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The Giants only have six picks in the seven rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, which is just “fine” with GM Dave Gettleman. After all, it’s the quality that matters, not the quantity.
Plus, Gettleman is fine with what he got for some of the picks he gave up. He gave up the Giants’ fifth-rounder to the Jets in the Leonard Williams trade and their seventh-rounder to the Broncos for cornerback Isaac Yiadom. He also got back an extra sixth-rounder from the Arizona Cardinals for linebacker Markus Golden.
The limited number of picks left just puts the pressure on him to use those six picks well.
Here’s a look at how those six picks might go:
First round (11th overall) – Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
This can’t be stated enough: So much of what the Giants do here will depend on what happens in the Top 10, which is still a bit in flux. It’s starting to look like they’ll get their wish and five quarterbacks will go in those picks. And if somehow that pushes a surprise like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or Oregon tackle Penei Sewell to them – or even close to them – then all bets are off.
But if you assume, as most do, that the other five Top 10 picks will include Pitts, Sewell, LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, one of Alabama’s receivers (DeVonta Smith and Waddle) and at least one cornerback, that sets the stage for the Giants to get the other Alabama receiver, which would put a huge jolt into their mostly anemic offense.
It could be either Smith or Waddle, but as of this moment, I’d tend to think it would be the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Waddle, a dynamo with 4.37 speed who draws constant comparisons to Tyreek Hill. Yes, it’s true that John Mara said in late March that the addition of Kenny Golladay means the Giants “don’t have to take a receiver in Round 1 or Round 2,” but he didn’t say they wouldn’t.
Mara also said, “You always want to put as many weapons on the field as possible. It’s becoming more and more of a passing league.”
In a season where the Giants absolutely, positively have to find out what they have in quarterback Daniel Jones, the addition of Waddle gives them the potential for a very potent offense. Golladay is their No. 1 receiver. Sterling Shepard is a good possession receiver. They have potential deep threats in Darius Slayton and John Ross. Plus two receiving tight ends (Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph) and the return of Saquon Barkley, a dangerous receiver out of the backfield.
Add Waddle, the most explosive receiver in this draft, and this could be an offense unlike any Giants fans have seen before.
Yes, I know I’ve been pushing edge rushers here. I also know that last week, their scouting director, Chris Pettit, said “Edge rushers are how you win” and he said he didn’t think the 11th pick was “too rich” to take one. I believe the Giants actually do think that 11 is a little high for the edge rushers in this class. If the opportunity is there, and if all three of the top receivers are off the board, they could still trade down and take one. I wouldn’t rule that out.
But with just a few days to go, I think they’ll address that need later and bolster their offensive weapons first.
Second round (42nd overall) – Alabama C/G Landon Dickerson
Gettleman’s long-running offensive line rebuilding project is closer to completion than ever -- at least that’s what he believes. If nothing else, the line is loaded with more young, promising talent than at any point since he arrived. Still, the only position that’s really set for the foreseeable future is left tackle, home to last year’s No. 4 pick, Andrew Thomas. There’s uncertainty at every other spot.
That’s why, though it could be argued their biggest need is a right tackle -- until Matt Peart, last year’s third-rounder, proves he can handle that job – they can’t pass up a good, interior lineman, either. The 6-foot-6, 333-pound Dickerson could be a Day 1 starter, either at center or guard (if he’s healthy). And the Giants do have guard issues, with Will Hernandez in the final year of his deal, Shane Lemieux unproven, and veteran Zach Fulton here only on a one-year deal.
The biggest knock against Dickerson, and the only reason he may last this long, is injuries. He tore his ACL in December. And while he appears to be recovered (who can forget the cartwheels he did behind Alabama quarterback Mac Jones while he was being interviewed at his Pro Day), teams can’t do their own medical evaluations this year. That’s going to cause some very good players to drop.
Third round (76th overall) – USC DT Jay Tufele
Day 2 is certainly where the Giants could take an edge rusher, particularly if one of interest drops to their spot in the second or third round. But they also still need a replacement for the departed Dalvin Tomlinson. The only one they brought in during free agency was veteran Danny Shelton, and he only signed for one year.
This is generally considered a terribly thin class of defensive tackles, though, so if the Giants want one who can actually help them, they can’t wait much longer than this. The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Tufele isn’t a Tomlinson clone, but he’s strong, quick and can be a big disruptive force up front. That’s what the Giants need. The more disruption they can get inside, the more it can free Williams and an edge rusher to rack up the sacks.
Also, don’t forget: Look at Gettleman’s history. He loves drafting defensive tackles. In his eight drafts as a GM he’s drafted five DTs somewhere in the first three rounds.
Fourth round (116th overall) – Pittsburgh DE/LB Patrick Jones
Scouts were torn about who will be the better NFL pass rusher from the Panthers’ duo of Jones and Rashad Weaver, but Jones is more likely to fit as a 3-4 linebacker. He also was more productive, with a hard-to-ignore nine sacks last year and 17 ½ over the last two seasons. He also had 24 tackles for loss in that span.
He has all the necessary athletic traits, but didn’t always have the consistency in college. He was a well-respected team captain, though, and if he’s as coachable as he seems, there’s a lot to work with for Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
And Graham has shown a knack for putting his players in the best situation for success. He was able to generate a pretty good pass rush last year with only one dominant player -- Williams. If he can get a guy like the 6-foot-4, 261-pound Jones to do anything from the other side, the Giants’ defense could be fierce.
Sixth round (196th overall) – Oklahoma OT Adrian Ealy
The Giants only have six picks, so doubling up at a position might not seem to make sense, but it does when that position is the offensive line. The Giants’ line has been too terrible for too long, and Gettleman knows he needs as many young players in the pipeline to see which one sticks.
So, while they like Peart as a future right tackle, they need competition for him since they can’t be sure of him based off last year. The 6-foot-6, 321-pound Ealy is a huge, natural right tackle. One scout who has seen him labelled him a “project." He said there are obvious skills, but he lacks strength and his performance was mostly average. Another scout, though, called him a “sleeper” because there’s a lot for a good offensive line coach to work with.
Whether he lasts this long is a bit of an eye-of-the-beholder thing. He’s got enough question marks to last into the sixth, but it just takes one team to love his potential and then he could be gone a round or two earlier.
Sixth round (201st overall) – Florida CB Marco Wilson
The Giants are top-heavy at the cornerback spot with Adoree’ Jackson and James Bradberry, and most of their depth is veteran depth like Yiadom and Quincy Wilson. Other than Darnay Holmes, they don’t really have young corners in development – at least not with the jury very much out on Sam Beal.
So, at this point in the draft, when they’re mostly looking for depth and special-teamers, the 6-foot, 191-pound Wilson could be a steal. The brother of Quincy Wilson – the former Jet and current Giant -- didn’t have a great senior season, but he turned heads by running a 4.37 in the 40 at his Pro Day, which was one of the fastest times for a cornerback prospect in history.
What most know about him, though, is not good: He may have cost Florida a spot in the college football playoff this year when he drew a late, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in a loss to LSU. After making a big third-down stop in that game with less than two minutes to go, Wilson celebrated by picking up an opponents’ lost shoe and throwing it down the field. Flags flew, the Tigers’ drive was extended, and the Gators eventually lost.
He’ll have to answer for that before the Giants take him, but having his older brother to vouch for him will help.