With the 2020 NFL season having officially concluded, ESPN’s Todd McShay has released his latest 2021 mock draft.
Despite either team having drafted “franchise” quarterbacks at some point in the last three years, the Giants and Jets, ironically enough, fielded the two worst offenses in the NFL this past season. The Giants were 31st in both total offense and scoring, with Gang Green sitting as the only team worse than them in either category.
So when the highly anticipated opening round of the 2021 NFL Draft commences on the night of Thursday, April 29, both teams will need to locate the necessary offensive players to assist in the development of their respective units. The Jets must do so with their No. 2 and 23 picks (the latter selection is from the Jamal Adams trade) while the Giants need to add a playmaker at No. 11 overall.
In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay has the right idea for the pair of New York squads, but did he nail it with the specific players/positions he chose?
Jets’ No. 2 selection — BYU QB Zach Wilson
McShay writes “We know [the Jets] are listening to offers for quarterback Sam Darnold, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are aggressively pursuing a trade. Regardless, this much is pretty clear to me: If Darnold is traded, [Zach] Wilson should be the pick. And if New York keeps Darnold, I think a team — perhaps Carolina [at No. 8] — will jump on the chance to move up to take Wilson here.
“The BYU signal-caller is tough in the pocket but can also create when it all breaks down, and he excelled on the deep ball this season, hitting 20 of 27 passes thrown at least 30 yards downfield.”
I’m not totally on board with the Jets taking a quarterback at No. 2 overall, because I think they can still succeed with Darnold under center. However, they’ll need to provide Sam with the appropriate and necessary on-field assistance.
Darnold could thrive in offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system. LaFleur was most recently the passing game coordinator out in San Francisco and helped run a 49ers passing attack that was 12th in yards per game with quarterbacks — Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, and C.J. Beathard — who weren’t the most talented.
Not to knock on Darnold, but him not being the most talented of quarterbacks at this moment in time is indeed a true statement.
It’s a tough situation to roll the dice and utilize this type of pick on a guy like Zach Wilson, who isn’t nearly as much of a sure thing as Trevor Lawrence, the man who would most definitely be chosen before him. Instead, the Jets could take this selection and draft an offensive weapon (potentially LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, if they’re okay with taking a receiver that high) and continue to build around Darnold so he can develop for the future.
Jets’ No. 23 selection — Clemson RB Travis Etienne
“The Jets were one of two teams with single-digit rushing touchdowns this season, and their 4.1 yards per carry tied for the sixth-worst in the NFL,” McShay writes. “Scoring won’t be a problem for [Travis] Etienne; he had 78 touchdowns over his four-year career at Clemson. And while this could be Alabama running back Najee Harris, Etienne gives the Jets a little more explosiveness to La’Mical Perine‘s power.”
Now this is a pick Jet fans could support. Travis Etienne definitely carries first-round potential and was an absolute stud during his time with the Clemson Tigers.
This hypothetical selection works whether you keep Darnold or not. Regardless of who’s playing quarterback in either of those two scenarios, you would need to provide the man under center with weapons to help handle the offensive pressure and responsibility. While the Jets could boost the receiving corps (via the No. 2 pick or free agency), they’ll additionally need someone to man the running game amid the uncertainty regarding La’Mical Perine’s ability to solely do so.
McShay is also right when he notes Etienne could complement Perine well.
Giants’ No. 11 selection — Florida TE Kyle Pitts
Having projected the top three receivers (Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith) to be off the board at No. 11, McShay writes, “Offensive line could be in play, as could the edge rush. But if [Kyle] Pitts is still there at No. 11, it’d be really hard for New York to do anything but add the 6-foot-6 speedy and versatile matchup nightmare. Giants tight end Evan Engram has missed 14 games over four years and will be a free agent after next season. In the meantime, the Giants could enjoy a fantastic duo at tight end — Pitts is versatile enough to play with Engram and be moved around the formation — and provide quarterback Daniel Jones with a playmaker.”
There’s no denying that Daniel Jones needs a consistent passing-game weapon in order to develop. Evan Engram’s mistakes have become too crucial and the Giants’ three starting receivers — Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Golden Tate — aren’t legitimate No. 1 targets.
Chase is unlikely to fall to No. 11, and even if Smith and Waddle are still on the board, there are concerns regarding the size of either.
The 6-foot-6, 246-pound Pitts is tremendously athletic and catches whatever is thrown his way. He’s big enough to be on the line of scrimmage but could additionally be utilized in the slot.
McShay nailed it with this pick. Nonetheless, it’s unclear if Pitts would even get the chance to complement Engram. The four-year tight end has just one season remaining on his current rookie contract and the Giants are likely better off trading him this offseason and acquiring 2021 draft ammo in return.