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Cover 3: Takeaways from 2021 NFL Draft


In this week's edition of Cover 3, the crew breaks down the 2021 class.

John Schmeelk: I think you can label the Giants' 2021 draft with one word: Value.

If I told Giants fans before the 2021 Draft started that the team would have walked away with Kadarius Toney, Azeez Ojulari, Aaron Robinson, Elerson Smith, Gary Brightwell, and Rodarius Williams, they would have been satisfied.

Some fans might have wondered if Ojulari was good value with the 11th overall pick, but at the same time been impressed at landing Kadarius Toney with a second-round pick. Maybe some fans would have guessed the Giants moved down in the first round, but then up in the second round to land both players. The combination of the two players plus Aaron Robinson in the third round, however, would have made most fans happy.

There might have been some complaints about not drafting an offensive lineman, but there would have been satisfaction in adding one of the top pass rushers in the draft, getting Daniel Jones another weapon and reinforcing the secondary with someone who can play both inside and outside. Finding a young player to add to the running back room was a priority, and adding two more players on Day 3 who can affect the opponent's passing game is never a bad thing.

There wouldn't have been a party since none of the consensus Top 10 non-quarterbacks were on the list of drafted players, but the haul would have met expectations and included players at positions of need who would help the team this year.

Oh wait, I forgot to mention something. The Giants also acquired an extra first-, third-, and fourth-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. The value of those picks turned what would have been a good class into a spectacular one - with impact on the franchise next year and beyond.

The Giants moved down from the 11th overall selection to the 20th overall pick and received first- and fourth-round picks next season, and an additional fifth-round pick (used to trade up to select Aaron Robinson) this year. The old Jimmy Johnson trade chart valued that move at the exact point value of the Bears 2021 second-round pick. The Giants got far more than that and maximized the value of the 11th overall pick.

In the second round, the Giants slid back eight spots from No. 42 to 50 overall, picked up a third-round pick in 2022, and walked away with the same player they would have drafted at No. 42. It was the best way to maximize the value of the selection.

Next year, the salary cap is expected to stay low, so additional picks will allow the Giants to add talent to the roster if they have a quiet free agency period. They can also package picks to move around the 2022 NFL Draft or acquire veteran players. The 2022 draft class is expected to have a much larger player pool than this year due to the players returning after the pandemic. Next year's picks should yield better value than this year, especially early in the draft.

There's that word again - value. It will be fun to see the ramifications of the value obtained in this class for years to come.

View photos of Giants first-round pick Kadarius Toney touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

Dan Salomone: In keeping with the NASCAR rhetoric that surrounded the Giants last week, the front office was given the green light this offseason. They received the go-ahead to spend in free agency – which assistant general manager Kevin Abrams said was "probably uncommon this year" among NFL owners given the pandemic-related financial losses – and the aggressive approach carried over to the draft in the form of well-publicized trades.

"I think it did," general manager Dave Gettleman said after the Giants filled out their six-man draft class on Saturday afternoon. "You know, we've had that mindset. And you know we just felt like, it's all about calculated risk. You go to Vegas, go to Atlantic City, and some people are aggressive and some people aren't. It's just sometimes it's instinct. Sometimes it's just looking at the board and seeing where it's going to take you. … We were aggressive in the roster-building season in both free agency and the draft."

Additionally, while every draft is about the future, the decision-makers had an even closer eye on next year. The reason was twofold. Not only is it shaping up to be a strong class, there were too many unknowns this year due to the pandemic-stricken evaluation process. Thus, they made it a priority to stockpile picks, gaining selections in the first, third, and fourth rounds in 2022.

"To be honest with you, it makes it fun knowing that we have all these opportunities to take players next year," director of college scouting Chris Pettit said. "So I'm looking forward to it. With a big class, it's going to be a lot of work for us. Our scouts are going to have to be as thorough as ever and start work earlier with such a big class and guys moving all around. We know that, and we are ready to take on the challenge. But now at least we have the picks to hit it out of the park next year again hopefully."

View photos of the New York Giants 2021 NFL Draft Class.

Lance Medow: If there's one way to define the Giants 2021 NFL Draft, it would be "wheeling and dealing." After moving down in the first round before selecting Florida wide receiver, Kadarius Toney, surprisingly, the team once again traded back in Round 2 to land another 2022 pick in a year when the draft process is expected to return to normalcy and the overall class will be deeper. That means, as of right now, the Giants will have a pair of first-round, third-round and fourth-round picks next year. The fact that New York was able to move down in the second round, acquire a future third-round pick and still grab arguably one of the best pass rushers in this year's class in Azeez Ojulari shouldn't be overlooked from a value standpoint.

Ojulari led the SEC in tackles for loss (12.5), sacks (8.5) and force fumbles (4) in 10 games in 2020 and proved to be a consistent disruptive force. His length will prove useful as the Giants look to add another player in the mix, who can get after the quarterback and join forces with two players returning from injury in Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines. Remember, the Giants lost Dalvin Tomlinson, who collected 9.5 tackles for loss last season (third-highest total on the team) so they don't just need a player to pile up sacks, but someone who can be effective against the run.

Although Ojulari tore his ACL during his senior year in high school and took a redshirt year in 2018, he didn't miss a game at Georgia over the last two seasons. In addition to Ojulari, fourth-round linebacker Elerson Smith of Northern Iowa will also add depth to their growing group of pass rushers. He's a lengthy player, who also proved to be disruptive as he led the Missouri Valley Conference in tackles for loss (21.5), sacks (14) and forced fumbles (5) in 2019 while also blocking a field goal. He and sixth-round running back Gary Brightwell of Arizona will be valuable tools on special teams in the early phases of their careers.

The Giants also added youth on the back end of the defense in Round 3 by trading up to grab corner Aaron Robinson of Central Florida. He fits right into the theme of the secondary, which is player versatility and the ability to assume multiple positions. Robinson can line up inside and outside, allowing Patrick Graham to mix and match based on the opponent. It's no coincidence that Darnay Holmes, Adoree Jackson, Julian Love, Xavier McKinney, Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan can also play various positions at corner and safety.

Although the Giants have a track record of selecting players who took part in the Senior Bowl, I don't think it's surprising that four of their six picks participated in that event this year. Kadarius Toney, Robinson, Smith and their second sixth-round pick, Oklahoma State corner Rodarius Williams, each had a chance to meet face-to-face with representatives from the Giants. This was valuable in a year when there was no scouting combine and only limited in-person interactions with the prospets.


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