2021 NFL draft: Experts dole out grades for Giants

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Dan Benton
·10 min read
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The 2021 NFL draft reached its end on Saturday evening and for the New York Giants, they came away with an impressive six-pick haul that also included the stockpiling of future assets.

After Day 1, reviews were a bit mixed — some saying general manager Dave Gettleman did a wonderful job, while others poked fun and claimed he panicked following the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles trade.

However, Day 2 and Day 3 revealed a clearer plan for the Giants and it became apparent they were not only doing a good job, but a great one.

Here’s how NFL experts and analysts graded their full draft haul and multiple trades.

Mel Kiper Jr.: B+

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Mel Kiper Jr. was impressed with the Giants' draft haul but more than just that, he was extremely impressed with "Trader Dave" and the future assets he compiled.

The talk of this Giants draft is all about general manager Dave Gettleman -- "Trader Dave" -- trading down not once but twice, marking the first time he has traded down in his nine drafts as a general manager. It's pretty amazing. Gettleman got an extremely valuable 2022 first-rounder from the Bears in the deal that saw the Giants drop nine spots in Round 1. This team is still rebuilding and Gettleman is under pressure, so give him credit for thinking long-term and seeing the bigger picture. If the bottom falls out for Chicago in 2021 -- you never know in the NFL because of injuries -- this could be one of the deals of the draft. I liked all of the Giants' top three picks. Kadarius Toney (20) is a speedy slot target who will make life easier for quarterback Daniel Jones, who needs to take the next step in Year 3. (Urban Meyer has already said that the Jags were going to take Toney at No. 25.) Jones has solid weapons around him now -- there's no way they will average a league-low 3.0 yards after catch again -- though the offensive line is still mediocre. Edge rusher Azeez Ojulari (50) is a perfect fit for Patrick Graham's 3-4 defense, and New York got value in taking him in the middle of Round 2. There was some first-round buzz around Ojulari leading up to the draft. Cornerback Aaron Robinson (71) began his career at Alabama and flashed last season at UCF. New York only had three picks on Day 3, and Elerson Smith (116) was my favorite of the trip. He's 6-foot-6 and had 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2019, though he's still a work in progress. The picks "Trader Dave" added -- particularly that 2022 first-roudner -- and the value he got with his top three picks makes this a solid haul.

Pro Football Focus: B+

AP Photo/Michael Woods

Pro Football Focus didn't take into account the Giants' trades, but that didn't really matter. From a pure player perspective, they liked what Big Blue did.

Day 1: Kadarius Toney is still learning to play wide receiver, but his development in 2020 was impressive to watch if you cued up his tape chronologically. Plus, there is no more electrifying playmaker in this draft. Toney is a tackle-breaking machine, and while he was primarily a slot receiver in college, he has the size and moves to develop into more than that at the next level. Day 2: Ojulari could have easily been drafted in the first round, making this selection one of the better values so far in Round 2. He is one of the more advanced pass rushers in this class technically and has an impressive first step off the edge. It helped lead to a 91.7 PFF pass-rushing grade this past season at Georgia. Ojulari also happens to fill a clear area of need for the Giants, whose top four pressure leaders were all interior defenders in 2020. The Giants’ secondary was already in a good spot entering the 2021 NFL Draft. By adding Robinson, potentially to man the slot, New York only improves its outlook. Robinson isn’t your prototypical slot cornerback. He has the size and press experience to potentially play outside. He also picked up 80.0-plus run-defense grades in each of the past two seasons at UCF. New York adds another talented piece to its secondary. Day 3: Williams projects as a man-to-man cornerback for the Giants. Although he had issues tracking the ball and getting his hands on passes, he’s a patient player and offers a skill set that is needed in the NFL. Williams needs to gain some strength but this is an intriguing pick.

Draft Wire: B

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Our friend Luke Easterling at Draft Wire wasn't as high on the Giants' draft haul because he feels they reached for first-round pick Kadarius Toney, who Urban Meyer admits he would have selected just a few picks later.

Another team that reached in the first round, but made up for it with a second-round steal. Dave Gettleman traded down in both rounds, evening out the value with an explosive pass-catcher (Kadarius Toney) and the most polished edge rusher in the draft (Azeez Ojulari). Aaron Robinson is a ready-made nickel corner, and Elerson Smith was one of the best sleepers in this year’s EDGE class. Rodarius Williams was a sneaky good pick in the sixth, too. Good balance of addressing needs, and getting long-term upside with instant-impact potential.

Touchdown Wire: A-

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Doug Farrar and Mark Schofield of Touchdown Wire were much more impressed with what the Giants did and in a very rare moment, offered a ton of praise for Dave Gettleman.

