After a fatal early end to their most recent season, the New York Giants have been making careful moves to reconstruct their broken organization. Upon the start of the off-season, they began calculating ways to strengthen the team, including trimming the roster to make way for more coveted talent. Prior to the draft, Big Blue released corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, whom they reportedly had asked to switch positions and take a pay cut, punter Brad Wing, and wide receiver Dwayne Harris, whose season was shortened due to injury. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after eight years with the team in reaction to their decision to change schemes from 4-3 to 3-4. Offensive guard/tackle Justin Pugh has decided to move on and will continue his career with the Arizona Cardinals.
These fallen soldiers are just a few of many, but come in the midst of several noteworthy gains, such as corner Teddy Williams (formerly of the Carolina Panthers), left tackle Nate Solder (stolen from the New England Patriots), and running back Jonathan Stewart (also a former Panther, and the leading rusher in their history). In their first draft under their new general manager Dave Gettleman, the Giants continued to strengthen their roster, reportedly considering pick trades but ultimately holding to their assigned order for the entirety of the weekend. The six fresh faces are:
- First Round, second overall: Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State
- Second Round, 34th overall: Will Hernandez, guard, UTEP
- Third Round, 66th overall: Lorenzo Carter, linebacker, Georgia
- Third Round, 69th overall: B.J. Hill, defensive tackle, N.C. State
- Fourth Round, 108th overall: Kyle Lauletta, quarterback, Richmond
- Fifth Round, 139th overall: R.J. McIntosh, defensive tackle, Miami
New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Saquon Barkley
One of the most debated picks in the league was the second overall, as rumors flew over what the Giants would ultimately do, considering their needs. Trade rumors flew, as did opinions over the most worthy selection should the pick be kept. Nevertheless (and predictably), the result was the acquisition of Penn State’s prized running back Saquon Barkley, who is predicted to be the franchise player at the position that the Giants have been missing.
Scouts and managers of the organization sat in fear on Thursday night as the Cleveland Browns made their first overall selection, which could have dramatically affected the course of Big Blue’s very sensibly planned draft. The most intriguing running back to enter the game since Adrian Peterson in 2007 (if not long before), Barkley was all the talk leading up to round one. In the three years past, there has been a trend in top ten-picked running backs (Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette) ultimately being clutch possessions for their respective teams. The Giants can expect to see a similar star performance from their new rookie, as they attempt greatness once again.
The Head-Scratcher: R.J. McIntosh
The most curious selection of the Giants draft was their final one, in the form of defensive tackle R.J. McIntosh. Nothing against McIntosh as a player–his film from his three years at Miami proves him quick and athletic. It’s possible that he appeared on the Giants’ radar during their screening of Quenton Nelson, as he is one of the very few defensive linemen to give Notre Dame’s weapon of mass destruction any serious trouble. The puzzler is that he seems slightly unnecessary in an otherwise very well-constructed and need-oriented draft.
By selecting McIntosh, Big Blue doubled down on rookie defensive tackles, having already picked up B.J. Hill in round three. And while McIntosh could fit the Giants new defensive scheme well as a one-gapping five-technique or a pass rushing three-technique in nickels, the team already has four potential options for those roles in Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara, Kareem Martin, and Josh Mauro. With several players in positions of higher need still on the board, we now have to question the back office’s intentions with these four other players.
The Surprise: Kyle Lauletta
After the selection of Barkley at pick two, it seems we were all too quick to assume that the G-men would not be declaring Manning’s successor–at least not in the form of a rookie. Had the Giants successfully conducted any trades in the course of round one, they might have been able to snag Lamar Jackson late in the night. Alas, they surprised us all in the fourth round with the selection of Kyle Lauletta at pick 108.
Before delving into the logistics of their selection, it’s important to note that many successful players with long and luxurious careers have been drafted in these later picks–Antonio Brown, for one, reminded us of his late selection over Twitter and stood in solidarity with the anxious remaining players on Saturday. Heck, the GOAT himself–Tom Brady–was selected 199th overall.
