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Fact or Fiction: Depth of free agency pool

1. This year's free agent pool is deeper on defense while the draft class is heavier on offense.

John Schmeelk: Fact -- The draft class answer is an easy one. It is the deepest draft class at wide receiver that I can remember, with Day 1 starters potentially being available in Round 4 or later. The offensive tackle class is as impressive of a class as I can remember, and the running back and quarterback classes have strong players at the top. Free agency is a bit murkier, but the depth at defensive tackle on the free agent market is notable.

There are a number of free agent edge rushers due to hit free agency, though many will likely be franchise tagged. There are also a lot of cornerbacks that can come in and help a team. There are plenty of stars available on offense, particularly at the quarterback position, but I don't think it is nearly as deep as the defensive side of the ball.

Lance Medow: Fiction -- I think both the free agent pool and draft class are deeper and heavier on offense, and what really puts both groups over the top is the quarterback class. Regardless of whether many quarterbacks change teams in free agency, the fact that Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston are all on the market provides many attractive options on the surface. 

In the draft, you're looking at Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert as some of the most appealing choices. Once you get past the quarterbacks, you have a wealth of depth on the offensive line through both free agency and the draft and this year's wide receiver draft class could set history in terms of how many players will be taken in the first three rounds.

2. Defensive back is the deepest group on the Giants' roster heading into free agency.

Schmeelk: Fact -- This is the case merely because they have the most players under contract at safety and cornerback who played significant snaps at the end of last season. Safeties Jabrill Peppers, Antoine Bethea and Julian Love are all still under contract. Cornerbacks DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal, Grant Haley and Corey Ballentine are all under contract.

At the end of the season, those were the players getting most of the snaps in the defensive backfield. Every other position has a player that played a large role in their group that won't be under contract at the start of the league year, spare running back. This doesn't mean the Giants won't necessarily decide to add a veteran cornerback to a very young group.

Medow: Fiction -- The Giants certainly have a number of players in the secondary under contract for the 2020 season, but a big reason for that is the fact that the team relied on a number of rookies at that position in 2019, specifically DeAndre Baker, Corey Ballentine, Sam Beal and Julian Love. 

While the wide receiver group dealt with some injuries in 2019, you still have more proven commodities at that position including Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton, who had an impressive rookie campaign and now has more experience under his belt. I'd put wide receiver ahead of defensive back based on two key factors: experience and production. ranks the top 101 players in the 2020 free agency cycle.

3. Dexter Lawrence is primed to make the biggest Year 2 leap.

Schmeelk: Fiction -- I think the player with the potential to make the biggest leap in his second season is DeAndre Baker. Lawrence had a very strong and fairly consistent rookie campaign. He will likely improve, but the jump won't be as big because he played well as a rookie. Baker made progress throughout his rookie season, but if he can manage to clean up some of his missteps in coverage, especially in zone, he can become an excellent cornerback.

It will be interesting to see how the Giants use him next season. Baker professes to be a press-coverage cornerback but at times last year he played his best football in off-man schemes. He showed in college that he can do both. It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson decide to deploy him.

Medow: Fiction -- This is an interesting statement to respond to because not only do you have to take into consideration the development of the young players on the roster but also the fact that they'll all be learning new schemes, which can certainly impact development. The means the entire 2019 draft class will be learning a new playbook for the third straight season. I'm not saying the players can't handle that but that's a lot to throw on the plate of a young player in the span of such a short period of time. 

Lawrence started all 16 games as a rookie and finished with two and a half sacks and nine quarterback hits along with a forced fumble and three tackles for loss. While you expect to see Lawrence take a jump in 2020, I don't know if I'd put him at the top of the list. Instead, Deandre Baker, Oshane Ximines and Kaden Smith would be three players to watch. Baker seemed to get more comfortable in the second half of the season, Ximines finished tied for second on the team with four and a half sacks and Smith showed some nice flashes as a receiving and blocking tight end over the course of the nine games he appeared in.

4. Daniel Jones needing to learn a new playbook is the most underrated offseason storyline.

Schmeelk: Fact -- Very few people are talking about this and I think it is an interesting dynamic to watch. There is no doubt that Jones will be able to learn and process Jason Garrett's playbook given his work ethic and intelligence. There are no doubts of that. If Garrett, however, uses the same basic schemes he did in Dallas, then his offense will not at all resemble Pat Shurmur's.

How will Jones play in Garrett's schemes, which does not have its roots in the west coast system the way Shurmur's did? Will Garrett adopt some of the schemes that Jones was successful in as a rookie into his offense in 2020? It will be exciting to see how all of it plays out. There will be no way to know until the players hit the field, which will hopefully be in late April.  

Medow: Fact -- Thanks to this statement, we'll avoid the fiction sweep this week. If you refer back to my response to previous statement, I pointed out how I don't think many are taking into consideration that the entire 2019 rookie class will be once again learning a new playbook. Daniel Jones was at Duke in 2018, with the Giants in 2019 and will now have to adjust to a new scheme in 2020. 

I'm not saying Jones isn't capable of this much change in a short period of time, but given the quarterback is the most important position on offense, you can't dismiss this fact from the conversation. It's a very much underrated storyline this offseason as was the case when Eli Manning had to learn a new offense both under Ben McAdoo in 2014 and Pat Shurmur in 2018. While constantly changing offensive coordinators doesn't guarantee issues, it has impacted a number of young and veteran quarterbacks over the course of NFL history.


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