Takeaways and Musings from the Week at the Combine
No, no NFL team has me pegged as their next No. 1 draft pick (darn!), but I made it through a trying week with a lingering head cold that—wouldn’t ya know it?—broke up on Friday, the day before I’m due to leave Indianapolis.
Ain’t life grand?
But seriously, it was, as expected, a busy yet productive week. At these combines, I never know who to cover for feature stories because Murphy’s Law says that whomever I cover ends up going elsewhere.
But I still made the rounds, gathered up what tidbits I could find and put together some thoughts for you as I prepare to pack my bag (which DID arrive from Newark after it was removed from the aircraft “at random”) to head on back to New Jersey to be reunited with my husband and dog.
So About Tom Brady
If you’ve been following me on Twitter and here on the site, you’ll notice that I didn’t spend one single word writing about Tom Brady possibly coming to the Giants.
That’s because I just don’t see it happening. I mean let’s get real here, shall we?
I get it that Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman opened that door about Daniel Jones potentially not being their franchise quarterback because they refused to endorse him as such. But even if that were the thinking, if the Giants weren’t happy with Jones, what’s to stop them from taking a quarterback at No. 4 that would be a lot less expensive than Brady?
Look, if the Giants were a quarterback away from making a championship run, maybe I’d be singing a different tune. But I’m not buying a Tom Brady to the Giants marriage for a second.
There are quite a lot of people who are up in arms over head coach Joe Judge’s refusal to mention any Giants players by name, even in passing.
But don’t count me in that group. What Judge is doing, in a rather Belichickian type of way, is setting the stage for his players to earn their praise rather than are handed it on a silver platter based on what would have been an outsider's view.
I can’t help but wonder if the idea came from Jason Garrett. Back in 2011, as head coach f the Cowboys, Garrett came up with an idea in which the rookies had to earn the star on the side of their helmet through their work ethic and play that summer.
If that’s indeed what Judge and the coaching staff is trying to do, then kudos to them for erasing the class system in the locker room and making every single player prove why he not only belongs on the roster but also deserves to a shout out in the media.
I think it’s about time that people stop trying to dissect why the Giants traded for Leonard Williams because, you know, what’s done is done. The question people should be trying to analyze is what the Giants will do with Williams moving forward?
There are a few possibilities, and they’re all interwoven.
The first and obvious one is to slap the transition tag on Williams (I don’t see them using the franchise tag in this case, not only because of the money involved but using the franchise tag would pretty much guarantee that the fifth-round pick they ow the Jets next year will be a fourth-rounder).
I think the transition tag--$13.7 million for a defensive tackle versus the $16.3 million franchise tag cost--makes the most sense because if I’m Williams and I see that the market is lukewarm (which I have a feeling it will be), then I take the transition tag as a one-year “prove it” deal to improve my numbers so that I can try again in free agency next year.
There is also the possibility that the Giants and Williams sign a multiyear deal, but I would be stunned if that happens. Between the five years’ worth of tape Williams put together and his eight-game audition last year, I just don’t think it’s wise for the Giants to sign him long term right now.
My guess is that in having reviewed his film, new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has a pretty good idea how to get the most out of Williams, which is why the more I think about it, the more a one-year “prove it” deal makes sense. If Williams has career numbers in Graham’s defense, then break open the bank for him.
But to break it open now—and remember, we’re probably talking upwards of $40 million in guaranteed money—to sign the guy long-term would be malpractice.
Some might have the sentiment that Gettleman backed himself into a corner by trading away a third-rounder this year.
But if Gettleman goes through with any plans to trade down in the first round—and I do think there is a good chance of that happening—he should be able to get back a third-round pick right around where they would have drafted anyway.
One last point about Williams. I know there have been some reports saying the Giants might have themselves a battle if they apply a tag on Williams because he’d want the higher of the two tags.
But my understanding of how it works is that your primary position is classified based on where you lined up the most in the past, which for Williams would be at defensive tackle.
