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Fact or Fiction: Who to watch at rookie camp?

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The Giants.com staff debates Big Blue topics as rookie minicamp gets underway:

The player you're most interested to see practice at rookie minicamp is quarterback Kyle Lauletta.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Kyle Lauletta is the only possible answer here due to the nature of the practices. Minicamps like these are made for quarterbacks and receivers. With no contact permitted between offensive and defensive players, it will be impossible to judge anything from the play of the linemen the Giants drafted. Watching Will Hernandez play football but not hit someone is like judging how a Mustang performs while it sits in neutral in a parking lot. It might look cool, but you really don't know what it can do. We won't really see anything significant from him, B.J. Hill or RJ McIntosh. It will be fun to see Saquon Barkley's agility, explosiveness and route running up close, but again, you won't really see the real deal until guys are trying to tackle him. Seeing how fast, explosive, and twitchy Lorenzo Carter looks will be fun too, but what's a pass rusher or linebacker that can't hit anyone? For Lauletta, even with him throwing to unfamiliar receivers, you'll be able to see his anticipation, accuracy and what his arm strength looks like up close in an outdoor setting. It's more than you can say for the other guys.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - It has to be Saquon Barkley, the Giants' highest draft pick since L.T. in 1981. For lack of a better term, the Giants "earned" the second pick in the draft and chose the player many consider to be the best overall prospect in the 2018 class. Expectations are high – Barkley passed Dave Gettleman's gold jacket test – but the running back is used to playing in front of 110,000 people at Penn State's Beaver Stadium. We've seen him play on TV, we've seen him work out at the combine, we've seen him light up a press conference, but now we get to see him in a No. 26 jersey in Giants blue. As the NFL's slogan for this year's draft read, the future is now. 

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -As I wrote in a recent edition of Cover 3, I think Kyle Lauletta is the Giants' most intriguing draft pick from this year's class, so certainly he's going to be the player to watch at rookie minicamp.  When you take into consideration that there's no live contact during this phase of the offseason program, there's only so much you can take away from watching other positions, so seeing a quarterback throw is right up there at the top of the list.

*Saquon Barkley will have more receiving and return yards combined than rushing as a rookie. *

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -The answer to this question will be determined by how much the Giants use him in the return game. I believe the Giants will get him more than a 1,000 yards rushing, perhaps up to 1,200, and he'll also get somewhere between 600-700 receiving yards. Will he be able to garner 300-500 yards in the kick return game? I think that's on the high end. Even if he gets back there once a game for a return, which I think is on the high end, there's no guarantee the opposing kicker doesn't mortar kick or simply blast the ball out of the end zone.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -The versatility is what could make him a generational player in the NFL, but make no mistake about it, Saquon Barkley is a runner. When Dave Gettleman talked about the three things you need to do to be successful in football, the first wasn't "check down to the running back and hope he breaks it 80 yards." It was "run the football."

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -The real wild card here is how many opportunities he'll get in the return game.  After the Giants selected Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick, Pat Shurmur told reporters he'll play on special teams but he won't necessarily be the main option.  In his three years at Penn State, he ran for over 1,000 yards each season and always had more rushing yards than receiving and return yards combined.  Last season, Barkley collected 1,058 receiving and return yards (632 receiving, 426 return), but keep in mind he had 15 kickoff returns.  I don't think he'll have as many opportunities during his rookie season with the Giants.

There are more roles to be won on offense than defense between now and Week 1.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -I almost immediately started to type "fiction" after reading the statement, but then I started thinking about it a little bit. I wholeheartedly agree there are more worries on defense than on offense, but I'm not sure there is nearly as much competition for key roles. Defensively, we pretty much know the two starting safeties and cornerbacks (Landon Collins, Darian Thompson, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple), the four linebackers in base (Alec Ogletree, B.J. Goodson, Olivier Vernon, Kareem Martin), and two defensive linemen (Snacks Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson). The nickel corner, currently manned by William Gay, is a competition, as is the second nickel linebacker and the third defensive lineman in the team's base defense. Those are important roles, but I don't think they compare to the two huge questions on the offensive side of the ball: right tackle and wide receiver. Finding a starting caliber right tackle might be the most important thing that happens this spring and summer. Determining who will be the second outside receiver when Sterling Shepard goes into the slot is not quite as essential but still significant. That's why I'm going to go with the offense here with a huge spotlight on the right tackle spot.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -There are going to be so many different looks and packages in James Bettcher's defense that I think there will just be more significant roles to be won on that side of the ball, period. The Giants drafted two defensive tackles and a linebacker in Rounds 3-5, so you figure they could see some playing time right away because the Giants want to keep rolling guys in and out of the front seven to keep them fresh for the fourth quarter. And then you have the secondary. There are moving pieces there that need to be finalized before Sept. 9 vs. Jacksonville.

LANCE MEDOW: FactOn offense, the Giants still need to determine who will be the third wide receiver and the starting right side of the offensive line, especially tackle.  New addition Cody Latimer and returnees Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph will all be in the mix to replace Brandon Marshall at receiver, while Ereck Flowers, Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty will all compete for the right tackle spot.  At guard, even though Patrick Omameh and rookie Will Hernandez are considered the frontrunners to start, it remains to be seen where they'll both line up.  You can make a case that all three of those positions/roles are significant.  On defense, other than the third corner spot, we have a pretty good idea of where everyone else fits in, plus William Gay has by far much more experience than any other player in the mix to win the job.

The most significant acquisition among the Giants' NFC East rivals was Washington signing quarterback Alex Smith.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -There is no more important position in all of sports than the quarterback position. Once the Redskins realized they were not going to re-sign Kirk Cousins, it was essential they found a veteran quarterback to replace him. Depending on who you talk to, Smith is either a small upgrade or downgrade (my belief) from Cousins. Whatever you happen to believe, it will keep them competitive in a very balanced NFC East. Without that move, the Redskins would have been forced to go the journeyman route and they would have struggled to stay out of the division's basement. As important as Saquon Barkley is to the Giants, it pales in comparison to Smith's importance to the Redskins.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -Everyone is chasing the Eagles, so that's where I'm looking. Sustaining championship-caliber play is tougher in the NFL than any other sports league. And the Eagles are trying to make a run at doing so with Carson Wentz coming back from injury. They added five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to that deep front. The Eagles also picked up another veteran presence in wide receiver Mike Wallace and drafted one of the best tight ends of the class in Dallas Goedert, who could give headaches to the Giants in years to come.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact:If the quarterback is the most important position in the NFL, how can you argue against Alex Smith, especially since the Redskins chose not to re-sign Kirk Cousins.  It's very rare in this league that you can let a solid quarterback walk and find an immediate proven replacement, whether it be through free agency, a trade or the draft, and Washington managed to pull that off.  The most notable addition to the Cowboys this offseason is former Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns, who will replace Dez Bryant, and for the Eagles, I'd say former Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who will provide defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz with yet another option to rotate throughout the game and keep his line fresh.  Those two don't compare to Alex Smith.

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