Most of us do not live in the type of fish bowl environment that NFL coaches and general managers do. Each year, the brass of each NFL team sticks its neck out in hopes that the next skilled 21-year old makes them look like a genius. The reality is that, for the most part, the draft produces some clear winners, some clear losers and likely a majority of teams that remain close to what they were prior to the draft.
Last year, the New York Giants were clear winners in drafting Odell Beckham, Jr. with the 12th selection in the first round. The dynamic Beckham secured the offensive rookie of the year award, despite missing the first month of the season to a balky hamstring.
A cursory review of the draft easily demonstrates the clear winners, at least initially, from last year’s NFL collegiate grab bag. Besides New York, the Oakland Raiders (Khalil Mack), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Mike Evans), St. Louis Rams (Aaron Donald), Baltimore Ravens (C.J. Mosley) and Dallas Cowboys (Zack Martin) all secured players who considerably raised the bar in their new environment.
Other players like HaHa Clinton-Dix (Green Bay), Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina), Kyle Fuller (Chicago) and Anthony Barr (Minnesota) did have an impact with their new teams, but this group was not as impactful as the first group of six.
This season, the draft may be deeper in terms of NFL players, but less populated with star quality, and the Giants’ selection at number nine will be a critical one for general manager Jerry Reese as he tries to lead Big Blue back to the playoffs after three consecutive underwhelming seasons.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News believes that the time has come for Reese and company to make another investment in the offensive line, which includes universally acclaimed top lineman Brandon Scherff of Iowa.
As Vacchiano states, “You can blame the last two miserable seasons on whatever you want, but nothing has been a bigger root cause than the play of an offensive line that has often hovered between mediocre and disastrous.”
The bigger picture for the Giants, and particularly Reese, with regard to this draft is the fact that the team already has a Super Bowl MVP quarterback, the offensive rookie-of-the-year, skilled but inconsistent Rueben Randle on the outside, with the potential of the return from injury of former Pro Bowler Victor Cruz in the slot. The addition of Shane Vereen at running back gives offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo another weapon as year two of the West Coast offense gets implemented.
Protecting Manning, as well as bolstering an underwhelming rushing attack could be solved by selecting a top notch offensive lineman in the first round.
Certainly the G-men have needs on the defensive side of the football, but Reese has made free agent investments in Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas at linebacker, and second-year man Devon Kennard looks like a keeper at the position as well. With the return of a healthy Jon Beason in the middle, and holdover Jameel McClain, Big Blue would not seem to be pining for a linebacker in the draft.
As far as the front four, Jason Pierre-Paul is back at least for another season, and hopefully Robert Ayers is recovered from a pectoral muscle tear. Kerry Wynn showed promise on the edge, and the time is now for Damontre Moore to become a consistent threat for the team. The team also signed George Selvie away from the Dallas Cowboys in order to provide depth at the defensive end position.
With the return of Cullen Jenkins, and the signing of Kenrick Ellis, and the continued emergence of Johnathan Hankins, New York’s defensive tackle rotation looks fairly strong with Markus Kuhn and second-year man Jay Bromley in the mix as well. Bromley needs to prove himself worthy of the third round selection that the Giants used to pick him in last year’s draft, and quite frankly the jury is out on that happening. In the “new” NFL, third round draft picks should be counted upon as contributors and not projects.
The safety position clearly needs attention, but drafting Alabama’s Landon Collins in the first round would be a monumental mistake by Reese. Chances are that one young player, Nat Behre or Cooper Taylor, will be given an opportunity to start, perhaps opposite still unsigned Stevie Brown. The safety position is not incredibly deep in this draft, but there are some options for the later rounds, including Demarious Randall (Arizona State), Cedric Thompson (Minnesota), Cody Prewitt (Mississippi), Adrian Amos (Penn State) and Kurtis Drummond (Michigan State).
Jordan Raanan of NJ.com also believes the Giants should invest in offensive line help in the first round, but he feels the selection will be Ereck Flowers of the University of Miami. “Scherff is the one I’ve been wrestling with for weeks. The Giants like him and Flowers. I’m just not certain which one they’d prefer. But I’m sticking with Flowers because of the potential to be a left tackle in the future,” Raanan writes.
Flowers would be an interesting pick for the G-men because many mock drafts have him pegged as a mid to late first round pick. But Flowers is a powerful player, who did 37 bench press repetitions of 225 lbs. at the NFL Combine in February.