*NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah discusses the top draft options for the Giants in 2018: *
Name-brand programs. Name-brand players. The 2018 NFL Draft is going to be fun.
The Giants just hope it makes up for a season that was anything but that.
But if there were a year to hold the second overall pick, this could be the one to do it. Four quarterbacks, including the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, have separated themselves from the pack, while a skill player has the highest draft grade by some since Adrian Peterson. Buckle up.
"They've all played in big games on big stages, so everybody is familiar with them," NFL Media analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah said on "The Rich Eisen Show" as the college season came to a close this week. "And that means everybody is entrenched with an opinion – a strong opinion – one way or the other. It's going to be fun."
The top quarterbacks, most analysts agree, are USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Wyoming's Josh Allen and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. It gets interesting with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, viewed by some as the best player in the entire class, regardless of position.
The top five of the draft order currently stands as the Browns, Giants, Colts, Browns again (via Texans) and Broncos.
"To me, Barkley is the best player in the draft," Jeremiah said. "[The Browns] have to take a quarterback, no question. If you want to cross your fingers and hope that maybe there's a run on quarterbacks, you could see Barkley at four."
Weighing the need for a quarterback and the value of an elite running back will make for an interesting start to the draft, which will take place April 26-28 at the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium. But when you're speaking strictly quarterbacks, two camps have emerged.
"For me, it really comes down to Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold," Jeremiah said. "I lean right now more toward Darnold than I do to Rosen. A couple things: number one, I've seen Darnold do things that Rosen can't do in terms of getting out of some trouble. When you watch him, I don't know if people understand, this USC offensive line was terrible. I was at that Cotton Bowl [where USC played Ohio State]. He got hit repeatedly each and every play. And you go back and watch the cut-ups of third-and-six-plus throws, I saw a lot more pressure on Darnold than I did on Rosen, and Darnold can get away from some of that. He can survive and get outside of that.
"He can make every throw. The turnovers, you've got to sort through that. Rosen, if you just want a pure passer where they are right now, step in day one, Rosen is ahead. But his kind of inability to create once you get a free rusher, which you're going to see each and every Sunday, that to me is my hang-up there with Rosen."
While Jeremiah thinks Darnold can evolve into the pure passer that Rosen is right now, the fumble issue comes up in the evaluation process. But if you look deeper into the film as opposed to the box score, the problem is not as glaring.
"There are some coachable things on there," Jeremiah said. "His off-hand comes off the ball a lot inside the pocket. You can coach that. You can get better there. And I think some people look at the raw number of fumbles. When I sort it … some of them are on a mesh on a zone read. Is it the running back? Is it the quarterback? One of them was on a lateral back – it's a swing pass to [USC running back] Ronald Jones, he drops the ball, he doesn't fall on it, that goes in Sam Darnold's turnover category. So I think he can clean up the things he needs to clean up."
A "supersized, better version" of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, Darnold could be a natural fit with the Browns. Coach Hue Jackson was Dalton's offensive coordinator in Cincinnati from 2014-15, a period in which he made the Pro Bowl one year and set a career high in passer rating in the other.
If the Browns go that route, they sure have enough draft picks to make a tempting offer to another team in order to secure Barkley as well.
"I don't even think they'd have to go to two, though," Jeremiah said. "When you look at it from a Giants standpoint, this is a team with multiple Super Bowls. There's a lot of pride inside that organization. Dave Gettleman was there during those years. … They're viewing this year as a complete aberration. In their mind, they're thinking, 'We're never going to be picking up here ever again. We have to get our quarterback for when Eli [Manning] is done, right now.' I'd be shocked if the Giants do not take a quarterback at two, which means Indianapolis there at three is the landing spot for the running back."
That brings up the matter of the other two quarterbacks. While Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, is the wild card of the group, Allen is being viewed as Carson Wentz 2.0. The Eagles traded with Cleveland to move up and take the North Dakota State product second overall in 2016.
"I don't think [Allen is] as polished as a passer as Wentz was coming out," Jeremiah said. "He's got – as crazy as it is – he's got more upside. And you're talking about Wentz. Wentz is the MVP of the league if he's healthy. You look at Josh Allen has a stronger arm, he's even a better athlete. As good as we've seen Carson Wentz as an athlete, he's bigger. Wentz is more polished and more poised and you know what you're getting."
Allen may have a higher ceiling, but Wentz had the higher floor.
"That's why when I look at the Giants – and I know some people think that's too early for Josh Allen – I think that could be a perfect thing for him because you've got Eli Manning for the next couple years," Jeremiah said. "You don't have to play him. He's built to play in that kind of weather."
With that said, it all comes back to Barkley and his role in how the top five plays out.
"In terms of just an all-around running back, I'd put Saquon right underneath Adrian Peterson," Jeremiah said of past draft grades. "Look, I love Ezekiel Elliott, I love Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley – huge grade on those guys. I think this kid can be better."