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10 Questions in 10 Days: What position will Giants draft?

Posted Apr 25, 2017

With the 2017 NFL Draft approaching, we’ve asked our Giants.com staffers a series of 10 questions which they will answer leading up to the main event on April 27:

1. What position will the Giants draft in the first round?
JOHN SCHMEELK: I really want to say tight end here, but I think there is a real shot David Njoku is gone at 23, and I’m not sure Evan Engram would be an option in the first round. One of the top three offensive tackles will be there, but I don’t think those guys would truly be the best player available at 23. A defensive end or cornerback might be the highest rated player, but the Giants are already so good at those positions. Could they pick Dalvin Cook if he drops to 23? Will they finally draft a first round linebacker for the first time since Carl Banks? It’s possible if they like Jarrad Davis or Zach Cunningham. Summary: This is really hard. Go big or go home, right? The streak is over! Give me LB.

DAN SALOMONE: Like I’ve said, nothing will surprise me at No. 23 this year. That goes double for defensive backs. Since 2007, the Giants have drafted four in the first round (Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips, Prince Amukamara, Eli Apple), more than any other position (wide receiver and offensive tackle are next with two apiece). Additionally, we’ve heard all along that this draft class is the deepest in the secondary.

LANCE MEDOW: Last year, for the first time in franchise history, the Giants didn’t draft an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman.  This year, I think the focus will be on the trenches.  The Giants have always valued young pass rushers and versatile defensive linemen, even in years when it seems like they already have plenty of options on the roster.  Given you can’t predict injuries and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to rotate players on the line, I think the team will select a defensive lineman in the first round.



2. Who is one under-the-radar prospect Giants fans should pay attention to for the later rounds?


JOHN SCHMEELK: I’m going to go with Hunter Dimick. He had 14.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last year at Utah as a senior. He doesn’t have your typical defensive end body and was snubbed by the NFL combine but did just fine at his Pro Day. I think he will be a 8-10 year NFL player as a rotational defensive lineman. Honorable mentions: RBs Jamaal Williams and James Conner. WR Taywan Taylor. DE Derek Rivers. DT Ryan Glasgow. LB Blair Brown.
 
DAN SALOMONE: How about Noah Brown, a 6-foot-2, 222-pound wide receiver out of Ohio State? NFL.com predicts he’ll be taken in the fifth or sixth round after finishing tied for the Buckeyes’ lead with seven touchdown catches in 2016. You might remember seeing the highlight of his touchdown against Oklahoma, where he pinned the ball behind the back of a defender while falling to the ground in the end zone. It was one of four touchdowns he caught in the game, which tied a program record. Local fans might also remember his name because he was the West Jersey Player of the Year at Pope John.
 
LANCE MEDOW: I’ll give you two players to keep close tabs on.  The first is Michigan defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow (6-3, 302), the younger brother of Lions offensive lineman Graham Glasgow. Ryan has gone from a walk-on player to an All-Big Ten standout.  That path says a lot about his work ethic and passion for the game. Glasgow is very strong against the run, and while he’s not known for his pass rushing skills, he did collect four sacks as a senior.  Keep in mind he also played alongside some very talented pass rushers in Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley.  The other is Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs (6-3, 216), who has a very strong arm and can do damage with his legs as well.  While there are some questions about his accuracy and frame, I think Dobbs has a lot of upside and can benefit greatly by playing behind a polished veteran.  He may be the smartest quarterback in this year’s class (aerospace engineering major), and those smarts have been on full display in the football classroom.



3. What is the deepest position on the Giants’ roster heading into the draft?


JOHN SCHMEELK: I’m going to go with wide receiver, where the Giants certainly have enough starting caliber wider receivers with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard. Roger Lewis and Tavarres King are intriguing players behind them on the depth chart. There isn’t much of a need there.

