1. Wednesday’s trades changed what you think the Giants are going to do in the draft.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -- After the trade, there might be more or less of a priority on certain positions in the draft, but I don’t think it changes my opinion on the overall approach. They might consider drafting an offensive weapon at wide receiver (or maybe even tight end) earlier than they did before the trade, but their focus should remain the same. They had a need for a pass rusher before the trade of Olivier Vernon, and that need still exists. It is a strong defensive draft and Dave Gettleman has a history of focusing on players up front. My thinking on the team’s approach remains unchanged.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact – The Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr., who climbed to second on the franchise’s all-time receiving yards list in just five seasons, and Olivier Vernon, who was their active sacks leader, and gained two draft picks and a former first-round safety. So, yeah, I think that changes things up a little bit. The team now has 12 picks in draft capital to continue building the roster. This will go down as a major move in a franchise-shaping offseason.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -- If anything, the trade actually provided additional resources for the Giants to address their needs and bolster the depth chart through the draft. By acquiring an additional first round pick and a third rounder, which they didn’t have because they took Sam Beal in last year’s supplemental draft, the Giants now have a total of 12 picks in the upcoming draft, giving them more than enough volume to add playmakers at various positions. The draft is a combination of filling needs while also getting great value. When you reach for needs, you sacrifice value. That’s why I don’t think the trade drastically changes the team’s game plan in April.
2. Sterling Shepard will see his targets increase the most this season.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -- I’m going with Evan Engram. We saw how Engram’s targets and production jumped substantially after Beckham’s injury last season. In his seven games with Beckham on the field, Engram averaged just over five targets per game. In his final four games of the season when Beckham was injured, he averaged just under eight targets per game. His role in the offense grew substantially as the Giants used more “big” personnel and focused more on play action. I would expect that to continue this year.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact – I don’t know if it will be monumental, though, because Shepard is already one of the most targeted players in the game. Since he came into the league in 2016, he has been targeted 296 times, 27th-most in the NFL (his average of 6.9 targets per game is 32nd). Beckham is one of three players to average double-digit targets in that span, with Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins being the others. Those balls need to go somewhere, and Shepard continues to ascend. He posted career highs last season in targets (107), catches (66), yards (872) and average yards per catch (13.2).
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -- With Odell Beckham gone, I think the easy choice is that the next receiver up, Sterling Shepard, will see an increase in targets. In his rookie year in 2016, when Beckham played all 16 games, Shepard was targeted 105 times. The following year, with Beckham missing the majority of the season and Shepard sidelined for five games, that number dipped to 84. Last season, with Beckham missing four games and Shepard suiting up for all 16, the Giants’ former second round pick received 107 targets. While his numbers have fluctuated slightly, there hasn’t been a major difference in targets with Beckham in or out of the lineup. That’s why I don’t think Shepard will see the biggest increase. Instead, I think Evan Engram’s will. As a rookie, he had 115 targets but collected just 64 in 2018, mainly because he was sidelined for five games. If fully healthy in 2019, Engram has the potential to become a major focal point in the passing game.
3. Kevin Zeitler’s best attribute is pass-blocking.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -- He is a better pass blocker than a run blocker, but I want to dive a little bit deeper into his traits. As good as Zeitler’s feet are, I’m more impressed with his intelligence. When you watch him play right guard he is rarely, if ever, fooled. He is great at anticipating, passing off, and picking up stunts, twists and blitzes. His head is always up and on a swivel. He can navigate to the second level of the defense and pick up linebackers in the run game, too. He is athletic, strong, quick and smart, which is a great combination for an offensive lineman.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction – Pro Football Focus did grade him as the best pass-blocking guard in the NFL last season, allowing just one pressure per 58 snaps, but I don’t want to pigeonhole him. What he brings is experience as a 100-game starter in this league. With that comes more stability for an offensive line that underwent a full rebuild over the past two years. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez solidified the left side last season, but everything to their right was up in the air. The Giants brought back two centers – Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley – and added Zeitler to fortify the right side. We’ll see what else the Giants do in the draft as Chad Wheeler stands as the incumbent at right tackle.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact – Because of the importance of the continuity and cohesion of the unit as a whole, it’s challenging to quantify impact of an offensive lineman, but based on the statistics, it’s clear Kevin Zeitler knows how to give his quarterback time to survey the field. Pro Football Focus handed Zeitler the highest pass-blocking grade (91.7) among all NFL guards in 2018. On top of that, he allowed one pressure per 58 snaps, the best among guards with a minimum of 450 pass-blocking snaps. I think that tells it all. With that being said, don’t overlook his durability. In his seven seasons in the league, Zeitler has started all 16 games in five different campaigns.
4. This year’s NFL roster movement has been wilder than the NBA.
JOHN SCHMEELK: FICTION SLAM -- The NFL has been pretty wild, but what makes the NBA even crazier is the caliber of players who move from team to team. Odell Beckham Jr, Khalil Mack, Dee Ford and Landon Collins are some of the best at their position, so it’s a big deal. But in the NBA, the equivalent of the best quarterbacks in the NFL have been changing teams. Kevin Durant, a top five player, has changed teams. LeBron James, one of the best two players in history (I think Lance has him NUMBER ONE!), and Kawhi Leonard, another top player, have changed teams. Anthony Davis, a top five player, is trying to force a trade from his team. This is the equivalent of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Patrick Mahomes changing teams in the NFL, which would never happen. The NBA wins.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction – Piggybacking off what Schmeelk said, in order for the NFL to be wilder than the NBA, you would have to see the best quarterbacks pack and move from team to team. That’s the equivalent. Each year you see Pro Bowlers at skill positions on the move, but elite quarterbacks aren’t choosing where to go and who to bring with them. They’re too valuable for teams to let that happen.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -- Much like in the NBA, every NFL offseason involves a massive number of transactions, but what’s made this NFL offseason unique thus far is how many star players have been traded, especially two of the top wide receivers in the league in Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham. Yes, trades are nothing new, but the caliber of the players involved can’t be overlooked. On top of Brown and Beckham, one of the best pass rushers in the league, Dee Ford, has also been traded. We’re not even a week into the new league year and things have been unpredictable and extremely wild.
Giants.com tracks the team's offseason transactions