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What if Joe Schoen had conducted the 2021 draft for the Giants?

Would the Giants be better or worse today? It’s not as easy as you think.

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

The rubber will soon hit the road for the New York Giants’ 2023 aspirations. Before we know it, the Giants and Dallas Cowboys will be facing off in the most meaningful opening game the franchise has played in at least a decade.

In the meantime, though, there’s still a little window in which to have some fun. Recently, assistant GM Brandon Brown explained in depth the exhaustive, leave-no-stone-unturned process that GM Joe Schoen and the staff he has put together have implemented to improve the Giants’ roster this off-season. (That includes the hiring of Brown away from the Eagles, which angered Howie Roseman so much that he got the NFL rules changed.) Brown’s days as a Giant are surely numbered: He is bound to be hired as a GM by some team soon, maybe next offseason. Of course when he does, Schoen will collect two third-round comp picks for his trouble.

The process that Brown described explains how the Giants came out of the draft with perhaps seven players who may play significant roles as rookies. The contrast with 2022, when Schoen hadn’t yet fully put his staff together and admitted he didn’t yet completely understand what his coaches were looking for, is stark.

We’ve yet to see the 2023 draftees play in a real game, so it’s premature to declare the draft a success, but the arrows are pointing upward. We can only imagine where the Giants might be if this front office were in place sooner. So before reality sets in and while everything looks like it’s coming up roses, let’s do that. The year before Schoen arrived, the Giants had what might be the most consequential draft in their long history. Let’s ask the question: What if the current front office (and coaching staff) had been in place for the 2021 draft?

It’s not totally unreasonable. Former GM Dave Gettleman was already under fire by 2021 for having drafted a running back at No. 2 in 2018, a quarterback no one saw as first round material at No. 6 in 2019 (in addition to trading up for a cornerback who was terrible), and seemingly the worst of the four big offensive tackles at No. 4 in 2020. Most likely, though, ownership would have stayed in-house for a replacement and not brought in an outsider like Schoen. Furthermore, Schoen probably wouldn’t have taken the job had he not been given the power to hire his own head coach, and Joe Judge had considerable capital after coming within a Nate Sudfeld-for-Jalen Hurts substitution of making the playoffs.

Anyway, let’s imagine that Schoen, Brown, Brian Daboll, and the rest of the coaching, scouting, and personnel staffs and procedures were already in place at the start of 2021 and try to redo the 2021 draft through the current front office’s and coaching staff’s eyes, just as a thought experiment. (I know, I know, the butterfly effect, any changes would have impacted future things in ways that can’t be foreseen - this is just for fun.)

Would Schoen have traded up with Dallas to get DeVonta Smith?

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia
DeVonta Smith wins the 2018 National Championship game in overtime on a pass play called by Brian Daboll.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It was a shock that the Cowboys would make such an important trade with a division rival, but they did, exchanging the No. 10 pick with the Eagles for No. 12 and a third-round pick. This allowed the Eagles to jump the Giants for wide receiver Devonta Smith, whom Gettleman coveted.

Schoen showed us he’s not afraid to trade up to get a player he (and his coaches) want when he went after Deonte Banks. The current regime also values speedy wide receivers and showed they’d be willing to trade up to get the guy they want when they did so to grab Jalin Hyatt. Would Schoen have wanted to ensure getting Smith after Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Kyle Pitts were all off the board? We’d have to imagine so. After all, Daboll was the offensive coordinator who called the Tagovailoa-to-Smith touchdown pass in overtime that won the national championship for Alabama over Georgia in 2018.

There were concerns over Smith’s slight build coming out of college, but he and Schoen draftee Jalin Hyatt are identical in height and Hyatt is only 15 pounds heavier. Schoen draftee Cor’Dale Flott is only five pounds heavier. He probably would have taken Smith.

Would Schoen have traded down with Chicago?

NFL: Chicago Bears Minicamp Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Howie Roseman would have beaten Schoen to the punch with a better trade offer to Dallas and Schoen would have had to stay at No. 11. There were four possible choices at that point: Trade down, or draft one of Justin Fields, Micah Parsons, or Rashawn Slater.

