Long-time readers of the GBN will know that GBN Editor and Publisher Grumpy Lindsay is a life-long fan of the New York Giants. In fact, the GBN was originally intended to be a Giants-oriented draft site, hence the Blue in Great Blue North. However, while the site soon went league-wide Grumpy remains steadfast Giants’ supporter and from time to time publishes his thoughts on the state of the Giants and especially their draft process.
We stand on OG for thee!!!
We really don’t think the Giants will go into the 2017 draft looking to select an offensive linemen with one of their early picks. (To make a long story short, the Giants obviously have some issues up front, especially on the right side of the line; however, the more likely scenario is that they once again try and address those particular issues in free agency. What we do expect the Giants to do with those early picks is address the pass rush, which really hasn’t been all that close to being anywhere near at a championship level, as well as look to add another receiver – either a TE or WR or both. But more on that as we get closer to the draft).
All that said, if the Giants do end up drafting somewhere in the 20s – if the draft were held this week they would select 26th – we certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the Giants take an offensive lineman simply because the value was too good to pass on. To that end, Giants’ fans might want to check out a couple of really good OG candidates who could be in the discussion at that point whose teams don’t get a lot of national air time, but will be on prime TV this weekend. In fact, a pretty good case can be made that Indiana OG Dan Feeney (#67, 6-5, 310) is the best offensive lineman in the country this year. Feeney and the Hoosiers will be in Michigan to play the 4th ranked Wolverines at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday. Feeney will actually make his third start of the year at RT against Michigan after making 41 starts at OG. And in those 43 career starts covering over 3,300 snaps, Feeney, who is also a rugged run blocker, allowed just one sack.
While Feeney has been on NFL scouts’ radar for several years now, almost nobody has heard of Washington State junior OG Cody O’Connell (#76, 6-7, 355) until very recently. He’ll be featured when the resurgent Cougars, who lead the Pac-12 North division play at resurgent Colorado, which leads the South, on Saturday, also at 3:30 PM ET on Fox. O’Connell is a massive guy who literally does block out the sun – his teammates refer to him affectionately as ‘The Continent’ and he has been rocketing up draft boards around the league. But he also moves well for a big guy and gets lots of reps pass blocking in the wide-open WSU offense.
Giants bye week review
With the Giants on their bye week it’s as good a time as any to take of the state of the team heading into the second half of the season. On the one hand, the Giants have to be happy enough with their 4-3 record that has them very much in the thick of the NFC playoff chase. In particular, they have to be happy enough with their current record based on the fact that they have played one of the tougher schedules in the entire league to date. Indeed, their opponents through the first 7 weeks of the schedule have a combined W-L % of 58%*. The Giants also have to be more than just a little relieved that they are currently above .500 despite the fact that they have a net turnover figure of minus 7, which for the mathematically challenged works out to an average of down one turnover every game! And that’s giving one’s self a pretty big mountain to climb.
The Giants also have to be pretty happy with the way the defense has played through the first 7 weeks of the season. The pass rush still isn’t where the Giants would like it – they are 28th in the NFL with just 9 sacks – but overall they are 14th in total defense and 10th in points per game allowed. What they have been getting on D is some Pro Bowl-type performances by guys like SS Landon Collins and CBs Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; in addition, they have gotten plays from a whole bunch of players in the back seven as the LBs and DBs have been rallying to the ball and tackling well.
Getting the D back to being at least competitive of course was part of the Giants master plan prior to the start of the season. Combine that with last year’s explosive offense and the thinking was the team should be very much back in contention. However, while the defense has done its part, the offense obviously has not. The Giants are currently ranked only 20th in total offense and just 25th in scoring so far this fall. And over the past 4 games its actually gotten worse as they averaged just 16 first downs per game over the last month, while the running game has all but disappeared averaging less than 50 yards per game and just 2.8 yards per carry in that stretch.
