Giants target best players: ‘Can’t draft for need’

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants are going to take the best player available with the No. 6 and No. 17 picks in the first round of the NFL draft next Thursday night.

“I’m just telling you: I’m not going to force a pick,” general manager Dave Gettleman said at his pre-draft news conference Thursday. “You can’t draft for need. You’ll get screwed every time. You’ll make a mistake.”

There will be no exceptions, even for a quarterback.

“No,” Gettleman insisted. “No special category.”

Gettleman conceded that quarterback Eli Manning is closer to 40 years old than he is to 25, and the Giants are aware they need to address the future at that position.

Gettleman said he considered this a “good” quarterback class without naming names.

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray is expected to be selected at No. 1 by the Arizona Cardinals. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Duke’s Daniel Jones and Missouri’s Drew Lock could all be available when the Giants select at No. 6. However, it doesn’t mean any of them will be the pick.

“The priority is to select the best players,” Gettleman said. “I know that sounds silly. But last year, again, we couldn’t pass up on Saquon [Barkley]. He was the best player in the draft. You can’t do that.”

The Giants have flexibility. They hold three of the top 37 picks and have 12 selections in the draft overall, tied with the New England Patriots for the most this year.

Gettleman considers it the deepest draft, Rounds 1-4, that he has seen as a general manager. It’s flush with defensive talent at the top. That would align fit with need.

“We need defensive players,” said Gettleman, who added he’s a believer in needing lead dogs at all three levels of a defense.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Antoine Bethea are the only current Giants defensive players to have made a Pro Bowl. Gettleman doesn’t think all the elite defensive players will be off the board when the Giants’ first pick comes around.

Taking a defensive player at No. 6 seems like a realistic possibility. They expect a quality player, regardless of position, to be available at No. 17.

“I’d be very surprised if there were someone there that we did not like,” Gettleman said of that second pick.

Passing on a quarterback at No. 6 and taking one at No. 17 isn’t out of the question. The Giants are willing to wait at that position, if that is what their board dictates.

It doesn’t mean they aren’t sold on that quarterback.

“Listen, if we have a quarterback graded in the first round, we love him,” Gettleman said.

Not every quarterback could be the right fit for New York. Gettleman believes it takes a special breed. He mentioned Manning struggling his rookie year — specifically in a game against the Baltimore Ravens when he had a 0.0 QB rating before bouncing back in the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys — as evidence.

This all plays into their quarterback evaluations. Attitude and fit play a major role.

“Just like being the head coach of this team is being a load, being the quarterback is a load, too,” Gettleman said. “It’s more than just looking at a guy’s physical talent. It’s about their makeup. … You have to have a mental toughness about you to play the position here in New York, more than to play the position anywhere. That is a big piece of it. It’s important.”

Another avenue to acquire a quarterback could be via trade with the Cardinals for Josh Rosen, if he were to be made available. Gettleman declined to say whether there have been any active conversations on that end.

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