Sobering second observations on a good Giants draft

April 27, 2020

We have received a few too many celebratort ‘we finally fixed the OL’ emails over the past couple of days that maybe need a response. No, the Giants have not fixed the o-line with their 2020 draft. What they did – for the third time this decade – is address the problems up front. Fact is, we won’t know whether the problem has been solved until we see whether Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux can actually play at the next level and that won’t happen until they actually get out on the field and compete with NFL players. Remember, for example, that Peart was selected at a place in the draft where the historic probability that the player turns out to be a player is only around 30%.

Obviously, the odds are higher for Thomas, the 4th pick overall, although even he’s no sure thing. A recent study, for example, that of players selected with a top 3 in the past decade only about 65% turned out to be either good or very good players, while the remaining third ended up as either JAGs or busts. And once one gets to the 7th round where the Giants had four picks this year the odds that a player can play are only about 5%. Meaning that in the end the Giants will be lucky to get even one solid player out of that group.

All that said, the Giants had a very nice draft. They came in with a plan to upgrade the offensive line early and address the back 7 on defense with their later haul and stuck to their guns throughout. Of course, that meant that they weren’t able to address the pass rush in any significant way and they’ll have to wait at least another year to find a true #1 receiver. Same for C which remains something of a black hole on the offensive front, but that is one thing that can perhaps be addressed with a free agent salary cap victim this summer.

We have to confess that we were all over the map as far as taking an OT early in this year’s draft. At the outset we were kind of all in on the idea of trying to fix the OL once and for all, although we have always held that the coverage units were actually in worse shape. The problem with the offensive line, though, was that with Solder almost assuredly done with the Giants at the end of the 2020 season (of course if not before) they were going to have to address LT sooner or later. And if they could upgrade the OL this year, then they’d be freed up to address other issues in future drafts. However, as the draft process evolved we had growing concerns that none of the top OT prospects were worth the #4 pick. In the final 72 hours or so before the draft, though, we started to pick some buzz from around the league that Thomas had indeed emerged as something of a consensus top prospect at the position with a legit top 5 grade. Which is all kind of ironic because at this time last year, Thomas had been considered the clear top OT prospect with top 5 potential. What is the old saying, what goes around comes around. It also certainly helped that LB/S Isaiah Simmons, the one defensive player who really made sense at #4, slipped to the Arizona at the 8th pick. Of course, two of the teams that passed on him – Miami and the LA Chargers – were taking QBs, but it still meant that both Detroit and Carolina passed on the former Clemson star, suggesting that he wasn’t quite as highly rated as was thought in the draft community.

Meanwhile, FS Xavier McKinney in the second was something of a no-brainer, particularly considering the Giants simply don’t have a natural FS on their roster. One worries a little about the fact that McKinney only ran a 4.62 40 at the combine, but he has great instincts and plays much faster. He’s also a very versatile player who could also ultimately end playing as an in-the-box SS at some point down the road, while he also saw snaps as a nickel safety covering slot receivers at Alabama. The Giants remaining picks were all experienced players from big-time college programs, although it would be a reach to expect any to play much this fall. The exception might be 4th round CB Darnay Holmes who likely will be given every opportunity to earn some playing time at slot corner. And 5th round OLB Carter Coughlin (no relation) could ultimately factor in the pass rush. He’s a little undersized at just 236 pounds and has somewhat short arms, but he is surprisingly athletic with a 4.57 40 clocking and a very quick first step; plus, he’s got a terrific work ethic. Don’t be fooled by the 4.5 sacks last fall as he was asked to play a lot in the middle of the field, whereas he had 9.5 the previous year when he spent most of the season rushing the passer.

So where does that leave us. Who knows? Its why they play the games in the fall (sometimes!!). And I know there are a lot of Giants fans pretty much resigned to not much more than a 5-6 win season in 2020. However, I’m a little more optimistic. Certainly one way to get better is to get better players and its not clear that the Giants have necessarily made huge strides in that area this off-season. The other way to get better, though, is to have the players you have play better. And in that regard the Giants have as much upside as any team in the league. In fact, one can make a pretty good case that the offense is getting close. And this fall, QB Daniel Jones will have a full year under his belt and should benefit from getting all the first-unit snaps in pre-season. Meanwhile, one hopes that Saquon is healthy for a full year, rather than the 4 games he was 100% in 2019. It would also be nice to get the veteran receiver corps of Shephard, Tate and Engram healthy again, not to mention getting a full-season out of emerging WR Darius Slayton. Even the offensive line can play better. In particular, both Solder and Zeitler have played better in their careers than they did last year, and if they don’t the Giants may actually have some people to push them this year.

Unfortunately, the defense is a different story, but they do have a ton of young guys including DTs Tomlinson, Lawrence and Hill; DE/OLBs Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines and perhaps draftees Coughlin and Brown; LB Dan Connelly; safeties Love and McKinney; and CBs Baker, Beal and Ballantyne that give some hope. Now if they can just find a way to generate some kind of pass-rush, even by committee as they certainly have a lot of potential committee members, they could inch closer to a middle of the pack unit. Time will tell. Have a great summer.