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April 13, 2018
By Nick Falato  & ITPylon

The ushering of a new era in Giants football has commenced and Dave Gettleman wasted little time, as Big Blue looks to reshape its image and bounce back from the dreadful 3-13 campaign that marked an agonizing end to the Jerry Reese tenure. Who would have thought a year ago that the Giants would have been picking in the top 5 of the 2018 Draft, but here we are, with depth issues and a supposed lack of leadership in the locker room. What the Giants must do is seize this moment and let the abysmal season of yesteryear pave the way to competitiveness in a tough NFC. New York currently holds the pivotal #2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and there are plenty of directions the team could pursue. The Giants could draft the heir apparent to Eli Manning or trade down and stockpile picks to revitalize the roster; whichever way they decide to go, it’ll hopefully put the train back on the tracks heading to titletown. Dave Gettleman has already started the process by freeing up cap space, trading for LB Alec Ogletree, and acquiring the following players via free agency:

LT Nate Solder – 4 years – 62 Million
OG Patrick Omameh – 3 years – 15 Million
DL/EDGE Kareem Martin – 3 years – 15 Million
RB Jonathan Stewart – 2 years – 6.9 Million
FS – Michael Thomas – 2 years – 4 Million
WR Cody Latimer– 1 year – 2.5 Million
DB William Gay – 1 year – 1.01 Million
DL Josh Mauro – 1 year – 880 Thousand
CB Teddy Williams – 1 year – 880 Thousand
CB B.W. Webb – 1 year – 815 Thousand

While the Giants signed big contributors like Solder, they had to lose significant players, such as QB Geno Smith, RB Orleans Darkwa, RB Shane Vereen, OL Justin Pugh, OG DJ Fluker, OC Weston Richburg, EDGE Jason Pierre Paul, DT Jay Bromley, OLB Devon Kennard, LB Keenan Robinson, LB Jonathan Casillas, LB Kelvin Sheppard, CB Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, and CB Ross Cockrell.

Before we lay out the framework of biggest needs and potential fits, I wanted to discuss the expiring contracts of the next two seasons. It is common practice for teams to draft the replacements of players that may not be on the team when their current contract runs out. This happens every year and it is not a surprise, so here are the expiring contracts for the next two seasons

2019 Free Agents  

WR Odell Beckham Jr
WR Brandon Marshall
WR Cody Latimer
OT Nick Becton
OG John Jerry (Voidable Contract After Year 2
OG John Greco
OC Brett Jones
DE Kerry Wynn
DT Josh Mauro
LB Mark Herzlich
OLB Ray-Ray Armstrong
CB B.W. Webb
CB Teddy Williams
S Landon Collins
LS Zak DeOssie

2020 Free Agents

QB Eli Manning
RB Paul Perkins
RB Jonathan Stewart
WR Sterling Shepard
TE Jerell Adams
OT Ereck Flowers
OLB Thurston Armbrister
LB B.J. Goodson
S Michael Thomas
S Darian Thompson

Important decisions will be made very soon, and they will affect the retention of these players, most of whom were brought in by the previous general manager. The decisions may not be easy, but the choice is Mr. Gettleman’s and whatever direction he settles on will set this team forth to success or failure. With all of that being stated, here are the needs and potential fits on draft day, for the New York Football Giants.

Cornerback

Big Blue’s secondary was an absolute mess last season. The unit apparently turned on head coach Ben McAdoo and there was inner feuds within the position group. Pat Shurmur hired Lou Anarumo to be the new secondary coach, which will hopefully refocus the unit. Anarumo spent the last 6 seasons as the Dolphins secondary coach and he’ll have his work cut out for him in New York. The Giants were forced to cut the talented Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and they could not retain Ross Cockrell, who was undervalued in the terrible 2017 season. But lack of talent may not be Anarumo’s biggest challenge; he’ll be tasked to assuage the turbulence of the enigmatic Eli Apple, who reportedly is given a clean slate by this coaching staff. The former top 10 pick carries pedigree and some talent, but was more onerous than he was effective in 2017. Even if Apple falls in line, the unit is still very weak outside the talent of Janoris Jenkins. This does not bode well with how new defensive coordinator James Bettcher loves to play. He relied heavily on star CB Patrick Peterson, which will be the role played by Jenkins here in New York. Eliminating a receiver in man coverage, while bringing pressure and trusting his other corners on islands, with little to no help from the safeties over the top at times is Bettcher’s historic defensive plan. The Cardinals were consistently exposed at the other corner positions and looking at the current Giants roster, one would conclude that the fate is similar. In a division that employs Nelson Agholor, Cole Beasley, and Jamison Crowder effectively in the slot, a talented nickel corner like Jaire Alexander would make a ton of sense. It would be more than a prudent move to add a cornerback early as well as potentially adding one later in this draft.