There are many positive things to say about Lauletta, Richmond’s fifth-year senior and a three-year starter. He certainly has the experience and adaptability that are necessary qualities of a New York Giant in their refurbishing period. Lauletta led his team throughout multiple head coaching changes during his time at Richmond. Physically, he can play well from under center, hurting defenses with his legs if need be. His lower body mechanics provide the threshold to his velocity, as he is slightly lacking in arm strength. Still, he has high accuracy and anticipation, which provide him with the tools necessary to execute the vast majority of an NFL playbook without too much difficulty. He may not have been the most conventional choice, but at least Davis Webb has a partner with whom he can work on his lower body, just as Lauletta will undoubtedly take a lot from Webb in developing his above-belt strength.
The Steal: Will Hernandez
Particularly after this past 0-12 season, it would have been easy for a player like Will Hernandez to have thrown in the towel instead of declaring for the draft. But that attitude isn’t what kept the beast in prowl mode through this past year. It had been suggested that the Giants use their second overall pick to acquire an additional weapon to cover Eli Manning, whom the Giants have indicated will remain their starter for this season.
Despite UTEP’s bad season, the fact that Hernandez was still on the board at 34th overall is shocking. At 6’2” and 327 pounds, and having started all 49 games in the past four years, he is the experienced and resilient protector that the Giants needed out of this draft. Despite his history at left guard, head coach Pat Shurmur has expressed his intentions of playing Hernandez at both sides to find his best fit. NFL Network analyst Lance Zeirlein‘s draft profile describes him as a “rare combination of power, balance, and athletic ability.” His passion for the game is palpable both on and off the field. And as far as protecting Eli, he knows he’s the man for the job: “I’ve got him. I’ve got him 100 percent.”
Most Likely To Turn Heads In Training Camp: Lorenzo Carter
After the 66th selection, Shurmur came clean about the organization’s attempt to trade up to acquire linebacker, Lorenzo Carter. Luckily enough, they didn’t have to. In his career at Georgia, Carter was an elite outside edge pass rusher, always managing to create pressure, and provide a unique amount of support on special teams plays. Gettleman and Shurmur’s three principles for winning a football game are to “run the ball,” “stop the run,” and to “rush the passer.” Bingo. Carter is their guy.
While he lacks the necessary bulk of a starter, his intensity and confidence in his final year of college tell of a player who will put in the work. And if there’s any team that is in the position to push him to high levels of greatness, it’s the New York Football Giants. After helping the ‘Dawgs to a jaw-dropping National Championship appearance this year, Carter is confident in his abilities. “I feel like I can fit into a lot of systems, especially being at Georgia, doing the things I did… I’m comfortable in any defense.” Since the G-men will be making a transition to Carter’s historically-played 3-4 base defense, his “comfort” is pretty much guaranteed, and we will surely see impressive leadership in that formation during his time at training camp.
The Rest: B.J. Hill
B.J. Hill will join the lineup alongside Damon Harrison and last year’s second-round selection Dalvin Tomlinson… in addition to sixth-rounder R.J. McIntosh. “Ideally, there will be a rotation there, so they’ll roll through it,” said Shurmur after the selection of Hill with the 69th pick in the third round. The defensive tackle hails from N.C. State, where he played four productive years. He has a good frame for the position, making him tough to block and good against the run, and a high-revving motor that shows his surprising athleticism. While he is a constant producer, James Bettcher and his assistants on the defensive coaching staff will have to work with Hill on his inconsistency finishing plays to make him a truly dominant rotational player for Big Blue.
This year’s Giants draft was inarguably the best we’ve seen from the organization in a LONG time, and possibly the best work we saw from any of the 32 NFL organizations this year. The new staff clearly is moving the team back into championship direction already. There were several positions undrafted, which helps us examine what the team’s intentions are and where there might still be a concern.
We can expect to see even more this season from tight end Evan Engram, who was selected in the first round of last year’s draft and had high production as a rookie, despite an injury-ridden and mismanaged team and coaching staff. Rhett Ellison will likely have a bigger role as well, as he was a favorite of Shurmur’s from their time together with the Minnesota Vikings. There is concern over the depth in the secondary still, despite the gain of Williams, and it will be wise for the Giants to take stock of their undrafted free agent options now that the draft period is through. While the league saw quite a surprising weekend in totality, but the only REAL surprise in the Giants organization was their stellar performance, as they emerged from the war room with six outstanding rookies.