It's not too often that NASCAR gets brought up in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft.
But such was the case last month after NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah likened the chances of Giants GM Dave Gettleman trading down to something not often seen in the sport of stock car racing.
"I think we'll see a right turn in a NASCAR race before we see Dave Gettleman trade back," Jeremiah joked to the media on April 21.
As it turns out, there are more right turns in NASCAR than the analyst might have originally thought.
The Giants traded down in each of the first two rounds of the draft, acquiring Chicago's fifth-round pick in 2021 and first and fourth-round picks in 2022, along with Miami's third-round pick next year.
"I think when you look at what they were able to collect, and I think when you look at where this roster is, it's actually in pretty good shape," Jeremiah recently told the Giants Huddle Podcast. "I think just having some numbers to be able to spread out and to be able to get assets next year is huge. And there's a little more certainty with the process next year. I'm all for that. Get some extra picks here and collect some picks for next year."
As it has been widely reported for months, this year's pre-draft process was unlike any other year. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL was forced to cancel the 2021 Scouting Combine. Each year, the Combine serves as the most important week of the offseason for teams to gather intel on the draft class, both on and off the field.
The uncertainty surrounding all of sports over the last year prompted many big-time college prospects to return to school for the 2021 season rather than declare themselves eligible for the draft. So, a larger and deeper player pool and the hope that the pre-draft process returns to (or close to) normal should be beneficial in 2022.
"I think the player pool is a little bit under reported, just in terms of the number of guys that ended up going back, particularly the smaller-school guys that make up a lot of those Day 3 picks," Jeremiah said regarding the Class of '22. "You're going to have a much larger pool to choose from there. You're going to see some of these even Power 5 guys that ended up getting an extra year coming back and developing even more. You're just going to have a better sense of going through the whole process with these guys, getting on campus, feeling more comfortable with their background stuff, having a Combine…
"Of all the things [the Giants] accomplished, I think getting those three picks next year might be my favorite."
But Jeremiah also walked away from the draft excited about the six players the Giants drafted.
First-round pick Kadarius Toney proved he could do a little bit of everything during his four years at Florida. The 6-foot-0 receiver finished his collegiate career with 120 receptions for 1,590 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 8.8 yards per carry on 66 rush attempts (580 yards). Toney also averaged 21.6 yards on 15 kickoff returns and 11.3 yards on 13 punt returns with one touchdown.
Jeremiah believes the Giants were focused on making the offense more dynamic in the draft, and the selection of Toney should help in that area.
"I think he gives you easy completions," Jeremiah said about the No. 20 overall pick. "Just quick-hitters, get the ball in his hands. He's phenomenal after the catch. You can do that, you can use him on jet sweeps, you can use him in the backfield some if you want to get him the ball that way. But I think just finding more dynamic players in whatever capacity you can use them I think is something the Giants really tried to focus on. They have to be more dynamic, they have to be more explosive, and I think he helps you accomplish that.
"Now there's some route running stuff that he's going to have to clean up. I mean once he gets to the top of his route, when he gets his foot in the ground, he's got big time juice to create separation. But as a quarterback, you also have to have a feel and a sense for where he's going. You can't freelance to the point where I can't get my timing down because I don't know when you're coming out of the break. They have plenty of time to iron all that stuff out, but you got a fantastic athlete to work with."
Jeremiah predicted offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will be able to use Toney in a variety of ways, from lining him up in the slot, to pitching him bubble screens, to getting him outside or using him on some fly sweeps. But Toney isn't the only draft pick that Jeremiah said fits in perfectly with the Giants.
Many draft pundits were surprised to see Georgia's Azeez Ojulari still available when the Giants were on the clock at No. 50. You can count Jeremiah in that category, as he believed the edge rusher would have "100 percent" been a first-round pick had it not been for some medical concerns.
"If you can keep him healthy, you're talking about a steal, a big-time steal here, and a guy who plays really hard," Jeremiah explained. "That's one thing I respect about Coach (Joe) Judge is when he's come in there, the effort with which this team plays, specifically on the defensive side of the ball, is phenomenal. This kid is going to match up with that."
View photos of the New York Giants 2021 NFL Draft Class.
