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Every position on the field and on the depth chart must be evaluated and assessed with fervor, and the Giants have done this leading into the 2021 NFL Draft, asking themselves: What is the best we can expect? And, just as importantly: What is the worst that can happen if we do not address this spot?
A broader view can be applied and, in this case, with this particular Giants team, perhaps should be applied.
It can go like this: We have an offense that was lousy in 2020 and a defense that was not. Until proven otherwise, the thrust in any player procurement must lean heavily to fixing what was a woebegone scoring attack.
Too simplistic? Maybe. But not really. If the Giants do not improve, dramatically, on the 17.5 points a game they averaged last season, if they do not give third-year quarterback Daniel Jones every possible asset they can muster, they will not be able to be taken seriously, no matter how smart and effective they are on defense.
That does not mean the Giants absolutely, positively have to take an offensive player Thursday night with the No. 11 overall pick in the draft. They own just six picks and if, for example, they do not take a stud receiver such as Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith in the first round, they could find a receiver capable of making an impact in Round 2, at No. 42. It is not only about the first guy.
Still, it often is mainly about the first guy, at least right away. General manager Dave Gettleman has already stated this year’s first-round pick must make an early impact. The area at which the Giants need the earliest and deepest impact is on offense.
It is impossible to ignore two comments made recently by co-owner John Mara — “You always want to put as many weapons on the field as possible,” and “It’s becoming more and more of a passing league.” — and not think about Waddle or Smith, the two Alabama wide receivers who will be taken in the upper half of the first round. It’s not likely that both will be there for the Giants, but one of them should be.
The Giants are going into this with a healthier game plan from the one they took into the past few drafts, as they are not commanded to focus on one position because of severe roster deficiencies. The value at receiver, cornerback and offensive line is all there at No. 11, and that is where the Giants will go. Edge rusher, you ask? Nope. None of them enthrall the Giants at 11.
Depending on who is available when they are on the clock, the Giants could select from a five-player pool: Waddle, Smith, cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II from Alabama and Jaycee Horn from South Carolina and Northwestern offensive lineman Rayshawn Slater (assuming Oregon’s Penei Sewell is already gone).
The Giants quite possibly have Horn rated slightly above Surtain. This is not a majority opinion, but also not an outlier opinion.
“Surtain doesn’t have the same horsepower that Jaycee Horn or [Virginia Tech’s] Caleb Farley has down the field, as far as being able to really get on it and go,’’ Louis Riddick, a former NFL player and personnel executive and currently an ESPN analyst said. “Farley can fly, Horn can fly.’’
Farley has medical issues stemming from two back surgeries that could knock him down or out of the first round entirely.
Micah Parsons, the uber-talented Penn State linebacker, would certainly be in play for the Giants based on his athletic ability, but off-the-field concerns make him too much of a gamble at No. 11. Jaelan Phillips is likely the top-graded edge rusher on the Giants’ draft board, but a concussion history in college makes him too risky at 11.
With Matt Peart’s development and the return from opt-out of veteran Nate Solder, the Giants do not feel desperate to find a starting right tackle in this draft. Slater is in the mix for consideration, but perhaps not ahead of the Alabama receivers or the top two corners in the Giants’ pecking order. Slater does not have the desired NFL height or arm-length for a high-end offensive tackle, but many scouts are not bothered by this.
Adding a cornerback to a group that already includes presumptive starters James Bradberry and free-agent addition Adoree’ Jackson could feel like duplication. Bradberry and Jackson are outside corners and so are Surtain and Horn. Why force one of them into a slot-corner role? If the Giants have one of the corners as their highest-graded player, they will take him and sort it out later. Cornerback is always considered a premier position, as far as adding talent high in a draft.
The Giants need playmakers. They need them mostly on offense. Keep that in mind when the Giants make their pick at 11.
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