Giants’ head coach Ben McAdoo has promised to a full review of the entire offense during the break including everything from the play-calling to the overall scheme. To help him out, we spent the past couple of days reviewing the game tapes from the past few weeks and a few things kind of jumped out.
First, Eli just has not been very comfortable in the pocket literally since the 3rd quarter of the Washington game when he took a real pop in the ribs. In particular, Eli just hasn’t been setting his feet; he’s dancing around and looks like he is bailing on just about every throw instead of stepping into his passes. As a result, too many of his pass attempts are thrown off his back foot resulting in a lot of high passes, less velocity and less accuracy.
One certainly gets the feeling that Eli really isn’t trusting his pocket these days. And while the offensive line has taken its lumps when it comes to whom or what is to blame for the Giants current offensive, the bottom line is that while there have been opposing defensive linemen around Eli a lot this year, the fact is he really hasn’t actually been hit all that much. Indeed, the Giants rank fifth in the league in fewest sacks allowed and third in fewest QB hits overall.
One adjustment that McAdoo could consider in that regard is to increase Eli’s drops. Right now the Giants appear to be running almost exclusively a three-step drop when Eli lines up under center and five when he works out of the shotgun so it should be possible to give him an extra step or two to allow a little more room to step up into throws and to find a check-down receiver if needed.
The bigger issue we noticed, though, revolves around the routes Giants receivers are running. Indeed, we have been trying to come up with a word to summarize what we were seeing and the only words that easily came to mind were along the lines of awful, bizarre, and incomprehensible. They just don’t seem to make a ton of sense.
For starters, the Giants’ routes almost all appear to be individual, vertical routes with little co-ordination. Against the Rams, for example, we saw only one route that could loosely by described as a rub route, while there was nothing that even resembled a pick or a clear-out route. There were also very few crossing routes.
In fact, too often routes seemed to be actually working at cross purposes as secondary receivers ended up bringing defenders to the ball rather than away from it. One example of that that kind of stood was the outlet pass to Rainey that went for a loss near the end of the first half. The Giants had two WRs bunched on the wide side of the field and what should have worked theoretically was that those two guys go downfield and take the defense with them allowing the RB to curl out of the backfield and into what should be some space. However, both Giants receivers just went up field 5-6 yards, turned around and stopped making it very easy for the DBs covering them to come up and nail Rainey in the backfield.
Ironically, the other play that really rankled was actually the Giants key offensive play of the game. After Collins made his second pick early in the 4th quarter the Giants had a third and three inside the Rams 25-yard line. They lined up Odell, Shephard and Roger Lewis in a bunch on the left side. Now the theory of bunching receivers is that two go tearing downfield taking their covers with them while the third takes a very different angle and forces his defender to both have to fight through the traffic as well as potentially have to go a long distance to have any chance of making play. (On an aside note if McAdoo want to figure out how it’s actually supposed to work they might think about watching some Patriots’ tapes to see how they find ways get Edelman and Gronk free on very simple crossing routes out of a bunched set.)
What the Giants did, though, was have the two inside receivers (Shepard and Lewis) run 5-yard outs (and stop which is a recurring theme when watching Giants’ receivers). Meanwhile, Odell headed upfield alone and was immediately picked up by the CB assigned to him who was clean without any traffic to work through; in fact, #13 was actually then doubled by a safety working over the top. Odell was able to outjump them to make the completion at the 6-yard line that set up the game winning TD. However, the bottom line of a set of bunched receivers is that you throw to a guy that comes open, not somebody who’s doubled! Otherwise, what’s the point.
All that leads to a bigger question about the Giants’ overall offensive scheme. Indeed, right now, the Giants’ offense looks like something put together by a committee. And one could take it a step further and suggest that the game plan the past few weeks was something put together by a committee that didn’t have a quorum!
