Could the Giants go defense with their first-round pick?

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Cooper DeJean (3) (New York Giants draft prospect)
Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are widely expected to spend their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on the offensive side of the ball. The Giants’ offense ranked 30th in the NFL this past season, averaging just 15.6 points per game. Adding talent to the offense will be a top priority for the G-Men this offseason, but could they possibly spend the No. 6 overall pick in the draft on the defensive side of the ball?

This year’s draft class is loaded with offensive talent at the top. The top quarterback prospects are grabbing the headlines, but there is also a crop of elite wide receiver prospects that could land inside the top 15 selections.

However, the class’s defensive prospects have not received as much buzz in this pre-draft process, despite there being some excellent talent on that side of the ball. Perhaps the Giants could take a defensive prospect in the first round.

Giants could create an elite cornerback duo in this draft

The Giants spent their first-round pick on Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks last offseason. Banks showed promise in his first season in the NFL but needs more help in the secondary, especially with veteran starter Adoree’ Jackson likely departing in free agency this offseason.

Iowa CB Cooper DeJean is considered the top cornerback in this draft class and could wind up being a top-10 pick when it’s all said and done. The Giants could consider drafting DeJean, pairing him with Banks, and creating an elite, young cornerback duo to build their defense around for the next several years.

DeJean is a 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback with the versatility to play both inside and outside. He totaled seven interceptions and 13 passes defended with 116 tackles across 23 games in his last two collegiate seasons played. Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema describes DeJean as “one of the draft’s top playmakers.” The Giants could get an absolute ballhawk in DeJean if they decide to go defense in the first round.

Adding pass-rushing depth to the lineup

In Chad Reuter of’s latest three-round mock draft, he had the Giants landing an “NFL-ready” edge rusher in the first round. The Giants took FSU pass-rusher Jared Verse with the No. 6 pick in this mock draft.

Verse posted 9.0 sacks in back-to-back seasons for the Seminoles to close out his collegiate career. Across those two seasons, he racked up a stellar 29.5 tackles for loss in just 25 games.

Verse is considered a top defensive prospect in this class and ranks as the No. 2 edge defender on PFF’s Big Board. Adding Verse to the lineup would take pressure off Kayvon Thibodeaux’s shoulders and give the Giants two capable young pass-rushers to tantalize opposing quarterbacks for years to come.

Loading up the interior trenches

Illinois defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton is considered by some to be the top defensive prospect in this draft class. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound interior defender wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

In 2022, he finished with 5.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss, then finished the 2023 campaign with 7.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Newton is an elite pass-rusher from the interior, posting 102 quarterback pressures over the past two seasons — no other defensive tackle had more than 78.

The Draft Network’s Damian Parson described Newton as a “powerful hand striker and extremely disruptive on all three downs.” Adding him to the lineup with Dexter Lawrence could give the Giants one of the best defensive lines in the NFL next season and immediately fill the void left behind by Leonard Williams.

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