Ojulari was dominant this past season at Georgia, picking up 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, both of which led the SEC, in 10 games. In addition, his four forced fumbles were tied for the second-most in the FBS.
The former Bulldogs linebacker has developed some nice pass rushing moves over the years. But Jeremiah believes that the 20-year-old is just scratching the surface of his potential.
"He can rush from a two-point [stance], he doesn't have any problem doing that standing up and rushing," said Jeremiah. "He has really, really active, strong hands, so he has a nice little swipe move, he has a little chop move. He's got an up-and-under move for kind of his counter. Those are kind of his bread-and-butter moves.
"Now the interesting thing is, I think there's more there with speed-to-power with him, of getting more push with that because when you see him in the run game, you see how strong he is. He has long arms, he can use that length and he can really jolt guys with his hands. I think once he gets a little more comfortable landing those hands as a rusher, you're going to see some more speed-to-power. I think that's coming."
In the third round, the Giants were able to boost an already deep and talented secondary with the selection of UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson.
"Everybody you talk to around the [UCF] program there said he's just comfortable in [the slot]," Jeremiah said. "He likes kind of being in the chaos and in the storm, which is great. I would keep him there until you feel comfortable with him on the outside. If that's where he's comfortable, let's make him comfortable.
"He's really tough, he's going to be an outstanding blitzer in there. He can be a really good force player against the run, and he has the quickness and the fluidity to be able to match guys in there. To me, it's hard to find somebody like that. I know at the Senior Bowl, we got to see him work outside a little bit, but to me, if his comfort zone is inside, that's where I'd keep him."
To get things started on Day 3, the Giants selected their first small-school prospect in the form of Northern Iowa linebacker Elerson Smith.
Smith was outstanding in 15 games during the 2019 season, which served as his final stint at Northern Iowa and saw him rack up 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss while forcing five fumbles.
Jeremiah couldn't help but compare him to a similar small-school prospect who was drafted a few years ago and has since collected 17 sacks within his first two NFL seasons.
"He reminds me a lot of [Raiders DE] Maxx Crosby [from Eastern Michigan]," Jeremiah said of Smith. "Same body type, same area of the draft where he ended up coming off the board. Again, really long. He has a good first step. He just needs to be a little bit more physical and a little bit stronger, so adding some play strength is going to be an area he can improve. But the kid has a natural feel. You look at the production, he has a really good feel of finish. I always like talking about guys that have a GPS. Wherever they are, in their rush, if they're high side, if they're underneath, they can find the quarterback, they can feel and sense where he's moving and they can go get him. That kid has it."
With their first of two sixth-round picks, the Giants selected Arizona running back Gary Brightwell.
Brightwell finally got a chance to start at RB for the Wildcats in 2020, carrying the ball 88 times for 390 yards (4.4 avg.) and a touchdown in five games. However, it appears as if the rookie's best chance at significant playing time, at least in 2021, should come on special teams, where Jeremiah believes he could thrive.
"Brightwell has the total framework of being a really good special teams player," the analyst said. "He's big and fast, strong and tough. That's a good combination. I actually thought he caught the ball pretty well, too, out of the backfield. You've got something that you can work with there with him and the opportunities that he did have coming out of the backfield."
The Giants closed out the draft with the selection of Oklahoma State cornerback Rodarius Williams at pick No. 201.
"I was intrigued by him just seeing him down at the Senior Bowl, just body-typing him," Jeremiah said. "That is a good-looking corner. To me, I think you take shots on guys like that at this point in the draft."
Jeremiah added he saw two key similarities between all six draft picks - their toughness and competitiveness.
"You're not going to have to coach effort with any of these guys, really," he said. "They all play extremely hard. When you can kind of identify the traits of what you're looking for and you start seeing themes, that's when you know you've got something going."
There is still a long way to go before the start of the 2021 season, and a lot can change between now and September. But following all of the excitement of this year's draft, Jeremiah believes we are in for a very interesting division race.
"I think [the NFC East is] completely wide open with these four teams…" the draft analyst said. "But I think it's kind of emerging too, as a physical division, a line of scrimmage division, which is going to be fun."
View photos of the Giants' roster as it currently stands.