The New York Giants are faced with the challenge of building around their recent first-round quarterback, Daniel Jones. With that comes the obstacles of a weak offensive line, a running back bound to tie up their cap space, and a receiving corps lacking an elite presence. On the other side of the ball, there is a severe absence of elite talent, despite two first-round picks being spent on the defense last year. Joe Judge is entering his first NFL head coaching gig with an uphill battle ahead of him, but with ample improvements from Dave Gettleman and the front office, the Giants can return to relevancy. This updated 7-round mock draft portrays how this might go down next week.
In all likelihood, next year won’t be a rousing success for New York. Improvements will be made, and progress will be had, but this roster is significantly below-average. Talent drops off from the mean on both sides of the football, creating a plethora of needs that one offseason’s worth of resources cannot fill.
On offense, Jones and Saquon Barkley are locked in as starters. The same can be said for Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton. Evan Engram’s future is uncertain, but when on the field, he’s proven to be a dynamic receiving threat from the tight end position. In the trenches, Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler are quality starters at left and right guard, respectively. The rest of the line, however, is a poor collage of overpaid free agents and struggling stopgaps. Addressing the needs upfront, as well as depth to the weaponry, will be primary concerns for the upcoming NFL Draft.
Defensively, another investment to the interior defensive line would likely result in riots. The trading for (and signing of) Leonard Williams only added bodies to a crowded unit, and a ton of resources have already been poured into the position group. A similar statement can be made about the secondary, where James Bradberry was acquired through free agency, and a handful of recent draft picks are still fighting for playing time. Signing Blake Martinez is not likely to patch up the Giants’ linebacking problems, but he is an expensive body to hold down the starting middle linebacker spot. Expect much of this year’s draft class to focus on the defense.
Separating the Giants’ needs into tiers
Subsequently, it makes sense to separate these needs into tiers, where they can be interchangeable, yet still provide some semblance of order. Tier one needs are paramount to be addressed, tier two needs demand consideration, and tier three needs would appreciate the upgrade, but don’t require the attention of the prior tiers.
Tier 1: Offensive Tackle, Edge Rusher, Linebacker
Tier 2: Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Safety, Interior Offensive Line
Tier 3: Tight End, Quarterback, Running Back, Defensive Line
Round 1, Pick 4: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
There aren’t enough words to describe Isaiah Simmons. The super-athletic, positionless wonder took the draft community by storm this season as he made plays from an inexplicable amount of spots. His 4.39 second 40-yard dash time only exceeded expectations and drew further excitement. It is not clear where he’ll play at the next level. He likely won’t take snaps as a mike linebacker with Martinez present, but almost everything else is fair game. He may see snaps as a center fielder, or as a box safety. The same can be said for snaps at edge rusher, nickel cornerback, and outside linebacker. He’s a playmaker meant to lock down opposing tight ends and make game planning impossible.
At the same time, there are reasons to be cautious about the Clemson prospect. For example, he can only play one position at a time, and not every defensive coordinator is adequately-equipped to optimize his usage. This could lead to leaving value on the table. Sometimes, being positionless is a curse, as he may be too small for traditional linebacker roles, and not ready for full-time snaps at a safety spot. Simmons is magnificent in coverage, but this will be tested against NFL-level receivers. The illusion that he is a fool-proof prospect is just that, an illusion.
There is undoubtedly a low floor involved, and there may not be a more coach-reliant prospect on the defensive side of the ball. Still, the upside is unequivocal, and the athleticism is jaw-dropping. With the depth of the tackle class and the pressing need over the middle of the field, New York may take Simmons over other top prospects like Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, or Jerry Jeudy.
Round 2, Pick 36: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
Isaiah Wilson may not be the top tackle Giants fans are clamoring for, but he is still a talented option to eventually fill the need at right tackle. At 6’6”, 350 pounds, Wilson is a mauler at the point of attack and a mountain of a man. He is a dominant run blocker who makes an impact on every snap. He likely won’t start in year one, as technical mishaps are still littered throughout his game. This is a reason for concern, but unlike Ereck Flowers, he won’t be forced to learn a new position at the next level.
Concerns with both footwork and hand placement will take time to develop, but the upside is enticing. He’ll create vertical pushes for Barkley and has the mobility to be a lead blocker in the second level. His pass sets are where his speed can be put into question, as he’ll struggle against the bendiest and most athletic pass rushers. Hence, focusing on developing his technique is paramount.
It is a lot to ask for Giants fans to stay patient regarding the offensive line, but Wilson could pay off in a big way. For those reasons, New York could go offensive tackle at 36, instead of Jeff Gladney, Julian Okwara, or Lloyd Cushenberry.
Round 3, Pick 99: Tyler Biadasz, iOL, Wisconsin
While Wilson is a project who needs time before starting, the Giants still need improvements for the 2021 season, and Tyler Biadasz is a prime candidate. He can step in from day one and be an upgrade over Spencer Pulley.