Certainly we have been mightily disappointed in new head coach Ben McAdoo to date. If there was one thing that drove us crazy during the Coughlin years was that Giants ‘did what they did because that’s what they did.’ Coughlin had his system and players were made to fit the system. If they didn’t fit they didn’t play. And if something didn’t work then you just worked harder at it. During the past couple of years, though, we heard a lot from offensive co-ordinator McAdoo that what he didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into one system, that he wanted to take advantage of the skills of his players and find ways to create mismatches. However, having takeover as the head coach McAdoo has morphed into a younger version of Tom Coughlin by running arguably the most vanilla, least creative offense in the league that has used the same base set on just about every and who’s only answer to the Giants’ offensive woes seems to be ‘we have to establish the running game!’
Problem in that regard is that this Giants is unlikely to ever run the ball all that well. The OL isn’t particularly strong drive blocking, they don’t have a FB on the roster, none of the TEs can block (in fact it does not appear that any of the TEs can do much of anything particularly well), while they don’t have a true #1 feature back that can make can the jump-cut into a secondary whole and make yardage on his own.
In fact, what McAdoo is going to have to do is identify what the team actually does well and build around that. And what this team is built to do is throw the ball. Indeed, the strength of the team is a deep receiver corps featuring three really good WRs – including one great one – along with some decent complimentary receivers. Roger Lewis, for example, has gotten many snaps, but has made plays when given the chance. And the fact that Dwayne Harris has only had a handful of snaps is another real poser after he caught 36 passes including 4 for scores as a late-season injury replacement last year. One would have thought that if nothing else the Giants would want to get him 5-6 touches a game on bubble screens, reverses and crossing routes and the like just to give defenses something else to think about. Instead, they appear to be paying him $3.6M per year to down KOs in the end zone and return the occasional punt.
Bottom line it’s just not that hard to make the case that the most effective base offense for the Giants to run is likely going to be a 4-receiver set. In fact, it is really perplexing why they haven’t run any 4-WR sets at all this year. Even on 3rd and longs all they have done is flex one of their TEs out wide and had him running routes literally as an extra WR. If you are going to do that why not use an actual WR there who can actually run and catch! Meanwhile, we wouldn’t be the first to suggest that the Giants’ TEs – and especially designated starter Larry Donnell who just may be the worst starter if not the worst player in the league period – are contributing next to nothing on other downs too.
The counter argument, of course, that many fans are going to make is if you don’t use a TE – and there is no rule in the NFL that says a team has to have a TE on the field, we checked – who is going to block. Who is going to block who? On the one hand, the Giants’ TEs aren’t blocking anyone anyway! At gthe same time, if a puts four wides on the field, the defense almost by definition has to counter by putting out a 4th corner. They also almost by definition have to put both safeties over the top. That means they’ll have just 5 guys to bring up into the box. And that should give you some opportunities to take your quick RBs like Rainey and Perkins and try and pop them through the LOS for some big gainers.
Speaking of the RBs, one of the Giants other strengths is that they have three guys – Jennings, Rainey and Perkins – who are all very good receivers and they need to be more involved in the passing game as more than just check-down outlets. In fact, both Rainey and Perkins appear to be quick, elusive backs in space with big-play potential. SO GET THEM THE BALL IN SPACE!
In the end, though, as noted above, the strength of the Giants’ offense are the WRs. And that’s where the offense has to start, especially Odell Beckham. In fact, it was kind of frustrating watching the tapes of the past 2-3 games and seeing him lined up on the outside with the corner lined up 8-9 yards off the LOS and going into full back peddle as soon as the ball was snapped. The defenses were literally conceding a 5-6 yard pitch and catch on almost every play, but for whatever reason Eli hardly ever looked that way. However, if they are simply going to give you those 5-6 yards you have to take them. Certainly seems potentially more productive than hitting one’s head against the wall running for 1-2 yards, especially on first down. Then if the corner moves up you go over the top. And if the other team is doubling Beckham then that means almost by definition, there has to be a mismatch somewhere else that you have to take advantage of.