DAN SALOMONE: Let’s look at the only position where multiple players picked up awards in 2016: cornerback. Janoris Jenkins (second-team All-Pro, Pro Bowl) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (second-team All-Pro) helped shut down some of the top passing attacks last year as the defense allowed a league-low 25 offensive touchdowns. The Giants also added a promising rookie in Eli Apple, who became a full-time player in his first season. With a year under his belt, he’ll only improve the Giants’ elite secondary.

LANCE MEDOW: The addition of Brandon Marshall in free agency bolstered the wide receiver corps and immediately filled the void left behind by Victor Cruz.  As a result of that signing, the Giants essentially have just as much depth at the position as they did in 2016.  Odell Beckham, Marshall and Sterling Shepard will be the Giants’ top three receivers, and the bench showcases Dwayne Harris, Tavarres King and Roger Lewis, who all have experience in the system.  Defensive end and running back belong in the conversation, but the depth at receiver is the best of all the position groups and the spot most prepared to deal with an injury.



4: What is the one draft trend that will not continue for the Giants this year?


JOHN SCHMEELK: I’ll give you a couple. The Giants have picked a wide receiver in the first three rounds four of the last six years. I do not think that will continue. The Giants have not picked a linebacker in the first three rounds since Clint Sintim in 2009. I bet that changes, with a small shot they draft their first linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984. Watch Jarrad Davis, Haason Reddick and Zach Cunningham. I also think the Giants could very well pick their first tight end in the first round since Jeremy Shockey in 2002.

DAN SALOMONE: Given the franchise history, it’s pretty surprising a linebacker hasn’t been taken in the first round since the 1980s, but that’s just the way things have played out. They hit grand slams with Lawrence Taylor in 1981 and Carl Banks in 1984, the last time they took a linebacker with the first pick. But then again, the Giants won two more Super Bowls without drafting one that high, proving that you can win in a variety of ways. With that said, maybe there’s a linebacker the Giants like and is available in the early rounds. I’ll say one is taken in the first two days.

LANCE MEDOW: In each of the last four drafts, the Giants have selected at least one safety (2013 – Cooper Taylor, 2014 – Nat Berhe, 2015 – Mykkele Thompson, 2016 – Darian Thompson).  Although all of those players have dealt with injuries and there are still questions about who will line up opposite Landon Collins, I think the team is going to give this young group an opportunity to compete and prove it can stay healthy.  Before being sidelined during training camp last year with a shoulder injury, Thompson was in line to claim the starting job opposite Collins, so expectations are still high for him to pick up where he left off last summer.  Undrafted free agent Andrew Adams is also very much in the mix after taking advantage of playing time in 2016.



5: What is one draft trend that will continue for the Giants this year?

JOHN SCHMEELK: The Giants will continue making the defensive line a priority. They have picked a defensive linemen in the first three rounds in three of the last four years and five of the last seven. I would bet that happens again this year with defensive tackle being a Day Two target. The team will not pick a quarterback in the first three rounds, something they haven’t done since they traded for Eli Manning.

DAN SALOMONE: I’ve probably harped on this too much, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants took another defensive back pretty high. You need as many quality DBs as you can get on the depth chart – and not just because of potential injuries. Offenses use three wide receivers more often than not, and defenses need the personnel to match up with them. It might not be the first pick, but there’s a good chance another defensive back will head to East Rutherford.

LANCE MEDOW: I’ll turn to my same answer for Question 8: What position would it be a surprise to see the Giants draft at number 23?  The team hasn’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984.  This doesn’t mean there aren’t linebackers worth taking in the first round, but based on the Giants’ track record, I’m expecting that trend to continue.



6: Will the Giants draft more offensive or defensive players?


JOHN SCHMEELK: I think this is going to be really close. The draft class is deeper on the defensive side of the ball, but I think the Giants need more help offensively. If I had to choose, I would go with defense because the last few rounds are more likely to be defensive players, since the draft is deeper there.

