As we know, with the 2nd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York “Football” Giants selected a running back out of Penn State by the name of Saquon Barkley. Giants fans seem split on the pick; some fans are in love with his dynamic athletic ability, while others are concerned with the opportunity cost of selecting a running back second overall given the present state of the Giants roster. Let’s sift through this, shall we?
RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State, Round 1: Pick 2
Concern: I’m going to start with the concerns I have, and it mainly stems from the state of the roster and the opportunity cost. The number two pick in this draft had so much leverage since there were multiple quarterbacks and multiple teams with draft capital. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said he knew it was Saquon and didn’t want to listen to offers once the Browns made their selection. In response some would say that is not a prudent way to rebuild a team that has as many holes as the Giants. If trading back was an option, the Giants could have landed multiple day 2 picks and potentially day 1 picks in 2018 or 2019. These selections, in a deep running back class mind you, could have helped replenish this roster and form a foundation to build upon in the Gettlemen era. There were many talented players available on day 2 and the loss of the potential gain that the Giants could have garnered for that #2 pick is evident. The Giants currently have a 37 year old quarterback and it’s fair to question how much he actually has left. Not acquiring future assets doesn’t only affect the on the field product, but it also affects the Giants ability to trade up for a signal caller in the future, if Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta aren’t the answers.
I’m not in the draft room, but if the Giants turned down multiple day 1 and 2 picks to select a running back, a position that is somewhat devalued in today’s NFL, with all the problems on this roster, then I have a hard time thinking that is the most judicious way to allocate your resources. The NFL seems to agree; running backs are struggling to get paid. Since being drafted, Saquon has become the third most valuable running back contract behind DeVonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy; Barkley also ranks fourth in average annual salary, according to Spotrac. Backs like Le’Veon Bell are struggling to earn long-term contracts and are playing on franchise tags because NFL teams don’t want to allocate big contracts to a position that has a short shelf life and can be effectively executed by committees (i.e. the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots).
What he brings: Saquan is one of the most dynamic athletes the running back position has seen in quite some time. At 6’0” and 233 pounds, he has incredibly quick feet, excellent change of direction, acceleration, body control, and he possesses rare lower body explosiveness. He will be a highlight reel on an offense that already has Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram. Barkley’s presence doesn’t just help the run game; he offers significant value as a receiver, in the return game, and he is already polished as a pass protector. His presence alone will force less double coverage on the outside and more heavy boxes, which will result in more advantageous match ups for Eli and the receivers.
Saquan also provides a massive matchup advantage for the Giants; good luck covering him with a middle linebacker. Defenses will struggle to find personal packages that can account for Saquan and other mismatch nightmares like Evan Engram, and that isn’t even talking about the generational talent in Odell Beckham. The Giants haven’t finished in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game since 2012 and that is more than attainable now with the addition of Saquan and one of the meanest dudes you’ll find on the offensive line in 2nd round pick Will Hernandez out of UTEP. The Giants’ roster still has some considerable holes, but if the offensive line stabilizes, their offense will be exciting as Eli enters the final few seasons of his careers.
OG Will Hernandez, UTEP, Round 2: Pick 34
I absolutely love this pick for the New York Giants, who long for the days of Chris Snee and Rich Seubert. Hernandez is a mean spirited offensive guard who looks to dominate and embarrass his opponents. The Giants found their left guard here; stout, with excellent movement skills for his size and he will not disappoint. The Giants ranked 30th last season and 32nd in 2016 in touchdowns per game on the ground, while significantly struggling to run the football for the last several seasons.
This selection, juxtaposed with Barkley, will help extend the career of Eli Manning, while hopefully improving the abysmal time of possession (ranked 29th in the league last year), which will help keep the defense fresh. Hernandez also allows the Giants to have options on the interior offensive line. Patrick Omameh came over from the Jaguars and he can battle with incumbent starter, John Jerry, for the right guard position. The big question mark along the offensive line remains at right tackle. Ereck Flowers fate with this team is in question (rightfully so, for many different reasons) and the spot will be battled for by Flowers, Adam Bisnowaty, and Chad Wheeler.
OLB/DE Lorenzo Carter, Georgia, Round 3: Pick 66
I love the fact that the Giants considered moving up for Lorenzo, but he fell right into the lap of Big Blue at pick 66. I am a big fan of the Carter pick; he is an ideal fit for James Bettcher’s blitzing defense. Carter is long, incredibly athletic, and provides versatility, with an ability to put his hand in the dirt and get after the passer. But he’s also able to play off ball as a linebacker. He was my fourth rated EDGE prospect this year and he isn’t a finished product, but he has immense upside. A combination of two athletic former Bulldogs (as Carter joins LB Alec Ogletree) will provide Bettcher with an excellent ability to disguise his blitzes, while bringing pressure with length, burst, and athleticism from Carter and Ogletree.
