1. Kyler Murray is Daniel Jones' biggest competition for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
John Schmeelk: Fiction -- Kyler Murray might very well win and be the most deserving, but there are a lot of good candidates for the award this year. While Kyler Murray leads rookie quarterbacks in terms of completion percentage and passing yards, he averaged fewer yards per attempt than Gardner Minshew and had four fewer passing touchdowns than Daniel Jones, despite 65 more passing attempts. At running back, Josh Jacobs had an impressive rookie season with 1,150 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. A.J. Brown came on strong at the end of the season, to finish with 1,051 receiving yards, 52 receptions, 8 touchdowns and a ridiculous 20.2 yards per catch average. This will not be an easy year to decide who the winner should be, but if I had to guess, it will be Kyler Murray. I think Jones' issues with turnovers will hurt his cause.
Dan Salomone: Fact – This was the year of rookie quarterbacks. Three of them – Daniel Jones, Jacksonville's Gardner Minshew and Arizona's Kyler Murray – each passed for at least 20 touchdowns, marking the second season in league annals in which at least three rookie quarterbacks each passed for at 20 or more touchdowns (2012 – Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson). Despite starting four fewer games than Murray, Jones still led all rookies with 24 touchdown passes. Murray, however, led in passing yards and also ran for over 500 yards and four more scores.
Lance Medow: Fiction -- Cardinals' quarterback Kyler Murray is certainly one of Daniel Jones' main competitors, but the player that tops the list and should be considered the favorite for the award is Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. The former Alabama standout became the first running back in franchise history to rush for at 1,000 yards in a rookie season. He finished with 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games, which was eighth in the league in total rushing yards and first among rookies. Jacobs' production this season is a big reason why Oakland was still in contention for a playoff spot entering Week 17.
2. Darius Slayton was the biggest surprise of the season.
Schmeelk: Fact -- Before the season started, there were four legitimate options for players that might have led the Giants in receptions or receiving yards: Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. For Slayton, a rookie fifth round pick, to finish with more receiving yards than all of those other players is as surprising as anything this season. I also want to throw in my runner-up. I was surprised that Pat Shurmur moved from Eli Manning to Daniel Jones as early in the season as he did. Given how the rest of the season went, and how Daniel Jones played, it was the right move. If you would have told me back in April that's when it would have happened, I wouldn't have believed you.
Salomone: Fiction -- It was Daniel Jones. Not only did we not know when – or even if – he would play as a rookie, but to set every franchise rookie passing record and sniff the NFL's all-time passing TD mark for a rookie were tremendous feats. Even general manager Dave Gettleman, whose No. 1 goal when he was hired was to find Eli Manning's successor, was surprised. "We didn't know he would come that fast," Gettleman said in his season-ending press conference.
Medow: Fact -- If you go back to his performance during rookie minicamp when he had a case of the dropsies and then factor in he missed some of training camp and the first two regular season games because of a hamstring injury, then Slayton is absolutely the biggest surprise of the season and it's not even close. Last year's fifth-round pick wound up leading the team in receiving yards (740) and receiving touchdowns (8) while finishing fourth in receptions (48) and second in targets (84). If you saw that happening in August, you must have an active imagination and a fondness for fairy tales.
3. Finding a pass-rusher is the No. 1 roster need this offseason.
Schmeelk: Fact -- There are a lot of needs on this roster, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Rushing the passer is a premium skill and hard to find, so I will list that as number one. Markus Golden reached 10 sacks this season, but even with his production, opposing quarterbacks were comfortable in the pocket far too often. Lorenzo Carter did not give consistent pass-rush production, and Oshane Ximines didn't start to come on until later in the season. The Giants need a true number one pass rusher who can help their young secondary. My runner-up for this question is a Mike linebacker. The Giants need a modern middle linebacker who can run, change direction, read patterns, and cover in space to help the pass defense in the middle of the field.
Salomone: Fiction -- I went with "fiction" here on a technicality. They need a defensive playmaker, period. An edge rusher would be ideal, but you can't pigeonhole the Giants' defensive needs. I would expect this to be addressed in a major way in both free agency and the draft.
Medow: Fact -- The Giants finished with 36 sacks in 2019, a six sack improvement from 2018, but still finished 22nd in the NFL. Markus Golden led the way with 10 sacks with the next closest players (Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines) collecting 4.5 each. When you take into consideration that Golden is a free agent and was the first Giants' player to record double digit sacks since JPP in 2014, how can landing a pass rusher not be the number one priority this offseason. Interestingly, of the top five teams in total sacks, just two made the postseason, but four of the five had at least eight wins, so that speaks to the importance of getting after the opposing quarterback, especially when you have a young secondary. Even if the Giants re-sign Golden, they still need to find an elite pass rusher, either through free agency or the draft.
4. The most important offseason date is April 23, the first night of the draft.
Schmeelk: Fact -- This is always the case and it always will be. Despite the fact the Giants are projected to have a lot of cap space, a team's foundation is built through the draft. It gives teams young players on reasonable salaries that can be groomed in their system over four or five years. With the Giants selecting fourth overall, they have a chance to select a premium player or trade down and acquire even more selections. It is the most important night of the year, and always will be.
Salomone: Fiction -- It's the day they hire the next head coach. Team president John Mara was candid. He said they have "failed twice in a row now" in finding one. Nothing is more important than getting this one right. Leadership will be the first prerequisite for candidates. "I think it's really important that the next head coach has to have a point of view, a very strong point of view," chairman and executive vice president Steve Tisch said, "and he will be supported by ownership."
Medow: Fiction -- Yes, the draft is important and should be where you do most of the heavy lifting to improve your roster, but in the Giants' case, especially with the team having a lot of cap space, the start of free agency will dictate the tone of this offseason. I'm not saying the team should go on a spending spree, but the decisions it makes in free agency will determine the game plan and options heading into the draft. Mark down April 23 on your calendars but circle March 18.