The Giants did not merely collect talent in the draft; they set out to build a team.
Chris Pettit's job is to help marry the two as director of college scouting. An area scout for 13 years before taking over his current role under general manager Dave Gettleman in 2018, Pettit's first two drafts began with the selections of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones.
They both set rookie records, but a little protection never hurts. That's where the Giants went in Gettleman and Pettit's third go-round, drafting Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick.
"Going back, I was at the SEC championship game in 2018 and our southeast area scout pointed out that Andrew was going to be a good player," Pettit recalled. "I noticed him there. We've known him for a long time. As far as him with the other class, this was a deep, deep class in tackles. I think everyone knows that. We were lucky we had the first chance of who we thought was the best tackle in the draft and we took him."
Thomas was the first of 17 tackles drafted last weekend and the first of 45 offensive linemen off the board. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound All-American was only the tip of the iceberg. The Giants made nine more picks over the next two days, a haul that earned an "A" grade from Pro Football Focus and other media outlets.
"It was a great weekend for the Giants," Pettit said. "We had a great draft. We'll find out in a couple years if that's true. The process working with the coaches really started Day 1 when they got in the building back when we were working out of Quest [Diagnostics Training Center]. I got together with [head coach] Joe [Judge] very early in the process talking about each position, what he looks for in each position, what kind of athletes he likes. It set us up for this situation virtually where we're right on the same page as far as what we're looking for. It came together seamlessly between the scouts and the coaches. It was a great experience."
As millions of people saw during the most-watched draft in league history, it was an unprecedented selection process as the world deals with the pandemic.
With staff taken off the road this spring, Pettit instructed the scouts to work the "fall process" over again -- watch more film, watch games you didn't watch, watch them again, call the schools, call the academic people one more time, etc. That way, they were able to dig up some new information to complement what they had already found on the college all-star circuit and NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis at the end of February.
"The last two years we have been doing this, Dave and I, we've been ultra-prepared," Pettit said. "That's been the best thing we've done, we've been so thorough. I don't think that changed as far as we weren't any more detailed than we've been in the past. I think the communication with the new staff and being prepared on what they're looking for, the versatility in players and adjusting. That aspect of it, we took that into account. You just look at our class, that's a big theme, the versatility of these athletes."
Aside from versatility, what makes the perfect New York Giant?
"You've got two of them on the screen with you, we talk about it all the time, this is a different place to play than other places," Pettit said when responding to a Bob Papa question in a conversation with Papa, Carl Banks and Shaun O'Hara. "You have to take into account that New York is different. We want players that have been in big moments, we want players that have faced adversity and know what that's like and have handled it well. Obviously we want smart, tough, versatile players as well, but it's New York. It's different. You've got to really take that into account when we evaluate these players. Especially the guys we're going to draft and really want to build this team around. Like I said, if you've got the qualities of the two guys that are on the screen with you, you've got a chance."
Ten players got that chance during the three-day draft, with seven coming on the final day alone.
"It's funny, a lot of these guys really are strong," Pettit said of the late-round picks. "[Cornerback] Darnay Holmes is someone, we interviewed him down at the Senior Bowl. He's really at the top of it, just the way he came in and took over the room. He's one of the hardest working players that I've evaluated in my career. All of the stuff that I've gotten back and all of the positive qualities about him. I'm really excited about what he's going to bring to our team.
"I think [offensive tackle] Matt Peart is going to develop into a really good player. I'm excited to see how he's going to develop down the line. A guy in the seventh round that we took – well, we like everyone, but a guy in the seventh round -- Chris Williamson, the nickel and potential safety out of Minnesota. I saw him in a game this fall and he just kind of stood out to me, there's a little something about him. I think he's tough, he's got unique qualities that I think, like versatility like we talked about. I'm excited to see really all of these guys work."
The wok didn't end with the "Mr. Irrelevant" pick, which the Giants owned this year and used on Georgia linebacker Tae Crowder. The Giants immediately turned to the undrafted free agent process, which was particularly wild this year. As of the Thursday after the draft, the Giants had signed 14 undrafted rookies.
"It's such an important part of this," Pettit said. "I think, and you look back, we use this when we talk to the players, our history has been great post-draft. We've done a really good job throughout the years identifying players, getting them in and giving them a chance to make the club. This year, like no other, it was different. It was definitely a little, as everyone's heard, it's a crazy process and I'm still kind of recovering from Saturday night. It was even wilder doing it virtually, but we did an excellent job at identifying those guys.
"Quite honestly, we were able to get nine to 11 players with draftable grades on them. Because then you're really getting an extra draft pick. So, that was great. But it was wild doing it virtually. We had at one point all of the coaching staff, all the scouting staff, in one big Zoom. There were about 60 something heads on my screen … but we got through it. [Vice president of football operations/assistant general manager] Kevin Abrams, [football operations coordinator] Ed Triggs, [assistant director of player personnel] Tim McDonnell, [scouting coordinator] Chad Klunder, they all helped out getting these deals done and we did a great job. We hit some home runs, I think, after the draft, but we'll see."
View photos of every undrafted free agent signed by the Giants.
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