As most of us expected, the Giants were big spenders in free agency. The earmarking of the roster was inevitable for the defense due to the Giants only allocating $28 million to the unit right before the new league year.
Defensive tackle Leonard Williams was franchise tagged at $16.1 million a year, and then the Giants proceeded to upgrade their defense.
They signed Panthers cornerback James Bradberry to a three-year, $45 million deal with $32 million guaranteed. They also signed a pair of former Packers, inside linebacker Blake Martinez to a three-year $30 million contract and EDGE Kyler Fackrell to a one-year $4.6 million contract. And they added special teamer Nate Ebner, a safety, from the Patriots
The offense also received some love as well in the form of former Washington quarterback Colt McCoy), former 49ers blocking tight end Levine Toilolo, and former Cowboys’ swing tackle Cameron Fleming (one-year, $4 million).
And last but not least, the Giants re-signed a few of their pending free agents, including Cody Core and inside linebacker David Mayo.
And just like that, most of the cap space is distributed, yet holes on the roster remain.
The three-year contracts allow for the Giants to have flexibility in the future because they’re front-loaded, and the Giants are pragmatic about the fact that they have a lot of young, talented players on rookie deals.
These same young, talented players will be looking to get paid soon, so having this flexibility is a smart way to do business, given the current state of the team.
Hopefully, the Giants can add another bunch of young players that will be given four-year contracts
I’m, of course, referring to the upcoming 2020 draft. There is a lot to glean over when looking at what the Giants did in free agency and how that potentially sets up their draft.
The Giants currently have the No. 4 overall selection in the first round, and for the first time in years, there are four legitimate, difference-making offensive tackles.
The Giants did add Fleming, but he’s presumably going to be the swing tackle. With Mike Remmers having signed with the Chiefs, the current roster consists of Nate Solder at left tackle and either Fleming or Nick Gates at right tackle.
I don’t believe the Giants are going into the season with that duo. The Giants’ future is contingent on the positive development of quarterback Daniel Jones, who as a rookie last season that had both of his tackles finish in the top 10 among their position group in pressures allowed.
It was no secret that Solder struggled last season on the left side, and the Giants can’t release him in 2020, due to a $16 million dead cap hit (unless they designate him a post-June 1 transaction, at which point they'd eat $6.5 million of dead money this year and the balance in 2021).
But in 2021, it will almost be a formality to release Solder if his 2020 play resembles 2019's performance. So wouldn’t it behoove of the Giants to select one of these young stud tackles, since both tackle positions are huge question marks?
I say yes, but there’s a caveat, and his name is Isaiah Simmons.
Simmons is a rare type of player that can fill so many different roles in a defense while causing conniptions for offensive coordinators to figure out personnel groupings to establish mismatches.
Bringing in Blake Martinez shouldn’t deter the Giants from selecting Simmons as they’re two different players.
Simmons' athletic ability and coverage ability, along with his range, would drastically help New York on the backend, and I would love for him to be a Giant. Still, I feel the Giants are going to draft an offensive tackle, which is the prudent move for now, and the future.
Why? Because of two rare factors, the first having this many top tackle prospects in a draft; and the second, the Giants' draft position. Both of these situations make it very difficult for the Giants to get too cute, and I feel they must capitalize and find a rock for their offensive line.
So Who Are the Tackle Prospects?
The four prospects are Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills; Iowa right tackle Tristan Wirfs; Louisville left tackle Mekhi Becton, and Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas.
Wills was playing across from Alex Leatherwood, who is a long true left tackle type. In contrast, Wills doesn’t necessarily have the length, but is just an absolute stud in pass protection, with excellent awareness, and he’s very powerful at the point of attack.
Alabama had no qualms leaving Wills on an island by sliding protection to the other side, which gives EDGE players an advantageous two way go. And yet Wills still won those reps, which points to his ability to mirror and pass protect.
Wirfs is the athletic freak from the combine who moves so well in space and would be a dynamic addition at right tackle.
Becton is a mountain of a man, who moves well for his size in pass protection while being an incredibly effective run defender.
Thomas has the desired raw strength, and he, too, was trusted by his school on an island in pass protection. He also possesses the requisite length for the position.
I believe the Giants will go with any one of these four in the first round (preferably after a trade). I’m hoping the market for that fourth overall pick will be huge with quarterbacks Justin Herbert (Oregon) and Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) possibly being available.
