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Versatility could be a clue to Giants' draft plans

Like many people across the world, Joe Judge's new normal means his office is his basement. His co-workers are his wife, Amber, and their four children – Sean, Michael, Emma Riley and Ella Grace.

His trusty assistant, meanwhile, is a golden retriever named Abby. And she knows the Giants' draft plans better than anyone else.

She gets to work early and stays there late with the Giants' head coach, sitting next to him on the couch 15 hours a day as he prepares for every possible scenario amid an evolving NFL landscape. While he keeps everything in perspective – "There are bigger things going on," he said Wednesday on a conference call, "that ultimately what we do is entertainment and a means of escape for people dealing with much bigger issues" -- this is not a stay-at-home vacation. An important week lies ahead.

"I have told my kids that there are times I'm going to need them to get out of the basement or be present," Judge said. "Based on how we set up our draft board so that I can have a visual in my basement, I've already talked to them about possibly taking tags off the wall and organizing different things. I'm not looking to make this a vacation for anybody. We have a lot of serious work to get done. But it is still our house, and like everyone else in America is finding out, everyone is working with their family always present, and that's pretty true for us."


The league had grand plans for the 2020 NFL Draft, which was to be held in Las Vegas with prospects ferrying across the iconic Fountains of Bellagio to make their entrances. It has since turned into a three-day virtual "Draft-a-Thon" to benefit charities that are battling the spread of COVID-19 and delivering relief to millions in need.

Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce the picks on a streaming video platform, which has become a familiar technology for Judge and millions of others. The Giants, like the 31 other clubs, have conducted their pre-draft interviews remotely. There naturally are limitations to the format, but Judge thinks the experience of his coaching staff has helped close the gap.

View photos of every player projected to the Giants in mock drafts one week ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft.

When Judge announced his staff in early February, five of them had just spent the 2019 season coaching college football: senior offensive assistant Derek Dooley (Missouri), running backs coach Burton Burns (Alabama), defensive line coach Sean Spencer (Penn State), inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer (Tennessee) and defensive quality control Mike Treier (Marshall).

That list doesn't include outside linebackers coach/senior assistant Bret Bielema, a former head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas who was the New England Patriots' defensive line coach last season, and defensive assistant Jody Wright, who was an offensive assistant for the Cleveland Browns last season after coaching on the collegiate level for 14 years. Additionally, Craig Fitzgerald, the team's new director of strength and performance, came from the University of Tennessee.

Judge, who was part of two national championships at Alabama, sees them as assets during this year's unprecedented process.

"One of the things you forget about in this whole process of the guys … is maybe they haven't coached them directly, but they recruited them and they have personal relationships with these players," Judge said. "You find out a lot about a player from a coach who has spent a lot of time meeting him and his family. The homework that they've done over the course of really a year-plus when they're recruiting in college is more beneficial than you spending an afternoon at a pro day with him. It's been a great resource for us. We have tremendous guys on our staff who, look, they were great recruiters in college. That's not going to mean anything in the NFL, but we can use what they've learned in the past on a specific player to tie into what we see as a whole person."

Judge isn't so much interested in what the players have done but rather what they can do at the next level.

"What all of these rookies find out the second they step in the building is none of them are pro ready," Judge said. "That's why they need the spring program, that's why they need training camp, that's why they go through growing pains as rookies. To me, it's about finding the upside of the player, of looking down the long scope of a career and seeing who's going to be the best player with the most upside for you. There's really no short-term fix or band aid. You're not going to pick someone in this draft and say, 'Okay, we answered an issue there.' It's just bringing the best guy available and then working with them every day."

The big question is which guys will they bring in next week. The Giants hold 10 picks, starting with the fourth overall selection on Thursday night. If you're looking for clues, Judge said that every player he looks for has a level of versatility.

"I don't care if you are a one-position offensive lineman or you're the quarterback," Judge said. "Everyone has to have versatility within their game to adjust to different game plans and schemes. If you find a player that has great impact and upside, that's a guy you want to add to your roster. The upside is the biggest part of it. In terms of is it someone that has to have a true position home, to me the position home is going to be defined by how you use them. That's up to us as coaches to be creative and maximize strengths. Not talk about what they are not, but figure out what they can do in order to help us win."

Abby, who has heard it all before, agrees.