Three Giants writers give their fianl thoughts on the team's strategy going into the 2018 NFL Draft:
Months of speculation come to an end on Thursday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the Giants hold the second overall pick. Our writers give their final thoughts with the draft just days away.
I'm going to apologize to Dan Salomone before I even start writing this because I sense it will be lengthy. We've done nearly a hundred hours of "Big Blue Kickoff" shows on the draft. I've done more hours off the air than on doing research and tape work on the draft class. We've written about it every week. We've spoken to experts. In other words, we have broken this thing down every which way and everyone knows the options by now:
1. Pick the best non-quarterback player
2. Pick a quarterback
3. Trade down for picks
Dave Gettleman said a lot at his press conference last week without tipping his hand as to his intentions, but a few things stuck out to me. He emphasized getting the most "value" possible out of the second pick of the draft in response to a question about whether depth at a certain position later in the draft would affect the second pick. He also talked about the devaluing of the running back position being a myth and that he finds himself thinking more about hog mollies while others think about skill position guys. That tells me that if Gettleman is going to select a non-quarterback at No. 2, he is going to pick the guy with the highest grade, whether it is a running back, guard or defensive end. He does not believe in position value… except when it comes to quarterbacks.
I want to go back to something Gettleman said earlier in the draft process: If you believe that one of these quarterbacks is your next franchise quarterback, you have to take him. Last Thursday, Gettleman also talked about "walking a tightrope" between preparing this team for the future and improving it now. His answer to a question saying he "had" to take a quarterback at No. 2 was "hogwash" does not mean he is against taking a quarterback. It simply means he will not take one he hasn't graded high enough to be "the guy." Going back to his point of maximizing value, no one would argue the most valuable position on the field is quarterback. I still believe if Gettleman thinks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen is THE guy for the Giants' future, he will take him because it maximizes value. I have no idea if he thinks any of them are or not.
Finally, I'll talk about where I have ultimately landed as we enter draft week. If a quarterback the Giants believe in is not on the board at No. 2, they will pick a position player or accept a trade offer from a team below them and move down. Assuming the Broncos do not want to move up from No. 5, which sounds unlikely, the Bills are the only other team with enough draft capital to realistically get to No. 2. This is where Gettleman has to decide whether there is more value in selecting one player second overall or selecting multiple players at whatever slots the Bills offer in a trade.
There are trade charts, but decisions like these are an inexact science. It depends on individual drafts and what players might be available at those future slots. So I will turn to math. FiveThirtyEight.com did a study of the draft and there is no evidence one team or general manager is consistently better at selecting players than any other year to year. It's a year-to-year proposition of mounting probabilities.
It makes sense when you think of the unpredictability of the NFL, especially when it comes to injuries. Circumstances beyond a team's control can turn what should be a great player into a bust. So when the Giants take that unpredictability into account, how much better of a chance will the player they select at No. 2 have of being better than a player that would be available to pick at 12? Does Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb have a 20 percent better chance of being a Hall of Famer than a Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James, Denzel Ward, Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds? 30 percent? 40 percent? Is whatever that difference is worth more value than selecting an additional player at 22nd overall, another additional player at 53rd or 56th overall, and the added flexibility of getting an additional 2018 first-round pick? My answer to that is no.
I don't know what Dave Gettleman thinks. I have no idea if the Bills are willing to offer the above picks in any trade. It takes two to tango to make trades like this. Running an NFL team is really about managing assets. You need to get as much value out of every salary cap dollar you spend to maximize the talent on the roster. It's no different in the draft, when you need to get the highest possible value out of every pick you make. That's what Dave Gettleman will try to do on Thursday night, and I can't wait to find out what he chooses.
For those who thought the Gettleman hire was not going to bring about any changes, I think your concerns have been safely put to bed by now. Aside from the roster and staff shakeups at the very end of last season and into free agency, it is like Gettleman went on a study abroad program in Carolina and returned to East Rutherford with all these new ideas, particularly how he sets up his draft board. His focus is on a few critical factors that boil down to what makes the player tick.
Once those are weighed, the board is set up vertically by position and value, and then you start working horizontally. If three players at different positions have the same value, then you take the need. If there is not a need, then you take the best guy. Therein lies the rub. Who is the best guy? That is when you have a conversation, but you are talking about just three guys instead of, say, 25. "At the end of the day, it is a great way of looking at it," Gettleman said, "and it really brings clarity to what you do." It is a method that clearly worked with the Panthers, a perennial deep playoff contender, and Gettleman hopes for the same results for the Giants in a franchise-changing draft.
Draft week is finally here, and after months of speculation and rumors (not sure how I'll be able to go on without all of that), we'll finally find out what the Giants do with the No. 2 pick in a few days. When Dave Gettleman held his pre-draft press conference last Thursday, he emphasized there's a number of attractive options (which is a good problem to have) the team can consider when it goes on the clock, but he also shot down narratives that are constantly thrown out to simply fit agendas. He said he doesn't subscribe to the school of thought that running backs are devalued in today's NFL and they have short shelf lives, citing Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas, who fell to the second round in 1988 because of knee issues in college yet wound up playing 13 seasons and helped the Bills make four straight Super Bowls.
When asked about Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Gettleman said, "He's one of those guys that my mother could have scouted. She could have figured that one out." He also added: "If you have a great running back, he immediately makes your quarterback better, your offensive line better and your passing game." I'm not bringing up these quotes to sell you on the fact that the Giants are high on Barkley and that he'll likely be the second pick. Instead, it's to show you can't be close-minded when it comes to a specific position. The run game is so critical because it impacts plenty of other facets of your team. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Super Bowl-winning team that didn't have some semblance of a ground attack, either throughout the regular season or one that came to life in the playoffs. That is another reason why, when asked whether taking an offensive lineman at No. 2 is too high, Gettleman's response came in the form of his own question: "Is it ever too early to take a great player?" The importance of the position can't be the No. 1 factor. It has to be his skillset and upside and whether that matches up with the spot the Giants are selecting.
That's another reason why I don't understand the fascination with the quarterback position at No. 2. Yes, it's an extremely important position, but does that mean you should take a signal caller just for the sake of taking a signal caller? Or simply because your veteran quarterback is getting up there in age? If the prospect doesn't meet your criteria, that defeats the purpose. Stats show the higher you take a quarterback, the more likely they'll pan out, but the confidence in that quarterback needs to be across the board within your war room. Gettleman said, "When you miss on a quarterback, you really hurt the franchise for probably five years. It's a five-year mistake." No argument there, but bottom line, there's risk involved in every position in the NFL because the draft is an inexact science and picks are valuable because of salary cap restraints. You can't simply make up for misses in the draft by going on a spending spree in free agency.
The Giants need to weigh a few options before deciding ultimately what to do with the number two overall pick, but to me, the 2018 draft isn't just about 2018. It goes far beyond that. You want to select players who will warrant second contracts and, in the case of the first round, have a realistic chance to receive an invite to Canton. Every NFL team is trying to "win now." I've never heard of a team entering a season content with winning two or three games. Therefore, the philosophy can't be to reach for a player who will come in day one and immediately contribute. Instead, you want to find the player who will not only contribute in year one but progressively improve and prove durable over a 10-year career. Makes no difference if it's a quarterback, running back, defensive lineman or offensive lineman.
NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock updates his position-by-position rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft.