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Fact or Fiction: Immediate impact of the draft class

Posted May 5, 2017

Giants.com writers make predictions in the aftermath of the 2017 NFL Draft:

More than two rookies will start at some point this season.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - As we sit here in May, the first two picks look like plug-and-play candidates from Day 1, but we’ll see. As for the rest of the draft class – and the incoming undrafted free agents – I’ll say another rookie makes at least one start. There are too many variables right now to say 20 of the 22 starting spots will be locked up for 16 games, and the biggest unknowns are always injuries, unfortunately. At this time last year, who thought Andrew Adams would start 13 games at safety?

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - It’s not hard to predict that both Evan Engram and Dalvin Tomlinson will start at some point this year. The problem is finding the third guy. Of the other four draft choices, barring an injury epidemic, I would be surprised if Adam Bisnowaty, Avery Moss or Davis Webb would see a start over the more talented and experienced players in front of them. That leaves one of the undrafted free agents or Wayne Gallman. I can’t imagine Gallman will get a start over Perkins if the latter gets hurt. Even if Perkins goes down, there’s a chance one of the more experienced players on the roster would start instead. It’s too early to know about the UDFA’s. For now, I’ll go fiction.

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LANCE MEDOW Fiction - There’s a very good chance the Giants’ first two picks will start games as tight end Evan Engram has an opportunity to make a significant impact on offense and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson could very well be Johnathan Hankins’ permanent replacement, if he beats out some of the other veterans on the team, including Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas. Beyond those two, barring multiple injuries at one position, I don’t see the other members of the rookie class starting this season. Davis Webb will likely serve as the third-string quarterback with Geno Smith and Josh Johnson competing for the backup spot. Wayne Gallman is part of a very crowded backfield led by Paul Perkins, and defensive end Avery Moss and offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty will provide depth as they look to carve out roles at their respective positions.

The Giants have the best group of receivers/tight ends in the NFC.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - By the time we get into the meat of the season, I think this will be a factual statement. Beckham is on a trajectory into rarefied air. Marshall is already somewhere up there as a six-time Pro Bowler and the No. 2 active receiver. Sterling Shepard showed incredible promise as a rookie, making tough catch after tough catch. Now you add in a threat down the middle in Engram, making this group truly elite.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - This is a tough one. In the division, only the Cowboys could come close with their combination of Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley comparing to Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. But they have no fourth weapon of Brandon Marshall’s ability. No one in the NFC North comes close. The Saints could have been in the mix, but their decision to trade away Brandin Cooks takes them out of the running. Christian McCaffrey as a slot receiver is dangerous but even with him, Kelvin Benjamin and Gregg Olsen, the Panthers don’t have a fourth weapon. The Bucs’ top three is vicious with Mike Evans and newly acquired DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, but like the other teams, they lack a Brandon Marshall-quality third wide receiver. The Cardinals have the best group in the NFC West, but they don’t match up either. Eli Manning will have the best set of weapons in the passing game in the NFC.

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LANCE MEDOW Fiction - On paper, the Giants have a wealth of weapons in that group, but keep in mind first round pick Evan Engram has yet to play one snap in an NFL game, Sterling Shepard has just one season of experience and Brandon Marshall is learning a new offense. While there’s a great deal of upside within that group, there’s not a lengthy proven track record. That’s why, as of right now, the Packers have the best group of receivers/tight ends in the NFC. Green Bay showcases Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams as its top three wideouts and just signed tight end Martellus Bennett this offseason. Before you overlook Adams, he finished second on the team in receptions (75), receiving yards (997) and receiving touchdowns (12 – tied for 2nd in the NFL) in 2016. I’d also make a case for the Eagles who have Alshon Jeffery, Jordan Matthews and Torrey Smith along with Zach Ertz, but like the Giants, they’re also adding a few new faces to the mix.  

The biggest surprise of the draft was how the quarterbacks went off the board.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - The receivers were the most surprising to me based off all the hype leading up to the draft (maybe that was my problem). While all the draft experts were talking about the quarterbacks and how deep the cornerbacks and safeties were, general managers just went along and plucked three wide receivers in the top 10. Only one defensive back was taken in that span. It just goes to show you that all the talk from February until late April is just that – talk. But, boy, does it pass the time.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - There’s always a chance that teams get desperate for their future franchise quarterback and trade up to get them. I was surprised but not shocked. What did shock me was how fast the wide receivers went off the board. I didn’t think any of those receivers were top 10 locks, yet three went in the top 12 picks. It turned into a position scarce of talent, which drove the decision-making process and teams in need of wide receivers were scared of not landing one of the top three guys in the draft. It pushed a lot of excellent defensive players into the middle of the first round where a lot of value was found (Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, Derek Barnett).

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LANCE MEDOW Fact - Leading up to the draft, this wasn’t considered a very deep quarterback class compared to recent years. I don’t think it was a stretch to say one or two QBs could be taken in the first round, but who would have thought three would be taken and three teams would move up to grab them. The Bears, Chiefs and Texans all traded up to select Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, respectively. While you can certainly understand why teams are aggressive in trying to find franchise quarterbacks, those three teams also had other needs and there were still a lot of great defensive players on the board.

The most improved team on the Giants’ schedule will be San Francisco.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - A lot of people have been saying Tampa Bay is ready to take the next step, and I might be becoming one of them. The Buccaneers missed out on some tiebreakers with a 9-7 season in 2016, but their defense led the NFC South with the fewest points allowed. Their problem was they also scored the fewest points in the division. By inserting DeSean Jackson and first-round pick O.J. Howard into a group that already included Mike Evans, and you might have something brewing down there by the time the Giants make their trip at the beginning of October.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I can’t go with the 49ers because of their lack of answers at the quarterback position. Two teams I think people are sleeping on are the Chargers and Buccaneers. The Bucs added DeSean Jackson in free agency and O.J. Howard in the draft, giving Jameis Winston two big time weapons. Justin Evans should help their secondary at safety. Winston should take another step in his third year in the league. They were close to the playoffs last year and should make a real push this season.

LANCE MEDOW Fiction - The Niners bolstered their defense through the draft and added depth on both sides of the ball in free agency, but the quarterback position is still a question mark. While veteran Brian Hoyer is in line to be the starter, he’s had his fair share of ups and downs throughout his career. If they struggle to score points, they’re going to have similar issues that they faced in 2016. I think the Eagles are the most improved team on the Giants’ schedule. Carson Wentz gained valuable experience during his rookie campaign and now has a wealth of reliable targets, including new wideouts Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith. While there’s still some question marks in the secondary, Philly still has a very strong defensive front that added veterans Chris Long and Timmy Jernigan, as well as rookie Derek Barnett with its first round pick.