Giants Report: Thoughts on the draft

May 1, 2024

Giants Report: Thoughts on the draft … We kind of wanted several days to chew on last weekend’s draft before commenting too extensively, especially as it relates to the Giants. On balance, though, we thought the Giants had an outstanding draft, although of course the players chosen still have to play to their potential, but there’s a lot of potential there!

However, before we comment about the individual picks, we wanted to talk a little bit of how we sense the first round evolved with the proviso that we don’t have any inside information, but we do have a pretty good idea how these things tend to play out. Our sense is that the Giants went into the opening round with elite potential grades on 6 players including QBs Williams, Daniels and Maye and WRs Harrison, Nabers, and Odunze and knew that with the 6th pick they were guaranteed getting one of them. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that they would have preferred one of the QBs. What’s the old saying? If you don’t have an elite QB and you have a shot at one you take it!

At the same time, though, we suspect that a couple of items in that regard that have been relatively widely reported – or at least oft-repeated – in the media have been somewhat overblown. One, that the Giants ‘loved’, ‘were all in on’, or ‘really wanted’ Drake Maye. Fact is that with Caleb Williams locked in at the first pick and Jayden Daniels almost a lock to go second and neither Chicago nor Washington, which held the 1st and 2nd picks overall, not showing any indication at all that they were in the least bit interested in trading out of those picks, Maye was in fact the only one of the three that the Giants had any hopes at all of acquiring.

Second, we aren’t at all convinced that the Giants made all that much of an effort to trade up. What we can see is a scenario in which Joe Schoen called Eliot Wolf, his de facto counterpart with the Patriots, for a chat, as NFL GMs do, a few weeks before the draft and was told that any compensation for the 3rd pick would start with the 6th pick, as well as the Giants 1st rounders in 2025 and 2026. Its possible that’s something the Giants might actually have considered for either Williams or Daniels, but not for Maye who just wasn’t as good a prospect. Again, as GMs do, Schoen then talked with Wolf the weekend before the draft and would have asked if anything had changed. When he was old no, he asked if #6 and the Giants’ #1 in 2025 would possibly get it done and walked away when that also came back with a no.

Bottom line: Daniel Jones is still the Giants QB and will be the starter in 2024 when he’s healthy and will likely be here until at least they actually find someone better. The Giants in fact ‘aren’t done’ with Jones as a number of correspondents suggested over the past couple of months; if they were they would have signed Russell Wilson whom they had first crack at and could have signed for peanuts, but who signed with Pittsburgh when he was told he’d be coming to New York to be Jones’ back-up. The Giants weren’t even really looking to replace Jones per se; if they were they would have taken JJ McCarthy or Michael Penix at 6. What they did was think they had a chance at an elite prospect at the position, but it just didn’t work out and they moved on.

And we’re kind of glad they did. Not that we wouldn’t have been happy with Maye, but we also think that a really good case can be made that, maybe other than Chicago, the Giants got the most impactful players with their picks in the entire league We’ll talk a little bit more about Nabers below, but we are also very much factoring in Brian Burns, whom the Giants got from Carolina with their 2nd round pick. In fact, in Nabers and Burns the Giants got a pair of potentially dynamic impact players at the 2nd and 3rd most important positions. And, as we said, no other team with the possible exception of Chicago, came anywhere close to that. Also as noted above, they still have to make plays, but our theory is that championships aren’t won by teams with the fewest holes in their roster, but by those with the most impact players that make the most impact plays.

Fact is, we love the Nabers’ pick. And to reinforce the point we thought we’d just reprint our thoughts on the potential impact of an elite WR from a Giants Report from several weeks ago:

At his owner’s meeting presser that if the top 4 QBs weren’t available when they got on the clock with the 6th pick, Giants’ GM Joe Schoen noted that they would still be guaranteed a shot at one of the two best non-QB prospects this year. And that’s almost assuredly one of WRs Marvin Harrison, Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze. In fact, there have been rumblings that head coach Brian Daboll has been lobbying for the Giants to take a WR with their first round pick, possibly even if one of the top QB was still on the board at that point. Just maybe Daboll recalls that Josh Allen, whom he has been credited with ‘developing’ in Buffalo really didn’t become emerge as a top player in the NFL until the Bills went out and acquired a true #1 receiver in Stefon Diggs. Whatever, Giants fans probably shouldn’t under estimate how impactful a really good receiver can have on a team.