I think the Lions trade of corner Darius Slay signals they're leaning toward Jeff Okudah at No. 3. So with the Dolphins sitting at No. 5, the Chargers at No. 6, and the Panthers at No. 7, the Giants may have some options to trade down, and could even force teams to overbid, depending on the other team’s desperation.
The big question comes down to Dave Gettleman and if he's the guy to pull off a trade like that? He has never traded down int eh first round of a draft, but there’s so much talent in the second day of the draft that a trade back would drastically help the franchise, especially since the Giants are out of a Day 2 pick, due to the Leonard Williams trade.
Setting it All Up
Say the Giants do trade down to the seventh spot. The likelihood of at least two if not three of those offensive tackles still being on the board is high.
If the Giants have similar grades on these players, then this is the obvious move, but it takes two to tango with trades. Whatever the Giants’ front office decides to do, in regards to trading down, I believe they’ll still walk away with a tackle.
This leaves the Giants with a pressing need at single-high safety, offensive center, and on the edge, although I still contend the Giants need to add an athletic linebacker.
There are many options at No. 36, the Giants' second-round pick. There should be a lot of safeties available, but none are true Malik Hooker type middle of the field closed in Cover 1 safeties.
Southern Illinois’ Jeremy Chinn, Lenoir Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger, and Cal’s Ashtyn Davis can develop into that role even though the former two are really big bodies for safeties.
Minnesota's Antoine Winfield Jr has a lot of good flashes on tape but didn’t show incredible range in college, although he’s still young.
I like these players a lot, but I’m thinking the Giants may be picking in a sweet spot to land a quality pass rusher at No. 36. A dream selection would be Wisconsin’s Zach Baun, who is a versatile, intelligent, linebacker that can play off-ball or blitz off the edge, with a lot of different pass-rushing moves in his repertoire.
Realistically speaking, something tells me Baun will not be there at 36, but Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara might still be around. The brother of former Giant Romeo Okwara, Julian is a bendy, bursty, kind of edge player that needs to add a little sand in his behind against the run, but his athletic tools are very good.
Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos is a long, raw, pass rusher that has a lot of room for growth. He could also be the selection at No. 36, and Patrick Graham can use his teaching ability to assist the young man's growth.
Josh Uche is another name to pay attention to at No. 36, although I feel that’s a bit high for the Michigan pass rusher.
I also like the potential of even going center at No. 36. Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz and LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry may be around, and would both help the Giants.
Ruiz is more of the run-through-you type of blocker, and Cushenberry has smooth feet and does well in pass protection. Either player would upgrade the current center position on the Giants, which is just Spencer Pulley right now.
No. 36 is very interesting, and there will be plenty of options. I feel linebacker could even be an option with the athletic, rangy, linebacker from LSU Patrick Queen, or the gifted Oklahoma stud Kenneth Murray. Still, both could be off the board by the Giants' second-round selection.
I also feel the Giants will be in the market to take a receiver in this draft, a pick likely to materialize on Day 3 (a lot of talent in this historically deep receiver class that would normally go in Day 1 or Day 2 is expected to slide down the board).
But if they went with a receiver on Day 2 if the value presents itself, then so be it.
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Golden Tate will be 32 at the start of the season. Sterling Shepard and Corey Coleman’s injury history are concerning, so I feel the Giants may try to land another Darius Slayton speedster type. But in a deep receiver class, value could present itself earlier.
The Giants third selection is the 99th pick in the draft, a compensatory pick for not signing big free agents last season and losing safety Landon Collins. Below are some prospect names that may be around for pick No. 99 at these "big 5" positions of need:
- Clemson’s K’Von Wallace
- Utah’s Terrell Burgess
- Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor
- Florida’s Jonathan Greenard
- Florida’s Jabari Zuniga
- Syracuse’s Alton Robinson
- UNC Charlotte’s Alex Highsmith
- Temple’s Matt Hennessy
- Washington’s Nick Harris
- Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz
- Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither
- Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks
- Mississippi State’s Willie Gay Jr.
- Wyoming’s Logan Wilson
- Michigan State’s Joe Bachie
- Florida’s Van Jefferson
- Texas’ Collin Johnson
- USC’s Michael Pittman Jr.
- Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden
- Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones
All these receivers could fill the “X” position that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has traditionally extracted a lot of value out of in the past.
The X is a boundary receiver, which is usually on the backside of 3x1 sets--think about Dez Bryant, Myles Austin, and Terrell Owens from Garrett's Cowboys days. Typically, the receivers are over 6-foot 1 and are very good in contested catch situations.
So What's It Going to Be?
