For the third year in a row, the New York Giants are in an incredibly polarizing position for April’s Draft. In 2018, it was the great debate of taking a possible franchise quarterback or a generational talent at running back. Last year they passed on defensive talent for a quarterback we labeled a bust before he even took a snap.
For years, Giants fans have been clamoring for an adequate offensive line and for a linebacker that can finally replace the void left by Antonio Pierce. These two areas of the roster seem to have been neglected for years. In 2020, the New York Giants are in a great position to finally address one, if not both, areas of need. The question that remains is which way should they go in the first round?
We knew to head into the NFL Combine that Clemson “unicorn” Isaiah Simmons was an athletic freak. In Indianapolis, he garnered otherworldly comparisons. After his performance was complete, his measurements compared him to wide receiver Julio Jones. A linebacker or safety being compared to one of the best wide receivers the league has ever seen is explanation enough. The man is truly out of this world at his position.
It is without question that the Giants would primarily play him at linebacker. He can do just about everything. We have seen him run toe to toe with his Clemson teammate, running back Travis Etienne. So, covering running backs, tight ends and even receivers shouldn’t be an issue. We know he can tackle and has elite range to cover the field.
If there is one aspect of the “do it all” label I feel any semblance of concern about, it is as a consistent pass rusher. The majority of his sacks and pressures came on pure speed, his arm length and being schemed to pressure. That is extreme nitpicking, folks. If he is drafted by the Giants, he won’t be asked to be a true edge rusher.
Take your pick. This is labeled a deep offensive tackle class, and for good reason. There are roughly four names that consistently get ranked in the top 20 to 30 prospects. Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas all have garnered attention for the Giants in the first round. There is then another tier of tackles that could be had later in the 1st round, or the top of the 2nd round. Houston’s Josh Jones, TCU’s Lucas Niang, and USC’s Austin Jackson.
All of these players have their unique skillset. Jedrick Wills is primarily a right tackle and some believe he’d be better suited to move to guard. Mekhi Becton has incredible mobility for a big man. Andrew Thomas is a power run game’s dream. So for the Giants, it is a matter of picking the best scheme fit for the offense.
Most pundits will tell you that the Giants can find a franchise offensive tackle in the 2nd round. They very well could. However, with how valuable the offensive tackle position is and how difficult it is to find in the NFL, is the risk worth it?
I will be the first to tell you that this is a very difficult decision. Trading back is ideal. Isaiah Simmons is ideal. The offensive line is ideal. There is a way the Giants can do all three, however very unlikely. Isaiah Simmons combine may have secured him as a top 5 selection. He could even go top 3 and make the decision easy for Big Blue. Yet, as badly as I covet a game-changing linebacker, offensive tackle is still the biggest need.
Daniel Jones is the future of this franchise. Protecting your franchise quarterback is important enough. Protecting your franchise quarterback that has an issue fumbling the football is amplified. Two years ago, they drafted Saquon Barkley, “a running back”, with the 2nd overall pick. This was in a draft class that was labeled as one of the best quarterback classes to date. For Saquon, finding a running room has been the biggest challenge of his young career.
Again reflecting on that 2018 NFL Draft, many wanted the Giants to do the “smart” thing and draft a quarterback over an athletic freak. This year, the majority have the complete opposite outlook. Take the athletic freak at linebacker, over the more important offensive tackle position. Of course, running back is not on the same level as linebacker or quarterback. I get that. However, the debate isn’t all that different. Albeit a bit more complex. A linebacker can help this defense win football games.
Yes, the Giants could get an offensive tackle at the top of the 2nd round or by trading up. Is that the smart play? With so many holes, do we want to give up more assets to trade up? Likewise, do we want to sit at the 36th overall and pick from what is left at offensive tackle? The position is so incredibly important, that there will be a run on offensive line talent in the first round. Do the Giants pick whoever they want? Or do they settle with whoever is left?
Looking at September 2020 and beyond, where do the Giants go? Can they make a deep playoff run? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not. Am I throwing in the towel in 2020? Not. Let’s be realistic, though. An offensive tackle can help the long term goals of this team while protecting your franchise quarterback from injury. A linebacker will help as well, but you still play with fire with your quarterback. Is this a reach argument? Yep.
When all is said and done, what happens between now and the draft in free agency will determine a lot. If the New York Giants do draft Isaiah Simmons, I will be one of the first in line for a new Giants jersey. However, if the Giants’ offensive line woes continue and the fan base screams for Gettleman’s head for not addressing the offensive line the same way they did to Jerry Reese… well, I hope I don’t have to say “I told you so”.