(*Just a note on the remaining strength of schedule. The Giants really have to try and make some hay over the next month as their next 4 opponents have a winning record of under .300. That’s not a misprint as the get the one-win Bears and winless Browns on back-to-back dates on November 20th and 27th respectively. Indeed, the Giants almost by definition need to win three of the next four to have any realistic shot at the post-season as all 5 of their final opponents have winning records in a group that has an overall winning percentage of 64%. Ouch)
Chicken Little on the prowl
Judging by the emails we have received from our fellow Giants’ fans this week in the wake of Sunday’s loss to Washington, one would be thinking that while the world as we know it isn’t actually about to end, but the season is just about done! However, this is one of those times one really likes to be able to tell one’s friends to hold their water. While there is no such thing as a good loss in the NFL, there are bad losses like when you lose by three touchdowns to a sub-.500 team at home. Sunday’s loss to the Dreadthings just wasn’t that type of loss. No question the Giants missed a chance to really bury a division rival. Indeed, this game had ‘trap’ written all over it; Washington came to town as a desperate team, the Giants clearly weren’t very crisp on the day and they ended up minus in turnovers and yet were still in a position to win the game at the end. In fact, while the Giants were far from their best, one could even make the case that the Giants could just as easily have won by a couple of scores.
In the end, the difference in the game was the fact that the Giants finished the day minus-2 in turnovers, while they gave back a number of big plays as a result of several uncharacteristic, bone-headed penalties. Of the two, the turnover issue appears to be major issues. Indeed, it is impressive enough that the Giants are 2-1 despite being minus-6 in turnovers through the first three games. For the record, that puts the Giants in a tie for 30th in the league in net turnovers. What is a tad disconcerting is that through those first three games, the Giants defense has not produced a single turnover. In fact, the Giants only turnover over so far this year was the fumble recovery recorded by the special teams on Sunday against Washington. The funny thing about turnovers, though, is that they tend to be random and hopefully will start to even out in the next few weeks.
The other issue that has engendered a ton of mail this week has been ‘what’s wrong with the Giants’ offense?’ It’s a good question that I am sure has new head coach Ben McAdoo losing a little sleep over these days. On the one hand, the Giants have moved the ball; indeed, they are currently ranked 6th in the league in total offense, but that just hasn’t translated into points as the Giants are rated just 22nd in PPG at just a tad over 21 per outing.
The sense we have right now is that the offense still looks to be searching for an identity. Indeed, right now it likes something cobbled together by a committee. For the most part, the offense looks like a spread, but too often the play selection says something else. For whatever reason, the Giants really have not been running many of the quick-hitting, possession-type routes normally associated with a spread offense, especially one with 3-4 (and maybe even 5) really good YAC spread offense receivers.
At the same time, the Giants appear to have spent an inordinate number of plays to date trying to get a run game going that too often just doesn’t look like it is there. Consider these numbers: the Giants are currently ranked second in the entire NFL in yards per pass attempt, but they only rank 18th in the actual number of passes thrown. In contrast, they rank 21st in yards per rush, but are 13th in rushing attempts. And the reality is that this Giants team isn’t likely to ever be a great running team. The offensive line is considerably better at pass protection than drive blocking; they don’t have a FB on the roster; neither of their TEs can block; and even when Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen are healthy, they don’t have a true feature back capable of making yards on their own. Of course, what they do now with Vereen out for the year and Jennings sidelined and a RB committee of Darkwa, Perkins and Rainey may change their thinking.
What is going to be interesting to see going forward is what, if any, adjustments McAdoo makes to the scheme. Indeed, if one starts to channel one’s inner-Bill Belichek and ask what are the Giants’ strengths on offense the answer is pretty simple, a really good veteran QB and maybe the best 1-2-3 WR combination in the league. That’s where it has to start. Indeed, there are very few teams in the league that put 3 healthy CBs on the field to match up with Odell, Victor and Sterling Shepard, but we really haven’t seen the Giants take much advantage of that to date. Against Washington, for example, Victor Cruz was targeted just three times despite the fact he was in single coverage against a #4 corner all game long. For the record, Victor saw fewer balls than each of Will Tye, Larry Donnell and Shane Vereen and had just one more than back-up RB Bobby Rainey who barely played. Ridiculous given that Victor averaged 23 yards on those three targets. (On a related note we are also still trying to figure out in just what universe does a slow TE covered by a CB become the primary receiver running a seam route down in the red zone in a tight intra-divisional game, but that’s another story!)
