The 2020 NFL Draft could be the ultimate proving ground for several franchises in desperate need of a resurgence. For every successful franchise that fortifies their roster by adding talent through the draft, there are several that frivolously spend money in free agency. These franchises typically trade away assets, as well as draft capital that could serve as potential building blocks of the future, in an attempt to address the multitude of deficiencies that plague the roster. I’ve highlighted two NFL front offices, in particular, that may find themselves on the hot seat with another horrid offseason.
New York Giants
There arguably isn’t another general manager under more scrutiny than Dave Gettleman. In fact, depending on the outcome, the 2020 offseason could very well be his final opportunity as the Giants’ war room decision-maker.
Gettleman’s first opportunity to call the shots for the Giants was in 2018 — also known as the Saquon Barkley draft. Though it would have been inexplicable to pass on the generational Barkley, it was the rest of his draft haul that left much to be desired. Will Hernandez, a competent, albeit maddening starting NFL guard, was considered a reach at 34, while linebacker Lorenzo Carter and defensive lineman BJ Hill served as marginal starters in 2019. Their fourth-round selection, quarterback Kyle Lauletta, didn’t pan out and spent the 2019 season on the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.
Though it wasn’t a popular pick at the time, the 2019 NFL Draft yielded the face of the franchise in Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick. Dexter Lawrence, however, a questionable scheme fit as a 4-3 interior defender, was an egregious pick at 17, and DeAndre Baker, the 30th overall selection, struggled mightily as a rookie.
Gettleman’s questionable moves were not limited to the draft, either.
In an attempt to compile retreads for defensive coordinator James Bettcher, pass rusher Kareem Martin was signed to a three-year, $21 million free-agent deal in 2018. He notched 1.5 sacks over two seasons before his release in February. Martin’s predecessors, Devon Kennard and Romero Okwara — who the team failed to retain that very same offseason — have combined for 23 sacks over the past two seasons.
Gettleman’s shopping spree continued that offseason, inking tackle Nate Solder to a four-year, $62 million contract, with $35 million guaranteed. Solder has been anything but a pillar on the edge since signing the mega-deal.
While few would argue that the marriage between the Giants and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was headed for a divorce, seemingly everyone disputed his departure from East Rutherford. Beckham, who signed a five-year, $95 million contract with $41 million guaranteed in August of 2018, was hastily traded to the Cleveland Browns less than a year later — only yielding a first-round pick.
And lastly, who could forget the trade deadline transaction that sent shockwaves throughout the NFL last season?
On Oct. 28, the Giants acquired defensive lineman Leonard Williams, a former top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, from the New York Jets for a third-round pick in 2020 and a 2021 fifth-round pick.
Now, this move made little sense from the start. For one, the Giants were among the worst teams in football when the trade was made, with only a minuscule chance at winning the NFC East. The third-round pick that was dealt was considered prime draft capital and would have been an essential building block for a team in dire need of youthful play-makers. To make matters worse, Williams was playing out the option year of his rookie contract and is far from a guarantee to re-sign with the Giants.
To sum things up, it is imperative that Gettleman and his team of decision-makers come away with instant producers in the 2020 NFL Draft. Who should they pick? Well, it’s important that they not overcomplicate things. Former Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, for example, is arguably the top prospect in this class. His ability to line up anywhere on the defense, and effectively erase wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs in the passing game, makes him an optimal addition to any defense. Sprint to the podium, select him fourth and give him free reign to make plays on a largely lifeless Giants defense.
For Gettleman and his team, there simply isn’t any other option.
I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention another front office on the hot seat, the Houston Texans.
Texans de-facto general manager and head coach Bill O’Brien, who heads the maligned front office in 2020, succeeded interim general manager Chris Olsen — who took over for Brian Gaine last June.
Let us begin with the most recent blunder, shall we?
Last week, the Texans sent DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson and a second-round pick. How O’Brien failed to net a first-round pick for the 27-year-old, three-time All-Pro is beyond comprehension. For reference, players such as Brandin Cooks and Amari Cooper are just two of the pass catchers that yielded first-round compensation in recent years.
While we are on the subject of trades, it is only fair to mention the Jadeveon Clowney transaction. Seeking a long-term extension, Clowney never signed the franchise tag last summer, and the Texans held onto him longer than they should have, before ultimately unloading him to the Seahawks for a 2020 third-round pick and linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin.
It’s still yet to be determined what becomes of the third-round pick, but Mingo amassed six tackles, while Martin collected 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season.
While moves of that magnitude significantly impact a team’s landscape, O’Brien’s biggest flaw has been his incessant negligence of competent offensive line play, particularly at the tackle position. Now, I was higher on the Tytus Howard pick than most were at the time — his innate athleticism and fluidity should prove to be a welcome addition to the trenches in time — but many deemed the Alabama State product to be a reach at #23. He started eight games as a rookie, seven at right tackle and one at guard, before a late-season injury ended his season prematurely.
O’Brien then rectified the problem by offering the Miami Dolphins a king’s ransom — two firsts and a second-round pick — for ascending tackle Laremy Tunsil. Though Tunsil performed admirably last season, the position should have been adequately addressed once Duane Brown was shipped to Seattle in 2017.
With the 2020 NFL Draft looming, this potentially becomes a make-or-break offseason for Bill O’Brien and his staff. With their two second-round picks, they would do well to replenish some of the firepower they’ve lost on offense. TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor would be an ideal fit at #40, as someone with a diverse skillset that can do more than stretch the field, and they could stand to upgrade the running back position with the 57th pick.