It was never seriously discussed that the Giants might select Fields themselves. The jury is still out on Fields, whose running talent is off the charts but who has not been an accurate passer or good reader of defenses as a pro. Schoen would have inherited Daniel Jones after two inconclusive seasons and felt no commitment to him, and unlike 2022, when he did inherit Jones but the draft was weak in quarterbacks, he would have had a real option in 2021 to move on from Jones. Schoen was part of a Buffalo front office that gambled on another athletic but inaccurate quarterback, Josh Allen, to replace a capable but unspectacular starter (Tyrod Taylor) and saw him become a top five NFL quarterback. He may very well have made that pick rather than trade down. The one sure thing is that he would have considered the possibility in advance, would have researched possible strategies, and would not have been waylaid by Roseman’s surprise move.

Giants fans generally don’t care about Fields. Mostly they lament that Micah Parsons is not a Giant. Some wish Rashawn Slater was a Giant. Would Schoen’s staff have figured out that Parsons was miscast as an off-ball linebacker and could be a transcendent edge defender? Would they have been wary of Parson’s off-field issues and his big personality? The fact that he drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux, another big personality with a reputation for taking plays off, suggests he wouldn’t have been scared off by Parsons’ bluster. The accusations from his Penn State days might have been the type of red flag that the Giants’ current front office uses to disqualify potential draftees, though. Would he have seen Slater as an NFL tackle, which some did not at the time? Would he have taken Slater and tried to move him to guard or right tackle? Or would Daboll and Bobby Johnson have moved Andrew Thomas to right tackle after his difficult rookie season to accommodate Slater at left tackle? It’s hard to know.

Would Schoen have drafted Kadarius Toney?

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One thing is for sure: Schoen must have admired the trade-down that Gettleman did wind up making. Trade value charts had the Giants as a big winner in that trade. That moment may in the future be looked upon as a turning point in Giants history. The immediate return by Gettleman on the day of the draft - Kadarius Toney plus a later trade-up for Aaron Robinson - was a disaster, although there is yet hope that ARob, still on the PUP list, may someday be a healthy and productive player.

What Schoen did with what he inherited, though, looks pretty amazing at the moment. Here are the players the Giants currently have as the end result of that trade, which has taken two full years of maneuvers by Schoen to unfold: Darren Waller, Evan Neal, Daniel Bellinger, Tre Hawkins III, and ARob.

Let’s assume that Schoen would have made the same trade-down Gettleman did. He almost certainly would not have drafted Toney with the No. 20 pick, though. Toney’s injury history might have been enough to dissuade them. If not, surely the behind-the-scenes factors that caused Schoen and Daboll to sour on Toney would have been identified by the Giants’ player evaluation process long before the draft, and there is a good chance that Toney might not have even been on their big board at all.

If he had to make the No. 20 pick himself, what player would Schoen have taken? A good guess is edge defender Gregory Rousseau, who was taken at No. 30 by...the Buffalo Bills. Schoen was assistant GM in the front office that scouted Rousseau enough to select him in Round 1, so there’s a good chance Schoen might have snatched him away from Buffalo. Rousseau has become an excellent edge defender in his second season.

With Rousseau on board, Schoen would have probably not prioritized an edge defender in Round 2. It’s often forgotten that Gettleman made another trade-down in Round 2, this one with Miami. The Giants traded No. 42 to get Miami’s No. 50 pick plus a 2022 third round pick (which Schoen used to draft Cor’Dale Flott).

Moving down did not hurt the Giants at all. None of the players selected from No. 42 to No. 49 have been very good. The Schoen-Daboll Giants have shown, though, that they are willing to draft a center as high as Round 2, so maybe rather than Azeez Ojulari, center Creed Humphrey (taken No. 63) would be a Giant instead.

The bottom line

Scenario 1 (trade-up with Dallas or stay put at No. 11): We could be looking at a Giants team today with one of DeVonta Smith, Justin Fields, Micah Parsons, or Rashawn Slater as a starter, but without Waller, Neal, Bellinger, Hawkins, and ARob.

Scenario 2 (trade-down from No. 11 to No. 20 with same return): We could have a Giants team with Gregory Rousseau and Creed Humphrey, but without Waller, Ojulari, Hawkins, and Flott (and presumably with someone other than John Michael Schmitz - perhaps the Giants would have taken Hyatt in Round 2 and not traded up in Round 3).

Giants fans, which would you favor, either of these or the roster the Giants actually have for 2023? The reason it’s not so simple is that Joe Schoen made lemonade out of that lemon of a 2021 No. 1 pick. But without the lemon, you don’t get the lemonade.


Which would be the strongest 2023 Giants roster?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Scenario 1
    (158 votes)
  • 7%
    Scenario 2
    (98 votes)
  • 79%
    The actual current roster
    (1003 votes)
1259 votes total Vote Now