Indeed, in addition to the Bills’ Allen, Joe Burrow didn’t really take off in Cincinnati until the Bengals’ selected Ja’Marr Chase, his former teammate at LSU with the 6th in 2021, while there questions being asked in Miami whether Tua Tagovcailoa was indeed a legitimate franchise QB before the Dolphins brought in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. And we could go and name QBs from Jaylen Hurts to Geno Smith whose careers improved dramatically once given elite receivers with which to work.

And one can also look at the Giants own history. Back in 2008, for example, they appeared to be on cruise control to a possible second straight Super Bowl appearance before Plaxico Burress shot himself – and his career – in the leg and the 11-1 Giants finished the season 1-4 and crashed out of the playoffs in the first round. They were crowned champions again in 2011 with Eli throwing to a couple of Pro Bowl receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, only to have the bottom fall out the following season which coincided with Nicks being injured and never playing at that level again. And while there has been a tendency to dismiss the impact of Odell Beckham, the reality is that Eli had the best three-year run of his career from 2014-2016 during which the Giants had a top 10 offence in both 2014 and 2015 and made the playoffs in 2016. Its also hard not to notice that the bottom really fell out for the Giants in 2017 around the time that Odell was injured. Indeed, the fact is that over the course of his career, Eli was a very good QB when he had special receivers, but was closer to ordinary when he didn’t.

The other part of the equation is that there is some evidence that an elite receiver can also impact more than just the QB. Victor Cruz, for example, never came close to matching his earlier production after Hakeem Nicks was injured. And Reuben Randle might be an even more interesting case. Randle, who was drafted in 2012 averaged 30 receptions and around 400 yards in his first couple of years with the Giants, but quite literally doubled those numbers to 60 catches and over 800 yards per season the following two years when he was paired with Odell. Of course, there have been plenty of elite receivers in the history of the league whose teams haven’t won diddly-squat. But there are no good QBs in the league right now that don’t have a really talented receiver and there are no good teams out there without at least one.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the Giants picks were all solid selections that addressed issues in the roster, although we might have quibbled with a couple of them. At #47 for example, we might have leaned toward DT Maason Smith, who was taken with the very next pick, in that he has a little more upside with a greater view toward building a championship contender as opposed to S Tyler Nubin who was more of a need pick. However, they were both rated about the same, and as noted, Nubin, a noted ball-hawker in college, does address one of the Giants’ sketchier positions. We also might have been tempted to take a RB a little earlier such as Jaylen Wright in the fourth, although Tyrone Tracey, a solid interior runner who is also a terrific receiver out of the backfield, is potentially one of the steals of the draft. In the end, though, this draft is really all about Nabers and Burns. If they play to their potential this draft will have been a huge success; if they don’t, it likely won’t move the needle all that much no matter how well the other picks play.

Post-draft thoughts on where the Giants stand: We get asked all the time how we think the Giants will do this fall. And the simple answer is we have no idea! Its why they play the games. and ultimately it will come down to which Giants’ team shows up this fall: the 2022 squad that fought its way to 10 wins and a playoff spot or the bumbling, stumbling group that won just 6 last year. For us, though, our sense is that this team is actually much closer to the former rather than the latter and we see no reason why the Giants shouldn’t at least be in the hunt for another playoff spot next year in a somewhat watered down NFC assuming that a) Daniel Jones stays relatively healthy and b) that no key unit such as the OL or secondary gets wiped out by injuries as happened with the offensive line last year, at least in the early going.

Bottom line is that teams win games in the NFL either by passing that ball very well or by significantly disrupting the other team’s ability to throw the ball. And, fingers crossed, the Giants look they are slowly but surely building units that potentially can do both. In fact, a pretty good case can be made that with the addition of Nabers the Giants could have a very dynamic receiver corps as Slayton and Hyatt can get deep and Wan’Dale Robinson is an emerging threat as an underneath receiver. In fact, those guys would make close to a world-class 400M relay team and if nothing else gives the Giants team speed on the outside that they have only be able to dream about in the past. Indeed, put Slayton and Hyatt outside and Nabers and Robinson in the slots and see how many opponents can put 4 corners on the field capable of matching up. Meanwhile, with Burns, Dex Lawrence, Thibo and Az Ojulari the Giants have the making of one of the best young pass rush groups in the league. Needless to say there is still work to be done, but barring some unforseen disaster this is not in any way just a 6-win team. See you in September.