Best and Worst Giants Draft Picks of the Last Decade
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has a chance to start the new decade of Giants football with a clean slate of sorts, as this year’s draft class—his third as the team’s general manager—is going to be pivotal one in terms of finally turning the franchise around in the right direction.
While thus far, Gettleman has had more hits than misses in his Giants drafts, that got me thinking about the franchise’s drafts of the last decade and just how bad some of them were.
When looking for a reason why the Giants franchise deteriorated in terms of quality football, look no further than the 2011-16 drafts, which should have yielded several players on their second contracts with the club, but which instead have produced no players.
So as we count down the days until a new Giants draft class arrives, let’s look back at the best, and the worst Giants draft picks of the last decade.
Best: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida (Round 1). Pierre-Paul earned an All-Pro honor and was the only Giants defender in the decade to twice record double-digit sacks in different seasons (2011 and 2014). Even though the Giants moved on from Pierre-Paul, who in 2015 lost fingers in a fireworks-related accident, Pierre-Paul has still been pretty productive for the Bucs, recording 21.0 sacks in the last two seasons.
Worst: P Matt Dodge, East Carolina (Round 7). I didn’t so much have an issue with taking a flier on a punter in the seventh round. However, when Dodge proved he couldn’t handle the holder duties for kicker Lawrence Tynes and became the catalyst in the Miracle at the New Meadowlands, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Best: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska (Round 1). In retrospect, the Giants’ 2011 draft class was underwhelming across the board, but at least Amukamara managed to find staying power even after he moved on from the Giants. He’s currently a free agent, but he looks as though he can still deliver some quality snaps in a reduced role.
Worst: DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina (Round 2). A torn pectoral muscle cut short Austin’s rookie season with the Giants, but even before that, some character concerns made Austin the type of risky pick that these days the Giants have made a better effort to avoid. As a postscript to this pick, then general manager Jerry Reese sought the input of receiver Hakeem Nicks, a teammate of Austin’s at North Carolina, regarding Austin’s character, which made it an even bigger head-scratching decision.
Best: WR Reuben Randle, LSU (Round 2). Randle was the most productive of an otherwise poor draft class, so by default, that makes him the best pick of this class. Also, give credit to Randle, who, after a slow start to his career in which he only started four games in his first two seasons, developed into a starter. In 2014, he recorded career highs in receptions (71), targets (127), and receiving yards (938) while somehow managing to match his career-low in touchdowns (3) first set in his rookie season.
Worst: TE Adrien Robinson, Cincinnati (Round 4). There were a lot of candidates to choose from here, but I’m going with the guy whom former general manager Jerry Reese labeled “the JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) of tight ends.” Reese was speaking about Robinson’s physical traits, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to convert those physical gifts into production.
Best: DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State (Round 2). For a while there, Hankins looked like he’d be a long-term answer on the Giants defensive line, especially after his second season in which he recorded a career-high 7.0 sacks. He wasn’t quite as productive in 2016 when he recorded 43 tackles and 3.0 sacks, but he was part of a defensive unit that helped the Giants get to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season.
Worst: QB Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (Round 4). There were a lot of candidates to pick for this title, but I went with Nassib for the sole reason that the Giants traded up to get him in the fourth round because he represented “value.” Well, some value as he only completed nine out of 10 passes in five games before moving on to Jacksonville and then later on New Orleans. If you’re going to give up draft assets, shouldn’t you at least be able to get more than that?
Best: WR Odell Beckham Jr, LSU (Round 1). Despite his off-field antics, there was no denying that Beckham was an electrifying talent who gave the Giants fans something to smile about at a time when the team was sliding in the wrong direction.
Worst: DT Jay Bromley, Syracuse (Round 3). I remember being surprised that Bromley went so high in the draft as if I recall correctly, he was projected as a mid-Day 3 prospect. Again, if you’re doing your drafts right, your picks in the first three rounds typically get on the field by the end of their rookie season. Such was not the case though for Bromley, who appeared in just eight games with zero starts as he was mostly a healthy scratch that season.
Best: S Landon Collins, Alabama (Round 2). From the first moment Collins set foot in the Giants locker room, you just knew he was going to be something special. And he was, in that he was a leader who held himself and his teammates accountable.
He was also productive, sitting at or near the top of the tackles board every season. Was he a complete safety in terms of coverage ability? You can make a case that he wasn’t, but Collins, whom the Giants traded up to get at the top of Round 2 in 2015, was a reliable producer for the defense.
Worst: LT Ereck Flowers, Miami (Round 1). Whether it was a matter of Flowers simply not wanting to be in New York, the coaching staff failing to use him properly, or a combination, Flowers was the worst Giants first-round draft pick since defensive tackle William Joseph, also out of Miami, in 2003.
Best: WR Sterling Shepard (Round 2). I loved this pick because of the value and timing. Victor Cruz, remember, was trying to come back from a devastating torn patellar injury in his knee, and Shepard represented his eventual successor. But the thing that makes Shepard a homerun is how mature he’s always been in embracing a leadership role on the team without being an in-your-face type of guy. Let’s hope that his days of having to deal with concussions are over.
Worst: CB Eli Apple, Ohio State (Round 1). The selection of Apple always seemed like a knee-jerk reaction type of pick once the Giants were outfoxed by Chicago and Tennessee, respectively, for Leonard Floyd and Jack Conklin. Apple seemed to be his own worst enemy by raising some questions about his maturity that spelled an ugly end to his short tenure with the team.
Best: DT Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama (Round 2). Tomlinson had something of a breakout season last year after getting off to a slow start to where I wouldn’t be surprised if he receives a contract extension this year with another strong showing.
Worst: QB Davis Webb, Cal (Round 3). I hoped that Webb would become the next Jeff Hostetler, a third-round pick who, when called upon, stepped in and allowed the Giants not to miss a beat when starter Phil Simms went down. That didn't happen, though, and not because Eli Manning was an iron man.
The biggest head-scratcher was that the coaching staff seemed to drag its heels in developing Webb, which made me wonder why. I also believe it's a waste if your picks in the first three rounds aren’t on the field contributing in some capacity by the end of their rookie season, especially for a team that was in a clear rebuild.
Best: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Round 1). I’m not crazy about him being selected second overall given the short shelf life the majority of running backs in the league tend to have, but with that said, I’m glad he’s with the Giants as I believe once the coaching staff figures out how to unlock all of his talents, he'll prove to be a solid pick.
Worst: QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond (Round 4). From his off-field indiscretion to the fact that when he did get on the field for some late season snaps in 2018, he flopped, Lauletta just proved to be the latest in a long line of Giants quarterback prospects that didn’t pan out.
Best: DL Dexter Lawrence, Clemson (Round 1B). In reality, this is too close to call right now, but I’m going with Lawrence over quarterback Daniel Jones because Lawrence, to my eyes, was a more consistent player once he hit his stride after the first month of the season.
Worst: OT George Asafo-Adjei, Kentucky (Round 7). It’s not Asafo-Adjei’s fault that he suffered a concussion that stunted his development and ultimately may have led to his being waived. While some will question the wisdom in listing him as the worst draft pick of this class, considering we all heard the stories about how he held his own against edge rusher Josh Allen in practices, it was disappointing not to see that.