With the NFL draft creeping closer every single second, let’s rank the last 10 first-round picks made by the New York Giants.
Pro Bowlers. Busts. Hall of Famers. Every single year when the NFL draft comes along, we witness players join teams, commence pro football careers, and begin journeys in which they could end up in either of the three aforementioned categories.
Every single team has provided faith in players regardless of what the future may hold. And no matter what this year’s format includes, organizations will continue to do so in 2020.
The New York Giants have had multiple first-round picks in recent years that were exciting at first glance, and multiple that were questionable at first glance. But as far as how those picks actually turned out or how they’re turning out currently? Well, that’s the point of this list.
From worst to first, let’s rank the last 10 first-round draft picks for the currently struggling but historically succeeding New York Football Giants.
10. OT Ereck Flowers – 2015
This is self-explanatory. Many underachieving offensive linemen have come and gone through the organization over the last decade or so. But the reason you remember Ereck Flowers as soon as someone brings him up is because his constant struggles were notorious.
After former Giants general manager Jerry Reese — another name some would like to forget — took Flowers with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Ereck played and started in 15, 16, and 15 games respectively in his first three seasons. During that span, he allowed 17 sacks for a total of 112 yards and committed 26 penalties for 219 yards.
I actually still believe he was at the forefront of the Giants’ downfall in 2017. Coming into that year, Big Blue held heavy expectations after finishing 11-5 in 2016. But then the significant struggles began with the awful play from the offensive line, which was also an issue for the playoff-bound squad the year prior. Who arguably struggled the most on that line? The big left tackle who blocked with his hands — Mr. Flowers.
Since his benching and then eventual release in 2018, he’s bounced around the league, portraying his “talents” for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins. He recently inked a three-year deal with the Miami Dolphins.
But during his tenure in blue, he was one of the bigger busts of his time.
9. CB Eli Apple – 2016
Not a great two drafts for Reese and that front office, to say the least. Eli Apple was chosen No. 10 overall in 2016 and was out of East Rutherford by 2018. And if we’re being completely honest, he’s lucky he wasn’t sent packing even before that.
Apple picked off just one pass in 30 games (23 starts) while in Blue. In five games with the Giants in 2018, he allowed quarterbacks to complete 57.6% of their throws for 230 yards and a yards per completion rate of 12.1 when throwing his way.
Along with his on-field struggles, Apple was the source of numerous off-field headlines. From tweeting on the sidelines of a game in 2017 to Landon Collins calling Apple a “cancer” to arguing with the coaching staff, Apple wasn’t exactly controversy-free.
He was traded to the New Orleans Saints in October 2018 as part of a fire sale that included the trade of Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Apple was dealt for a 2019 fourth-rounder and a 2020 seventh-rounder.
Just my opinion (but don’t even try to argue), having your value drop from a first-rounder to a fourth/seventh-rounder in such a short time period isn’t exactly the greatest look. But Giants fans, thank Apple for the extra draft selection this April. It’s one of the only things he really brought to the organization.
8. RB/KR David Wilson – 2012
The Giants chose David Wilson with the final pick in the 2012 first round, and despite the fact that he only played 21 games before suffering a career-ending neck injury, he at least performed well for the team. That’s why he’s higher on this list than Flowers and Apple.
In his rookie year, Wilson shined as a return specialist, leading the league in both kick returns (57) and kick return yards (1,533). He additionally rushed for 358 yards with four scores.
His efforts in the return game earned him a spot on the AP All-Pro second team in 2012.
Wilson entered the 2013 season as the starting back after the release of Ahmad Bradshaw but suffered spinal stenosis in a Week 5 loss. After missing the rest of the year, he underwent surgery in January 2014 but was still ruled out for the 2014 season because of the same issue. He thus retired in August of that year.
It was a shame how his career finished. If he didn’t suffer the health-related setbacks, could he still be in a Giants uniform today? He’s only 28 years old, so it’s not an impossible scenario to ponder over.
7. CB Deandre Baker – 2019
Deandre Baker will need time to develop, but he certainly struggled in a significant way in 2019. After the Giants traded back into the first round to select him No. 30 overall, Baker played in all 16 games (15 starts) and allowed quarterbacks to complete 61.4% of their throws for 850 yards and six touchdowns when throwing his way. They also combined to record a 116.2 quarterback rating and a yards per completion rate of 15.7.
There were also a number of times when a lack of effort resided within the young player, which definitely didn’t sit well with his fellow teammates.
Hargreaves benched/cut for lack of hustle.
— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) November 12, 2019
Baker will look to retain his starting role and improve in year No. 2, but he’ll be on a short leash due to his apparent struggles. That’s why he comes in at No. 7 on this list.
6. TE Evan Engram – 2017
Evan Engram became the team’s first-round pick (No. 23 overall) in 2017 because of his versatility and superb athleticism from the tight end position. You can place him on the line of scrimmage, in the slot, split wide, or in the backfield, and he’ll still make plays. That was the case during his rookie year when he led a 3-13 Giants team in receptions (64) and touchdown catches (six).