Right now, McAdoo looks like he is trying to force an offense based on what he ran in Green Bay and last year with Coughlin and the Giants. But the current Giants just don’t really have that kind of personnel. It’s not really Giants football, but this team is built to spread the field, force opponents to match up and throw the ball all over the lot. Then throw in the odd run to keep the other guys honest, but otherwise it looks like it really should be damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!
A Giants’ eye to the future: We chose not to rag on the Giants’ TEs this year (other than the reference to the Tye pick above) as they have been
ragged on enough, but it’s not hard to make the case that they have been a drag to date. Bottom line is if guys like Tye and Donnell aren’t going to block much – and they don’t – then they have to average more than 5-6 yards a reception – and they haven’t! It’s too late to change personnel at the position this year – although we would note that there is in fact no rule in the NFL that mandates that an offense actually has to have a TE on the field EVERY play and that the Giants have other options as the 4th receiver – but it certainly will not be a surprise if they look to upgrade at the position at the coming draft, especially given that TE will likely be one of the strengths in 2017.
And several of the top TE prospects will be on display in this weekend’s big college games when 6 top-ten teams play each other. Michigan’s Jake Butt (#88, 6-5, 250), arguably the best two-way TE in college football, for example, will be front and center when the Wolverines host unbeaten Wisconsin in a 3:30 game on ABC on Saturday. (And speaking of Michigan TEs, UM back-up Tyrone Wheatley IS the son of the former Giants’ RB and first-round pick of the same name). Then later on Saturday night (8 PM ET; ABC), superstar QBs Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson will be featured when Clemson plays Louisville in one of the most anticipated games of the regular season, but keep an eye on Tigers’ TE Jordan Leggett (#16, 6-5, 255), another very good second-day type prospect at the position.
What a difference a year makes! What a difference a point makes! A year ago the Giants reeled out of a devastating last-second loss in their season-opener in Dallas that somehow set the tone for a second straight disappointing 6-10 record. And it appeared that the Giants just might be in for another heart-breaker in Dallas with the Cowboys edging toward a possible game-winning last-play FG. But finally the football gods smiled on the Giants when Dallas WR Terrance Williams inadvertently zigged upfield with just seconds on the clock and the Cowboys out of timeouts rather than zagging toward the sideline where he likely would have been able to get out of bounds and give Dan Bailey at least a shot at a 60-something yard FG. And the way Bailey effortlessly nailed 56 and 54-yarders early in the game it certainly would have been in his range. But he didn’t get the chance and the Giants are 1-0 to start the season for the first time since 2010.
And while any road win in the NFL is a good one, especially one in Dallas, this one wasn’t particularly pretty. In fact, anyone looking at just the post-games stats would almost automatically assume the Giants took one on the chin. The Giants had no sacks and didn’t force a turnover, while the Cowboys had more total yards, 6 more first downs, converted 10 of 17 3rd downs and ate up almost 37 minutes on the clock. The difference in the game, though, was that the Giants turned their only three drives of the game into TDs, while Dallas was settling for FGs.
As noted, though, style points don’t count in the NFL. And they especially don’t count on the road. That said there was a somewhat disquieting aspect to the win that went beyond the basic stats. We were really expecting a major difference in tone and creativity in the Giants’ overall scheme and game plan with young bucks Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnuolo calling the shots with conservative old Tom Coughlin now in retirement. Didn’t see much different though.
