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Giants Now: Best playmakers available in free agency & 2021 NFL Draft class

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Best playmakers available in FA and draft

With the 2020 season now over, the countdown towards the start of the 2021 league year can officially begin.

We still have over a month before the start of free agency, and prior to that, teams must decide whether or not they want to designate Franchise or Transition Players. Then the following month will feature the 2021 NFL Draft, which contains a very talented group of pass-catchers.

Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo took a look at the best wide receivers and tight ends that are currently scheduled to be available this offseason, both in free agency and the draft. To put it simply, PFF is excited about the crop of playmakers that can be added in the coming months.

"In the pass-first NFL, loading up on playmakers is crucial," Palazzolo writes. "Teams looking to make a move have a golden opportunity this offseason, as both free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft are loaded with a variety of all-around receivers, deep threats, after-the-catch specialists and mismatch creators. The wide receiver position is deeper than tight end, but there is something for everyone in this market."

First let's dive into PFF's top 10 free agent wide receivers:

  1. Chris Godwin
  2. Allen Robinson II
  3. Kenny Golladay
  4. Will Fuller V
  5. JuJu Smith-Schuster
  6. Corey Davis
  7. Antonio Brown
  8. T.Y. Hilton
  9. Curtis Samuel
  10. Marvin Jones Jr.

As the article states, "There are a few high-end prizes in the free agent wide receiver market, though the franchise tag may still be in play for some players. Godwin, Robinson and Golladay are all in the running to be considered the top receiver on the board, and each brings a different skill set to the table."

As for the 2021 NFL Draft, here are PFF's top 10 wide receivers:

  1. Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
  2. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
  3. DeVonta Smith, Alabama
  4. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
  5. Kadarius Toney, Florida
  6. Rondale Moore, Purdue
  7. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
  8. Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
  9. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
  10. Elijah Moore, Ole Miss

"Last year was one of the better receiver classes in a while, and this year's class has more of the same," Palazzolo writes. "Three different receivers have a case to be the first one off the board. It's Chase who gets the nod on the PFF draft board."

The groups of tight ends available in free agency and the draft are not quite as deep as the wide receivers, but there are still some intriguing players in both.

PFF's top 5 free agent tight ends are as followed:

  1. Hunter Henry
  2. Jonnu Smith
  3. Gerald Everett
  4. Rob Gronkowski
  5. Jared Cook

Palazzolo focused on Henry in this section, saying "There's not nearly as much depth at tight end as there is at receiver. Henry is the prize of the group, grading out as the seventh-best tight end since 2017. The question for him is health, but when on the field, he is one of the better all-around receiving and run-blocking tight ends."

Below are PFF's top 5 tight ends available in the draft:

  1. Kyle Pitts, Florida
  2. Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
  3. Brevin Jordan, Miami
  4. Hunter Long, Boston College
  5. Tony Poljan, Virginia

"Pitts is a special playmaker, and calling him a tight end may be a disservice to his unique skill set," Palazzolo says. "He has outstanding length and body control. His future team must tap into his ability to win all over the field as a receiver. He's not a true tight end, as his blocking needs work, so usage is crucial once he gets to the NFL."

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for the final time before the start of the draft.

2021 NFL FA Tracker: List of Giants set to become free agents

The first game of the 2021 season won't kick off until September, but the new league year is just weeks away.

The calendar turns at 4 p.m. ET on March 17, at which point 2020 player contracts expire and free agency begins. Below is a look at which Giants are set to become free agents:

Unrestricted Free Agents:

  • DB Adrian Colbert
  • S Nate Ebner
  • LB Kyler Fackrell
  • OT Cameron Fleming
  • RB Wayne Gallman
  • DL Austin Johnson
  • LS Casey Kreiter
  • RB Dion Lewis
  • QB Colt McCoy
  • RB Alfred Morris
  • C Spencer Pulley
  • LB Jabaal Sheard
  • DL Dalvin Tomlinson
  • DL Leonard Williams

Restricted Free Agents:

  • WR C.J. Board
  • LB Devante Downs

DATES TO KNOW

March 9: Deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 15-17: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2020 player contracts. They cannot sign until the start of the new league year.

March 17: The 2021 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m. ET.

April 23: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets.

April 29-May 1: 2021 NFL Draft, Cleveland, Ohio.

View the players set to become free agents when the new league year begins March 17.

How tough is Giants' 2021 schedule?

The opponents are set. The locations are set. Now all we need to wait for are the exact dates to complete the Giants' 2021 regular season schedule.

While it will be some time before the scheduled is released, we can take a look at the strength of the Giants' 2021 schedule now based on their opponents' performances this past year.

This upcoming season, in addition to the typical NFC East foes, the Giants will take on the NFC South, AFC West, and same-place finishers from the NFC West (Los Angeles Rams) and NFC North (Chicago Bears). Opponents are determined by the NFL's scheduling formula, which you can read about below.

Based on combined winning percentages from the 2020 season, the Giants match the Indianapolis Colts for the fourth-easiest strength of schedule next season. The Giants' 2021 opponents went 118-136-2 (.465) in 2020. The Philadelphia Eagles (.449) will head into next season with the "easiest" lineup, while the Pittsburgh Steelers (.563) have the "hardest" schedule in the NFL.

Since 1990 – a streak of 31 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. Last year, with the expansion of the postseason, there were seven new playoff teams, including the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The other six teams included the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Washington Football Team, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts. 

Additionally, two teams won division titles – Washington (NFC East) and Pittsburgh (AFC North) – after missing the playoffs in 2018. At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 years.

Re-live the most memorable moments and images from the first year of the Joe Judge era.