On the Edge
There was a report this week that the Giants might make a beeline for Seahawks edge Jadaveon Clowney, who has 32.0 career sacks, but who only posted 3.0 sacks with Seattle last year.
If I’m the Giants, I’d rather spend whatever it would take to sign Clowney on re-signing Markus Golden, whom Spotrac estimates has an APY market value of $13.5 million and drafting at the position, either LSU’s K'Lavon Chaisson or Utah’s Bradlee Anae and trying to develop a homegrown No. 1 pass rusher from whoever they do draft and/or one (or both) of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines.
Up until now, many of us have been focused on trade down scenarios involving quarterback-needy teams. However, there are at least a couple of NFL teams who could be interested in swapping picks with the Giants, not for a quarterback but a defensive player.
That could be why the Giants all of a sudden reportedly have this “interest” in Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown.
We know how much Dave Gettleman loves his hog mollies, and you can’t go wrong with a player of Brown’s pedigree. But remember how in the Leonard Williams section I said there are a few scenarios that are interwoven?
What if this talk of the Giants having an interest in Brown is to get Williams’ camp to move on a deal? And if that’s not the scenario, what if the Giants are floating interest in Brown to get some of the non-quarterback needy teams to make them an offer for the No. 4 overall pick?
I know that’s a lot of “what ifs,” but this time of year, it’s essential to leave no stone unturned in trying to piece together what might be coming.
Cornering the Market
I’ve debated back and forth if it makes sense for the Giants to address the cornerback spot via free agency or the draft or both.
I think it will be free agency. I’ve said all along they need a veteran to add to that group, and if I’m them, I go all out after Byron Jones of the Cowboys.
Of course, signing Jones would likely mean that Sam Beal gets demoted from the starting lineup. Still, so far in two seasons, for whatever talent Beal has, he hasn’t been able to show it due to durability issues, and I just can’t see the Giants continuing to exercise patience with him if he’s going to miss games.
The other thing they must do is get themselves a slot cornerback. Grant Haley is a terrific young man, but playing slot cornerback doesn’t fit his skill set. The same holds true for Corey Ballentine, who is not a slot corner.
Now it might be worth taking a look at what Julian Love could bring to the position, but if it were me, I’d leave him at safety the answer is to try Julian Love in the slot.
Tight End Trouble
With news of Rhett Ellison contemplating retirement and with Evan Engram still in a boot and unlikely to be ready until at least the start of training camp, tight end suddenly becomes a need.
Now granted, the Giants have Kaden Smith on the roster, and he’s expected to play a huge role in the new offense. But figure the Giants are going to need at least two other tight ends just to get through the spring workouts—maybe even longer if Engram begins training camp on PUP.
Speaking of Engram, the Giants have to decide regarding the option year of his rookie deal. I’m not sure which direction they’ll go there—I can see merit to picking it up (ensures he’ll be under contract for another year should they want to trade him—but at the same time, if there isn’t a market for Engram, why bother going through that hoop?
If I had to take a guess right now, I’d say the Giants pass on picking up Engram’s option year.
I saw the reports of Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee having an interest in joining the Giants if he doesn’t re-sign with Dallas.
Let’s just say if I’m the Giants, I look to get younger at my off-ball linebacker position. And a 33-year old Lee, while still a good player, doesn’t fit my vision of getting younger.
In the last three years, I’ve come out of the combine with a pretty good idea of how the Giants are drafting in the first round. While I still think they’re going to trade down and take an offensive tackle (and I wonder if as part of a trade down they also try to work out a deal where they can get another first-round pick?) I think the direction they pursue in free agency is going to help set the stage.
Yes, I know all about best available, and that you can’t go into the draft saying you’re going to take a particular position with a specific pick. But usually, the deeper a class is, the more likely that a team finds clusters of players whose grades are separated by a hair, which is when need overrules “best available.”
Lastly, you'll notice I popped a video showing my post-combine mock draft (made with two trades!) into this article. Yes, I know the combine is still going on and that things can change, but in waiting for my flight, I figured I'd run the simulator now.