A moniker was born over the weekend: “Trader Dave.” In the buildup to the 2021 NFL draft many wondered if general manager Dave Gettleman would finally find a chance to trade down, given that the New York Giants were sitting 11th in the draft and a team might be looking to come to the top of the board for a quarterback. That exact scenario unfolded Thursday night, when the Giants traded out, allowing the Chicago Bears to come up for Justin Fields. But sliding back to 20 the Giants still added wide receiver Kadarius Toney, a shifty option that should fit well with the talent already in place in New York. Then the Giants addressed another pressing need with their selection in the second round, adding pass rusher Azeez Ojulari. Many considered Ojulari a first-round talent — he was graded as the second-best pass rusher in this class by Touchdown Wire — and drafting him in the second could be a steal provided the knee injury that saw him slide does not turn out to be a lingering issue. Beyond that, Gettleman added cornerback Aaron Robinson, who could play both in the slot and on the boundary, as well as an intriguing pass rusher from Northern Iowa in Elerson Smith. I think Trader Dave deserves a lot of kudos for what he did this weekend.

Chad Reuter: A to A+

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Chad Reuter of NFL.com broke down each day and handed out an individual grade for each. On Day 1, he gave the Giants an A+. Days 2 and 3 earned an "A" grade for each.

The Giants added another excellent receiver to their corps in Toney after trading down nine spots and acquiring first- and fourth-round picks from the Bears next year, as well as a fifth-rounder in this draft. You can’t ask for much more than that. GM Dave Gettleman took a calculated risk on the former Bulldog, anticipating Ojulari's medical issues will not overshadow his talent as a rusher and run defender. Robinson could have easily been off the board 20 spots earlier. Smith gives the Giants another long pass rusher to complement Ojulari. Brightwell displays quickness, but he must tighten up his ball security to become a reliable backup to Saquon Barkley. Williams isn’t an elite athlete, but Greedy’s brother is a feisty outside defender who could have been picked two rounds earlier.

Pro Football Network: A-

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

How about another "A" grade? Sounds good, right? Then you're in luck because that's what Pro Football Network handed out.

Kadarus Toney has proven to be somewhat of a love it or hate it selection for the New York Giants. Adding Azeez Ojulari on Day 2 could be the best selection of Day 2 if his health concerns do not affect him. Add in some more solid selections in the later rounds and the Giants come out with a very favorable grade.

USA TODAY: A

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USA TODAY shared a similar view as many (not all) of our Wire writers and jumped on the "A" train.

After eschewing trade-down opportunities in his first eight drafts as a general manager, Dave Gettleman couldn't get enough of it Thursday and Friday, parlaying deals with the Bears and Dolphins into first-, second- and fourth-round picks in 2022. As for Gettleman's actual draft board – and Thursday's deal with Chicago suggests he didn't want to miss out on Alabama's DeVonta Smith – it seemed he stacked it well since he wasn't a slave to his beloved "hog mollies." Round 1 WR Kadarius Toney and Round 2 OLB Azeez Ojulari both have first-round ability, and Toney should help third-year QB Daniel Jones get going in the right direction.

The Sporting News: A-

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Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News, who tends to be a bit critical of the Giants and Gettleman, came away impressed.

GM Dave Gettleman started with a surprise trade down and still ended up with another key upgraded at wide receiver for Daniel Jones plus a first-round pass rusher/cover man in Round 2. Robinson was a steal for their coverage and Smith can also be effective in Patrick Graham’s front seven. The minus comes from not going offensive line once but keep in mind they also got big future draft assets from the Bears.

NBC Sports: B

AP Photo/Michael Woods

Outside of Draft Wire, the only other outlet or analyst to give the Giants a grade of "B" or lower was NBC Sports Boston (surprise, surprise).

The Giants finished last in the league in receiving touchdowns last season with 12, which made the first-round selection of Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney a logical choice. New York also added much-needed pass rushing skill to their linebacker corps with the selection of Georgia's Azeez Ojulari in the second round.

The Ringer:

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Kelly of The Ringer was impressed with the Giants' overall haul, but admits he's a bit hung up on the Kadarius Toney selection.

I didn’t love the Toney pick in the first round―he’s a raw route runner who freelances too often and may need some time to adapt to the NFL―but there’s no doubt he brings a dynamic playmaking element to this offense that no other Giants receiver can. The team’s next two selections, Ojulari and Robinson, were both home-run picks; Ojulari was the 16th-ranked player on my board, and fell to the second round largely because of concerns over knee and ankle injuries. Add in that GM Dave Gettleman finally traded back, and all in all this was a great weekend for the Giants.

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