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Cover 3: Biggest unknown heading into draft


At this time of the year, everyone thinks they know something. Then you go back and look at the batting averages of mock drafts in past years, and you realize no one outside of draft rooms – or in this year's case, video conferences – really knew anything. So this week, as we sit just days away from the 2020 NFL Draft, we discuss the unknowns heading into the biggest event of the offseason.

John Schmeelk: There are a lot of possibilities that can impact the Giants throughout the draft process.

I would love to know what interest the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers have in Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, and what they would be willing to give in a potential trade up. I'd love to know what players the Lions and Redskins like at second and third overall, and what their trade-down intentions might be. Those answers would help me figure out what the Giants might do with the fourth overall pick.

It would be nice to watch the interviews done at the NFL Combine, and be a part of some of the video meetings with prospects going on right now. Taking a look at some of the medical reports from some players would help clarify things. It is always important to remember that the teams know more about these players than any of the draft analysts. Those answers would help me with questions about individual players.

Instead, I am going to dig a little deeper. I wish I knew exactly what the Giants offensive and defensive schemes are going to look like and what the staff thought of some of the players on the roster. If I knew the answers to those questions, I would have a chance at predicting the types of players the Giants might target to do what the team wants to do.

Based on defensive coordinator's Patrick Graham's prior experience, I would guess he intends to play a lot of man to man defense, but I have no idea if that's going to be the case. How many linebackers is he going to have on the field regularly? What kind of edge players does he prefer? The Patriots traditionally favored stronger and bigger edge players, but does Graham think likewise?

What is offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's offense going to look like? Are there going to be a lot of deeper dropbacks that require good protection on the edge? Will it be more of a quick-hitting attack? How much of a priority is it for him to have a 6-3 or taller wide receiver? Will the Giants be more pass or run heavy? We have no indications on any of this.

Does the new defensive staff see Julian Love as a free safety or nickel cornerback? On Monday's conference call, Dave Gettleman mentioned Nick Gates as a potential right tackle or center, but how do Garrett and offensive line coach Marc Colombo see him? What is the confidence level that Spencer Pulley or someone else on the roster can be the week one starter at center? Gettleman seemed to indicate that drafting a center or tackle was a real possibility. The answers to these questions will determine what some of the team's most pressing needs will be when the draft begins on April 23rd.

Maybe just show me the draft board? No, I'm not serious…. Or am I?

Dan Salomone: I don't want to disparage draft experts. Some of them, I don't think all, legitimately put in hours and hours, weeks and weeks, months and months into studying these prospects. They are like scouts in that way and a few, like NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah, actually worked for teams at one point. Then you have the spaghetti-throwers who just want to see what sticks. They don't even bother me that much because at the end of the day, I take draft talk lightly. It's supposed to be fun. For NFL fans, it means hope. For college football lovers, it's about pride. Relax and enjoy.

That stuff is for fans.

The draft is a serious venture for those who have real skin in the game. Those people are the scouts and the general managers and head coaches. Let's face it, jobs are decided in April as much as they are in December. How they do next Thursday through Saturday affects Sundays in the fall and then careers in the winter. They don't laugh like we do at batting averages in mock drafts.

That's why so many resources are dedicated to the process. Scouts are dispatched across the country every college football season to see these players in-person and to take scrupulous notes, not to just check box scores, highlight reels and what everyone else is saying. It's a year-round process that includes incredible detail and access that draft experts – and the public – do not possess. So what is the biggest unknown heading into the draft? A lot. I can pretty much recite all the important stats and awards for the top prospects because I have written them so much, but what I don't know is the only thing that matters: What's inside of the heads of 32 general managers?

Some prospects seem like certain locks. Team X has a need, and Player X can fill it. But what if a general manager knows something we don't? What if he isn't sold on that player? What if his gut simply says to pass? Those are the unknowns. For example, the world was telling the Giants to draft a quarterback in 2018. None of that mattered unless Dave Gettleman was head over heels for one. And he drafted a running back and then fell in love with a quarterback a year later.

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

Lance Medow: There's always a big guessing game leading up to the draft, especially when it comes to the first three picks, and this year is no different. When it comes to a specific player, I think the biggest unknown right now is how teams view Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is coming off a significant hip injury and didn't have an opportunity to meet with or workout for teams in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. That's the big mystery because quarterbacks can easily shake up the draft and ignite trades, especially if a team is very high on Tua. All it takes is one franchise.

Related to Tua's status, from a big picture perspective, the biggest unknown is how will the current circumstances impact the draft as far as decision making and logistics. Yes, technological advances have provided teams with the means and resources to communicate and consult remotely, but this is the first time in NFL history the league is holding a virtual draft. With uncharted territory comes the unknown and the unexpected. Without having access to their facilities, how are teams accounting for unforeseen scenarios. How much more will the regular season film dictate decisions when it comes to evaluating players with the cancellation of pro days, in-person private meetings and medical follow-ups. That's the true wild card.

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