Every year in March, NFL free agency is a sight to behold. With usually a handful of big, star names jumping to new locations along with the differentiating levels of activity from each team, NFL free agency is one of the most thrilling and exciting offseason stages in sports as the league takes on a brand-new look with various teams rising or falling in talent and potential.
This year, many teams made grand strides over free agency, including the New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, and the Washington Football Team, to name a few. But at the forefront of the pack, and to the surprise of many, stand the New York Giants. After acquiring new receivers (Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Kyle Rudolph), linebackers (Reggie Ragland and Ifeadi Odenigbo), a cornerback (Adoree’ Jackson), a backup running back (Devontae Booker), a backup quarterback (Mike Glennon), and most recently a defensive tackle (Danny Shelton), the Giants went on a big spending spree to push their team toward a playoff berth, nearly addressing every single hole that needed to be filled and patched up (ESPN).
But despite such, the Giants do have a couple of key spots they will definitely want to improve prior to the start of the 2021 season. And with a much lighter purse after a busy month of March, the Giants will look to address these key concerns in the NFL Draft come April 29th (ESPN). Though it’s not a Top 5 selection, the Giants’ 11th overall pick still grants them plenty of options to choose from. However, deciding which position they want to prioritize first is paramount to their success this year and should be the position the Giants have the least amount of depth and talent in. With that said, here are the two positions the Giants should target with their first pick:
1) Offensive Lineman (Particularly a Guard)
2) Defensive Lineman (Preferably a Defensive End)
Although it might seem boring, these two positions are crucial for the Giants to target with their first-round pick, and here’s why. First and foremost, after letting Kevin Zeitler go (who was their best offensive lineman), the Giants are planning on having second-year player Shane Lemieux fill the shoes Zeitler left behind (ESPN). For even as young and bright of a player Lemieux is, this is a big and daunting task for him to take on and live up to. Despite logging in a good nine games as a starter last year over his rookie campaign, Lemieux has still a lot to prove. And with hardly any depth on their O-Line as a whole, the Giants should strongly consider drafting an offensive lineman with their 11th overall pick.
The Giants can go a few different ways here. But the best bet for their offensive line would be none other than USC left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker (ESPN). Not only do the Giants have all the offensive tackles they need, but both of the top two tackles in the draft this year in Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, will most likely be taken prior to the Giants 11th overall pick (ESPN). Despite it being a little early to select Vera-Tucker at 11th overall (considering all the talent available in the draft this year), he’s well worth it due to not only his incredible strength and athleticism but also because of his versatility to play both guard and tackle positions on the offensive line. Lastly, the Giants just don’t have much depth in the guard position and could really use the extra protection inside. And drafting a guard like Vera-Tucker would not only stabilize that concern but would also reinforce an offensive line that has struggled all too often over these last few seasons.
However, if the Giants want to allocate their 11th overall pick towards improving their defensive line, it’s crucial for them to draft a defensive end and for a few reasons. Despite signing Leonard Williams to a fat extension after having his best year, along with the fact that B.J. Hill makes for a solid fill-in from the outside, the Giants just don’t have much support and depth for the defensive end position. And with the departure of Dalvin Tomlinson, the Giants will probably slot in Dexter Lawrence as well as Shelton into the DT/NT position and still have Austin Johnson to provide additional support inside; so the need for a DE is essential.
But the biggest reason why the Giants need to lean towards a defensive end is predominantly due to the fact that the talent and draft stock for this position is pretty high this year, and the Giants might want to take advantage of that for one big reason: Gregory Rousseau. The University of Miami prospect is arguably the best defensive lineman coming into the draft, bringing not only supreme strength but an unnatural level of athleticism for his size. In addition, Rousseau can play anywhere on the D-Line and makes for a nightmare matchup due to the variety of ways he can evade and elude his opponents. ESPN has him ranked 20th overall, but there’s absolutely no reason why he can’t go 11th overall. This kid is truly special and has everything he needs to dominate in the NFL. Moreover, the Giants have a history of founding some of their best playoff teams with a dominant defensive line, and if they have the same aspirations, they need to seriously consider drafting Rousseau with their 11th overall pick.
When all is said and done, the Giants very well could look to allocate their 11th overall pick towards a different position altogether, depending on if wide receivers Devonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle become available or whether they opt to boost their secondary instead with a cornerback such as Jaycee Horn. But considering their greatest needs and weaknesses heading into the draft, it would be wise for the Giants to go after a guard or defensive end with their first-round pick. As was put on display over this past month, the Giants invested a lot of money to acquire and resign key players in order to raise their level of talent and essentially make a playoff push (similarly to what they did back in 2016). But to cap off this effort and surge to put this team back on track, it’s of the utmost importance that the Giants execute a strong draft. And that starts with maximizing their 11th overall pick by selecting an elite guard or defensive end.