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Fact or Fiction: Best combine performance of all time; predictions for 2021 NFL Draft


Saquon Barkley had the most impressive NFL Combine performance you've ever seen from a future Giant.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Ironically, the better player was someone picked in the same draft class by the Giants. Strictly going by the numbers compared to other players in their relative position group, Lorenzo Carter had a better Combine showing than Barkley, if you include measurements and testing scores as computed by Relative Athletic Score founder Kent Lee Platte, whose tool compares scores at their relative positions historically.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Although he benched more than All-Pro linemen and ran faster than Pro Bowl receivers, Barkley performed in another place that matters – the interview. So much so that Dave Gettleman said the "only reason that pick wasn't in at 9:58 [on the draft clock] was because we had to wait until the 5-minute mark [per league rules]." Now, that's a strong conviction coming out of Indianapolis.

Lance Medow: Fact - Saquon Barkley had a Combine performance to remember. If you're not convinced it deserves to be ranked at the top of the list, let's provide some perspective. According to NFL Research, Barkley outproduced former Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas in bench-press reps, ran a faster 40-yard dash than former NFL return man Devin Hester (4.43 seconds) and had a higher vertical jump than Falcons wideout Julio Jones (38.5 inches). At the 2018 combine, Barkley posted the highest vertical jump (41 inches) among all running backs in his class, the second-best time in the 40-yard dash (4.40 seconds) and the eighth-best mark in the 20-yard shuttle (4.24 seconds). The fact that those measurements have translated to the NFL field, in terms of his production, makes his Combine even more impressive.

The Giants will draft a wide receiver in one of the first two rounds.

John Schmeelk: Fact - I feel confident in it, regardless of whether the Giants sign a wide receiver in free agency. Things can change, but I do not believe that the receivers at the very top of the market will be available to the Giants in free agency because they are either franchised or too expensive. Even if the team signs in someone that isn't a true No. 1, they may still want to draft someone at 11 or 42 who has potential to be a top tier playmaker.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Dave Gettleman has been pretty direct in his season-ending press conferences since he took over as general manager, and this year he point-blank said they need to find offensive playmakers. There will be plenty of choices from another loaded class of receivers.

Lance Medow: Fact - When your offense finishes 31st in the NFL in scoring, there's room to add a playmaker and given the depth of year's class of wide receivers, the Giants will walk away with at least one in the first two rounds. On top of that, they just parted ways with veteran Golden Tate. With Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton as the top two receivers, the Giants could use a third option and filling that void through the draft makes a lot of sense based on the economics.

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.

The improvement made by the defense in 2020 makes it less likely that the Giants will draft on that side of the ball in the early rounds.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - This will be heavily dependent on what happens in free agency. If Leonard Williams somehow gets away, the Giants will need to seriously consider adding pass rushing help in the draft. Heck, even If he doesn't, they could use an edge rusher on Day 1 or 2. A second cornerback is also a priority and could be a targeted, maybe at 11th overall.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Ties might go to the offense this year, but say it with me: You can never have enough good players at one position or one side of the ball. Value should always trump need. The best picks, though, are ones that meet both angles.

Lance Medow: Fiction - The 2021 NFL draft isn't just about this year. The whole point of selecting players in the draft is to help your team in the long run and you can never have enough talent and depth at a given position because of injuries. In addition, the Giants have several free agents on the defensive side of the ball and some likely won't return.

An elite tight end is more of a problem for defenses than an elite wide receiver.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - Last season, there were two truly elite tight ends in the NFL: Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. Kelce finished with 105 catches for 1416 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Waller finished 2020 with 107 catches for 1196 yards and 9 touchdowns. Kelce averaged 13.5 yards per catch while Waller averaged 11.2

The elite wide receivers were better. In only 14 games, Davante Adams had 115 catches for 1374 yard and 18 touchdowns on 11.9 yards per catch. Stefon Diggs had a ridiculous 127 catches for 1535 yards and 8 touchdowns.

However, the flexibility of an elite tight end gives defenses more issues schematically. Mismatches are easier to create and they can be harder to double-team since they line up all over the field. So why is the answer "fiction?" Elite wide receivers have the ability to catch and run for a 40+-yard touchdown on any play, whether they are catching a deep pass over the top or creating something big from a short pass with the ball in their hands. In general, their raw speed and explosiveness can change games with big plays more often than tight ends.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Just look at Super Bowl LV. Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce led the Buccaneers and Chiefs, respectively, in catches and yards. Gronkowski also caught the first two touchdowns in Tampa's route of Kansas City. You can do things to take away wide receivers, but there's something about the size-athleticism combination of elite tight ends that give defenses major problems.

Lance Medow: Fact - If you were to ask me about elite tight ends in the NFL, I'd mention Travis Kelce of the Chiefs and Las Vegas' Darren Waller. These two players were consistent, finishing among the NFL's top ten in receiving yards. Kelce and Waller are matchup nightmares because there are few corners, safeties or linebackers that can handle them 1-on-1. More often than not, you have to double-team both of those players because of their size and athleticism. Elite receivers create plenty of headaches, but you can have a solid corner handle business on his own for a good portion of the game. It's hard to ask one player to take on that assignment with respect to Kelce and Waller.


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