After last season, the two most glaring deficiencies facing the New York Giants was the defense and the offensive line. Both rather crucial for any semblance of success in football. Dave Gettleman’s draft this past weekend – all 10 picks – consisted of only defensive players and offensive lineman. He came in with a focus to reinforce the most glaring deficiencies, and he did what he set out to do.
The offensive line sets the tone for the entire game. They allow the offense to establish the run, control time of possession, wear down defenses, keep the opposing offense out of rhythm, allow your own defense to rest, close out the game in the 4th quarter, protect the passer so he can facilitate the football to his playmakers, the list goes on.
The offensive line is the engine of the team; if you don’t have a functional offensive line, you don’t have a functional football team. On the flip side of that, if your defense can’t stop the opposing team from scoring points – that’s also a rather significant hurdle to overcome in winning football games. Especially when it comes to closing out games in the 4th quarter.
Before I go over the picks, I want to give a quick overview of how I approach the draft and the pick’s relative value in each round. The initial step is to analyze the team and understand where the holes are and what the needs are. This allows for the proper assessment of value; and trying to marry overall player grade with team need, which equals the team value. A team drafts based on the overall value the player has to the team. That can vary from team to team with the same player. That’s a big reason why many team’s draft boards are different. Every assessment I make is based on the perspective of the Giants and how the value of the player pertains to them. The Giants are the only team I care about.
In the 1st round, this player should come in and start right away and should be a cornerstone player that the team can build around — if a team misses on a 1st round pick, it’s hard to overcome that. The 2nd round should also be a starter, in my opinion. Perhaps not the cornerstone that the 1st round is – but the 2nd round should compete for a starting job and win it.
The 3rd round is where you start to see the tier separation of expected starters to position competition and quality depth. In the 3rd round, I expect the player value to consist of a role player that gives the team quality snaps every Sunday. Perhaps not a starter, but they should be a contributing player on a weekly basis.
The 4th and 5th rounds are when I start to see the value shift to position competition and quality depth. They should compete and push the starter in training camp and offer quality depth during the season. These guys make up the bulk of your special teams.
The 6th and 7th rounds are developmental prospects with upside. You can take someone with a little more risk. They may not have the ability to compete and be functional on game day, but with NFL coaching and proper strength conditioning, they can get there. Their upside can vary. These guys are fighting for the last few spots on the roster and would most likely get first dibs on the practice squad.
After watching a lot of drafts, and after following the Giants on virtually a day to day basis for the past decade, I feel these are good standards to try to adhere to. They can also act as good benchmarks to see how well a draft goes and how productive it was.
Let’s take a look at all 10 picks Gettleman and the rest of the Giants front office drafted:
Andrew Thomas – Georgia – LT/RT – 6’5”/315 (1st round – #4)
When was the last time the Giants had a franchise LT? I know the previous front office thought Will Beatty could fill that role, but that failed miserably. I’m going to go back to the mid-’90s with Jumbo Elliot – 25 years ago.
I’ve been pounding the table for the past decade that to be a contender in the playoffs, and to win a Super Bowl, you need to have a good offensive line. If you try to squeak by with patchwork and thin hopes of average play, that strategy will fail.
Andrew Thomas is a hard-working “all ball” football player that has proven to play at a high level against elite college competition consistently and is only going to get better. Giants fans should be thrilled that they finally have a franchise LT for the next decade.
PICK RESULT: Filled a need at starting OT. Expected Day 1 starter at LT or RT.
Xavier McKinney – Alabama – S/FS – 6’0”/201 (2nd round – #36)
I had McKinney as part of the group of players I would have been happy to get in the first round. Not at pick #4, but if the Giants traded down. I was thrilled he was still there at #36 and even more thrilled when Gettleman picked him. Gettleman and I were on the exact same page there.
McKinney is a versatile safety but is primarily a deep safety that has great instincts, sideline to sideline range, and great balls skills. Many thought he was the best safety in the draft. He’s the perfect complement to Jabrill Peppers. Julian Love played at FS last year, but I view him as more a nickel CB. The Giants had a need at FS. By plugging McKinney there at FS, it fills the starting FS position, as well as potentially the nickel CB position with Julian Love.
PICK RESULT: Filled a need at starting FS. Expected Day 1 starter at FS.
Matt Peart – UConn – RT/LT – 6’7”/318 – (3rd round – #99)
First, it’s awesome that Matt grew up a Giants fan, and Eli Manning is his favorite player. We’d be cool and have a lot to talk about.
Peart is a really good pick here at the end of the 3rd round. He has good feet to mirror pass rushers and has great arm length. He has the versatility to play both tackle positions. However, he’s lean, and it will take some time for him to get the requisite strength and anchor to develop into a viable NFL offensive tackle. I think this is going to be a redshirt year for Peart. After a year of work, a logical progression would be swing tackle next year, then in two years take over the right tackle spot after Solder moves on, with Thomas at the left tackle spot.
