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Fact or Fiction: Best draft class in Giants history


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

The best draft class in Giants history is 2005.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - I think this is the class the Giants got the most value out of, especially considering they did not have a first-round pick. They maximized second, third and fourth-round picks with future big-time contributors in Corey Webster, Justin Tuck, and Brandon Jacobs. I want my top draft class to contain a transformational player. Unfortunately, Eli Manning was not technically drafted by the Giants, but the Phillip Rivers and David Deihl combination that year is impressive. The picks after Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms in 1981 and 1979 were not good enough. Hall of Famer Sam Huff and Jim Catcavatge as third and fourth-round picks in 1956 is also very strong. I think both of those top the 2005 draft.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – In this debate, I'm of the belief you can consider Eli Manning in the 2004 class, and the two-time Super MVP makes it the best one in franchise history. Even when you count Philip Rivers as the pick, he was still an asset that helped acquire Manning. Therefore, 2004 stands. In addition to Manning, it produced Chris Snee, who joined No. 10 in the Ring of Honor. Additionally, Gibril Wilson was a fifth-round choice in the same class. Just ask Randy Moss and Tom Brady about his impact in Super Bowl XLII.

But don't take our word for it. The fans actually voted on this very subject a few years ago in our "Giants Bracket Challenge" on What we discovered is that no matter what the category is, Lawrence Taylor always wins.

Beginning with a pool of 16, fans voted round by round each week and whittled the bracket down to the final four, which consisted of 1981 (L.T., Billy Ard, Byron Hunt) vs. 2003 (Osi Umenyiora, David Diehl, David Tyree) and 1984 (Carl Banks, William Roberts, Jeff Hostetler, Gary Reasons) vs. 2005 (Corey Webster, Justin Tuck, Brandon Jacobs).

The two classes from the 1980s prevailed, and in a tight championship race, 1981 edged out 1984 by 49 votes, or 53-47 percent. To get there, 1981 knocked out 2004 (72-28 percent), 1956 (81-19), and 2003 in the semifinals (67-33).

Here were the 16 classes:


  • 1983: DB Terry Kinard, DE Leonard Marshall, TE Jamie Williams, T Karl Nelson, DB Perry Williams, LB Andy Headen, K Ali Haji-Sheikh
  • 1965: RB Tucker Frederickson, RB Chuck Mercein, DB Willie Williams, RB Ernie Koy, DB Spider Lockhart
  • 1987: WR Mark Ingram, WR Stephen Baker, WR Odessa Turner, T Doug Riesenberg,
  • 2003: DT William Joseph, DE Osi Umenyiora, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, DB Rod Babers, T David Diehl, WR Willie Ponder, CB Frank Walker, WR David Tyree


  • 2004: QB Philip Rivers, G Chris Snee, LB Reggie Torbor, S Gibril Wilson
  • 1981: LB Lawrence Taylor, G Billy Ard, LB Byron Hunt
  • 1986: DE Eric Dorsey, DB Mark Collins, NT Erik Howard, LB Pepper Johnson
  • 1956: LB Sam Huff, DE Jim Katcavage, K Don Chandler


  • 1984: LB Carl Banks, G William Roberts, QB Jeff Hostetler, LB Gary Reasons, WR Lionel Manuel
  • 1979: QB Phil Simms, WR Earnest Gray
  • 2007: CB Aaron Ross, WR Steve Smith, NT Jay Alford, LB Zak DeOssie, TE Kevin Boss, S Michael Johnson, RB Ahmad Bradshaw
  • 1993: DE Michael Strahan, LB Jessie Armstead


  • 1989: C Brian Williams, G Bob Kratch, DB Greg Jackson, RB Dave Meggett, TE Howard Cross, DB Myron Guyton
  • 1997: WR Ike Hilliard, RB Tiki Barber, LB Ryan Phillips, P Brad Maynard, SS Sam Garnes
  • 2005: CB Corey Webster, DE Justin Tuck, RB Brandon Jacobs
  • 1955: DT Rosey Grier, FB Mel Triplett, DB Jimmy Patton

Lance Medow: Fact – There are some strong candidates. You can go with 1984, which showcased Carl Banks, William Roberts, Jeff Hostetler, Gary Reasons, and Lionel Manuel. The 2003 class had Osi Umenyiora, David Diehl, and David Tyree, and 2007 wasn't too shabby with Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Zak DeOssie, Kevin Boss, and Ahmad Bradshaw. You can make a case for all three of those groups, but to me, the one that tops the list is 2005. That year, the Giants had just four picks (none in the first round because of the Eli Manning trade) and wound up with Corey Webster (second round), Justin Tuck (third round) and Brandon Jacobs (fourth round) with their top three picks. All three of those players helped the team win a pair of Super Bowls in the span of five seasons and all three played at least eight seasons with the team.

From a value standpoint, the Giants hit a home run with this class because Webster, Tuck and Jacobs all became key starters, and all earned second contracts with the team. That's the goal with any draft class. You're not just renting the players for the length of their rookie deals. You want them to give you a reason to offer a new contract, and that happened with all three of these players. In a year when the Giants had no first-round picks, they still walked away with plenty of substance and depth. That's pretty impressive. The 1984 class also runs deep and contributed to two Super Bowl victories, so you can't go wrong with that group, but I'd give 2005 the slight edge because the Giants didn't make a selection until the 43rd pick and managed to retain all three of those players during the salary cap era. It's important to take into consideration the environment surrounding the class as much as the individual talent.

