Three Giants writers debate the team's options heading into the 2017 Draft:
With the 2017 Senior Bowl in the books, the draft buzz will only pick up in the weeks and months to come. The New York Giants hold the 23rd pick when the first round begins April 27 in Philadelphia.
In this week's "Cover 3" on Giants.com, we asked our staffers whether the team should look to improve the offensive or defensive side of the ball in the first round. Here is what they had to say:
OFFENSE NEEDS A BOOST
By John Schmeelk
All of the following commentary is ignoring the cliché, but accurate, "best player available" mantra.
This answer could change based on what happens in free agency, especially with Johnathan Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul, but I think the Giants need to focus on offense. This draft class is rich with edge rushers, so that can always be an option. It is also a rich cornerback draft, and you can never have enough coverage people either. The issues on the offensive side of the ball this season, however, were well-documented.
There isn't enough space to list all the numbers, but here are some basic ones:
The Giants were 26th in the league in points per game at 19.4 (they scored less than 20 in their last six games).
They were 28th on third downs at just 35.6 percent.
They were 30th in rush yards per play at 3.55.
They were 19th in pass plays over 20 yards with 46.
Some, if not all, of those numbers need to get significantly better if the Giants want to go further in the playoffs in 2017. The Giants are young and talented at the skill positions with draft picks from last season in Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins, not to mention Odell Beckham Jr., who has only played three seasons. Eli Manning is still a good quarterback.
They need to find more consistency in the trenches, which will improve the team's rush yards per play average and have a trickle-down effect on third down efficiency and eventually red zone efficiency and points. It's easy to just talk about the offensive line (and tackles specifically), but the tight ends need to improve their blocking as well. Too many hits were put on running backs in the backfield because of free runners. That needs to stop. Besides running the football, having a dangerous threat at tight end running down the seam in the middle of the field can also help defeat the two deep coverage the Giants saw so often in 2016 as well. High draft picks can have an immediate impact on a team, and the Giants certainly need to find players to have a serious positive impact on the offense. So, if all things are equal, offense is the way to go – specifically at tight end and at offensive tackle.
KEEP IMPROVING THE DEFENSE
By Dan Salomone
If the circumstances are right, why not keep building the bully on defense? You can't dismiss that side of the ball after it was a main reason the Giants made the postseason for the first time since 2011. Sure, the offense wasn't where it had been, but then again, where it had been wasn't cutting it without a solid defense.
I'm not saying to go in blindly looking for defense, either. We have no idea how free agency and the first 22 picks before the Giants will play out, but you can't assume that the defense will just pick up where it left off. Ironically, that's a mantra coach Ben McAdoo repeated in reference to the offense the year before, and look how right he was. He took over as head coach with the No. 6 scoring offense, and it fell 20 spots in 2016. There's no resting on one's laurels in the NFL.
SCORE MORE, WIN MORE
By Lance Medow
The draft is directly impacted by what happens in free agency so until we know how things play out with Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins this offseason, it's hard to say what side of the ball the Giants should focus on during the draft given roster needs will likely change. With that being said, all we can go on, at this point, is the 2016 results and the stats show the team should address the offense in the draft as a means of adding more depth and competition. New York's production dipped in multiple categories from 2015 to 2016 including points per game, total yards per contest, touchdowns, first downs and third down efficiency.
In 2015, the offense produced 41 touchdowns but this season, Eli Manning and company accounted for just 30. While a dominant defense, which the Giants showcased this past season, can make up for the lack of production on offense, once you get to the playoffs and the disparity between teams is minute, you need to be able to score points. Case in point, the Falcons (33.8 points) and Patriots (27.6 points), who will collide in Super Bowl 51, rank first and third respectively in points per game this season. Although New England also boasts the number one scoring defense (15.6 points) in the NFL, Atlanta ranks 27th (25.4 points).
When the Giants relied on a balanced attack this season, it led to positive results. They were 4-0 when they had either the same amount of rushes as passes or more run plays than pass plays. In order to gain consistency in that department, the team could certainly look to add more depth and competition in the draft on the offensive line, at tight end and fullback/running back. In the NFL, while all the attention goes toward quarterback play, you win and lose games in the trenches. Whether it be through free agency or the draft, New York needs to focus on improving its production up front, on offense, in 2017.