There’s a lot of scenarios to play through with the Giants. My top scenario is for them to trade back and pick up some extra Day 2 picks. Gettleman hasn’t shown a propensity to fulfill that type of wish, so I’m going to do five different three-round mock draft scenarios using TheDraftNetwork.com’s simulator.
Scenario No. 1
I would love this scenario for the Giants: They land the right tackle of the future, with the potential to play left, and an athletic EDGE player that can be effectively taught and trained by Graham.
I also really like the addition of Wallace, who can be a single high safety with the right coaching. Getting a tackle and a top EDGE is a priority for the Giants if they’re so lucky to land both Wills and Okwara.
Wallace is one of the more underrated prospects in the draft, and I feel his stock may rise over the next month because single high safety talent is hard to find.
Scenario No. 2
I couldn’t help myself; I had to go with Simmons, and it kind of works out. Niang isn’t quite the same prospect as Wills, but he’s long and athletic. I feel a good coach can refine him and develop his skillset into a professional football player, something he didn’t receive at TCU. He does need to stay healthy, though.
Zuniga is a solid EDGE player who tested better than I expected at the combine. He doesn’t have the bend or burst that Okwara has, but he’s solid at the point of attack and is a productive player.
Scenario No. 3
Here we go with Wirfs in the first round instead of Wills. There are reports that Gettleman loves Wirfs, and after his combine performance, it’s hard to argue if that's indeed the case.
In combine history, Wirfs tested in the 98th percentile or above in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, and vertical jump for tackles. He’s great in space and moves so fluidly. He is also a former wrestler who plays with excellent leverage and core strength too.
The next two picks are both high upside selection, and both have something in common in that 2018 was such a better year for them than 2019.
Both safety Grant Delpit and center Tyler Biadasz were projected top-20 picks, with Delpit being talked about in the top-5, after the 2018 season. Both struggled in 2019.
Delpit’s tackling issues were on display, yet he played through a shoulder injury, so it could have had something to do with the lack of tackling ability.
Biadasz, meanwhile, wasn’t as technically sound and found himself on the ground more in 2019 than he did the prior year. If both of these players just had down years, and are more close to their 2018 versions, then the Giants would have a complete steal here.
Delpit could fill the single-high safety, and Biadasz could man the center position as the anchor of the offensive line. It’s a high upside, boom potential draft scenario, with Wirfs as a solid addition.
Scenario No. 4
Like Wills, Andrew Thomas was asked to block on an island, with protection shifted towards the right side of the line. Thomas has prototypical left tackle size: 36⅛” arms, 6-foot 5, and 315 pounds.
He’s very powerful at the point of attack. He has struggled with speed around the edge, and his feet aren’t as nimble or quick as Wills', but Thomas has done a good overall job as Georgia’s left tackle.
Getting Baun at 36 would be an awesome scenario for the Giants. He’s incredibly smart, versatile, and he comes from Jim Leonhard’s attacking, blitz heavy, defense. Baun was teammates with Ryan Connelly at Wisconsin, and his ability to play off-ball and blitz off the edge would significantly help Graham’s defense. He’s effective in so many different ways, but I think some team in the 20s will snag him.
I added another athletic player to the front 7 in Akeem Davis-Gaither, who is the addition teams should be looking to add if they miss out on the Isaiah Simmons sweepstakes. They're different players for sure, but Davis-Gaither is an athletic linebacker, who moves well in space, can blitz effectively, and play man coverage on tight ends.
Landing him at No. 99 would be a great way for the Giants to add athletic ability to this defense, and I don’t feel it’s a redundant pick going Baun and Davis-Gaither back-to-back.
Scenario No. 5
Mekhi Becton is enormous: 6-foot 7, 364 pounds, 35⅜” arms, and 10¾” hands--all measurements that are over 90th percentile for tackles.
What makes him intriguing is his ability to move, despite his size. He still has good movement skills and quicker than normal feet.
The transition to the NFL for Becton is probably going to be more complicated than the other three tackles, but his upside is through the sky.
Landing one of the top 2 centers at 36 is a great scenario. The Giants have no answers right now for the center position, and revamping the offensive line by adding Becton and Cushenberry makes me bullish on this class.
I love landing Taylor in the third round too; he has some baggage off the field, but he’s a very intriguing EDGE player to land that late.
I wanted to squeeze a high-value receiver into one of these situations, but it never presented itself in the simulator.
There are too many holes that still need to be filled, so let’s hope the Giants can find the best players at the best values.
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