A poor 2019 has plummeted his draft stock, but the Wisconsin product has the grit and small-area prowess to make an impact early on. His length got exposed more often last year, and his technique is not great, but Biadasz is an intangibly-strong center who meshes well with Jason Garrett’s offense. The immediate upgrade in round three is more than enough to earn a selection over Darrell Taylor, Donovan Peoples-Jones, or Terrell Burgess.
Round 4, Pick 110: Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State
Most prospects with a mere six starts under their belt don’t come close to cracking the top-100, but most prospects are as physically talented as Willie Gay Jr. He is undoubtedly raw but equally malleable. He may not start from day one, but it is easy to see him starting at outside linebacker and specializing in coverage reps in the somewhat-near future.
His 4.46 second 40-yard dash time is indicative of the ground he can cover, both in coverage and against the run. He may not have the mental game to play too many downs year one, but the long-term potential is exciting. He provides more to like than other options at 110, such as Bryan Edwards, Francis Bernard, or Amik Robertson.
Round 5, Pick 150: Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington
This pick may seem counter-intuitive, but Hunter Bryant presents an intriguing option, without a very costly investment. The receiving specialist has drawn comparisons to Engram, as he will see time in the slot and struggle to block consistently. If Engram is pushed out of town, there is already a matchup-nightmare replacement on the roster. If not, a 12-personnel spread formation gains another level of legitimacy.
Creativity will yet again be an essential factor in this class’ success, but another athletic option for Jones can’t hurt. It may be unconventional, but it certainly is possible. This pick would present the opportunity cost of missing out on Robert Hunt, Kindle Vildor, and Ben Bredeson.
Round 6, Pick 183: Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Like Biadasz, Trey Adams presents the case of a highly-touted prospect who fell far as time went on. Adams’ medical red flags are real, and he is not as talented as once prophesied, but there is still some merit to his game. Adams uses his size to physically dominate opponents, utilizing it heavily in both run blocking and pass protection.
In the run game, natural leverage disadvantages hurt his projection. He’ll struggle against explosive speed rushers, but his footwork mitigates this weakness and keeps him afloat in pass protection. If Adams can stay on the field, he’ll provide ample depth as a third tackle. Other options for the Giants’ sixth-round selection are James Proche, Hakeem Adeniji, and Anthony Gordon.
Round 7, Pick 218: Tanner Muse, S, Clemson
There’s no rule against taking two hybrid defenders from the same school, and it’s possible Gettleman double-dips with Tanner Muse. Muse is a safety/linebacker hybrid who has the chops to survive in zone coverage, and the tenacity to take on blocks at the NFL level. He’s a strong run defender who can survive in space, despite being rather stiff.
Muse is not nearly the athlete Simmons is, though he may be able to handle tight ends and running backs like his teammate. While he may max out as a depth off-ball linebacker, his versatility and special teams availability make him a worthwhile seventh-round pick. A depleted talent pool leaves the likes of Julian Blackmon, Myles Dorn, and Kendall Coleman available, all of which Muse surpasses in talent.
Round 7, Pick 238: Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island
In this particular haul, the Giants won’t find an elite target for Jones. Here, they can address the depth of the receiving corps, and Isaiah Coulter provides enough upside to garner attention. He is similar to Slayton, as his size and speed combination will lend itself to a handful of plays at the next level.
With Corey Coleman likely holding down the fourth receiver spot, Coulter would slide right in as the fifth receiver on the roster, even without the nuance of other wide receiver prospects this class has to offer. Juwan Johnson, Lamar Jackson, and Sewo Olonilua each provide interesting cases for this pick as well.
Round 7, Pick 247: Parnell Motley, CB, Oklahoma
New York has spent multiple draft picks and piles of cap space on a young secondary, and while there is some optimism, results are yet to show. Parnell Motley won’t change too much, but he can provide quality depth, especially for the 247th pick. Motley dominated Big 12 receivers all season, but athletic concerns, like his 2.47 RAS, knocked him down draft boards. It is seemingly a shot in the dark, but there’s more to his game than Kendrick Rogers, JaMycal Hasty, or Cody White.
Round 7, Pick 255: Jordan Mack, LB, Virginia
Mr. Irrelevant typically does not possess the talent that Jordan Mack does, so this scenario is a friendly projection for the Giants. An athlete I deemed a fifth-round talent this preseason, Mack is a decent player with upside in his physical presence and pass-rush versatility. It may seem redundant to select yet another linebacker, but each provides different skill sets, and the roster truly is that depleted. A surefire way to address depth for the defense, Mack can be used in a myriad of ways if he sees the field outside of special teams. I’d prefer to take a flyer on Mack, rather than someone like Christian Rector, Scottie Phillips, or Tyler Higby.