Potential Day 1 Picks:  Jaire Alexander (Louisville)    

Potential Day 2 Picks:  Mike Hughes (UCF), Isaiah Oliver (Colorado), Carlton Davis (Auburn), Duke Dawson (Florida)  

Potential Day 3 Picks: Holton Hill (Texas), Davontae Harris (Illinois State), Dane Cruikshank (Arizona), Kevin Toliver (LSU), JC Jackson (Maryland), Brandon Facyson (Virginia Tech)   

Offensive Line

I won’t even specify which position, this entire unit could use a Tosh.O type reboot. Gettleman has already started on this by bringing in Omameh and Solder, while letting Pugh, Fluker, and Richburg all walk. Overall, Ereck Flowers was deplorable as a top 10 pick playing left tackle and will try to transition to the right side, while the Giants will more than likely choose not to pick up his 5th year option. As of right now at guard, John Jerry and Patrick Omameh are slated to start, with the backups being John Greco, former undrafted free agent Jessamen Dunker, and Jon Halapio, who played well in spot start duty, while Brett Jones will look to build upon a positive year at center. Both 2nd year players, Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty, will compete to start over Flowers on the right side.

Although the players are different, this is a team that has finished 29th and 26th in rushing yards per game the last two seasons, while significantly struggling to move the football on the ground. Unlike his predecessor, Dave Gettleman isn’t about blind optimism; he is going to put heavy focus into the Hog Mollies that help move the football and protect the signal caller. Whether it’s Eli Manning or a young quarterback playing, the Giants must stabilize this position group. The offensive line are like wheels on a bus, without them, your not going anywhere and if the Giants don’t do more to replenish and upgrade, then the immobile Eli Manning will continue to be uncomfortable, which will lead to struggles and more tribulations for the new regime. New offensive line coach, Hal Hunter, will be tasked to fix this group and he may need every bit of his prestigious 35 years of coaching to do it.

Potential Day 1 Picks: Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame), Isaiah Wynn (Georgia), Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame), Connor Williams (Texas)      

Potential Day 2 Picks: Will Hernandez (UTEP), Austin Corbett (Nevada), Billy Price (Ohio State), Tyrell Crosby (Oregon), Alex Cappa (Humboldt State), Jamarco Jones (Ohio State)

Potential Day 3 Picks: Brandon Parker (NC A&T), Wyatt Teller (Virginia Tech), Greg Senat (Wagner), Geron Christian (Louisville), Mason Cole (Michigan), Colby Gossett (Appalachian State)  

Pass Rusher

My how things can change; the Giants are two offseasons removed from Oliver Vernon signing an 85 million dollar deal and Jason Pierre Paul signing a 66 million dollar deal. The latter played around 90% of the defensive snaps, while leading the team in sacks during the 2017 campaign. He has since been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which leaves a huge void in a Giants defense that will be adopting more of a 3-4 look. Avery Moss, a 2017 5th round pick out of Youngstown State, and Romeo Okwara provide modest depth behind Vernon, which is very concerning and should lead to Dave Gettleman addressing the EDGE position. Although James Bettcher loves to scheme sacks, with multiple looks and heavy pressure, finding a “go to” pass rusher opposite of Vernon is ideal for this draft cycle. The Giants tied for 29th in sacks last season, with 27, and the Cardinals had 37, while leading the league in 2016 with 48 sacks, which was the second full year under James Bettcher’s tutelage.

