The wait is almost over.
After months of speculation about who might end up where, the 2021 NFL Draft is finally just a few days away.
Since the end of the 2020 regular season, many draft pundits from media outlets across the country have taken their turn in trying to predict how the first round of this year's draft might play out on Thursday. The Athletic's Dane Brugler, who's one of the more respected analysts, told the Giants Huddle Podcast that he can see one player falling to the team at No. 11 from among the names buzzing near the top of the draft, including offensive linemen Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, receivers J'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smtih, and Jaylen Waddle, and tight end Kyle Pitts.
"Probably DeVonta Smith, wide receiver out of Alabama," Brugler said. "I think there will be enough teams in the top 10 that have maybe a few concerns - just about the size. When you have these talented pass-catchers at the top with those four, with Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and Kyle Pitts, something like that size and DeVonta Smith being an outlier, that's enough to separate him from [the other three top pass-catchers]…
"When you're trying to nitpick, when you're trying to find just something to separate these guys, him being the outlier size wise could end up being what a lot of teams use. I think he has the best chance at being there at 11."
Smith is coming off an historic senior campaign at Alabama last year. The 6-foot-0, 170-pound receiver started 13 games for the national champion Crimson Tide, finishing the year with 117 receptions for an SEC-record 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He captured the Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff Award while being named AP College Football Player of the Year, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Unanimous All-American, and several other awards. However, as Brugler noted, Smith's size at just 170 pounds could cause some teams to hesitate when it comes to taking the talented wide receiver toward the top of the first round and why he may be left for the Giants.
If that is the case, Dave Gettleman, Joe Judge and the front office will have a tough decision to make between Smith and perhaps one of the draft's top defensive players – an edge rusher or linebacker Micah Parsons.
"It's a question you're going to get different answers for, depending on who you talk to," Brugler said when asked if the Giants might go with defense. "For me, for example, DeVonta Smith is a Top-10 player in this draft. That's where I would go. I don't think there's a defensive player that is a clear upgrade for me for this roster, a guy that's going to come in and be that true impact player that I think DeVonta Smith could be on offense.
"When you're picking top 11, you need to come away with impact players. You don't need to necessarily look at 'Ok, what's my top need?' or 'What would I really like to add to this team?' and reach on a player. You need to go with talent, a guy that you know is going to make an impact."
Brugler also mentioned the Giants could have their pick of the top EDGE prospects, stating that there are no pass rushers he believes are worthy of a Top-10 pick. He also said the Giants could take Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater if he's still on the board.
Slater sat out the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but put up an impressive performance in 2019. Slater started 11 games for the Wildcats and did not allow any sacks, surrendering just one quarterback hit and five quarterback hurries. His efforts earned him preseason All-American honors heading into his senior year before he decided to opt out.
"Could a Rashawn Slater get there at 11? I think it's possible, especially because opinions are split about tackle or guard," Brugler said. "There are several teams that view him as a guard picking in that Top-10 range. A lot of those teams would not pick a guard that early. At 11, it's possible that Slater could be there and I think he'd make a ton of sense, even if you are looking to slide him in to guard. If you're looking for a really good player, Rashawn Slater is definitely that."
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for the final time before the start of the draft.
While all of the attention is on the first-round pick, the Giants have five more picks through Saturday, including two picks (No. 42 and No. 76) on Day 2.
In the second round of last year's draft, the Giants landed safety Xavier McKinney, who figures to play a big role in the secondary this season after missing most of 2020 with a foot injury.
Sitting at No. 42 this year, the Giants could find themselves a potential Day 1 starter on either side of the ball. The position that may offer the best value for Big Blue toward the top of the second round is along the offensive line, and Brugler thinks there are a few guys who could peak the team's interest at the start of Day 2.
"I think you look at this class and there are a few of these guys that played tackle in college, but you probably project them best inside," Brugler said. "Like a guy like Liam Eichenberg, I think you can move him inside to guard out of Notre Dame. Some look at Dillon Radunz out of North Dakota State. He has the mirroring skills I think to stay outside, but if you move him inside, I think that could really maximize what he does as a player.
"Jalen Mayfield from Michigan, another one of those guys who could survive outside. But at 6-5, 326 pounds, the size that he is, he doesn't have super long arms. He's 32 5/8-inch arms. I think when you look at his strengths … power, once he gets his hands on you, his ability to work in smaller spaces as opposed to trying to protect the corner. Jalen Mayfield could be that guy once you get to Day 2."
Brugler went on to mention Alabama's Alex Leatherwood as another guy who the Giants could have interest in on Day 2 if they don't go O-line at No. 11.
Although we may not know which way the Giants are leaning, one thing has become crystal clear leading up to the start of this year's festivities: No matter what they decide to do at No. 11 or even on Day 2, the Giants will have plenty of appealing options to choose from in the 2021 NFL Draft.
View photos of every player projected to the Giants in mock drafts just days ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.