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Cover 4

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Cover 4: What's next for the Giants after NFL Combine

COVER-4-COMBINE

The Giants.com crew breaks down the week in Indianapolis and what's ahead for the team heading into free agency before the draft:

John Schmeelk: The NFL Combine is one of my favorite weeks of the year. The entire NFL community is in one place, and there are so many conversations that give insight into the direction of the league and its teams. Along the way, we get to see draft prospects talk to the media and show off their athleticism with on-field workouts.

My reaction to what happened in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine is very simple: This draft class is as terrific as we thought it was, especially on offense and especially at the top. The Giants are in great position to improve their team and put high-level pieces in place in the trenches and on the perimeter on offense to develop the unit.

We knew all of this already from studying this draft class since last summer, but nothing that happened at Lucas Oil Stadium should change any minds. The offensive line class, specifically at offensive tackle, is the best group I have ever seen while studying the NFL Draft over the years. There could be as many as nine offensive tackles taken in the first round and up to three interior offensive linemen. Not one of those players had red flags in their testing or on-field work that should impact them negatively. These guys are good.

The wide receiver class is also one of the best groups I've seen. A ridiculous 11 wide receivers ran a sub-4.42 40-yard dash. The group has players of all different skills, sizes, and shapes. There are going to be future NFL starters selected in the third and fourth rounds. If a team can't find a receiver in this draft, they aren't looking very hard.

Cornerback is also extremely deep, with as many as five or six players potentially taken in the first round. There are nickel and outside cornerbacks throughout the first few rounds of the draft. The pass rusher group isn't as good, but there are players at the position, too.

These are excellent groups of players at the most important positions on the football field. Premium players at premium positions are everywhere. It's what makes the top of this draft class one of the best groups I have seen, and I haven't even mentioned the quarterback class, which may see four go in the top 10. I couldn't be more excited to continue to study this group and talk about them over the next seven weeks.

Dan Salomone: Just this morning, there was a new high-profile mock draft released that didn't have a defensive player taken until No. 13. But there were plenty of prospects on that side of the ball who said "don't forget about us" in Indianapolis. From cornerback Terrion Arnold to edge rushers Jared Verse and Dallas Turner, the defensive prospects won't fade into the background when it comes draft night. While they might not dominate the top of boards, there are future Pro Bowlers and team leaders out there. And the Giants could use some.

Over the offseason, the Giants hired seven new assistant coaches, including two new coordinators. The only phase that did not change at the top was the offense, where Mike Kafka assumed assistant head coach duties in addition to his role as coordinator.

As for the defense, Shane Bowen came over from the Tennessee Titans after the Giants and Wink Martindale parted ways. Now Joe Schoen, entering his third season as a general manager, must tweak his roster to the new coordinator – or does he? The answer is somewhere in the middle.

"We've kind of kept that philosophy in mind throughout the draft since I've been here, so there really aren't any guys on our defense that are scheme specific," Schoen said during a live Q&A with fans on Giants.com from the NFL Scouting Combine. "There's versatility. If we would have went to a 4-3, those guys still play that along with our cover guys, or if we stayed in the 3-4. It really won't affect any of the players that are on the current roster. They'll be able to play in Shane Bowen's system, and he's a bright, young coach that had a lot of success in Tennessee."

At the same time, history shows that force-feeding a player to a coach is a recipe for disaster.

"That's never easy because you don't want to draft a player that the coaches don't want, but that's what your personnel staff does and there are discrepancies," Schoen said. "We're going to like players that maybe the coaching staff don't like, but we know they're good players. So, trying to be delicate in how you handle those situations, you try to bring them your way or on board because, again, history says if you draft a player they don't want, they're not invested, the chances of success usually goes down sometimes unfortunately. But we're always going to work with our staff. I think it's important for them to be involved in the process. That way they have buy-in when you draft or sign a player. That'll always be an important part of the process."

So, what kind of player does Bowen want?

"Philosophically, Wink preferred more run stoppers on first and second down – let's get to third down where we can do the exotics and blitz and all that stuff," Schoen said of Martindale's blitz-heavy scheme. "Whereas Shane's philosophy is going to be a little bit more, let's get after the passer – like we'll stop the run on the way to the passer and going to look for more edge guys and ability to rush the passer versus stopping the run. Stopping the run is still going to be important, it's always going to be important, but in terms of how you're prioritizing those, you may flip those in the new scheme."

Go inside the New York Giants' suite at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Lance Medow: When it comes to the Scouting Combine, I take much more away from the head coach and general manager pressers in addition to news around the league as opposed to player measurements. The latter is simply a complementary piece of the puzzle but won't overshadow what counts the most: film. Right before the combine started, the NFL announced the salary cap will be increasing by $30 million, a pleasant surprise across the league. As a result, teams will now be more willing to use the franchise tag on their top players because they have a bit more wiggle room, and that means several big names may not even hit the market.

Even Joe Schoen wouldn't rule out tagging Saquon Barkley for the second straight year. This is why the unexpected increase in the cap will be a game-changer for most teams because those that were hesitant to eat up valuable space with a tag will now be less concerned. I think many of the top-tier free agents will stay put, which could very well drive up the prices for the next crop of players.

Matt Citak: Out of all the players in Indianapolis last week, perhaps no one helped their draft stock more than Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy. Not only is McCarthy widely seen as QB4 in this year's class, but there are some reports about the former Wolverine now being a top 10 pick. In fact, some across the NFL media landscape now believe that the first four picks in the draft could all be quarterbacks. McCarthy helped himself by deciding to throw in Indianapolis last week instead of waiting for his school's pro day, which is the route most of other top quarterbacks decided to go. His 27-1 record as a starter at Michigan should also help boost his draft outlook. Now McCarthy's stock skyrocketing will end up having some effect on the Giants, whether it's through their own interest or perhaps another team wanting to move up for the Michigan quarterback. No one has any idea just how high McCarthy will actually rise leading up to April 25. But the Michigan quarterback is clearly trending up in the eyes of many around the NFL, which should add a lot of intrigue to the top of the draft.

The other quarterback who seemingly helped himself immensely in Indianapolis was Washington's Michael Penix Jr. The former Huskies quarterback was another one of the few top players at the position to participate in Saturday's workout, where he was firing the ball all over the field with impressive strength. Penix finds himself in the conversation as a top five quarterback in this year's draft, battling the likes of McCarthy and Oregon's Bo Nix. It will be interesting to see if his impressive showing in Indianapolis will be enough to push him into the first round, or if he will have to wait until Day 2 to hear his name called. While some teams might be scared off by his injury history, Penix reportedly cleared all of the medicals with flying colors last week. While he isn't the most mobile quarterback out there, we just saw C.J. Stroud win Offensive Rookie of the Year this past season as a quarterback that spends most of his time in the pocket. The narrative around the quarterbacks should continue to be the most intriguing part of the pre-draft process over the next eight weeks, with possible implications for many teams all across the league.

Check out all the action from the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.