It seems like a yearly cycle at this point, so raise your hand if you’ve heard this phrase before: the New York Giants look very interesting this season.
Seriously, think about it. After flashes of brilliance his rookie year, quarterback Daniel Jones definitely regressed in 2020. Most of his metrics were down, and he seemed to trade in his fumble issues into overly-aggressive judgement throws into traffic. But let’s be fair: most of his receiving corps was hurt throughout the season, most notable of which was the season-long absence of Saquon Barkley, one of the best check down options in the NFL. Pair that with a new system under a new coaching staff, another subpar showing from his offensive line, and his own injury bug halfway through the season, and it’s no wonder why Danny Dimes and Big Blue struggled.
However, look at what happened this offseason. The Giants finally picked up a true number one wideout in Kenny Golladay that fits Jones’ hyper-aggressive play style (if you trusted Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton as true number ones, stop playing yourself). Barkley will be returning, the offensive line gets a year to develop (looking at you, Andrew Thomas), and Jones has an actual offseason to acclimate himself to what was a brand new offense. Couple that with what was one of the most underrated defenses in the league last year and the Giants are looking scary (by NFC Least standards) once more.
That said, Big Blue has a chance to capitalize on that momentum coming into the 2021 NFL Draft, which begs the question: where do they want to improve the most? Since they have several possible answers to that question, their options are open position-wise coming into the draft.
Between grabbing an additional toy for Daniel Jones, reinforcing the offensive line, and grabbing a solid pass rusher, the Giants have plenty of areas that they would like to address. These are the three players that fit those needs the best:
1. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
After Penei Sewell, the race for the second-best offensive lineman off the board has been hotly contested. The Giants will certainly have a choice between Rashawn Slater from Northwestern, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, or Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC.
The Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions will certainly be interested in taking one each of those names, but with both possibly looking for weapons to pair with their new quarterbacks, it’s safe to assume that the Giants will have their pick of the litter. With that, they should opt for Vera-Tucker. He is more raw than the other options, but he is arguably the most athletic and by far the most versatile, which fits in with New York’s plans for the future.
— NFL (@NFL) March 24, 2021
Simply put, the Giants need bodies and mean mugs on the offensive line. But if Andrew Thomas ends up developing into a quality left tackle, Vera-Tucker’s ability to fit in wherever he’s needed allows him to immediately contribute while he develops. He is the best immediate plug-and-play option of the available linemen, and if New York is opting to give Daniel Jones his best shot to prove himself, this is by far the best move to get that done.
2. LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
On the flip side of the ball, a little honesty here: losing Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency really hurt.
Leonard Williams had a breakout season in 2020, which was great in a vacuum, but that also meant that the Giants were forced to choose who to shell out top dollar for. No going back now, which of course leaves New York without a solid edge rusher.
Enter Micah Parsons, a 6-foot-3 Swiss Army Knife of a linebacker that profiles similarly to Chase Young, if less physically talented. Head coach Joe Judge was able to turn safety Jabrill Peppers into a virtual superweapon with most any task, and the same can be said of Micah Parsons. Both are potentially position-less, dual threat players that can cover and pass rush from the outside. The upside with Parsons is his sheer size, which shouldn’t be able to support the amount of burst and explosion he has.
Penn State LB Micah Parsons ran a blazing 4.39 40 yard dash at his pro day. Sheesh.pic.twitter.com/FmkEPLlSuT
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) March 25, 2021
Arguments can be made for Michigan’s Kwity Paye, who is more of a dedicated defensive lineman that can line up opposite Williams, but Parsons is much more flexible and athletic. He also is a possible steal at pick #11, whereas Kwity Paye might be a reach that early in the first round–and should justify some measure of trading down on the Giants’ part to be worth the pick.
3. WR Devonta Smith, Alabama
It might be overkill to go for a wide receiver at this point in the draft over fortifying the cornerback position for the Giants, but this receiver class is deep. If any one of the draft’s top talents (Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or Devonta Smith) are available at the 11th pick, the Giants would be hard pressed not to take one. Smith is listed here over the other two, as they are projected to go much higher in the draft.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here: Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are great and have solid chemistry with Daniel Jones, but neither are projected as true number two’s on a playoff-ready team. The drop in talent from Golladay to either is steeper than anyone would like, and any of these three rookies would be an immediate talent upgrade.
Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith showing out at Alabama’s PRO DAY 💯
— Overtime (@overtime) March 30, 2021
Speaking of Smith in particular, he brings an absolute turbo engine in his legs that the Giants have been missing since OBJ was traded. If New York is looking for a slot playmaker that can get real chunk yardage after the catch, Smith is their guy. He is an absolute space creator that will invariably make Jones’ reads a whole lot easier, which in theory cools down his turnover rate. Who doesn’t want that?
Shepard and Slayton are poor WR2s, but if Smith develops quickly and properly enough, they become two of the best third options in the game. A lineup of Golladay, Smith, Shepard and Slayton will scare any defense, especially with Saquon Barkley coming out of the backfield.
TE Kyle Pitts, Florida: Initial projections had him going to the Giants at No. 11 to replace Evan “Stone Hands” Engram, but his draft stock is now through the roof–if he slides down to 11 (unlikely), he is a no-brainer pick as both protection and weapon
DL Kwity Paye, Michigan: He is a great partner to line up opposite Leonard Williams, but Micah Parsons simply offers more positional value.