Who will the New York Giants select in the opening round of the upcoming NFL Draft after a fourth straight losing season?
A play-making wideout? An upgrade at the tight end position? A new starting edge rusher or cornerback?
The New York Giants possess an incredibly crucial decision on their hands involving their first-round pick (No. 11 overall) in the 2021 NFL Draft. The player the Giants acquire on the night of Thursday, April 29 must be one that helps them further improve in 2021 en route to a potential playoff berth, what would be the organization’s first since the 2016 season.
The team is banking on the development of Daniel Jones and needs the overall offensive unit to improve after finishing 31st in both total offense and scoring this past year.
That’s why each of the following first-round draft targets would make total sense.
Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
The Giants desperately need a playmaker and someone who can grow into a true No. 1 wideout. Each of the starting receivers the team currently employs — Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Golden Tate — isn’t capable of consistently fulfilling those requirements.
Despite missing a portion of his final season at Alabama with a broken ankle, wideout Jaylen Waddle should very much be on the Giants’ draft board. His elusiveness and speed allow him to find open space and be effective after the catch — this would tremendously assist Daniel Jones.
He’s additionally multi-faceted, given he can succeed on special teams as well.
Waddle averaged an amazing 24.4 yards per punt return (487 total yards on 20 returns) in 2019, which led to him earning the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year Award that same season.
The bottom line is this: the Giants require a passing-game target who can change the tempo of the game, and Waddle is capable of doing so with his ability to gain significant yardage following the catch.
A concern, however, is his size (or lack thereof). Waddle is just 5-foot-10, 182 pounds, so he might not be someone Big Blue could rely on down near the goal line. He’s also prone to injury — the 2020 season proved that.
Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
Of the two Alabama wideouts who are expected to be off the board early in the first round, DeVonta Smith may be the superior choice. He’s taller than Waddle (6-foot-1 in comparison to 5-foot-10) so he’s likely to be more reliable down near the goal line, and judging by this past season (in which he won the Heisman Trophy), he’s definitely more talented.
Smith is additionally fantastic when it comes to utilizing speed and elusiveness after the catch, having racked up 215 receiving yards and three scores on 12 catches in January’s College Football Playoff National Championship.
The reason Smith may drop to No. 11, however, is because of his size. Like with Waddle, this specific attribute could become a concern. Smith is just 175 pounds and might be too skinny to remain healthy at the professional level.
But regardless, Smith would be the Giants’ most talented receiver from the jump, which is why he’ll be of consideration by Dave Gettleman and his staff.
Florida TE Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts, if available at No. 11, could (and should) certainly be the selection the Giants make.
Contrary to the aforementioned pair of potential draft targets, there are no size concerns with Pitts. He stands at 6-foot-6, 246 pounds, but those metrics don’t hinder his athletic ability whatsoever. Pitts is versatile — an on-field quality Joe Judge adores — and could line up in the slot if need be.
He would also fare well in Jason Garrett’s tight end-heavy offense and be an upgrade from Evan Engram, who dropped 11 balls this past year for a drop rate of 10.1%.
Pitts’ most prestigious quality, however, might be his knack for the end zone, which would be valuable to a Giants team that found the end zone through the air just 12 times in 2020. The 20-year-old caught 12 touchdown passes in his junior season en route to being a unanimous All-American and first-team All-SEC selection.
For what it’s worth: ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Giants taking Pitts in his latest mock draft.