Indeed, with a few minor exceptions – and one major one – the Giants’ game plan looked like it was straight out of the Coughlin playbook. On offense, for example, we were expecting the Giants to throw a whole bunch of different sets against the undermanned Cowboys’ defense, including multiple 4-, and even 5-WR packages and force them to scramble to matchup. Instead, with the exception of a couple of snaps at the end when they snuck back-up C Brett Jones in as blocking FB, the Giants literally played the entire game in a 3-wide, one TE set. In fact, they literally played the entire game with the same three receivers: Odell, Victor and rookie Sterling Shepard.
At the same time, one saw very little of the kind of plays that one might normally expect from a creative spread offense. Indeed, one probably didn’t need any fingers at all to count the number of bubble screens and underneath clearing routes the Giants executed against the Cowboys. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Dwayne Harris got only one measly snap in the base offense. Maybe the Giants are saving him for his special teams’ skills, but one would think that simply having a guy like Harris with his open-field skills on the actual field would cause an NFL defense a whole lot more consternation than the stiffs the Giants were rotating at TE when that defense already had to account for #s 13, 80 and 87. (more on that below)
On the other side of the ball, one would have expected the Giants to come out and throw every look possible at the Cowboys with rookie 4th round pick Dak Prescott starting at QB. Instead, they played it very close to the vest for the better part of the first half, rushing just 4 and dropping into a moderately soft zone that Prescott pretty much picked apart. The big change though from the Coughlin era, though, was when it became clear that that scheme wasn’t working, Spagnuolo did start to dial up the pressure by bringing extra people and taking away the easy underneath routes such that Prescott indeed looked like a rookie QB for most of the second half.
We were going to grade each position on their performance in Dallas, but on further review just about everybody got a B. So some general observations:
Eli was okay. You want your vet QB to rally the team when needed and Eli did that twice in Dallas, first, leading the team to a key momentum-changing TD early in the second quarter with the Giants down 6-0 and spinning their wheels on both sides of the ball, and then driving them to a game-winning TD with just over 6 minutes to play. At the same time, Eli looked shaky much of the second half after having his first pass after the break picked off. And yeah, the primary culprit on the pick was rookie WR Sterling Shepard, who reportedly gave up on the route, but still there isn’t much excuse for throwing a pick into the chest of a DB who’s on his knees!
The offensive line was okay. For the most part, Eli had time to throw the ball, and while the run game struggled early, there were some nice holes that led to key runs on both the Giants game- winning drive and their final drive that ate up just enough of the clock that Dallas ultimately didn’t have time to get into scoring position at the end. In the end, this unit will likely be better than most fans expect, but it’s still a group the Giants will again look to upgrade in the off-season.
And kudos to RBs Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen who made some nice runs on those final drives. Frustrating, though, that neither really has that extra gear to genuinely stretch defenses. At the same time, we’d also like to see more wheel routes and the like from the Giants’ backs. They are all pretty decent receivers who can do more than just function as outlets.
The defensive line was okay. They did a nice job stuffing the vaunted Dallas running game; indeed, celebrated Cowboys’ rookie RB Zeke Elliott, the 4th player selected at this year’s draft, averaged a measly 2.5 yards per carry and was never factor. At the same time, though, there really wasn’t much of a pass rush from the front four, although Jason Pierre-Paul did get free on a couple of late rushes and forced early releases.
The secondary was pretty good. The unit held Dez Bryant to just 1 catch for 8 yards and while Jason Witten and Cole Beasley combined for 17 of the Cowboys’ 25 reception, they barely averaged 8 yards per catch. And one figures that these guys are only going to get better. Rookie FS Darien Thompson showed some deep range that the Giants haven’t seen in years after taking over from Nat Behre at FS. For his part, Behre will come up and hit people, such that the Giants might start thinking of using a 3-headed monster at safety with Behre playing as the inside the box SS while Landon Collins plays a hybrid safety-LB role.
