Every week during the 2021 NFL season, we’re going to — just being honest here — overreact to what we’ve seen on the field for a different NFL team and begin projecting NFL draft prospects at positions of concerning need.
Think of it as a mini one-team mock draft, with early (Rounds 1-2), middle (Rounds 3-4) and late (Rounds 5-7) prospects at each team’s respective position of concern.
This week’s NFL draft makeover is for the New York Giants.
On Sunday, the Giants paid honor to their 2011 Super Bowl-winning team, a surprise, overachieving champion that was comprised of a tough defense, a strong run game and and offensive line, plus quarterback Eli Manning, whose best plays seemed to come when his team absolutely needed them most.
That's the last time the Giants won the NFC East. Over the past five seasons, the Giants have a cumulative record of 19-51 — the worst in the NFL — and have been outscored by 435 points in that span. These underachieving Giants are the exact opposite of their 2011 brethren.
This season, the Giants are 1-5 for the fourth time in the past five years. Granted, last year's team also started 1-5 and somehow made a brief run at the division title. But with Dallas starting to pull away in the East, the chances of the Giants pulling that off in 2021 feel remote at best.
Everything appears to hang in the balance for this franchise heading into the 2022 offseason. Coach Joe Judge and GM Dave Gettleman have to be feeling the heat as fans demand their pound of flesh. QB Daniel Jones has not done nearly enough to assuage fears he might not be the chosen one. It's been almost 22 months since Saquon Barkley had 60 rush yards in a game.
And on and on ...
In short, this franchise needs some sort of reboot. And not the unplug-it-and-plug-it-back-in type. Regardless of which people stay in the C-suite or on the coaching staff next year, the talent level is not nearly where it needs to be to compete.
The good news? The Giants have two first-round picks (thanks to the Justin Fields trade with the Bears) and an additional third-round pick (from a 2021 draft deal with the Dolphins). And neither of those teams are winning big either, so the picks should land high in their respective rounds.
There are short- and long-term questions at quarterback, on the offensive line and in the front seven, as well as at tight end, running back and cornerback. The Giants must replenish the talent till in 2022.
Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum
Look, they have two firsts and have a QB issue. We get that, loud and clear. The problem? This year's talent allotment at the position is just a decidedly mixed bag. We've had classes similar to this in the past, and we're in an era of QBs going in Round 1. So by January, that picture will become clearer.
But for now, we need no clarity on the state of the Giants' interior offensive line. It's just not an impressive unit right now. They traded for Bengals castoff Bill Price and immediately made him the starting center. He hasn't done much, and neither have the team's guards. Interior pressure and clogged running lanes appear to be a weekly issue.
Drafting centers (or guards) in Round 1 can be tricky business. The historical track record at those two spots is fairly spotty. And yet Linderbaum appears to be a true pillar inside — tremendously athletic, surprisingly strong and impressively smart and competitive, despite an ideal lack of size.
No matter whether the Giants replace Jones or bring in QB competition, upgrading the play in front of the quarterback feels like a necessary move. Linderbaum even could be available with the Giants' second first-rounder; no center has been taken higher than 18th overall since the 1999 NFL draft.
Nevada TE Cole Turner
Round 3 has been a popular spot for tight ends to fly off the board in recent years. In the past four drafts, there have been a total of 55 tight ends taken, and 13 of them (nearly 24%) have gone in the third round. This is about the range where we could see the second wave of tight ends to start coming off the board next spring, depending on who declares.
Turner is a receiving-first target who measures an impressive 6-foot-6 with 33-inch arms. He weighed 236 pounds in the spring and could stand to keep adding bulk. But this converted receiver's game will open your eyes. Not too many tight ends can leap like he does, and Turner possesses excellent body control to make contested catches and outmaneuver defenders for the ball.
Over his past 15 games for the Wolf Pack, Turner has 83 catches for 1,008 yards and 13 TDs. He's caught a touchdown or surpassed the 60-yard receiving mark in all but one of those games. Turner's blocking needs some work, but he certainly gives the requisite effort in the run game. We'd place him somewhere on the Dawson Knox-Dalton Schultz spectrum as a prospect.
Whether it's Jones or someone else throwing the passes next year, the Giants could use a big, athletic target to snare passes outside his frame, stretch the seam and open up options in the red zone. Evan Engram, a free agent this spring, likely won't be back, and Kyle Rudolph might have been wasted free-agent money. New blood here is needed.
Arizona State CB Chase Lucas
It feels like Lucas has been in Tempe since the Dirk Koetter days, but the 5-foot-11, 182-pound cornerback still seems to fly beneath the radar a bit.
His size likely makes him a slot-only option, but it's an area on the field he's performed well when asked to do so. This season, the Sun Devils have tasked Lucas with splitting his time between covering the inside and outside, and he's played well when healthy.
Lucas missed the Utah game last week with an injury, although he should be back in the lineup shortly. Although he's not exceptionally fast and hasn't had an interception since the 2019 season, Lucas can be effective in off coverage with the quickness to adjust to sharp cuts, the awareness to anticipate passes being thrown his direction and the tenacious play style to get under opponents' skin.
And though he hasn't played much on special teams the past two seasons, Lucas was a standout on the coverage and return units his first few years in school, which will also be a key to him making a Week 1 roster next year. He's an ideal Day 3 pick at a need spot.