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Fact or Fiction: Rookies primed for breakout in Year 2


The rookie you're most interested to see more of in Year 2 is safety Xavier McKinney.

John Schmeelk: Fiction- McKinney is an excellent answer. He is a versatile defensive back, so let's see what he can do in his second season as a deep safety and a defender in the slot. He has Pro Bowl potential that we only saw for a handful of games as rookie due to injury.

Instead, let's go with Matt Peart. At this point, we have no idea who the Giants' starting tackle across from Andrew Thomas is going to be. The opposite tackle could be Nate Solder, but he is over 30 years old and hasn't taken a snap since 2019 after opting out. It could be Cam Fleming, but he is a free agent. It would be ideal for the Giants if Matt Peart is ready to claim the starting right tackle job this season.

Peart flashed potential in limited playing time in 2020, but he was not on the field for long enough stretches to prove how he would hold up over the long haul. He has the length and athleticism to play the position, but will he return with the improved strength and technique necessary to start at right tackle?

Lance Medow: Fact- Xavier McKinney wound up playing in just 6 games as a rookie after fracturing his left foot at the end of training camp. The Giants' second-round pick in 2020 showed some flashes, including a game-sealing interception in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys, but the sample size is small (14 percent of the defensive snaps). McKinney's versatility makes it interesting to see how coordinator Patrick Graham uses him throughout a full season.

The defensive line is the strength of the Giants' roster as it currently stands.

John Schmeelk: Fiction- This answer has changed since Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are pending free agents. The strength of the Giants' roster is safety. They have two veteran starters under contract in Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan, plus promising second-year pro Xavier McKinney. The position is so strong, the Giants were using McKinney as a nickel cornerback and Peppers as a virtual linebacker in certain alignments to get them all on the field at the same time last season.

Lance Medow: Fiction- The defensive line is in the conversation, with the likes of Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson on the field, but it's hard to overlook that Williams and Tomlinson are scheduled to be free agents. It's only fair to say their status with the team moving forward is in question. So in picking a position with more stability, safety tops the list. Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan are under contract and coming off solid 2020 campaigns. Xavier McKinney showed some flashes as a rookie and hopes to build off that in Year 2. This threesome, especially given their versatility, puts the Giants in good position to mix and match entering next season.

View the players set to become free agents when the new league year begins March 17.

Offensive playmakers are easier to find through the draft than free agency.

John Schmeelk: Fact- If you want to acquire a top playmaker in free agency, it is going to cost you. Is there a chance of signing a veteran for a low-cost contract who then plays big on a new team and in a new offensive system? Sure. But it is far less likely than finding a big-time playmaker on Day 2 of the draft. Here's a list of the top running backs and wide receivers who have been drafted on Day 2 in the past three drafts: Tee Higgins, De'Andre Smith, Michael Pittman Jr., Jonathan Taylor, Laviska Shenault, Chase Claypool, Cam Akers, JK Dobbins, Antonio Gibson, Zack Moss, Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown, Miles Sanders, Mecole Hardman, DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson, David Montgomery, Terry McLaurin, Damien Harris, Ronald Jones, Cortland Sutton, DJ Chark and Michael Gallup. Try finding guys like that, especially the wide receivers, for a low cost in free agency. Finding them in the draft? No problem!

Lance Medow: Fact- Offensive playmakers are not only easier to find through the draft, but they're also much cheaper on rookie contracts. Great players in the NFL, on both sides of the ball, rarely hit free agency because teams usually reward them with new contracts or use a franchise tag to prevent them from testing the market. So, your best chance to find an offensive playmaker is through the draft. In 2018, Saquon Barkley, Calvin Ridley, Lamar Jackson, Nick Chubb, Dallas Goedert, Michael Gallup, Mark Andrews were selected in the first three rounds. In 2019, Kyler Murray, T.J. Hockenson, Josh Jacobs, A.J. Brown, Miles Sanders, Mecole Hardman, DK Metcalf and Terry McLaurin fit that label and, in last year's draft, you can throw Joe Burrow, CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, Clyde Edwards-Helair, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr, D'Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Chase Claypool, J.K. Dobbins, A.J. Dillon and Antonio Gibson into the mix.

You would be surprised if the Giants didn't draft offense with their No. 1 pick

John Schmeelk: Fiction- The level of surprise is the key to this response. If one of Devonta Smith, Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or Penei Sewell are on the board, it would be surprising if the Giants didn't take them since these players are highly rated by draft analysts. They are top-tier players at premium positions. There's a chance, however, that all of these players are gone. In that case, all bets are off and it wouldn't be surprising if the Giants walked away with a linebacker such as Micah Parsons or the top-rated cornerback or edge rusher.

Lance Medow: Fiction- There aren't many surprises in the NFL. Where does need and value match up nicely for the Giants? Offense, but a lot can happen between now and the draft with respect to the players' grades. Remember, free agency comes first and although it's beneficial to fill needs through the draft, you also can't only be thinking about the 2021 season. You have to think about how a player can help you in the long term and whether that player will warrant a second contract. If you focus too much on need, you can easily get yourself in trouble. analyst Bucky Brooks unveiled his first position rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft.


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