But since that year, Engram’s had an on-and-off relationship with the medical tent. Dealing with an MCL sprain along with a hamstring pull, he missed five games in 2018. In 2019, the former Ole Miss Rebel missed eight games, including the final seven due to a mid-foot sprain. He underwent foot surgery this offseason and is expected to be out until at least training camp.
If Engram consistently performed the last two years like he did in 2017, then he could’ve been a top-three player on this list. But, as we know, that wasn’t the case.
5. DL Dexter Lawrence – 2019
The majority of Giants fans loved “Big Dex” his rookie year, so it’s fitting that he comes in at No. 5 on this list.
New York drafted Dexter Lawrence with the No. 17 overall pick last year, which they received from Cleveland in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. He was then named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team and was graded the top rookie interior defensive lineman by Pro Football Focus.
He proved to be a nice complement to third-year player Dalvin Tomlinson by recording 38 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a missed tackle percentage of 11.6% through 16 starts.
With the long-term futures of Tomlinson and Leonard Williams still in question, fans are looking for Lawrence to be the staple of the defensive line for years to come.
4. OL Justin Pugh – 2013
It’s a shame the Giants didn’t hold onto Justin Pugh when his contract expired after the 2017 campaign. Amid the lingering offensive line issues that seemed to last for years within the organization, Pugh and Weston Richburg were bright spots during dark times.
The Giants took Pugh with the No. 19 overall pick in 2013. Having played both the guard and tackle spots in 63 career games in East Rutherford (all starts), Pugh really shined in his final three years with the Giants (when healthy). He allowed just five total sacks for 31 yards in his last 33 games prior to walking in free agency.
One of the issues that ultimately caused the Giants to part ways with Pugh had to do with his health. Pugh only played one full season in his five years with New York. After taking part in 16 games in 2013, he played in 14, 14, 11, and eight games from 2014-17, respectively.
Pugh now blocks for 2019 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray in Arizona.
3. QB Daniel Jones – 2019
I couldn’t leave Daniel Jones out of the top three. He’s the future of the organization at the quarterback position. I have confidence he’ll lead this franchise back to relevancy at some point, and so should you.
Jones threw for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games (12 starts) in 2019. He likely would’ve broken Baker Mayfield’s rookie touchdown pass record (27) had he not missed two games due to a high ankle sprain late in the year.
The fumbles and overall turnover numbers were a concern (12 picks, 18 fumbles, 11 fumbles lost), but that can surely be worked on with growing experience and improved coaching.
Jones showed much promise under Pat Shurmur’s uncreative offensive gameplans last year. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s able to do with Jason Garrett as his play-caller in 2020.
2. WR Odell Beckham Jr. – 2014
“Why is he even in the top five?” “He was a headache.” “He was always hurt.”
Yes, I understand the arguments against Odell Beckham Jr., who the Giants drafted No. 12 overall in 2014. But when this guy was healthy and doing what he did best on the field, he was a phenom that raised an unlimited number of eyebrows.
From the one-handed catch to the touchdown dances to the sheer talent in the open field, OBJ saved the jobs of numerous people. If the selection didn’t work out, Reese would’ve been gone in 2014 or 2015 instead of 2017, plain and simple. Same with Tom Coughlin, who left after 2015, and possibly Eli Manning, who just retired this past January.
During his tenure with the Giants (59 games, 56 starts), he caught 390 balls for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. His three Pro Bowl nods are impressive, but what’s even more intriguing is the fact that he was able to record 91 catches his rookie season in spite of an injury that sidelined him for the first four games. That reception total is still a single-season franchise record for rookies.
Hate him, love him, attempt to forget about him due to the fact that the Giants shipped him off the Cleveland. But you can’t deny he did a lot for the organization in the five seasons he strapped on the pads at MetLife Stadium.
1. RB Saquon Barkley – 2018
The Giants fanbase finally saw the light when the team drafted Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall in April 2018, even if it was just for a short period of time. His selection made everyone forget that the team had won just three games in 2017 and was near the bottom of the league in a number of categories. That’s the power and leverage he holds both on and off the field.
Barkley shined his rookie year, rushing for 1,307 yards, breaking a rookie record for running backs with 91 catches (this number tied OBJ’s franchise rookie record, as was said before), and leading the league with 2,028 scrimmage yards.
Saquon was a bright spot in what was another disappointing finish in 2018 (5-11).
In 2019, he suffered a high ankle sprain and missed three games, but was still able to break the 1000-yard mark for the second straight year.
Oh, and if he was able to succeed with a below-average offensive line the last pair of seasons, think of what he’d be able to do if the Giants address that issue early on in this year’s draft.
He just has to stay healthy and he’ll be able to do extraordinary things for this offense and overall team. The former Penn State standout is a class act, a workhorse, and a leader: the three qualities that have embodied the foundation of Giants football since 1925.
Big Blue fans should be more than excited to have Saquon in their backfield for the coming years.