Matt Citak: Fact – There was some stiff competition for the honor of the Giants' best draft class. In 1984, the Giants selected Carl Banks, William Roberts, Jeff Hostetler, Gary Reasons and Lionel Manuel, all of whom played a role in the team winning either Super Bowl XXI, Super Bowl XXV or both. The Giants also landed Michael Strahan and Jessie Armstead in the 1993 draft, both of whom are part of the Giants' Ring of Honor. Nonetheless, the 2005 draft class takes the crown. A year after trading multiple picks for Eli Manning, the Giants had just four selections, none of which were in the first round, and emerged with Corey Webster, Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs. Any GM would sign up for that.

The Giants will have more than two rookie starters this season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - More than two is a tough hurdle to get over, especially since there's a chance there's a premium pick used on quarterback, and that player is unlikely to start Week 1. If the Giants take a wide receiver, that player will likely start in Week 1 if healthy, but there's a chance the other picks have to get worked in over time. Eventually, more than two will be starters, just not to start the season.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Assuming the first two picks are locks to start, the nature of football could likely lead to a third. Who saw Tre Hawkins III becoming a Week 1 starter last year? Rookies can hit the ground running when given a chance. Additionally, the grind of a 17-game NFL season can create opportunities on the depth chart.

Lance Medow: Fiction – On the offensive side of the ball, the only spot where I can see a rookie carving out a significant role is wide receiver. The team brought in five new players to compete on the offensive line, Daniel Bellinger would step in if Darren Waller retires, and Devin Singletary will likely be the lead back to start the season. On the defensive side of the ball, the only position where there's a legitimate opportunity for a first-year player to step in is corner as that group is already young and Adoree' Jackson is still a free agent. The front seven is mainly set, and Dane Belton and Jalen Mills are options to replace Xavier McKinney. I can see two rookies earning starting roles, but three is a stretch.

Matt Citak: Fact – Barring a trade up in the first round for a quarterback that costs them a few of their picks, the Giants likely will have more than two rookie starters this season. A wide receiver at No. 6 would immediately become a factor in the passing game and would be a starter from Day 1. With the No. 47 pick, it depends on the position drafted, but that player will at least have the opportunity to compete for a starting spot right away. That could be two rookie starters just to start the season. Among the seven players selected in the 2023 draft class, four of them started multiple games. Chances are at least three rookies this year will do the same.

View photos of every NFL player selected with the sixth overall pick since the first draft in 1936.

The Giants will draft more offensive than defensive players this year.

John Schmeelk: Fact - The draft is a better offensive draft class, especially at the top. Unless the Giants trade out of the sixth spot, I am convinced they select an offensive player at 6th overall, and I think a running back could be added later in the draft. There are many needs on defense at safety, cornerback and defensive tackle, but I think with the strength of the draft being on offense, more players will be drafted there.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – This is impossible to predict because there are so many variables, but I'll go with an even split. The offense wasn't the only reason the Giants couldn't follow up a successful first season under the current regime.

Lance Medow: Fact – In a recent edition of Cover 4, we ranked the top six needs for the team in the upcoming draft. My breakdown was three on offense (game-changer, tight end, offensive line) and three on defense (pass rusher, cornerback, safety), so I can make a case for both sides of the ball carrying more volume in the draft. But when you look at the current roster, there's a bit more youth on defense than offense. As I've emphasized throughout the offseason, the Giants need to increase their scoring after averaging just under 16 points per game in 2023. From that standpoint, I give the edge to the offense.

Matt Citak: Fiction – If the Giants finish the draft with their current six selections, I actually believe they will split them evenly between the offense and defense. As of now, the Giants could use another cornerback, safety, and interior defensive lineman to at least compete for a starting spot. Assuming Darren Waller returns, then the same could be said for quarterback, wide receiver, and running back. The free agent options available at the defensive positions I listed are a lot more intriguing to me than those at the offensive positions, so a veteran signing or two before the draft could tip the scale towards the offense. But as things stand right now, I lean towards the picks being split between the offense and defense, or more picks being used on the defense, even if the first pick or two are spent on the offense.

Now that Aaron Donald has retired, Dexter Lawrence is the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL.

John Schmeelk: Fact - There are a lot of other talented defensive tackles out there like Jeffrey Simmons, Christian Wilkins, and Chris Jones, but I will give the nod to Dexter because he is able to do his damage from the nose tackle position. It is a very hard to be that good of a pass rusher in the middle of the line, but he manages it. Lawrence is also much younger than Jones, who is winding down his career.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – He's certainly getting close, but you have to give the tiebreaker (for now) to a player like Chris Jones, who has done it for a long time and has the postseason resume. It'll be interesting to see where Lawrence lands on the top 100 this year. His peers voted him 28th heading into 2023, and he did nothing but improve his reputation since then.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Dexter Lawrence is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league, but he's not atop the list. There are other proven veterans still going strong, including Kansas City's Chris Jones, who is a disruptive force against the run and pass. Jones has recorded at least 7.5 sacks in each of the last six seasons and at least nine in five of them highlighted by three double-digit campaigns. The five-time Pro Bowler has also been extremely durable as he's suited up for at least 15 contests in six of his eight seasons. Jones is a huge reason the Chiefs made it back-to-back Super Bowl titles. He's as good a two-way defensive player that you'll find in the NFL.

Matt Citak: Fact – With Donald out of the league, Lawrence's biggest competition for the best interior defensive lineman is Kansas City's Chris Jones. The five-time All-Pro is a certified stud in the middle of the Chiefs' defensive line, and he likely has Lawrence beat as a pass rusher. But especially over the last two seasons, the Giants' back-to-back, second-team All-Pro selection has developed into a run-stuffing machine, with 73 total run stops during that span compared to Jones' 52 (according to Pro Football Focus). Lawrence has overcome Jones when it comes to the run game, which helped the Giants' team captain earn the highest overall PFF grade of any interior defensive lineman last season. With him being three years younger than Jones, I'm giving the edge to Lawrence.

View photos of defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence's career with the Giants.