Giants should only consider these defensive 2021 NFL Draft prospects at No. 11

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Scott Thompson
·4 min read
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Micah Parsons
Micah Parsons

Analyzing what the Giants might do at No. 11 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft is a bit tricky depend on who's left on the board.

As SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano noted in the latest edition of his three-round mock draft, selecting an offensive playmaker looks to be in the cards. There are three legitimate wide receivers who could be No. 1 options – Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle – as well as TE Kyle Pitts, who profiles more as a massive receiver than a true tight end. Golden Tate was also just cut, leaving a space open for a new wideout to take his place.

But what if the Giants pivot and decide to go with defense first?

The team desperately needs help on that side of the ball for Daniel Jones after the unit was ranked 31st in the league last season. But the argument for a defensive squad that still has holes despite a solid 2020 season under DC Patrick Graham can be made.

For one, a consistent edge rusher has not found its way to the team since Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants have tried their luck on short-term deals that are high-risk, yet high-reward. Markus Golden and Kyler Fackrell did work out in their own ways, though. There are also still improvements to make in the secondary, except James Bradberry is a clear win in free agency last offseason.

Speaking of free agency, the Giants may find a way to address their offensive need there, which could lead to a defense-first mindset in the draft. A Kenny Golladay or another top wideout on the market could find their way to the Giants; more cap cuts will be needed to generate enough money to land someone of that caliber. There may also be later-round selections after the first the team is hoping to cash in on to bolster their roster.

So, despite there being solid, less expensive options in the draft to immediately make an impact in the receiving game, there are some solid defensive prospects that Graham would love to deploy with his group next season. Are they all worthy to go at 11?

Penn State LB Micah Parsons certainly is, but there’s a slim chance he makes it down to the Giants because of his very impressive tape and expectations at his Pro Day. The Giants already have Blake Martinez as their lead inside linebacker but imagining these two working together would be a dream for any defensive coordinator. Parsons can also be deployed well in blitz packages, adding to pass pressure to go along with his affinity to stop the run.

There’s also Michigan DL Kwity Paye, who many have mocked to the Giants throughout the offseason. Gettleman loves his defensive linemen and the last first-rounder he drafted there, Dexter Lawrence, is doing just dandy at the moment. Paye is more of an interior rusher, though Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are both free agents. Maybe drafting Paye would make up for one of them if they don’t both re-sign.

As for pure edge rushers, Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau out of Miami are as good as it gets in this draft class. Some rate one over the other, but they’ve both been able to produce during their careers. Phillips took over for Rousseau when he opted out in the 2020 campaign and flourished. Rousseau had double-digit sacks in 2019 as well.

And finally, how about a young stud cornerback to pair with Bradberry? Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley make the cut as the top two cornerbacks in this year’s draft. They have shutdown written all over their stat sheets and draft profiles.

But to answer the above question, if Tate’s departure isn’t filled in free agency and there are top receivers left on the board at No. 11, only drafting Parsons or one of the edge rushers makes sense to this writer.

Parsons is a can’t-miss defensive prospect, and if he falls that far, by all means scoop him up and shore up the linebacker position for years to come. Think about what Lavonte David and Devin White did for the Bucs this season.

But the defensive interior and cornerback aren’t necessarily a need in the first round. One of Williams and Tomlinson should be back to go along with Lawrence and B.J. Hill, who is still on the roster. And corner help could be found later in the draft to work with Darnay Holmes and Isaac Yiadom, who both showed good play in 2020.

Gettleman said he needed more offensive firepower this upcoming season, but the saying “defense wins championships” still applies no matter how the NFL is evolving. We’ll see what the Giants ultimately decide on at the end of April because there will be multiple options to choose from when it’s their time on the clock.