The Giants have used plenty of assets on the wide receiver and offensive line positions over the last 12 months.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Giants used first-round (Andrew Thomas), third-round (Matt Peart) and fifth-round (Shane Lemieux) picks on offensive linemen. Then just last month, the Giants made a big splash in free agency by signing wide receiver Kenny Golladay to a multi-year deal, in addition to signing the speedy John Ross.
Despite these recent moves, the Giants have been connected to some of the top wide receivers and offensive linemen in many mock drafts.
NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks joined Giants.com's John Schmeelk on the Giants Huddle podcast recently to discuss some of the Giants' possible plans for the upcoming NFL Draft. While a few of the top wide receiver prospects are projected to be selected in the Giants' range, Brooks believes this year's class is so deep that teams might be better off waiting until after the first round to dip into the WR pool.
"With the wide receivers, I think we're at a unique time with wide receivers," Brooks said. "I think these guys are really good, but I've also seen in the league a bunch of second rounders come through and have an impact. But Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, they all can shine and thrive. But I think you can also look at that next tier with Rashod Bateman and some of those guys that are in that group, Elijah Moore. They might also shine.
"A lot of it comes down to going to the ice cream shop and being able to pick what flavor ice cream do I want to fit in my offense and how much do you value the position. Do you value it where 'I need to go and get a first-round pick to be able to do it'?"
LSU's Ja'Marr Chase is widely considered to be the top receiver in the draft and unlikely to still be on the board when the Giants are on the clock at No. 11. Ditto for Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who Brooks referred to as "such a difference-maker" and ranked above the top three receivers. However, two Alabama teammates could be available when it's the Giants' turn to pick- Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith.
Waddle (ankle) played in just six games last season, but the explosive playmaker caught 28 passes for 591 yards and four touchdowns.
In addition to his strong receiving numbers throughout his time at Alabama, Waddle was also a dynamic weapon on special teams. He finished his Crimson Tide career with 38 punt returns for 733 yards (19.3 avg.) and two touchdowns, along with nine kick returns for 214 yards (23.8 avg.) and an additional touchdown.
While both Alabama receivers would certainly add something special to the Giants' receiving corps, Brooks sees one as a better fit in Big Blue's offense.
"Jaylen Waddle, one, is a little thicker. He also is more explosive in terms of dynamic with the ball in his hands," he said. "I will be honest, the Giants haven't had the same kind of juice on the outside in the passing game since Odell Beckham Jr. was traded away. You need to have someone who can be a catch-and-run specialist, someone who can make and generate a big play. I think Jaylen Waddle gives you a little more of that."
There is no denying how dominant Smith was in 2020. The 6-foot-1 receiver reeled in 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games, setting numerous SEC and Alabama records. Smith was rewarded for his stellar performance, taking home honors including the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award, AP College Football Player of the Year, SEC Offensive Player of the Year and Unanimous All-American and more.
Smith also bring some questions to the table, despite his strong numbers. Many NFL analysts are worried about Smith's size after he was measured as 170 pounds at Alabama's pro day last month.
"I think it's a combination of things," Brooke said. "I think it is a durability concern. Can you physically withstand the pounding on the outside? That's a huge part of what you have to do. We haven't seen guys that size really dominate the game. People have talked about Marvin Harrison, but who else beyond that has been that slim and has had a dominant career? Desean Jackson, but Desean Jackson is notably faster than DeVonta Smith. That's the main concern. Still a really good player. It's just a matter of right now when we're trying to fix value and stuff like that, those things come into play."
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks revealed his updated position rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft.
In addition to the playmakers, the Giants have also been linked to some of the draft's top pass protectors.
Oregon's Penei Sewell and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater are the top two offensive linemen in the eyes of most draft experts. It remains to be seen whether either (or both) make it to No. 11, but even if they don't, Brooks likes some of the other leading prospects. Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw and Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins are considered by many analysts to be in the next tier of offensive linemen, along with USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker.
"I think this group is good. I think the main thing that you have to do is you have to figure out what you want," said Brooks. "I think Darrisaw, Sewell, Slater, all those guys are starters. I think Jenkins and those other guys are also good. It's just trying to figure out what it is you want to do and what you want to have at a position."
While landing an offensive weapon such as Waddle or Smith may be considered to be a flashier pick than selecting a lineman, Brooks feels strongly that drafting a top pass protector in the first round offers better value than taking a wide receiver. On top of that, he believes it would be better for Daniel Jones, as well.
"Always take the bigs over the littles," Brooks said. "Take the offensive lineman before you take the wide receiver because it's hard to find offensive linemen. That's how you want to be able to do it… I think you want to make sure you can protect [Jones]. You want to get weapons, but you can find weapons in other rounds. You just want to make sure that he's protected, that he doesn't feel the pressure because pressure makes him change."
At the end of the day, the Giants are in a great position to land one of the draft's top prospects due to the likely early rush on quarterbacks. As many as five QBs could go in the top 10, which would push some elite non-quarterbacks further down the board. Brooks seems to think the Giants will land either one of the top receivers or offensive linemen with their first-round pick.
"If he gets there, any of those offensive linemen [would be the ideal pick]," Brooks said. "Rashawn Slater would be a great pick. I think Alijah Vera-Tucker would be a great pick. We can take a wide receiver there, but DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, a lot of it depends on how it shakes at the beginning part of round."
View photos of the Giants' roster as it currently stands.