Potential Day 1 Picks: Bradley Chubb (NC State)       

Potential Day 2 Picks: Lorenzo Carter (Georgia), Sam Hubbard (Ohio State), Duke Ejiofor (Wake Forest), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Oklahoma), Josh Sweat (Florida State)  

Potential Day 3 Picks: Kemoko Turay (Rutgers), Ade Aruna (Tulane), Leon Jacobs (Wisconsin), Dorance Armstrong (Kansas), Breeland Speaks (Ole Miss), Tyquan Lewis (Ohio State)  

Linebacker

With the Giants switching to a base 3-4 front, the emphasis on linebackers increases, while the demand is very necessary. The Giants did not retain OLB Devon Kennard, LB Keenan Robinson, LB Jonathan Casillas, and LB Kelvin Sheppard, but they were able to acquire Alec Ogletree from the Rams, which would lead one to believe he would start alongside oft injured 2016 4th round pick BJ Goodson in Nickel and Base personal. After the defense ranked second in the league in rushing yards per game in 2016, the Giants fell to 26th, despite having one of the best run stuffing tandems in the league up front (Harrison/Tomlinson).The position was inexcusably ignored by the previous regime and Giants fans had to endure tight end after tight end torching this squad. Linebackers having the ability to effectively shoot gaps and blitz, with precise timing, is an element that Bettcher loves to employ, in order to exploit the opposing offensive line. Some of the linebackers in this year’s draft have the versatility to play off the ball linebacker on early downs, and potentially put their hands in the dirt and rush the passer off the edge in passing situations. I stated this in last year’s article as well, the Giants haven’t drafted a linebacker in round 1 since Carl Banks in 1984. With the possibility of the Giants having 2 first round picks in day 1 if they make a trade back, could they buck this trend?

Potential Day 1 Picks: Roquan Smith (Georgia), Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech), Rashaan Evans (Alabama)    

Potential Day 2 Picks: Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State), Fred Warner (BYU), Skai Moore (South Carolina), Genard Avery (Memphis),) Darius Leonard (South Carolina State)

Potential Day 3 Picks: Josey Jewell (Iowa), Dorian O’Daniel (Clemson), Shaquem Griffin (UCF), Tegray Scales (Indiana), Christian Sam (Arizona State), Jack Cichy (Wisconsin)   

Quarterback

Eli Manning may be 37 years old, but the Giants reportedly still feel he has some good football left. If the Giants go in the direction of quarterback, then the young signal caller can sit and learn behind a 2 time Super Bowl MVP, while growing in an advantageous system, under the nutranace of offensive head coach Pat Shurmur. This young signal caller would also have the benefit of being surrounded by immense playmaking talent; Odell Beckham has reported to voluntary workouts, which is a step in the right direction for Big Blue, while Sterling Shepherd and Evan Engram continue to grow as players. The Giants still lack a star running back and that is most certainly a need on this roster, but finding the future face of this franchise has to be on the forefront of Dave Gettleman’s mind. As much as I want to see what Davis Webb has to offer, I’m aware he was brought in by an entirely different group of people, which doesn’t help his case to be the next longterm quarterback. If he impresses in practice and throughout offseason programs, then he’ll have his shot, but I would imagine the new tandem of Gettleman and Shurmur would like to find “their guy.” Much to my chagrin, Eli will not play forever, so having contingency plans laid out is the prudent move, but if Gettleman does not feel like these first round quarterbacks are the answer, then a later round pick could be spent on the position.

Potential Day 1 Picks: Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Josh Allen (Wyoming)       

Potential Day 2 Picks: Kyle Lauletta (Richmond), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)   

Potential Day 3 Picks: Chase Litton (Marshall), Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech), Logan Woodside (Toledo), Mike White (Western Kentucky), Kurt Benkert (Virginia), J.T. Barrett (Ohio State)  

With all of this being said, I honestly can’t go through the Giants roster and be confident in any one position group. The defensive line and tight ends are the strongest units, while the safeties have a solid third option in Andrew Adams, but quality depth is needed throughout this roster. Running back and receiver should also be addressed at some point in the draft. Stockpiling picks, in order to add starters and depth, may be the fuel that can lead this locomotive to the desired destination, but adding a quarterback at #2 is the reliable conductor; which path they choose will drastically change the course of this franchise and may forever follow Dave Gettleman, depending on the subsequent outcome.

Nick Falato wrote this article. Follow him on twitter @nickfalato and check out his other work here, including his breakdown of Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor and a look at USC quarterbacks of the past and how it applies to Sam Darnold.

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