I do have significant concerns with who will be covering on the backend of the defense. JackRabbit has been a good addition when he puts his best foot forward and is healthy, but Eli Apple is enigmatic. The Giants not addressing the corner position in this draft will be a pain in the side of the team for the foreseeable future. I would advise the Giants to potentially resign Dominique Rodgers Cromartie. As for Carter, I love this pick and I love the fact that Bettcher can maximize his skillset.
DT B.J. Hill, North Carolina State, Round 3 (FROM TB) : Pick 69
Before this draft, I would have said the strengths of the Giants roster were the safety position and the interior defensive line. Despite the holes on the roster, the Giants choose the latter position twice in this draft. The addition of Hill will lighten the workload for Damon Harrison, who plays a high majority of snaps. Hill possesses a solid initial burst and a violent pair of hands, while being a good run defender who can come in and play 1-technique or nose tackle in relief of Snacks. While Hill offers some athletic upside, I felt this pick was a bit early and is a bit of a luxury pick for a team that has holes. Overall, he is a smart interior defensive lineman, who will help form a solid run defending rotation in an NFC East with the Super Bowl champs, Ezekiel Elliott, and now Derrius Guice twice a year.
QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond, Round 4: Pick 108
It appears that the Giants enjoy drafting quarterbacks who were Senior Bowl MVPs. The 2018 Senior Bowl MVP will compete for the backup role with 2017 Senior Bowl MVP and last year’s 3rd round pick, Davis Webb. Lauletta fits what Pat Shurmur wants to do; he may not have the strongest arm, but he is smart, poised, and offers very good accuracy in the short to intermediate parts of the field, while possessing good athletic ability which was on display in Mobile. It seems the Giants were very high on Lauletta and didn’t expect him to be available at this point of the draft, so just like the last regime with Webb, they selected him. As I have stated several times through this article, there are still holes here and “unproven” talent that may be slated to start, plus a lack of depth all through the roster, so drafting a quarterback could be looked at as counterintuitive to the notion that Eli has a few years left. If this is the mindset of the Giants brass, surrounding Eli with talent must be the priority, but the Giants must view Lauletta as the starting quarterback for this team post Eli, so I find it hard to slam a pick that offers that upside on Day 3. Time will tell.
DL R.J. McIntosh, Miami, Round 5: Pick 139
Excellent value here. The Giants added an explosive 3 technique who can come in on passing situations early on and use his burst to penetrate. I go back to what I stated in the BJ Hill part of this article; the team’s strength got significantly stronger and it helps form a very good rotation, but 2 of the 6 Giants picks go to the defensive line when the team really needs help at other position groups on this roster. There will be a ton of interesting competition in training camp for some of these starting spots and we must hope for a healthy Giants team this season, as the depth of the team is lacking.
As for McIntosh, he is a talented 1-gap penetrator who can create havoc in the backfield with excellent burst. He will be used in sub-packages to rush the passer, but he must develop more strength/ability to play with a lower center of gravity. He’ll also need to improve his hand technique to shed and stay balanced against good competition when he doesn’t just penetrate a gap. Will need to develop in these areas in order to be a good starting 3-technique in Nickel sub-packages for the Giants. Has the build to be a 3-4 4T or 5T, but must take on blocks better and show more anchor. McIntosh offers that interior pass rush that the Giants value and landing him in the fifth round is a good grab.
Overall, the Giants significantly improved their offense by adding a dynamic running back and excellent offensive guard prospect, while adding depth to their interior defensive line and a moveable chess piece for James Bettcher in Carter. I still feel the opportunity cost of drafting a running back at two will hurt the depth of this team in the long run. With that being said, Saquan is going to be incredibly exciting on this offense. He gives Giants fans something they have not seen in quite some time – a dynamic running back. While it is advantageous to stop the run, and the Giants most certainly improved that area, I still feel the other holes (right tackle, EDGE pass rusher, linebacker, cornerback, cornerback, and cornerback) will rear its ugly head this season. Will we look back in 3 years and shake our heads at the fact that the Giants passed on quarterbacks like Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold? Time will tell, but in the meantime let’s hope for an expedited development process for the undrafted free agents and the young names we have on the roster, as there are still holes that weren’t addressed.