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One week ago, forecasting what the Giants would do in the first round of the NFL Draft was relatively easy. They were desperate for a No. 1 receiver, and undoubtedly one would be sitting for them at 11.
Then came the four-year, $72 million contract for Kenny Golladay and everything changed. It changed even more when they added cornerback Adoree’ Jackson on a three-year, $39 million deal, checking off another big need. Suddenly the Giants had filled two of their biggest holes and the draft is still one month away.
So now what? They still have needs – edge rusher and offensive line, for example – but they’ve really positioned themselves to go in a wide variety of directions, not just in the first round but with their three picks in the first two days.
There is still over a month until draft day, but here’s a look at what might happen, with my first post-free agency three-round mock for the Giants, version 4.0...
First round (11th overall) – Miami DE/LB Gregory Rousseau
A big-time pass rusher has been a white whale of sorts for Giants GM Dave Gettleman. He’s well aware that the strength of the Giants’ last two Super Bowl teams was its dominant defensive front and he believes in the “You can never have enough pass rushers” adage. Right now, with Leonard Williams, he really only has one.
That’s why it’s hard to see him passing up on the top edge rusher in the draft here. There are problems with that vision, though. For one, this is generally seen as a pretty down year for edge rushers. And for another, the 6-7, 265-pound Rousseau is a bit of a risk after he opted out of the 2020 season. Plus, some scouts see him as a better fit as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense than as a 3-4 linebacker.
I think the Giants are going to see a little Jason Pierre-Paul in him, though – an impressive athlete who has the potential to be incredibly disruptive, with a huge upside if they find a way to use him right.
He had 15 ½ sacks back in 2019. Put him opposite Williams, either standing up or with his hand in the dirt, and opposing offenses could have a tough choice about whom to double.
And that’s what the Giants need. They’ve strengthened their secondary and now they need to get to the quarterback. And the best way to do that is to overwhelm the opposing offense.
Maybe the Giants trade down from here and take a more traditional 3-4 linebacker like Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari. But if they stay here, they can grab the best pass-rusher/athlete and even if he’s not a perfect positional fit, trust that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will figure it out.
(Previous picks: Alabama WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle, Rousseau)
Second round (42nd overall) – Ohio State G Wyatt Davis
When the Giants released veteran Kevin Zeitler they were seemingly committing to Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux as their starting guards for the 2021 season. But it’s hard to forget how buried Hernandez became on the depth chart after he returned from the COVID-19 list last season. The full story on that still isn’t clear, but it sure seems like the coaching staff lost some faith in him for some reason.
That, and the fact that Lemieux struggled at times as a rookie, makes it hard to believe the Giants won’t bring in some competition. If it’s not a veteran at some point in free agency, they should be able to land this 6-3, 315-pounder on Day 2 of the draft.
Davis is a powerful, tough run blocker who supposedly has a mean streak. Some say he’s a bit lighter than teams want in a guard, but he’s actually listed at a heavier weight than both Hernandez and Lemieux. If he adds a little offseason muscle, that shouldn’t be an issue. He has some pass protection issues, but that can be coached.
If the Giants really have lost faith in Hernandez, Davis would have a chance to be a Day 1 starter. If not, he could at least give the Giants another option in the offensive line rotation they seem to like to use.
(Previous picks: Georgia LB Azeez Ojulari, Tulsa LB Zaven Collins, LSU WR Terrace Marshall)
Third round (76th overall) – USC DT Jay Tufele
The Giants still have to replace Dalvin Tomlinson along their defensive line and it’s not clear how they’re going to do it. What is clear is they need more bodies up front, and this 6-3, 305-pounder is a big and good one.
Tufele opted out of the 2020 season which could drop him a bit in the draft, but his talent suggests he should go higher than this. He was a strong, disruptive force up front for the Trojans with good interior pass-rush skills (4 ½ sacks in 2019). He would probably need to bulk up a bit to be a real good run-stopper in the NFL. But he’s got the moves and energy to push the pocket consistently.
And again, that remains the Giants’ biggest weakness. They got their best pressure last season by blitzing and sending linebackers in on the rush. If they can actually generate pressure from their front – which they should be able to do with Williams, Dexter Lawrence and a player like Tufele, they may really have the beginnings of something special on defense.
(Previous picks: Georgia CB Eric Stokes, Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg, Stanford OT Walker Little)