DAN SALOMONE: How about a 3-3 split, in addition to a specialist? This is anybody’s guess. Even the people in the draft room couldn’t answer this because there are so many variables that go into one pick, let alone seven. But since we’re in the guessing game, I’ll go with defense. Keep building the bully.

LANCE MEDOW: I think the Giants will select more defensive players than offensive players, and that has a lot to do with the depth of this year’s class.  There are plenty of quality prospects on the defensive line and in the secondary that will likely still be around in the mid to late rounds, meaning teams will have great opportunities to bolster their depth charts.  Based on last season’s results, defense is the current strength and identity of this team. While many would argue you should look to strengthen the other side of the ball, I would argue it makes a lot of sense to continue adding talent to the defense to protect the team from injuries and develop players who can eventually replace current starters.



7: Today’s question: How does the makeup of this draft class match up with the Giants’ needs?

JOHN SCHMEELK: It matches well in some ways and not well in others. Offensively, the class is very deep at running back and tight end, which should provide the Giants a few different opportunities to add to those positions. The class is not particularly strong or deep at offensive line, which hurts but doesn’t mean you still can’t find a good player at that position. Defensively, the class is strongest at cornerback, safety and defensive end, where he Giants are already very strong. There could be a couple good linebackers available at the end of the first round, which might fit the Giants’ needs. As usual, it’s a mixed bag.

DAN SALOMONE: The consensus is that defensive back is the deepest group in this year’s class, and if 2016 taught us anything, you can never have enough DBs. Some people were a little shocked when the Giants took a cornerback last year when they already had Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and had just signed Janoris Jenkins. But you need as many as you can get these days with offenses using three wide receivers more often than not. The Giants went on to allow a league-low 25 offensive touchdowns. Look, picking at No. 23 means your team is coming off a decent season, which means the roster is pretty healthy. The Giants have enough flexibility to pick the best player available while filling needs when possible.

LANCE MEDOW: This year’s draft class has depth at several positions that the Giants could target in order to bolster their depth chart or perhaps even grab a starter.  At the top of the list is a position the team values greatly: defensive lineman.  Defensive back, tight end and running back will also provide plenty of solid options as you get into the mid to late rounds.   Some would say this tight end group could be the best ever, and even though the Giants brought in Rhett Ellison in free agency, it remains to be seen whether he’ll see more time at fullback than tight end.  You can never have enough depth at corner, as was shown in last season’s NFC wild card game against the Packers when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went down with an injury. With Johnathan Hankins joining the Colts, adding another defensive lineman can’t hurt.




8: What position(s) would you be surprised to see the Giants draft at No. 23?

John Schmeelk: Nothing would truly surprise me since the Giants will pick a talented player even if they are jammed at a position. See: Jason Pierre Paul in 2010. With that said, I’ll still give you two positions, one on each side of the ball, I’d be shocked to see them pick in the first round: quarterback and safety. The Giants have two good, young safeties in Landon Collins and Darian Thompson (plus Andrew Adams), and there simply wouldn’t be enough playing time for a third. I also don’t think the team will use a first round pick on a quarterback; it is a weak class at that spot and Eli Manning is still the unquestioned starter. I would be less surprised but still slightly taken aback if they picked a wide receiver in the first round or a defensive tackle, simply because I don’t think there’s a defensive tackle worth the value at 23.

Dan Salomone: My go-to response when someone asks about the draft this year has been that no position would surprise me (assuming we’re taking specialists out of this question). When you get to 23rd, it’s impossible to predict who will be available, and no one outside of the draft room knows what the team’s board looks like. Additionally, through the last few years of free agency and a run of strong draft classes, the roster is healthy, which is exactly what you want heading into the draft. The Giants can keep all of their options open, including quarterback. At his season-ending press conference, general manager Jerry Reese said that the 36-year-old Eli Manning is not “ancient” for the position, but they “have started to think about who is the next quarterback.”

