Path To The Draft

Fact or Fiction: Best draft choice at No. 6

1. Julio Jones was the best sixth overall pick in the past 10 drafts.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact – It’s a strong list. The jury is still out on the most recent picks like Quenton Nelson, Jamal Adams, Ronnie Stanley and Leonard Williams due to relatively low small sample sizes. Julio Jones is the only surefire Hall of Famer in the group. Jones has had more than 1,400 receiving yards for five straight seasons, including three years of 1,593 or more. He is probably the best receiver in the NFL and has shown no signs of slowing down.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -- Quenton Nelson and Jamal Adams made the Pro Bowl as young players, but Julio Jones has done the hardest thing there is to do in the NFL: be consistent game-to-game and year-to-year. His 96.7 receiving yards per game is the highest average in NFL history with a minimum of 100 games played. His 6.3 catches per game is second only to Antonio Brown.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -- In the last decade, four offensive tackles (Andre Smith-2009, Russell Okung-2010, Jake Matthews-2014, Ronnie Stanley-2016), one guard (Quenton Nelson-2018), two defensive backs (Morris Claiborne-2012, Jamal Adams-2017), one linebacker (Barkevious Mingo-2013) and one defensive end (Leonard Williams-2015) were selected with the sixth overall pick. Nelson had a very productive rookie campaign in 2018, but he’s only played one season in the league. The same thing can be said for Adams, who made the Pro Bowl in 2018, but has only two years under his belt. The rest of the group has shown some flashes here and there, highlighted by Okung and Matthews, but no one compares to Julio Jones. The Falcons star wideout is a six-time Pro Bowler, has been named All-Pro four times and has led the NFL in receiving yards twice and receptions once. He’s one of the best players in the league, and probably the best at his position. I rest my case.

2. The Giants’ pick at 17 will be on the opposite side of the ball of their first selection.

SCHMEELK: Fact -- I say this with absolutely no certainty, but I think it will be. There’s obviously a chance that the Giants select two edge players, or an edge and a cornerback. Don’t be surprised if the Giants select a linebacker and even another defensive tackle (look at Gettleman’s draft history). But there are better odds they will select one offensive player and one defensive player. There’s a chance the Giants select a quarterback or right tackle with one of their first two picks. There’s an outside shot at a wide receiver, too, which is something Gettleman wasn’t shy about in his days with the Panthers. I would be surprised if a pass rusher wasn’t one of their first two picks, and I’ll give an edge to offense for the other. But it is nearly a 50-50 coin flip.

SALOMONE: Fact – My Magic 8 Ball just keeps saying “ask again later.” But that doesn’t cut it for Fact or Fiction. There are so many variables at play here, including if they will actually pick at No. 17. Or No. 6, for that matter. But I’ll go with “fact” here just on the basis that any 5-11 team has holes to fill on both sides of the ball. It’s not just the offense or just the defense. So it makes sense to buoy up both of them.

MEDOW: Fiction -- This year’s draft class is very deep at pass rusher/defensive lineman, and considering that fits with the needs of the team, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Giants take two defensive players in the first round. Last year, the Giants didn’t have two first round picks, but the team’s first two selections were on the offensive side of the ball (Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez) and in three (2013, 2016, 2017) of Dave Gettleman’s five draft classes in Carolina, his first two picks were on the same side of the ball. Based on that track record, it’s not a stretch to think the Giants will focus on one side of the ball in the first round.

3. Evan Engram will have more receiving yards than Saquon Barkley this season.

SCHMEELK: Fact -- Barkley will have more receptions, but Engram will have more yards. Despite missing five games last season, Engram only had 144 fewer receiving yards than Barkley despite having 46 fewer receptions. With the departure of Odell Beckham, Engram should be a focus of the passing offense just as he was in the final four games in 2019 when he had 22 catches for 320 yards. Engram’s third year should be a breakout season.

SALOMONE: Fiction -- There have been only eight seasons in which a Giants tight end had more than 721 yards, which is the number AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Bakley hit in 2018 as he led the league in yards from scrimmage. Mark Bavaro, Jeremy Shockey and Bob Tucker each did it twice, while Aaron Thomas and Evan Engram accounted for the other two. Engram cleared it by one yard as a rookie in 2017 before his numbers dipped as a sophomore due to injuries. I’m going “fiction” here because I can see Barkley’s numbers only increasing. He has a year under his belt. The Giants’ O-line is coming together. The coaching staff, notably head coach and offensive play-caller Pat Shurmur, has a better of idea what does and does not work with the roster. So this has more to do with Barkley’s ceiling. Engram is going to be a huge part of this offense.

MEDOW: Fact -- Last season, Saquon Barkley finished third on the team with 721 receiving yards and behind him was Evan Engram at 577. It’s important to note Barkley played in all 16 games, while Engram missed five contests. If you put Engram on the field for those five games, or even three of them, in all likelihood he finishes with more receiving yards than Barkley. You also can’t overlook the fact that Barkley had 46 more targets yet just 144 more receiving yards. Despite the lopsided number of targets, that’s not a disparity in yardage that Engram can’t make up over the course of a full season. On top of that, Engram was extremely productive in the final four games of the season without Odell Beckham on the field. He collected 22 receptions for 320 yards on 31 targets. Just a few more stats that bode well for Engram’s potential production in 2019 when spread across a full season.

4. Jabrill Peppers will be the team’s leading tackler and returner.

SCHMEELK: FACT SLAM -- I am extremely bullish on Peppers, but I feel better about him leading the team in return yards than tackles. He is a dynamic athlete, and he could be in the mix for both punt and kick return duties given his success there as a collegian. The only thing that might prevent him from getting both return jobs is the team worrying about his workload, playing him every snap on defense and then on all the special teams units. He will have a real chance to lead the team in tackles. I expect him to be near the line of scrimmage more than he’ll be deep, but there’s a chance someone like Alec Ogletree, as a three-down linebacker, might top his tackle total. The smart money is on Peppers.

SALOMONE: Fiction-- Linebacker Jameel McClain was the last player not named Landon Collins to lead the Giants in tackles. Collins, now with the Redskins, did it in each of his four seasons since being drafted in 2015. Without him, I think a linebacker reclaims the tackle crown. And that would be Alec Ogletree. He never leaves the field and averages 110 tackles when he plays at least 13 games in a season (2015 was the only time in his six years that he did not play that many). 

MEDOW: Fiction -- In each of his first two seasons in the league with the Browns, Jabrill Peppers was the top return man but finished sixth and fourth, respectively, on the team in tackles. I can see the same thing playing out with the Giants. As of now, Corey Coleman is Peppers’ main competition in the return game, but when it comes to tackles, the Giants also added safety Antoine Bethea, who led the Cardinals in tackles in 2018, and they still have linebacker Alec Ogletree, who finished second on the team in that category in 2018. It’s a much safer bet to expect Peppers to be the top return man versus the leading tackler.

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