Although per my draft pick value benchmark, I don’t anticipate him being a role player providing quality snaps on a weekly basis, he’s good developmental value due to the position he plays.
In the NFL it’s difficult to find functional starting OTs fresh out of college. Usually, if a team wants to draft a starting OT that’s not going to be a liability, they need to draft him in the 1st round. Even then, it usually takes a year or two. The fact that Peart projects as a starting RT in 2022, that’s good value for the end of the 3rd round.
PICK RESULT: Filled need at OT depth. Developmental OT and projected RT starter in two years.
Darnay Holmes – UCLA – NCB – 5’10”/195 – (4th round – #110)
Darnay Holmes was regarded by many as one of the best pure nickel cornerbacks in the draft. There are a lot of good cornerbacks in college that lack the requisite size and top-end speed to be boundary cornerbacks in the NFL. Usually, they’re forced to be pushed inside to nickel. They have good short-area quickness, competitive, good ball skills, good tacklers. Holmes has all of these traits. He ran a 4.48 at the combine, so he has decent slot catch-up speed. Holmes also offers special teams value as a returner.
Pre-draft, nickel was a glaring need, and Gettleman drafted one of the best ones in the draft. He’ll compete with Julian Love for the starting nickel spot. Holmes falls in with the benchmark of position competition and quality depth.
PICK RESULT: Filled need at NCB. Provides competition for starting NCB.
Shane Lemieux – Oregon – G/C – 6’4”/310 – (5th round – #150)
Lemieux was a very productive offensive guard at Oregon. He was thought by some to be starting caliber. Lemieux has a reputation of being an aware, smart player that knows all his assignments. The Giants are well set at starting OG, but the center position is still a question mark. Lemieux will compete at the C position and potentially put that football I.Q. to good use. Lemieux has starting center potential. Shane falls in the benchmark of position competition and quality depth.
PICK RESULT: Filled need at OG depth. Provides competition for starting C.
Cam Brown – Penn State – LB – 6’5”/233 – (6th round – #183)
Brown is a sideline to sideline LB with good length. He’s played multiple LB positions. He’s not a pure pass rusher, but he has some pass-rushing traits that could be developed. He’s a little light and will need to add some weight and strength. I see him potentially playing rush outside linebacker or weak inside LB called a “Stack” ‘backer.
With Ryan Connelly (WILB) coming off an ACL and Oshane Ximines (ROLB) largely unproven, Cam provides depth at both of those LB spots. He also fits the benchmark of a player needing some development but has upside.
PICK RESULT: Filled need at WILB/ROLB depth. Needs some body development, offers special teams value.
Carter Coughlin – Minnesota – LB – 6’3”/236 – (7th round – #218)
Carter Coughlin was a favorite of mine when I was going through the draft prospects. He’s athletic, has a high motor, fast, and moves well. He looked really smooth at the combine. He has some pass-rushing qualities that could be developed. He’s good in coverage, and I see TE coverage duties potential.
He forced a lot of fumbles and has a knack for making plays. He strikes me as a guy that would be a special teams ace. I saw him a little bit as a poor man’s Zack Baun. He’ll play either WILB or SOLB. Although I think he needs to add more strength at the point of attack for the NFL. He’ll be a demon on special teams while he develops his functional strength.
PICK RESULT: Filled need at OLB/WILB and TE coverage. Needs some body development, offers special teams value.
T.J. Brunson – South Carolina – ILB – 6’1”/230 – (7th round – #238)
Brunson is a sideline to sideline WILB that is a sure, physical tackler. He provides further depth at WILB with Connelly coming off an ACL. There’s going to be plenty of competition at the WILB spot. With his size and speed, I see him predominately as an ace covering kicks on special teams.
PICK RESULT: Filled need at WILB depth. Provides competition at WILB, offers special teams value.
Chris Williamson – Minnesota – N/FS/CB – 6’0”/205 – (7th round – #247)
A versatile defensive back. Primarily a nickel, however, will play the “star” position – which is a combination of safety, nickel, and outside corner.
PICK RESULT: Filled need at NCB/FS depth. Provides versatility insurance in the secondary.
Tae Crowder – Georgia – ILB – 6’3”/235 – (7th round – #255)
Tae is another fast WILB that has shown the ability to make plays. He’ll compete for a roster spot but will most likely land on the practice squad. He primarily offers special teams value.
WILBs usually make good special teamers due to their profile as fast inside LBs. They’re typically good tacklers that can shed and navigate blocks with sideline to sideline speed; those skills translate well to covering kicks.
PICK RESULT: WILB depth. Offers special teams value.
All of these are just projections. When a team drafts, they’re drafting based on the assessment and the projection of the evaluation they have on the player. They’re assessing a value and projecting what that player will be able to do in the coming year and in the future. I think it’s a good idea to compartmentalize the individual projections and values. It allows for a more organized measurement of expectations, and whether those expectations were exceeded or fell short.
We’ll have to wait and see how everything unfolds. But so far, at least on paper, I think Dave Gettleman had an excellent strategy for this draft and nailed it.