The one drag we saw in Dallas – and no it wasn’t the OL – were the TEs. Bottom line is that neither Larry Donnell nor Will Tye are very effective blockers. Fact is we have no problem with that, but if your TE isn’t going to block then they have to be a dynamic receiver with the ability to stretch defenses and force defenses to shift resources to cover them. However, while Donnell and Tye are competent enough journeyman receivers who will make some plays, neither is going to scare anybody. Which has us repeating one of pour favorite mantras: there is no rule in the NFL that you actually have to have a TE on the field when you have the ball. Just saying!
In that context it is interesting that while the 2017 draft looks to be relatively weak, one of few the positions of strength will be the TEs. And that almost certainly will have the Giants looking at guys at the position such as Jake Butt of Michigan, Alabama’s O.J. Howard, Evan Engram of Ole Miss, Clemson’s Jordan Leggett, Virginia Tech junior Bucky Hodges, and Jeremy Sprinkle of Arkansas, each of whom has at least some top 50 potential. Note though that while most Giants’ fans likely want a TE that can block, it’s more likely the team will actually be in the market for a talented receiver. If they can also block, great, but if they can’t scheme around it!
Next up: New Orleans at Giants Stadium, Sunday at 1 PM ET.
How the Giants ended up with a second Eli and other notes from the 2016 draft …
We’re still not sure of all the details because we never got the full story from one trusted source, but this is our best take on how the 10th pick went last Thursday based on nuggets of information we have been able to piece together from several different sources. Literally from the time that they went to see Leonard Floyd work out at the Georgia pro day, the Giants only real concern was that someone would try and jump ahead of them to get the guy. And those worries only grew when it became apparent that Myles Jack likely wasn’t going to go before the 10th pick because of concerns about the long-term viability of his surgically repaired knee.
As the Giants pick approached on Thursday they talked to Cleveland about the possibility of moving up to the 8th pick, but there was just no way they were going to outbid Tennessee for that spot once the Titans offered a 3rd this year AND a second in 2017 to move up from the 15th spot. And the angst in the Giants’ room edged up a couple of notches when Tennessee took Jack Conklin. Not that Conklin was ever the Giants’ target with the 10th pick – they were never going to use a top ten selection on a RT – but he was their smokescreen that just maybe Floyd wasn’t their target. They did talk with Tampa Bay about flipping the 9th and 10th picks, but the Buccaneers wanted the Giants third rounder and they just weren’t prepared to part with a premium pick to move up one slot to get a guy who while he had a ton of upside was far from a sure thing.
The Giants also held out some hope that even if someone else moved ahead of them – even Chicago when that trade was announced – it was to get Laremy Tunsil rather than Floyd. They also reportedly felt pretty comfortable about possibly losing out on Floyd because they were very comfortable knowing that even if they didn’t get the latter they would have a choice of two very good corner prospects both of whom would fill arguably the team’s biggest need of a 3rd corner.
In the end, they chose Eli Apple over Vernon Hargreaves in large part because the former has way more upside. He’s bigger, he’s faster, he’s younger and while he’s not quite as quick as Hargreaves, he’s actually very agile for a long corner. And while Hargreaves is more polished, the fact is that he’s not going to get any bigger, while most of the flaws in Apple’s fundamentals can be coached up.
One also doesn’t want to underestimate the size factor. Whoever they drafted at the position this weekend was going to be the presumptive starter as soon as next year and, given that Janoris Jenkins, who they signed in the off-season is also a smallish corner, it meant they would be very small at corner in an era when receivers are getting bigger and bigger if they had gone with Hargreaves.
Still, the Apple pick was a major surprise as he was something of polarizing prospect heading into the draft as there were analysts who some him as the best corner candidate in this draft, while there were others who saw too many flaws in his technique and didn’t think he was more than a mid-to-late first round. In particular, Apple has a reputation of being a little on the grabby side and has to learn to a better job locating that ball. Time will tell!
