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One of the great myths of the NFL Draft is that teams select the “best player available” on their draft board. It’s the misguided theory that when it’s their turn to make a choice, they simply select the highest-rated player remaining on their board.
That’s not really how it works, of course. If it was, it would kill all war room discussions and there’d be no need for more than a minute or two between every pick. The reality is teams are always mindful of the holes they have to fill. Even when they rank the players on their board, they are almost always factoring in their needs.
They’d be crazy not to do it that way. And that’s true of the Giants, too. They were well aware of the holes they had to fill even before they dove head-first into free agency. And they were always balancing what they were trying to do then with what they might be able to do in the draft instead.
“We have our draft on one board and our unrestricted free agency board on the other,” Giants GM Dave Gettleman said on a Zoom call on Tuesday. “And we actually do it by color. We take a look at the positions and see where, if I need a kicker, is it heavy in free agency or am I going to have to go to the draft? So we marry up both.”
So yes, what a team does in free agency can tell you a lot about what a team might do in the NFL draft, especially in the first two days. So here’s a look at some of the holes left unfilled by the Giants during their March spending spree, and how what they did and didn’t do shows what might be planned for next week:
The fact that they even made inquiries about Leonard Floyd before he signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Rams show the Giants were serious about adding a pass rusher to play opposite Leonard Williams. They would have spent the money if the price was right. Then, when they lost Floyd, they really didn’t address the position other than to sign Ifeadi Odenigbo, who is more of a rotational player than a star.
When asked about that position on Tuesday, Gettleman talked about the rehab of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines and how young players like Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin are going to “get better”. But he also promised “We’re going to do better” at that position than they did last year. That’s why so many think this will be a priority in the first two rounds.
The Giants gave a four-year, $72 million contract to Kenny Golladay and signed John Ross, whom Gettleman called a “take-off-the-top, oh-my-gosh speed” guy. The GM sounded comfortable with the weapons he’s brought in for quarterback Daniel Jones. And don’t forget, when co-owner John Mara talked about the Golladay signing last month, he said it “takes pressure off us going into the draft. We don’t have to take a receiver in Round 1 or Round 2.”
That doesn’t mean they won’t. But they have a strong stable of receivers at the moment and they have bigger priorities. To take a receiver early, the right player would have to be there.
They brought back veteran tackle Nate Solder and signed veteran guard Zack Fulton, so they have good depth, but that was it. They are really counting on the young players they already have to step up and be better. And the truth is, at least three positions – both guards and right tackle – are very much up in the air.
Gettleman said on Tuesday what he’s said before, that after drafting a young quarterback, as they did three years ago, “the first thing you’ve got to do is get people around him to keep him upright.” The Giants have been working on that for a couple of years. But they would certainly draft an upgrade if one is available, especially if that player is a guard.
The Giants lost Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency and didn’t really even try to replace him, except with veteran Danny Shelton who is more of a stop gap. That was a calculated decision and probably one that indicates they feel they have the players on the roster to fill that hole.
They certainly could draft a defensive tackle, but this is generally considered a poor tackle class. If they’re going to get one that will have an immediate impact, it’ll have to come in the first three rounds.
The Giants signed Adoree’ Jackson to a three-year, $39 million contract, one year after signing James Bradberry to a three-year, $43.5 million deal. They also drafted Darnay Holmes in the fourth round. That’s a lot of capital in one position, making it seem unlikely they’d add more. Keep in mind, though, Gettleman said “You can never have too many good players at any position, I don’t care what anybody says.” So if the right player falls to them, maybe they will add another – even if that’s in the first round.