Without a headliner like Chase Young, Myles Garrett, or one of the Bosa brothers, Chris Pettit is still bullish on the group of edge rushers in this week's draft.
Speaking on a video conference alongside general manager Dave Gettleman, the Giants' director of college scouting defended the talent of the class on multiple occasions. More importantly, he sees some who can fit their scheme. The team holds six picks in the draft, beginning with the No. 11 overall selection.
"I wouldn't say it's too rich for edge rushers," Pettit said of where the Giants pick in the first round. "Edge rushers are how you win. You win with guys that rush the passer. Where they are on the board, we'll see how it shakes out, there are a lot of factors to it, but I wouldn't say there aren't guys available."
According to NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks, the top five edge defenders in order are Jaelan Phillips (Miami), Kwity Paye (Michigan), Gregory Rousseau (Miami), Carlos Basham Jr. (Wake Forest), and Joe Tryon (Washington).
"Despite the lack of star power at the edge positions, there are several pass rushers with boom-or-bust potential who, if they land in the right spots, could emerge as double-digit sack masters early in their careers," Brooks wrote. "Phillips shook up the scouting community with his exceptional pro-day performance. As a technician with outstanding hand skills, he mixes power with finesses to keep blockers off balance. Paye is a quick-twitch pass rusher with a non-stop motor and active hands. He doesn't play with heavy hands, but his activity and effort enable him to chalk up garbage sacks off the edge."
Brooks added: "Rousseau is a long, rangy pass rusher with natural instincts and skills. The Miami standout is still a work in progress, but his flashes will encourage teams to gamble on his upside as a disruptive edge defender. Basham is an athletic defender with twitch and explosiveness. He is capable of aligning at multiple spots to take advantage of a weak blocker with his first-step quickness and burst. Tryon is an explosive athletic freak with A+ size, strength and twitch. He has the potential to emerge as an all-star playmaker with a dynamic pass rush that impresses evaluators."
The pandemic forced limitations on scouts this year. While they were able to hold virtual interviews leading up to pro days, clubs were not allowed to conduct in-person meetings on college campuses due to NFL regulations. That put even more emphasis on film study – if there was any. Front offices relied on 2019 games if a prospect opted out of last season or the college program did not play at all.
Even so, Pettit feels confident with the information they did gather heading into the draft, including the book on the edge defenders.
"I think it's a good group, I do," Pettit said. "It's a good group. There's a bunch of them, there's different ones, different types, which we like, there's ones that fit our system, so I think it's a good group. I think it's obviously an important position that we look to fill every year, not this year over any other year. We're going through it and hopefully if we decide to address that and one's there at a certain time and he fits what we do, we take him."
Meanwhile, there was plenty of information on the receivers which, unlike the edge defenders, come into next Thursday night with much fanfare. Alabama's DeVonta Smith, the No. 6 overall prospect in Daniel Jeremiah's top 50, is the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991. His college teammate, Jaylen Waddle, is one spot ahead of him on Jeremiah's list.
Despite their size – Smith is 6-0 and 170 pounds while Waddle is 5-9 1/2 and 180 pounds – Gettleman and Pettit said it all comes down to what they did in games. Additionally, the signing of wide receiver Kenny Golladay, regarded as the top free agent on the market this year at his position, does not preclude them from going after one in the draft.
"You can never have too many good players at one position," Gettleman said. "And, you know, you evaluate the film and the college film suggests that they're very good players. There are plenty of smaller guys that have been very successful in this league just like there are plenty of huge guys that have been successful and everyone in the middle."
The only non-quarterbacks ranked higher by Jeremiah are LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, another wide receiver, and Florida's Kyle Pitts, a do-it-all tight end listed second behind Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
"He's a uniquely talented player," Gettleman said of Pitts. "You can't characterize him as just a receiving tight end because you watch him block and he's got a lot of blocking grit, he's got some nice fundamentals down and he's certainly big enough. He's a different breed of cat, now. He's very talented."
Could a player of his caliber fall to the Giants at No. 11? It largely depends on how many quarterbacks are taken before them.
"The more quarterbacks that go, the more players it pushes to us," Gettleman said. "It's obviously helpful. Frankly, I'd like to see 10 quarterbacks go in front of us."
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for the final time before the start of the draft.