The 2020 draft, which is shaping up to be one of the most important in Giants history, is now less than 75 days away. In fact, the annual scouting combine gets underway in just a couple of weeks. Needless to say we’ve had a bunch of emails from fellow Giants fans since the end of season with draft question and concerns. And rather than try and answer them all individually, we thought it was a good time to review some basic draft principles before we get into the really heavy scouting period.
It ain’t personal … First basic principle is that GM Dave Gettleman does not ‘make’ the Giants draft picks (nor for that matter did Jerry Reese before him). The Giants are a multi-million dollar organization that devotes literally hundreds of man-hours and millions of dollars scouting and evaluating college players across the country. And then once the scouting process is done, they’ll spend several hundred more man hours putting together their board and identifying the short-list players they want to target come draft day. In fact, by and large, the players they select during the draft will have been identified as their targets well before the draft. Then during the draft, they’ll re-stack their board and short lists at the end of each day and established new targets. Of course, Gettleman is involved in the process; in fact, he’s heavily involved, especially during the early picks, but at the end of the day it’s a collective process with all kinds of individuals, including coaches, scouts and other personnel execs contributing. What it also boils down to is, that however the picks are made, they will always be dictated in the end by the Giants’ board. Indeed, the whole idea behind the basic organizational structure originally instituted by George Young back in the day was that was it not be overly tainted by the biases of one individual.
And that same goes for signing free agents, making trades etc. Gettlemen didn’t wake up one morning, for example, and decide to sign OT Nate Solder. At the time, the Giants had some cap space and wanted to sign a top veteran FA to anchor the offensive line. Along with the coaching staff, their pro scouts, and the cap people, they put together a priority list of available FAs in which they were interested. Their first choice was actually the OG from Carolina and when he signed elsewhere they moved on to their second choice which was Solder. If they hadn’t gotten him they would have moved on to their 3rd choice and so on. And then once you sign the guy you cross your fingers and hope he plays as well as he did before the signing which sadly of course Solder hasn’t done to date.
However, by ‘personalizing’ these kinds of decisions it’s a whole lot easier for fans and media to blame somebody when they don’t work out. It’s also a whole lot easier for fans to think that a turnaround is just around the corner if we could just get rid of the guy making all the decisions that don’t work out.
Asking the right questions … Nothing drives me battier than when I hear from people saying that the Giants can’t afford to do this or that in the draft ‘because we have too many holes to fill!” As if the Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl champs because they have the fewest roster weak spots of any team in the league. In fact, the best teams in the league are by and large the teams with the most dynamic playmakers that make the most dynamic plays. I can understand why fans in particular get so focused on fixing holes. They are desperate for the team to get better and what sounds like the quickest way to get better is plug the biggest leak. And certainly teams will follow that path at times. However, the bigger questions teams ask themselves especially when it comes to early draft picks are things such as which player makes us harder team to play against; which player is going to keep opposing coaches up at night.
Viewed in that context, for example, it certainly wouldn’t shock me if, that if the Giants were to think offense with their first round pick this coming April, that they end up looking at the WRs rather than the OTs. Last year, the Giants had no one who scared opposing defenses deep so the other guys were consistently bringing 9-10 guys into the box fixing to stop #26 and just daring the Giants to beat them over the top. Slayton did come on late, but add another legit big-play threat and you would start to force opponents to play their safeties much deeper, which in turn would open up the underneath zones for guys like Shepard, Tate and Engram, not to mention almost by definition give Saquon some space as opponents just aren’t going to be able to bring so many guys to the LOS. And if they do, hammer them over the top. This is not advocating that the Giants go the WR route – and this year’s draft features a very deep WR class so there will be other options at the position – but I suspect it is something they may give a whole lot more thought to than your average fan in the street over the next couple of months plus. That also isn’t to say that they are going to ignore the offensive line, its just its tough to fix everything in one draft so they may be forced to do some things in free agency there.
Same thing to a degree when one thinks of the other side of the ball. The Giants, for example, were very slow on defense last year especially up the middle where Ogletree had very limited range and Bethea was just plain old and slow. As a result, the Giants were forced to play a ton of zone to protect those guys. And when you play zone you really can’t blitz much so the Giants ended playing a significant majority of snaps on D with a 4-man rush and everyone else dropping into what was a pretty soft zone. Translated that’s pretty much a ‘don’t give up the big play/bend but don’t break defense’ which really sucks when you give up a lot of big plays anyway. However get faster at the back end on D and you can play more man which means you can blitz more, which means by definition you can get way more aggressive. Again, we are not advocating for a particular player or position, but just pointing out the complimentary aspects of the game that go beyond simply filling holes.
It’s still a lottery … I get a lot of emails from folks asking which of this year’s top 3-4 OTs, or top 2-3 defensive playmakers, we like better. Fact is, we don’t particularly like any of this year’s top OTs for the 4th pick overall. However, if we did say which one we liked it really wouldn’t mean a damn thing anyway. Fact is, the odds are that in the end, one of Thomas, Wirfs, Wills and maybe Becton is going to be a really good player; two are likely to be solid-enough jag starters, while one is likely going to be a bust. And the fact is that one can dissect those four guys until the cows come home, but there is nobody in the league who can tell you with any more certainty than a blind monkey throwing darts at a dart board which one of the four will be which. Same thing for the top defensive players other than Ohio State’s Chase Young like Jeff Okudah, Isaiah Simmons and Derrick Brown. Probabilities are that one will be a star, one will be a solid enough contributor and one will be a bust, but we won’t know which is which until they actually get to the league.