We also had some initial questions about the 3rd round pick of Darien Thompson who did not test at all well at the combine where he barely got under 4.7 seconds in the 40. However, it turns out that Thompson wasn’t well in Indianapolis and ran much better at his pro day. No question, though, that Thompson was a productive player at Boise State where he had 19 career picks; he’s got really good instincts and ball skills, but has been known to get fooled by pump fakes. And if nothing else, Thompson will head to camp as the Giants biggest, most experienced FS.
On the other hand, one really has to go looking for reasons to dislike any of the Giants’ other picks. Indeed, we were pounding the table for Sterling Shepard when the Giants got on the clock for the 40th pick. Shepard isn’t very big, but he is a quick, fearless inside receiver with great hands and concentration who has the potential to be a great fit in the Ben McAdoo offense. That said, the Giants could very well still be in the market for a bigger veteran free agent receiver to work outside opposite Odell Beckham.
We also note without reservation that Shepard is still a draft pick and like every other draft since 1935 this one was crapshoot. We mention that because the last receiver we pounded the table for with the Giants on the clock in the second round was Reuben Randle! Ouch!
Meanwhile, speaking of potentially great fits in the Giants offense, we actually had TE Jerell Adams on our short list of possible picks in the third round and actually had kind of forgot about him by the 6th. Adams is not a polished receiver who’s likely ever going to catch 100 passes, but he has a unique combination in the fact that he is decent blocker AND can run with the potential to get in the seam and stret5ch defenses. As such, he offers McAdoo the chance to create some real match-up problems for opponents. If the defense has a run defense on the field, the Giants will be able to flex Adams out and see how the defense wants to cover him. Good luck trying to cover him with a LB as there likely aren’t many backers in the league who can run with him. Indeed, opponents likely will have to slide over a safety if Adams goes wide meaning there is one body less to double up on Odell and company. And if the defense goes to a cover package, that’s when you bring Adams back into the line and think run.
Meanwhile, Paul Perkins could be a fun guy to watch this fall as he was one of the most elusive backs in the country the past couple of years as he was one of the most elusive backs in the country the past couple of years. Indeed, Perkins has the vision and agility to give the Giants that ability to jump cut into a secondary that they haven’t had since Tiki packed it in for whatever. For good measure, Perkins is also a willing blocker and better than average receiver who may already be the best all-around back on the roster.
At the same time, the unsung guy on the Giants’ 2016 board may ultimately be LB B.J. Goodson who kind of got lost in that talented Clemson, but he’s just a good solid all-around backer with good speed, decent instincts and a great motor. He’s also a very versatile guy who can the rush the pass and contribute in coverage; he can also play all three all positions such that it wouldn’t be a huge stretch if Goodson started the season as the primary back-up at all three. And while he’s probably a natural mike backer, it also wouldn’t be a stretch if Goodson puts some real pressure on Devon Kennard at SSLB.
We aren’t big on grading drafts, especially just days after the picks were actually made; bottom line here, though, is that we really liked the Giants draft. In particular, there is a legit chance that each of the 6 players drafted last weekend are starting in some fashion by mid-season. Of course, as noted above, it’s still the draft and one never knows until the players actually get on the field. On paper, though, this was a solid draft.
Just a note on the fact the Giants did not select either an offensive or defensive lineman through the 6 rounds of this year’s draft. In fact, it is our understanding that the Giants never seriously considered selecting an offensive lineman this year. In particular, as noted above, there never was any intention to use the 10th pick on what would in essence be a RT. The game plan has always been to address the issues on the right side in free agency and that does not appear to have changed. And in a worst case scenario they make do with what they had last year, which at least from a statistical perspective wasn’t all that bad. The DL may have been a slightly different case in that the Giants would have liked to add an edge rusher with one of their top two picks if a player they liked was available. However, it is likely that any defensive lineman taken after the second round was going to be more a developmental type who likely wouldn’t start the season as much more than the 4th DE or DT. The other part of the equation is that the Giants may be willing to wait and see what they have in Odi Odighizuwa and Jay Bromley as rotational guys in a much more aggressive scheme this fall. Stay tuned!