EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It was no surprise the Giants selected a Southeastern Conference wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night. But how they got him and who they chose were both unexpected.
After trading with the Chicago Bears to move back from No. 11 to No. 20, the Giants took Kadarius Toney, a 6-0, 193-pound wideout from the University of Florida.
"We're thrilled to have Kadarius Toney," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "He is a big kid. He's a good-sized kid who can fly. He's got really good hands. He's got great run-after-catch skills. We're thrilled to have him."
"You're looking to fill in terms of best player available and some positions of need," coach Joe Judge said. "We are very happy how it turned out, but we added great value."
The Giants have spent the offseason fulfilling their promise to add offensive playmakers and many mock drafts had them taking one of the two sensational receivers from 2020 national champion Alabama, Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle. But they both went in the first 10 picks, Waddle to Miami at No. 6 and Smith to Philadelphia – which traded up with Dallas -- at No. 10. Another SEC standout, LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, was selected by Cincinnati with the fifth pick.
When it was their turn to pick at No. 11 in the first round, the Giants executed the trade with the Bears, their first deal in the opening round since 2006. The Giants received the Bears' first-round and fifth-round choices in the current draft (No. 20 in the first round and No. 164 in the fifth), plus first and fourth-round choices in the 2022 draft.
In addition to securing three extra draft choices, the Giants believe they selected another outstanding receiver from college football's strongest conference.
"(Toney) was close enough. We felt like he was the best player available at the time we took him," said Chris Pettit, the Giants' director of college scouting. "I don't know if there was a big separation (between Toney and the receivers chosen ahead of him), if I can say that, but he's right up there and he was worthy of a first-round pick, so that shows you what we think of him."
In four seasons with the Gators, Toney played in 38 games with 13 starts. He caught 120 passes for 1,490 yards (12.4-yard avg.) and 12 touchdowns with a long reception of 66 yards. A former quarterback at Blount High School in Mobile, Ala., Toney also occasionally lined up at running back or wildcat quarterback and had 66 rushing attempts for 580 yards (8.8-yard avg.) and two scores.
He is also a productive special teams player who averaged 11.3 yards on 13 punt returns and 21.6 yards on 15 kickoff returns.
Asked what he will bring to the Giants' offense, Toney said, "A lot of dynamic versatility. … I'd say my game is kind of like (Green Bay receiver) Davante Adams, (New Orleans running back Alvin) Kamara, like just quick, dynamic, explosive. Because Kamara, he's really explosive and really elusive. Really coming into an offense that's already full or packed, I want to just play my role. Whatever my job is, do it to the best of my ability."
"He's a playmaker," Pettit said. "He … makes a lot of plays with the ball in his hands. We feel he has flex inside and out. He also has value as a returner for us. This is an instinctive, tough guy with very good athletic ability and speed."
Toney had his most productive season in 2020, when he started all 11 games in which he played – he did not play in the Cotton Bowl – and led Florida with career-high totals of 70 receptions, 984 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also rushed for 161 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries, averaged 12.6 yards on 11 punt returns and 22.1 yards on seven kickoff returns.
Toney joins a group of ballhandlers the Giants have added this offseason to bolster an offense that finished 31st in the NFL in both points and yards in 2020. His new teammates include wide receivers Kenny Golladay and John Ross, running back Devontae Booker and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
"One of the off-season goals was to add weapons on offense and Kadarius, certainly he's a good-size kid," Gettleman said. "He's strong. He can run. He catches the ball well and he's a very tough kid and he's got return skills. So, we were thrilled that he was there for us at that spot."
"We are looking to improve our team in all three areas: offense, defense and the kicking game," Judge said. "Working through free agency, there were some offensive players that were available we thought could come in here and compete with our team and possibly improve us through competition. We are looking to do the same thing with defense and the kicking game as well. We are not a finished product by any means in any area and we are always looking to improve. If there's a good player out there, we are looking to add them if they fit what we are looking to build."
This is the fifth consecutive year and ninth time in the last 10 drafts the Giants' first choice has been an offensive player. The lone exception was cornerback Eli Apple in 2016. The previous four top selections were tight end Evan Engram, running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Daniel Jones and tackle Andrew Thomas.
Toney is the Giants' first opening-round selection from Florida since wide receiver Ike Hilliard in 1997.
View photos of the 20th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.