With draft day closer than we think, free agency at the helm, and an insane week of trades behind us, now more than ever is it vital to start prioritizing for the 2018 NFL Draft. The newly reconstructed New York Giants front office and coaching staff have already started making moves in hopes of reconstructing Big Blue into the dream team version that will hopefully reverse the reputation earned in the fatal previous season. This week, ESPN reported that the Los Angeles Rams will trade linebacker Alec Ogletree and a 2019 seventh-round draft pick in return for the Giants’ fourth- and sixth-round selections in the upcoming draft (the fourth round pick was compensatory), already limiting the Giants’ picks for this year in a very strong draft class.
There has been significant debate over the best use of the second overall draft pick, but it is also important to consider what would be productive for the remaining picks. Last week’s Combine gave us a special look at the talent available to the league for the coming year. Now, we can pull a list of top priorities that general manager Dave Gettleman, head coach Pat Shurmur, and their squad should be pushing for.
Gettleman laid out three main goals for the team in his introductory press conference: run the ball, stop the run, and pressure the passer. There is plenty of talent in the 2018 draft class to support this plan, and now there is evidence from the Combine to support these players. At the Senior Bowl, Gettleman said, “With the second pick, we’re going to take the best player.” Is it Saquon Barkley? Probably. Will they pick up one of several celebrated rookie quarterbacks? Maybe. These are answers we simply won’t know until draft day. So what and who should the Giants attempt to acquire with these later four picks, realistically, considering all of this new information, and provided there aren’t any more trades that affect this year’s draft? Strong player performance is key, but so is character, as it is crucial for Big Blue to fix the culture and issues with immaturity in the locker room.
Priority: Offensive Tackle/Guard (Round Two, Pick 34)
Since his hiring, Gettleman has made it clear that the offensive line is a very high priority. There are plenty of question marks within this category, but offensive tackle seems to be of high concern. With Justin Pugh an unrestricted free agent, and Bobby Hart being waived and sent to the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s time to consider a shuffle. Ereck Flowers has demonstrated difficulty protecting Eli Manning’s blind side. If kept, he could switch to right tackle, or perhaps transition to a backup swing role, as there are plenty of potential rookie left tackle options to deepen the line.
Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown has a massive frame that is perfect for fending off a defense. His body works for him in pass protection, (even if it sometimes hinders him in the run game). The NFL legacy has the strength, length, and demeanor to tackle at either side, though his physicality makes him ideal at left tackle. While his footwork can be sloppy at times, and his directionality needs work to prevent him from falling off blocks, the right coach and scheme could develop him into a formidable backup, and potential starter for the Giants by his second year.
Another acceptable choice might be Connor Williams of the Texas Longhorns, who tested extremely well in the Combine and may still realistically be available early in the second round. His 2017 season was out of character, compared to his body of work beginning in his freshman year. That said, he has proven himself malleable and could move to guard or center. Provided he returns to his 2016 form, the Giants would have what they need in a good run blocker. His length hinders his ability to catch, but he is very efficient with his position, body control, and footwork. He is also a leader in the locker room—a vital characteristic to the giant attitude adjustment that the staff is hoping to attain.
Priority: Cornerback (Round Three, Pick 66)
The Giants suspended all three of their top cornerbacks last season (Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Eli Apple). Cutting DRC could save the Giants several million ($6 million, according to overthecap.com), as well as the headaches of dealing with a potentially problematic attitude. Shurmur and Gettleman have gifted Apple with a “clean slate.” Jenkins is a dynamic player, but also has his age and his health fighting against him. It would be a good idea to bring some freshness and excitement to the position, revitalizing the temperament that currently surrounds it.
Jaire Alexander of Louisville is an exciting prospect for the Giants. He had a rough final year in college, with a four-game hiatus due to a knee injury, followed by two more games after breaking his hand. The word that is frequently used when describing trepidation’s about Alexander is “durability”—a word not unfamiliar to the current Giants corners. That said, if it weren’t for his inconsistent and short 2017 tape because of his health, he would likely be a first-round pick. He has fantastic tape from 2016, and after performing well in the final three games of his college season, he also scored impressively at the Combine. Athletic, aware, and aggressive, Alexander is known as a smooth and speedy mover with a calm and quick brain. A dynamic and flexible playmaker is what the Giants need from a rookie corner as they restructure their secondary.
Priority: Defensive End (Round 4, Pick 102)
After the news this week of the trade for Ogletree, the Giants have already made moves towards improving their defense. Ogletree is a blitzing maniac, and upped his pressure percentages on pass rush snaps like crazy this past season. The Giants have a history of developing pass rushers into three-down linebackers, but now that we’ve welcomed Ogletree to the locker room, defensive end is an important priority. There has been much question and fear surrounding the health of Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, and if there’s a time to be reconstructing the defensive scheme, it’s now, and pass rushers must be an emphasis.
In an ideal world, Big Blue will score a dynamic surprise weapon like Ohio State’s Jalyn Holmes. In a 3-4 defense—the scheme rumored for the coming season (a good idea in such a pass-heavy NFL)—Holmes would shine with his ability to push the pocket. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl, and likely has a more prosperous professional career ahead than his college stats reflect. He has ample speed and a long frame, which will be even more useful with more lower body strength. He only played in Columbus on a rotational basis, but his performances were strong, and if the Giants follow suit with the player, working him into the scheme over time, he could eventually work into starter and stat-filler territory.
Priority: Tight End (Round 5, Pick 139)
The G-men did pretty well with last year’s first-rounder in tight end Evan Engram, but could benefit from another versatile pass catcher. Scouts were seen at the East-West Shrine Game chatting to Minnesota-Moorhead’s Damon Gibson, and Mississippi State’s Jordan Thomas. The latter is known for his speed and size. Like all rookies, he’ll need coaching to put him on the level of the big-wigs, but if he can learn how to use his largeness as a weapon, he could easily overwhelm slot defenders on run plays. He will need coaching on how to maneuver his frame when running more complicated routes. Thomas has experience at defensive end and offensive tackle, which gives him versatility on the field, and also gives the Giants the opportunity to convert him to another position if the fit at tight end doesn’t seem right and his talents can be used elsewhere.
View the original article on Last Word On Pro Football: New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft: Who the Team Should Target After Round One