Ranking the Giants’ First-Round Draft Picks from 2011-2018

First round draft picks can form the core of a football team. For the New York Giants, most of the last decade their first round picks have done the opposite. Here's how we'd stack up them up, from worst to first.
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Offensive lineman? Edge rusher? Receiver? Something else?

We'll find out in a mere few weeks which player and position the New York Giants are planning to select n the first round of this year's draft, and we'll, of course, keep our fingers crossed that whoever the player is, he turns out to become a long-time fixture at whatever position he plays.

So until we get to that unveiling, let's take a quick look back at the Giants' first-round picks from 2011-18, a group that, on the whole, has been rather uninspiring, though which has begun to perk of toward the end of the time range.

This analysis doesn’t include Daniel Jones (2019) or Andrew Thomas (2020) since neither of those two players has been in the league for a full three seasons, the recommended time frame for assessing whether a draft pick has lived up to his pedigree.

No. 8: OL Ereck Flowers (2015)

Not only was the former Miami Hurricane not a good fit for the spotlight of New York, but he seemed to have an aversion to the coaching he received.

Flowers, who at first glance had the size and tools to become an anchor on the offensive line for years to come, struggled to consistently execute the technique he was taught, often relying on poor habits that he had developed in college.

To be fair, maybe some of the problems was in the Giants' refusal to try him at guard, where he had better success later in his career. But the bottom line is that the team wasted a No. 9 pick on Flowers, who gave them very little return on their investment.

No. 7: CB Eli Apple (2016)

Going into the 2016 draft, the consensus was that Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple was not a top-10 draft pick.

After the Giants were thwarted in an attempt to select Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Conklin (who went to Tennessee at No. 8 after the Titans traded up), and defensive end Leonard Floyd, who went to the Bears at No. 9 (they too traded up), the selection of Apple felt like a knee-jerk reaction.

Apple not only never made it through an entire season for the Giants, but he recorded one interception and 20 pass breakups in 2.5 seasons with the team. But it was his attitude that ultimately became his undoing.

In 2017, Apple, who was inactive for the team’s game against the Eagles, was fined for tweeting during the game. His rocky 2017 season was capped with a one-game suspension by the team

that ESPN reported was due to "a pattern of behavior that is conduct detrimental to the team."

And earlier in the 2017 season, he reportedly almost walked out on the team when his film was used as part of then head-coach Ben McAdoo’s “brutally honest” film review.

The Giants, having had enough of Apple, traded him to the Saints in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

No. 6: RB David Wilson (2012)

It’s not fair to label Wilson a bust, considering how spinal stenosis prematurely ended his career. And indeed, there was nothing wrong with Wilson’s effort on the field.

The problem was with the pick itself—and, again, to be clear, this is NOT Wilson’s fault. The Giants, at the time when making this pick, had recently released Brandon Jacobs and deemed running back as a need. Drafting 32nd overall since they had won the Super Bowl the prior year, Wilson was the second-best running back on the Giants board, according to then-general manager Jerry Reese, after Trent Richardson went to the Browns at No. 3.

And it was also long suspected (but never proved) that the Giants were interested in Doug Martin, who went one pick before Wilson to the Bucs at No. 31.

In retrospect, the Giants might have been able to get a running back later in the draft and devoted the first-round pick to adding to their aging and declining offensive line where picks such as Mitchell Schwartz and guard Cordy Glenn were still on the board.

No. 5: TE Evan Engram (2017)

Tight end Evan Engram was supposed to give the Giants a Rob Gronkowski-type of player for their offense. Instead, what they got from the former Ole Miss star was a lot of frustration and heartbreak.

Engram's most productive season to date in his rookie campaign, in which he caught 64 out of 115 pass targets for 722 yards and six touchdowns (all career highs) in a 15-game season. Since then, he's not only struggled to stay healthy, but in the one season in which he did make it through an entire season (2020), his inconsistent play was enough to drive a coaching staff mad.

Still, the Giants picked up the option year on his rookie deal, believing that he’s far too talented to cast aside. That said, it will be interesting to see if the team doesn’t look to trade him by the 2021 trade deadline, especially if they acquire another tight end in the draft.

