If you’re a New York Giants fan, you’re probably used to disappointment. General manager Dave Gettleman has largely continued the Giants’ tradition of relatively uninspired drafts, especially if you remove the memorable 2004 draft from the equation. But the 2021 NFL Draft came with a surprise: Gettleman finally backed up his attitude as the presumptive smartest person in the room, and was busy maneuvering and dealing the entire weekend.
As for the haul, that remains to be seen. But for now, this draft class seems like it’s shaping up to be Gettleman’s best work yet. Let’s grade the picks.
Round 1, No. 20 OVR: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
This pick has a few moving parts that need to be addressed in its analysis. Originally, the Giants had the 11th overall pick, and many were expecting them to use it on one of the draft’s top receivers or O-line studs.
So when the Philadelphia Eagles swapped with the Dallas Cowboys to take Devonta Smith, arguably the most polished receiver in the draft, with the 10th pick, that list got narrowed down to linemen Rashawn Slater and Alijah Vera-Tucker.
That haul, plus Kadarius Toney, is an absolute steal.
Did New York need another pass catcher when two of the top three linemen and Micah Parsons were available? Maybe not.
But Toney gives this receiving corps some much-needed speed to go with their newfound size, and adds a whole new dynamic as a possible gadget option and return man. That’s a lot of value at the 20th pick, and Toney has game-breaking potential as the most athletically gifted receiver in the draft after Ja’Marr Chase.
NEW YORK GIANT
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 30, 2021
A multi-talented speed demon plus four future picks? If not for the decision to hold off on bolstering the line, this pick would be an A+.
Round 2, No. 50 OVR: Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia
The Kadarius Toney pick marked the first time in Gettleman’s career that he ever decided to trade down in a draft. Well, he decided to do it again, and it worked even better this time around.
Remember that need for a pass rusher in the grading of Round 1? Bingo.
If not for injury concerns in Ojulari’s knee, he would have been a surefire first-round pick. That he slipped to 50th overall is absolutely absurd, and the Giants took advantage of other teams sleeping on him.
GIANTS pick Azeez Ojulari: Highest-graded pass-rusher in the NFL Draft (91.7) pic.twitter.com/YTPdDiHfVn
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
He was a ferocious defender going up against NFL-caliber offensive talent on a regular basis in the SEC, and profiles as a young Osi Umenyiora. Of all the picks in the 2021 draft, this is the one that Giants fans will be the happiest about, and for good reasons.
Round 3, No. 71 OVR: Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida
If you thought that the Giants were finished adding to their secondary after free agency ended, you were sorely mistaken.
Newcomer Adoree Jackson is the presumptive starter in the secondary with Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and James Bradberry, but Aaron Robinson was deemed a bit of a project anyway.
The Giants trade up with Broncos to pick 71 and take CB Aaron Robinson from Central Florida. Heard a lot of good things about Robinson. Some considered him a sneaky second-round pick. Giants get him early in third.
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) May 1, 2021
He comes with an SEC pedigree as an Alabama transfer and ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash at the combine. Physical, imposing, and supremely athletic, his rawness should mellow with time behind the Giants’ starters.
If his hands get a little bit softer on pass breakups, that will be an even bigger bonus as well. For now, he’s a solid pickup and depth piece for Big Blue.
Round 4, No. 116 OVR: Elerson Smith, CB, Northern Iowa
Gettleman doubled down on improving the Giants’ pass rush in the fourth round with an absolute specimen of a football player.
At 6’7 and 262 lbs, Elerson Smith is an absolute giant (forgive the pun). and the fact that he can play as both a linebacker and edge rusher is incredible. He could immediately be a contributor in the team’s front seven, and might even instantly start as a linebacker if he does well enough in training camp.
His physical profile is Kyler Fackrell-esque, and if he can hone his technique for getting past offensive linemen, Smith has the potential to become one of the team’s most dangerous dual threats.
Round 6, No. 196 OVR: Gary Brightwell, RB, Arizona
Hey Giants fans, remember when your feature running back and superstar Saquon Barkley went down for the season? Perhaps now they have a solid second option.
While not as absolutely built as the brick house that Barkley is, Gary Brightwell profiles very similarly regarding his playing habits. He’s another home run hitter and a big-play hunter that isn’t afraid to get creative. He has the talent to do so as well, and will probably get his feet wet on special teams as an intriguing return man, a la Kadarius Toney.
🙌 9 Career Touchdowns
💨 1,305 Career Rushing Yards
A member of the @ArizonaFBall team, Gary Brightwell showed off his versatility from day one, and is ready to make his mark in the NFL.#BackThePac | #NFLDraft | @PacPremierBank pic.twitter.com/SVZYjq7auR
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) April 28, 2021
The sample size on him is small, as he only played in five games in 2020, but the numbers are encouraging (4.4 YPC on 88 rushes). If he bulks up and learns to love running up the middle, the Giants could have a very interesting thunder to Saquon’s lightning.
As is, some would have liked the Giants to invest in the offensive line, but having injury insurance at a premium skill position is never bad, especially this late.
Round 6, No. 201 OVR: Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State
New York went even further to invest in their secondary. It makes sense: double up on the pass rush, and double up on coverage options, and suddenly the Giants have added quality depth and youth to an already dangerous defense.
The younger brother of 2019 first-round pick Greedy Williams shouldn’t have slipped this low, but at 25 years old, his age probably turned some teams off.
However, he is bigger and longer than Elerson Smith, while possessing most of the same ball skills. In fact, he might be a little more skilled than the Giants’ fourth-round pick and averaged nearly one pass breakup per game over his college career.
Expect him to contribute a lot of multi-faceted value (seems like a theme in this draft), and to get decent minutes off the bat in special teams.
OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: A