Taking an extremely early look at what the New York Giants may do in the 2021 NFL Draft, an event that hopefully won’t have to be virtual.
During the (virtual) 2020 NFL Draft, the New York Giants took it upon themselves to address a number of glaring holes throughout the roster. It was clear they needed an eventual left tackle for the future along with an interior offensive lineman to potentially compete for the starting center job. Thus, they respectively took Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas and Oregon guard Shane Lemieux in the first and fifth rounds.
But just because they improved (on paper) this offseason doesn’t necessarily mean they’re set for the long term. Due to contract situations and the unknown futures of certain individuals, the Giants may end up having a number of needs to address in next year’s draft.
And what exactly could those needs be, you ask?
1. Tight end
The Giants decided to pick up Evan Engram’s fifth-year option this past week, so he’s slated to remain in the fold through the 2021 campaign.
But what if the injury-related issues he’s dealt with for much of his pro career stick around in 2020 and the Giants decide Engram’s not the answer for the future? He’s missed 14 games in three seasons, so it’s most definitely a possibility.
Some believe Kaden Smith (31 receptions, 268 yards, and three scores through nine games last year) may become Engram’s successor. If he does, then a nice depth piece could still be selected in the draft. But if he doesn’t, expect the Giants to potentially take a tight end in the early-mid rounds.
2. Wide receiver
It’s surprising that the Giants didn’t select a receiver in this year’s draft, preferably a taller individual who could be used in goal-line situations. Yes, they did sign 6-foot-7 Rysen John out of Simon Fraser University (British Columbia) as an undrafted free agent, but he may work at tight end if he even makes the 53-man roster.
Golden Tate’s future after this upcoming season is unclear, as he has a potential out from the four-year, $37.5 million contract he signed in 2019. That means New York could need a talented receiver to be a nice complement alongside Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, two guys who will likely stick with this organization for the long haul.
If the Giants are able to acquire the right fit in the suecond or possibly even the first round, Daniel Jones could ultimately make tremendous strides in his development.
Don’t be surprised if a wideout is one of the team’s top priorities during the 2021 draft.
3. Defensive lineman
There’s a chance both Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence will be within the team’s futuristic plans. The latter is essentially no question at this point after he underwent a highly productive rookie season in 2019. The former, in my opinion, should be on this defensive line for years considering he’s one of the better players throughout this entire defense.
But then there’s Leonard Williams, who’s currently set to play on the franchise tag in 2020 unless the Giants either rescind it or sign him to a long-term deal by July 15. So if he does end up playing on the tag, who knows what his Giants future will entail after 2020?
If the upcoming campaign is indeed Williams’ final year in blue, then a college prospect to grow within this already promising group of defensive linemen will be needed, potentially somewhere around the third or fourth round.
4. Edge rusher
The Giants recently decided to place the unrestricted free agent tender on edge rusher Markus Golden, which means if he doesn’t sign elsewhere by July 22, he’ll have to play with New York on a cheap, one-year deal in 2020.
We still have over 2.5 months until the aforementioned date, so it’s really unknown what could happen between now and then. What we also don’t know is what Golden’s Giants future may look like after 2020 if he does play on the one-year deal this upcoming season.
If the talented pass rusher (10 sacks in 2019) is out of the organization beginning in 2021, then the team will definitely need his replacement and could look to address that hole very early in the draft. The Giants selected Minnesota edge rusher Carter Coughlin in the seventh round this year, but he’s still a raw player who will need to put in a great deal of work.
It’s a stretch to say Coughlin is the solution to the lingering pass rush issue (36 total sacks in 2019, 30 total sacks in 2018). Therefore, expect the Giants to possibly look to bolster that position group next offseason.
The Giants addressed the cornerback spot early in last year’s draft, selecting Georgia’s Deandre Baker in the first round (No. 30 overall). Nonetheless, it’s safe to say he struggled mightily during his rookie season. In 16 games (15 starts), Baker allowed quarterbacks to complete 61.4% of throws for 850 yards and six touchdowns when targeting him.
It’s unlikely the franchise will kick him to the curb after just one below-average season though, or else they would’ve taken a cornerback early in this year’s draft. Instead, they selected a pair of corners later on — UCLA’s Darnay Holmes (fourth round) and Minnesota’s Chris Williamson (seventh round).
But if Baker doesn’t move past his on-field issues in 2020, you have to think the Giants may potentially move him to the slot and draft someone to replace him at one of the two primary corner spots in 2021. It’s a very crucial position when you consider how poorly New York’s defensive backfield has been in recent years, so they’ll want to ensure they make the correct decisions.
This is an absolute stretch, and while some are still going back and forth on if Daniel Jones is the answer, I truly believe he’s going to be successful within this organization for a very long time.
But what if he has a horrendous sophomore campaign in the pros next year, the organization fires Dave Gettleman, and a new general manager comes in and sees an opportunity to draft a quarterback who they believe is a better option than Jones?
It’s not an impossible nor unheard-of scenario. But as stated before, it’s a total stretch and a lot will need to occur for it to become true.