No. 4: CB Prince Amukamara (2011)

Amukamara’s rookie campaign got off to a rocky and forgettable start. When the lockout of 2011 ended, the league now had a rookie pay scale, which helped reduce lengthy contract holdouts among the drafted.

Still, that didn’t stop Amukamara from holding out once the league got the green light to return to work. The cornerback signed his rookie deal on August 4, 2011, after becoming the longest holdout of the 2011 draft class (the holdout was reportedly over the percentage of guaranteed money in his contract).

As if that wasn’t bad enough, he broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot two days into training camp during a practice, which sidelined him until November 20, 2011. The Giants would win a Super Bowl with Amukamara in the lineup, and while he was mostly solid, the Giants chose not to re-sign him after he finished the option year in his rookie deal.

No. 3: OL Justin Pugh (2013)

After de-prioritizing the offensive line for at least three seasons, the Giants finally spent a premium draft pick on Justin Pugh out of Syracuse, who went 19th overall. The 2013 Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team nominee looked like the second coming of David Diehl, a fifth-round draft pick who was well-known for his versatility in playing multiple positions at a high enough level.

For Pugh, who played left and right tackle early in his career, it wasn’t until he finally settled in at guard during the 2015 season that he had the best years of his career. According to Pro Football Focus, Pugh earned his highest career grades in 2015-16 (78.8 and 78.3 respectively) and was ranked in the top 20 guards league-wide in both seasons.

Unfortunately for Pugh and the Giants, injuries began to sneak upon him. He missed five games in 2016 with an MCL sprain in his knee. In 2017, his rookie deal's option year, he missed half the season with a back injury.

The Giants elected not to re-sign Pugh after the 2017 season. He continued his career with the Arizona Cardinals, becoming the latest in a long string of Giants first-round draft picks not to receive a second contract with the team.

No. 2: RB Saquon Barkley (2018)

Giants fans and media will always have a different opinion regarding the team's wisdom drafting a running back No. 2 overall. When he was coming out of college, it wasn’t hard to see why Gettleman fell in love with Saquon Barkley’s talents.

However, the problem is they didn’t give Barkley an ideal situation to break into the league.

In other words, Barkley ran behind a spotty offensive line in each of his first two near full seasons, and yet he still managed to earn one Pro Bowl berth and rush for 1,000 yards in those first two seasons. That right there speaks to the special talent this young man has.

When healthy, Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, has been everything he was billed to be—a solid runner capable of making something out of nothing and a mismatch in the passing game (when deployed).

The problem with Barkley has been staying healthy—he missed parts of each of the last two seasons, including last year in which a torn ACL cost him 14 games.

If Barkley can return to his pre-injury form, he has a chance of moving up in the pecking order of the top Giants’ first-round draft picks this century. But as with anything involving a player’s return from injury, that remains to be seen.

No. 1: WR Odell Beckham Jr (2014)

Yes, his act wore thin within the locker room (and yes, the explosive ESPN interview was among the many reasons why the team had enough of his antics). But there is no denying that Odell Beckham Jr was the most exciting player this team has seen in decades. That he came along when the rest of the team was barely watchable certainly didn’t hurt his popularity either.

And speaking of what Beckham did, how about recording three straight seasons with at least 1,300 receiving yards before a broken ankle in his fourth season broke that streak?

Beckham worked his tail off to come back from that devastating injury. After signing a new blockbuster contract (and becoming the first Giants first-round draft pick to sign a second contract with the team since defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul), Beckham delivered another 1,000-yard season for the Giants in 2018, his final year with the club.

Unfortunately, the growing spotlight on Beckham became too much. His antics slowly grated at the Giants' patience, and they ultimately decided that he was no longer worth the headaches he was causing. New York sent him to the Browns in exchange for safety Jabrill Peppers, a first-round pick that became Dexter Lawrence, and a third-round pick that became Oshane Ximines.

While the jury is still out on which team won that trade—Beckham did end up suffering yet another lower-body injury last season (ACL). Before that, he gave the Browns another 1,000-yard season, even if his 56.9 reception percentage was the lowest of his career in which he’s played at least half of the games.


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