Lance Medow: Until the streak ends, I’ll continue to say it: the Giants haven’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984.  Based on that, linebacker would be my biggest surprise.  After that, I’d say quarterback, followed by wide receiver given the lineup of Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard, plus some young, talented depth.vvv



9: How will the Giants’ moves in free agency impact their draft plans?

John Schmeelk: My immediate answer is "not much at all" since it is always dangerous to allow the needs of the present to influence a draft selection. Rhett Ellison's arrival makes selecting a tight end that can block less of a priority, though a dynamic receiver at that position is still a possibility. It's the same for wide receiver because of the signing of Brandon Marshall. The other spot is defensive tackle, where Jonathan Hankins’ departure leaves a real lack of depth at the position on the roster. Only Damon Harrison, Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas can play that position on a regular basis. I would be surprised if the Giants don’t draft a defensive tackle at some point. Finally, I would be just as surprised if the Giants didn’t draft an offensive tackle to provide some extra depth there with the departure of Marshall Newhouse.

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Dan Salomone: More than a month after free agency opened, the Johnathan Hankins situation came to a close last Friday as the free agent defensive tackle signed with the Indianapolis Colts. He was the last core player the Giants were awaiting word on in an offseason that included the re-signing of Jason Pierre-Paul and Keenan Robinson, as well as the releases of Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings. Simple roster math dictates where you need to plug players in and where you don’t, but most of the vacant jobs have obvious candidates on the roster (Paul Perkins at running back, Brandon Marshall as the No. 2 receiver, etc.). With a healthy roster like that, the Giants can enter the draft looking for the best player available while filling some needs and depth along the way.

Lance Medow: Free agency certainly helps shape the Giants’ draft plans, but I don’t think it has a major impact given the goal is to always maximize the value of the pick and take the best player available, as opposed to reaching for need.  Case in point, last year entering the draft, the Giants had Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and recent free agent signee Janoris Jenkins on the roster, yet they still selected another corner, Eli Apple, in the first round.  Given the injury rate in the NFL, you can never have enough depth at any position.  That’s why free agency shouldn’t fully dictate a team’s draft plans.



10: Who is the best player ever taken 23rd overall?



John Schmeelk: It's hard not to go with Ozzie Newsome here. He is one of three Hall of Famers picked 23rd overall and finished with three Pro Bowl selections, five All-Pro nods (one first team) and a spot on the 1980s All-Decade Team. In the last 25 years, Ty Law takes the cake. He was All-Pro twice and made five Pro Bowl teams. He won three Super Bowls as a big part of three excellent Patriots defenses. He was also a cornerback on the 2000s All-Decade Team. He finished his career with more than 50 interceptions. In a pass-happy era, he was a rock at a premium position.

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Dan Salomone: Three Hall of Famers have been taken 23rd overall: tight end Ozzie Newsome (1978), punter Ray Guy (1973) and linebacker Bill George (1951). Guy holds many firsts for pure punters, including the first to be drafted in the first round, the first to be enshrined in Canton and, last but not least, the first to hit the Louisiana Superdome scoreboard in the 1977 Pro Bowl. George was one of the first great middle linebackers in the game for the Bears and played in eight straight Pro Bowls. But out of the best-case scenarios at No. 23, you probably have to go with Newsome. Before becoming the NFL’s first African-American general manager in 2002 and helping build the Ravens’ two Super Bowl championship teams, he retired as the most productive tight end in the history of the game.

Lance Medow: Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome tops this list, and his most impressive stat has nothing to do with his offensive production.  It’s his durability.  In 13 seasons with the Browns, Newsome never missed a game.  He played in 198 consecutive games, including 191 starts.  He stills holds the franchise’s career records for receptions (662) and receiving yards (7,980), and while this doesn’t help his cause as the best player ever taken 23rd overall, it doesn’t hurt that he also turned out to be a pretty good NFL executive in the form of the Ravens General Manager.  Hall of Fame punter Ray Guy and a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, corner Ty Law, also deserve consideration for the label, but I’d still put Newsome ahead of them.