Initial thoughts on new G.M. Joe Schoen (and the draft)

January 22, 2022

One of the popular refrains in the media and among fans the past few weeks was that the Giants were such a dysfunctional organization that no reputable candidates for G.M. or head coach would want to come here. So much for that refrain as the Giants were in fact the first team off the mark signing Buffalo assistant G.M. Joe Schoen, one of the rising young stars among NFL personnel people, to replace Dave Gettleman running the front office.

I don’t personally know all that much about Schoen. He’s obviously a very bright young guy (he’s 42) who just about everybody in the know around the league speaks of very highly. He was the Bills’ assistant G.M. over the past five years after a relatively lengthy tenures in Carolina and Miami where he worked himself up from scouting intern to Director of College scouting. And he said all the right things without saying anything at his introductory presser. So far, Schoen hasn’t said much about his philosophy regarding team in the NFL other than to say he wants a competitive team that wins games. Which doesn’t tell us much at all what direction he might be leaning when it comes to this April’s draft with the Giants.

One wonders, though, if there might be some clues in what the Bills did in recent years. In fact, looking at the Bills’ drafts over the past three years one thing clearly jumps out: they focused heavily on the defensive line. Indeed, they selected not one but two DEs with their first and second round picks in 2021, another DE with their second round pick (they didn’t have a #1 having used it to acquire WR Stefon Diggs in a trade with Minnesota) in 2020, and a DT with their #1 pick in 2019. The result was the NFL’s top-rated defense this year.

Could Schoen and company do the same with the Giants? Absolutely! In fact, one of the really interesting things to watch this off-season is what the Giants do with their defense. Buffalo ran a 4-3 D and one would assume, if as expected, one of the Bills’ co-ordinators joins Schoen as head coach, its almost a given the Giants will be switching to a 4-3 themselves. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the Giants don’t have much in the way of prototype 4-3 DEs at all.

Of course, the other interesting juxtaposition here is that Schoen was also around the Bills when they selected QB Josh Allen in the 2018 draft. It is interesting because Allen is the guy who is most often comped when talking about Daniel Jones. And it’s probably not lost on Schoen that Allen actually had a couple of rather pedestrian seasons and didn’t really blossom until the Bills went out and got him a true #1 target in Diggs. Could Schoen and company still take a QB with one of their two top picks? Possibly, though its more likely they go and try and get him a true #1 receiver to pair with Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney in order to find out what exactly they have in Jones, who appears to have some tools, but hasn’t had much to work with so far.

And just as an aside re the QB position and the 2022 draft. Its almost more likely that they trade the 5th pick than take a QB there themselves. The first team in this year’s selection order that really needs a QB is Carolina which picks right after the Giants at #6. If there is another team that wants to jump ahead of the Panthers to grab what may be the clear top prospect at the position this year, then the 5th pick could be very much in demand. Stay tuned.

The other thing that kind of stands out about the Bills’ team building philosophy relates to the offensive line. The Bills actually haven’t used a first-round pick on an offensive line in almost two decades. However, they built their current OL almost exclusively with second-day picks. Both their OTs, for example, are former third-round picks, including RT Spencer Brown, a 3rd rounder this year from Northern Iowa who was a teammate of Giants 4th round DE Ellerson Smith. And certainly, one of the things that stands out about the 2022 draft is the tremendous depth at the offensive line positions.

(I will add the qualifier re all this that we really haven’t gone back and looked at the Bills’ situation say 4-5 years ago to get an idea whether their recent draft trends were based primarily on need or philosophy, but this is what they have done.)

So what do the Schoen and the Giants do with their early picks at this year’s draft? Who knows at this time. In the end, it will likely come down to what Schoen and the new coaching staff want to accomplish. They want to take a QB; they’ll likely be in a position to take the top guy this year. They want to address the OL; there’ll be 4-5 guys well worth selecting in the 5-7 range. They want a big-time receiver; there’ll be at least 2-3 guys that fit that bill. They want to address the defense in general, or the pass rush in particular; again, there’ll be lots of options. Stay tuned!