Reading the Big Blue tea leaves … and seeing a lot of tea leaves

By | April 12, 2017

One of our favorite parts of the pre-draft process is trying to figure out what the Giants are thinking and where they might go with their early picks. Some years we’ve figured it out pretty early, others, though, we haven’t had a clue. With the clock ticking on the 2017 draft, which is now just over a month away, its feeling way more like the latter rather than the former.

Certainly, if one is to try and understand what the Giants are thinking as the draft approaches, it is kind of important to understand how they actually draft. Indeed, we always have to kind of chuckle just a little when we hear people – even some in the media who should know better – talk about ‘Jerry Reese’s picks’. As we have preached on many occasions, Jerry Reese doesn’t make the picks, has never made the picks, and almost assuredly never will make the picks.

The confusion comes in large part because many fans tend to presume that the Giants conduct their draft the same way members of the peanut gallery follow the draft in their dens at home: Reese and company show up at the Giants War Room on draft day armed with their lists of prospects; check off the players selected by teams with picks ahead of the Giants, and then choose the best player at a position of need once they get on the clock. In reality, the Giants, like almost other teams around the league take a much more proactive to the draft. In fact, only twice since the turn of the century did the Giants make what could be classified a pure BPA pick: Matthias Kiwanuka in 2007 and Prince Amukamara in 2011.

The reality is that in literally every draft since the turn of the century the Giants have entered the draft either clearly focused on a particular position or they have come to the draft targeting a particular. In terms of positions, for example, the Giants went to the 2001 draft looking for a CB (Will Allen); in 2003 it was the defensive line (William Joseph); DB in 2006 (Aaron Ross); WR in 2009 (Hakim Nicks); and LT in 2015 (Ereck Flowers). You could probably include 2014 in that category in that the Giants appeared to enter the draft targeting either an OT or WR with their #1 pick, which of course turned out to be one Odell Beckham Jr.

In other years, though, the Giants entered the draft clearly focused on one player: Shockey in 2002; Eli in 2004; Sinorice Moss in 2006, the Kiwi year; Kenny Phillips in 2008; JPP in 2010; David Wilson in 2012; Justin Pugh in 2013; and Leonard Floyd, who of course they didn’t get, last year. In some years, those players in fact represented a pretty pressing need, but in others the Giants were interested in the guy simply because they saw a potential impact player at the next level. In fact, what’s quite fascinating about those years is that the Giants fall-back choice (where it was known) was never once a guy who played the same position. In 2016, for example, OT Jack Conklin was the Giants second choice after OLB Floyd and when they didn’t get either they chose CB Eli Apple and in fact did not select either an OLB or OT at any point later in the draft.

It was also pretty clear in the past whether the Giants were targeting a particular position or whether they were focused in on a particular player. In fact, in the latter case in a lot of years (Shockey, Eli, Phillips, JPP and Floyd last year) it wasn’t all that hard to figure out who was the individual target. Not so this year though. In fact, what makes the 2017 draft really interesting from an analyst’s perspective is that the Giants have left plenty of hints that they are considering both options this year.

On the one hand, the Giants have left little doubt that they are seriously looking at the offensive line, especially OTs, this year. A disproportionate percentage of the players they interviewed at both the Senior Bowl and combine, for example, were offensive linemen. They also have had, or will have, three of this year’s top four offensive line prospects (Garrett Bolles, Cam Robinson and Ryan Ramczyk) in as one of their allotted 30 pre-draft onsite visits from out-of-town prospects. It’s interesting that the one top OL prospect they won’t apparently visit with is Forrest Lamp, who many feel is the most NFL-ready, but likely doesn’t have the length to plat OT at the next level. At the same time, though, the Giants do not appear to have had a senior exec at any of the pro days of the top offensive line prospects and, at least in their public pronouncements, the Giants brain trust has seemed to indicate that they are reasonably content with the make-up of the offensive line.

In fact, in the recent past, if one wanted to know which player, or players, the Giants were looking at one had to follow the money, or at least track which top prospects senior Giants’ execs were checking out as they generally only got up close and personal with the player the Giants were targeting. This year, though, Giants’ execs have made more trips than usual. Jerry Reese attended the pro days of LB Zach Cunningham and North Carolina Mitch Trubisky, for example, while Marc Ross was at the Florida pro day where LB Jarrad Davis had an outstanding performance. Then there was head coach Ben McAdoo, who had never been to a pro day for anybody, traveling half way across the country to check out Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes. Note that none of those guys the Giants brass went to see were offensive linemen, but individual skill people.

Bottom line is that nobody, at least outside the organization, has a clue what the Giants are thinking right now. Fact is that while the nervous nellies may disagree, the Giants really don’t haven’t any glaring holes that just have to be addressed. At the same time, though, the Giants don’t have many areas that are so talented or deep that a case can’t be made that the position could stand up grading. And in the end the Giants plan may very well include a short list of 2-3 impact players that they really like, and if I had to guess at their short list based on a reading of the tea leaves it might include Mahomes along with LBs Cunningham and Davis with the offensive line a fallback if their short listed guys are off the board. But that’s just a guess. As Jon Gruden once famously said: “this draft can’t come soon enough!”