EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants are rich in terms of draft capital. They have the goods in the first round of the NFL draft with the No. 6 and No. 17 overall picks.
Which direction will they go?
Let’s try to dissect it all with an exercise that has been an annual routine. Last year, I (kind of) got back on track after a few drafts being off the trail. This year, it’s doubly as difficult with two first-round picks, the second coming from the trade of star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The first should be the easier of the two. General manager Dave Gettleman insists he’s going to take the best available player, and that if you stretch for need — even at quarterback — it leads to a mistake. No need to doubt him on that one after last year.
This isn’t considered a great draft at quarterback. It is an especially strong defensive draft at the top. That aligns well with the Giants’ needs.
“I said it at the postseason presser and I will say it again, we need some defensive playmakers,” Gettleman said Thursday.
There are some defensive studs at the top of the Giants’ draft board. They have no doubt they should be able to get one with the sixth pick.
“A chance that they are all gone? No,” Gettleman said.
And with that, there appear to be significant hints at where this one is headed. It’s not with a quarterback being the most likely pick at No. 6.
Here goes nothing. My best guesstimate of the top players for the Giants’ picks:
Pick No. 6
Former LSU linebacker Devin White made a name for himself as a tackling machine in college. Now he eyes the first round of the NFL draft.
1. Linebacker Devin White (LSU): All the Giants need is one team in the top five to go off the grid, and then they can grab from what is believed to be the truly elite group consisting of Bosa, Allen, Williams and White. The Raiders might do them that favor by taking defensive lineman Ed Oliver. Or someone else might get crazy. Being that the draft never goes as predicted, the Giants’ chances of landing White appear realistically high. And he has it all — instincts, power, speed, ability to cover. “Will anchor your defense,” an AFC coach said. White can be one of those lead dogs whom Gettleman likes to have at every level of his defense. “Best I’ve seen in a long time,” a scout added. He would be the first linebacker drafted in the first round by the Giants since Carl Banks was the third overall selection in 1984.
2. Defensive lineman Ed Oliver (Houston): The Giants will need to dip into that next block of players if everything goes as predicted. Oliver should be at the top of that list, even if he’s not Aaron Donald, his most common comparison because of his size (6-foot-2, 287 pounds). Oliver doesn’t quite have the same pass-rush ability and isn’t as good with his hands. But the Giants are high on him. His quickness getting upfield would fit James Bettcher’s shoot-the-gaps defense. “Some unbelievable talents,” one source who scouted Oliver said. “Plays really hard,” added another, downplaying some of the concerns after a somewhat disappointing season. Oliver would provide the Giants with a much-needed disruptive force inside.
3. Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins (Clemson): At 6-3, 315 pounds, he is a more prototypical fit for Gettleman and the Giants. One scout considered him similar to Williams, just not quite as dynamic. Wilkins is strong, powerful and athletic with the production to match the physical skills. He had 15 tackles for a loss and 6.0 sacks as a senior. He won’t be there if the Giants try to wait at No. 17.
4. Offensive lineman Jonah Williams (Alabama): If the perceived elite group of defenders is gone by No. 6, it’s possible the Giants could pivot to whoever it is atop their offensive line rankings. It’s a toss-up between Williams and Andre Dillard, but I’m leaning Williams here because he’s the safest, cleanest bet. Dillard has more upside, and Williams’ work ethic and attitude are exactly what Gettleman desires, and would be ideal to fit the culture he’s been preaching that is mandatory for success.
5. Defensive lineman Rashan Gary (Michigan): The New Jersey product’s talent is too immense to discount under the right circumstance. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds at the NFL combine at 277 pounds. He can rush from the interior or off the edge and plays with power and explosion. The only reason Gary isn’t higher on this list is because his production didn’t match the talent at Michigan and he can sometimes emit “bad energy,” according to multiple sources who watched tape and spoke with him. It’s not enough to put Gary out of contention for No. 6 like the medical and background checks likely will do for Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Just missed: Dillard, Clelin Ferrell
Pick No. 17
Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins have grabbed a lot of headlines leading into the NFL draft. But don’t overlook Missouri’s Drew Lock.
1. Quarterback Drew Lock (Missouri): He’s believed to be at or near the top of the Giants’ quarterback list because of the way he throws and his ability to move. Lock “can be special,” a coach who studied the quarterback said. The question is whether they can wait for pick No. 17 or will need to move up. The latter is a realistic possibility given the Giants are flush with picks (12, tied for the most of any team). Some believe Lock is and can be the best quarterback in this class. The knock is his inconsistency and pocket poise, but some are willing to shrug that off given that he was often trying to make plays to keep an overmatched Missouri in games in the SEC. It did help that he was making NFL throws in the Tigers’ offense last year. Lock would make sense for the Giants given his high upside and that he can sit for a year and learn under Manning.
2. Quarterback Daniel Jones (Duke): The Giants are known to like Jones. The question is how much given the lack of elite physical traits. “Pedestrian talent,” one non-Giants scout said. His accuracy (especially on deep balls) is also an issue for some. But Jones has that mental toughness that Gettleman desires and is well-schooled under respected Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who also coached Eli and Peyton Manning in college. That Manning connection and the Eli stamp of approval certainly couldn’t have hurt during the evaluation process. “Good decision-maker,” one quarterbacks coach added. He later added that Jones has a “fairly high ceiling” but not nearly at the level of Lock. If Lock is already taken prior to the Giants pick at No. 17 and Jones is on the board, expect him to be the selection and their future franchise quarterback. If they’re both there, flip a coin.
3. Defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell (Clemson): Just a good football player. Teams seem to like Ferrell better than most mock drafts and rankings. He’s a producer, finishing with 19.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks his junior season before entering the NFL draft. “One of the best players [in the draft],” said one scout who liked Ferrell better than Oliver and Gary. Ferrell’s the kind of polished product that the Giants would seemingly favor, with his long arms and impressive hand usage among his most attractive traits.
4. Outside linebacker Brian Burns (Florida State): The Giants need a pass-rusher. Burns has the speed and ability off the edge that they so desperately desire, and he comes with the kind of upside to become a star in the league. Burns had 10.0 sacks last season for the Seminoles. He’s on the small side, but the belief is he plays with enough strength to develop into a serviceable player against the run. That puts him seriously in the conversation at No. 17.
5. Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (Clemson): Just like Jones and Lock are a coin flip, so are Lawrence and Ferrell. Lawrence is a mountain of a man and moves relatively well. Teams don’t seem overly concerned about his lack of production as a pass-rusher this past season (1.5 sacks) and a failed test that kept him out of the BCS National Championship. Lawrence is still expected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick. It could be to the Giants.