The New York Giants undeniably need to snag a talented passing-game weapon in the opening round of the upcoming draft.
Improvements were made, a defensive foundation was established, and a number of Dave Gettleman’s free-agent pickups paid off on the field.
The Giants are seemingly headed in the right direction, but don’t forget, only six wins were achieved throughout the duration of this past season. Big Blue improved by just two victories from 2019 and it wasn’t all peaches and cream during the process.
A number of spots need to undergo alterations ahead of what’s going to be an extremely crucial 2021 campaign. Fans were a tad bit patient in 2020 with head coach Joe Judge at the helm for the first time in his career, but next season will certainly be a “win now” type of year, which is why the Giants must nail it during the 2021 NFL Draft.
While you could go back and forth on whom the Giants should select at No. 11 overall, the bottom line is that they must acquire an offensive weapon, either at the wide receiver or tight end position.
Why is that the case?
Jason Garrett’s offense needs a spark
In his inaugural year as New York’s offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett didn’t exactly impress with his inconsistent and uncreative playcalling, to the point where a multitude of fans wanted him out after this past season. The Giants were in the bottom half of the NFL in all four major offensive categories and near the basement of the league in three of them (31st in total offense, 31st in scoring, 29th in passing, and 19th in rushing).
A significant issue, however, is that there were no constant playmakers on that side of the ball. Saquon Barkley was sidelined with a torn ACL for much of the year and Evan Engram’s on-field mistakes outweighed his talent.
None of the three starting wideouts — Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, or Golden Tate — are true No. 1 receivers either. Each notched receptions-per-game averages below 6.0, yards-per-game averages below 55.0, and catch percentages below 75%. The yards-of-separation averages were additionally underwhelming (3.0 for Shepard, 2.3 for Slayton, and 2.1 for Tate).
The Giants need a playmaker and go-to offensive weapon that could change the tempo of the game in one play; some would say an Odell Beckham Jr. type of individual.
Barkley is certainly of that caliber, but the unit requires someone like that primarily in the passing game for the 11-man group to reach its full potential.
Daniel Jones’ development should be a top priority
The Giants have their quarterback of the future in Daniel Jones…at least they hope.
Now, the priority needs to be providing him with the necessary on-field assistance in order for him to efficiently improve. A fresh, young playmaker via the draft can help with that development.
Needless to say, the Giants must take a page out of numerous teams’ playbooks.
The Cardinals acquired their quarterback of the future in Kyler Murray in 2019. The following year, they added superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins, a move that helped Murray become a Pro Bowler in 2020.
Buffalo did the same thing by trading for receiver Stefon Diggs last March, which greatly assisted in Josh Allen’s development and propelled the third-year quarterback to earn his first-ever Pro Bowl bid and All-Pro selection.
You can’t do it all, especially as a young quarterback in a league that’s increasing in speed each and every year. You need assistance to effectively develop — the Giants must keep that concept in mind as the annual draft creeps closer.
Who could the Giants target?
There should be a multitude of first-round options at wide receiver and tight end, but it’s unlikely all will be available when the Giants select at No. 11 overall.
LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle, and Alabama receiver (and 2020 Heisman Trophy winner) DeVonta Smith are expected to be the top wideouts on the board.
If Smith is there, you take him. Regardless of his skinny build, he can change a game with one play, and his speed and elusiveness make up for the underwhelming size. Smith dominated Ohio State in January’s College Football Playoff National Championship, catching 12 balls for 215 yards and three scores.
It’s doubtful Chase (who’s projected by many to be the top wideout taken) will fall to No. 11, so if the Giants need to choose between Smith or Waddle, they’re likely better off going with the former. He’s three inches taller than his Crimson Tide teammate and proved this past season he possesses an advantage in talent.
However, the Giants might not be limited to the aforementioned receivers. If Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is available at No. 11, Big Blue should heavily consider adding him to the organization.
Pitts sports fantastic size at 6-foot-6, 246 pounds but has superb athleticism and can catch whatever is thrown to him. The size would allow the Giants to field him on the line of scrimmage while his talent in the passing game would also allow the team to put him in the slot in some formations. Pitts is versatile, a quality Joe Judge greatly desires.
He would also be an upgrade from Evan Engram, who dropped 11 passes this past year and was targeted on six of the 11 interceptions thrown by Giants quarterbacks.
If Pitts is still on the board and the Giants are more confident in his pro-level potential than they are with any of the available receivers, they must select him. He’s certainly someone who would increase the effectiveness of the passing game, given he’d help the Giants spread the field and also contribute to Jones’ overall development.