Hooker frustrated NFL evaluators. He wasn’t reading defenses. He wasn’t even reading half the field. He was locking on to and reading the decision made by one receiver. If that throw wasn’t available, he just ran.

I’m sure that elements of this system will creep into the NFL. They probably have already in terms of stacked formations and a few other things.

Jerry Panza asks: Ed, it seems our receiver room is now overcrowded. I’m pretty stoked over Jalin Hyatt, though. My two-part question about Bryce Ford-Wheaton is this. Given that the Giants gave this big kid guaranteed $200+ K and a $20K signing bonus, is this a premonition he will be on the 53-man roster. Also, I read it’s a guarantee he is at least on the practice squad but he can still be plucked off the practice squad, can’t he?

Ed says: Another Bryce Ford-Wheaton question! I figured the kid would draw some curiosity from Giants fans.

Let me say this — just because the Giants guaranteed Ford-Wheaton $236,000 (a full year’s practice squad salary of $216,000 and a $20,000 signing bonus) does not mean he is guaranteed anything else. Except a chance.

Ford-Wheaton is not guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster. He is not guaranteed a spot on the 16-player practice squad, either. The Giants aren’t going to keep the kid just because they guaranteed him a practice squad salary — that money is still basically inconsequential to an NFL team in terms of cash or salary cap.

If he is good enough, he will stick around. If he isn’t, he won’t. And, yes, if he does stick on the practice squad he could be offered a spot on another team’s 53-man roster during the season. He has the standard three-year, $2.715 million undrafted free agent contract every other UDFA signed, albeit with the guaranteed money.

Jon Valbert asks: With the Lawrence’s new contract the Giants now have $5+ million available. Where should they spend it? Or should they wait to see who goes down in preseason? There are still plenty of experienced free agents who would love to sign for $5M or less. I’m still worried about ILB/strong safety. Also there’s usually a lot of carnage at running back.

Ed says: Jon, why do they have to spend it now? In all honesty, they would be foolish to go shopping at this point. They will need more than the $5.674 million Over The Cap now shows them with to get through the season. Some of that will go to the rookie class. They will need money to sign players when guys get hurt, or maybe to sign a player or two who become available as free agents after teams make final cuts at the end of the preseason.

That money can’t be burning a hole in Joe Schoen’s pocket. That, really, is only part of what he will need for what families might call a ‘rainy day fund.’

Mark Cicio asks: I’m glad the Giants extended Dex and are working with others to clear more cap space. It is obvious how necessary that is. But it appears they seem not to be concerned with approaching Williams or Jackson, yet they have some of the largest contracts on the team. My thoughts are...

1. This will be the last year for Williams with the Giants, as his age (and the amount of resources being spent on that position) may not be the best use of cap space.

2. Being as CB is a premium position in a passing league, not extending a quality corner in Adoree would be surprising, and he is at an age where he should still have a number of quality years ahead of him. I know we drafted Banks, but he is still a rookie and having two (hopefully) quality corners is virtually a must on defense.

Your thoughts on these two players and how the Giants are handling their contracts? What would you do if you were GM?

Ed says: Mark, I would do exactly what the Giants have done with the contracts for both players at this point. Nothing. If it is at all possible, I think the Giants will try to get through the season without touching either contract, and figure out how they want to proceed when the season is over. I would do the same. Whether that will be possible, I don’t know. Let’s look at each player.

Leonard Williams

Williams’ $32.26 million cap hit in 2023 is an albatross for the Giants. They would be in a much better financial position if they were able to bring that number down.

Bringing the cap hit down, though, requires a contract extension. I don’t think the Giants want to do that right now. If I were the GM, I know I wouldn’t. Williams is a nice player, but he’s not a superstar. He has one double-digit sack season and one Pro Bowl appearance in eight seasons.

Williams, to his credit, has been a durable player who has played nearly 6,500 defensive snaps over his career. That is A LOT of pounding. A neck injury forced Williams to miss games for the first time in his career last season.

I have no inside knowledge regarding the health of Williams’ neck, but those injuries can be serious and long-lasting. If I were the Giants I would want to be sure Williams’ neck is OK.

The other thing is that as players age they break down more often, and need more rest even if they are healthy. Before I would even think about signing Williams beyond 2023, I would want to see how his 2023 season goes. I think that is the approach the Giants would like to take.

Adoree’ Jackson

Jackson’s three-year, $39 million contract has been re-negotiated a oouple of times, if memory serves. He carries a $19.076 million cap hit in 2023, second-most of any cornerback.

Jackson is paid like a star. Is that really what he is? That is debatable.

I think the Giants want to take the same ‘wait-and-see’ approach with Jackson that they do with Williams. To me, that might have as much to do with first-round pick Deonte Banks as it does with Jackson.

If Banks shows in 2023 that he could be the Giants’ No. 1 cornerback, would it really be a good investment to give Jackson a long-term deal at No. 1 cornerback money entering his age 29 season? Maybe not.

Remember, the Giants will still have Banks, Aaron Robinson, Cor’Dale Flott, Nick McCloud and 2023 sixth-round pick Tre Hawkins III on rookie contracts entering the 2024 season. Plus another draft to add more talent.

Maybe all of those young players allow them to use the money it would take to keep Jackson elsewhere.

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