Being bad on the field has its advantages this time of year, and the badness that came out of the 2018 season earned the Giants the No. 6 overall pick Thursday night in the first round of the NFL draft.
Being bold — or baffling (depending on your view of the trade that sent Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns) — gave the Giants the No. 17 overall pick as well. This could allow the franchise to finally identify and secure the heir apparent to Eli Manning, or, at the very least, add a second player capable of making an immediate and profound impact.
This is new and nearly groundbreaking stuff for the Giants. Only twice before in team history have they selected two players in the first round of a draft. Thirty-five years ago, the Giants made linebacker Carl Banks the No. 3 pick and took offensive lineman William Roberts at No. 27. And in 1972, they took defensive back Eldridge Small with the 17th pick and defensive end Larry Jacobson with the 24th pick.
If general manager Dave Gettleman can churn the production and longevity out of his two first-round picks as effectively as George Young did in 1984, he will set the Giants up for present and future success. Banks was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro-caliber player and Roberts was a solid starter on the offensive line for more than a decade and, like Banks, an integral part of Super Bowl-winning teams.
A year ago, the Giants viewed running back Saquon Barkley as the best player in the draft, and selecting him at No. 2 was never in doubt, even with quarterback prospects such as Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen available for the taking. Gettleman assigned an almost impossible-to-attain requirement for any player going so high in a draft: He had to be a “gold jacket guy,’’ meaning he had to be viewed as a Hall of Famer.
At No. 6, the prerequisite is not quite that lofty.
“For me, you are riding on the edge,’’ Gettleman said. “There are gold jacket guys that never got drafted. That stuff happens. It is still about value. Who is going to give you the most value at that spot? You can never have too many good players at one position.’’
The Giants do not have to worry about having too many good players at one position, especially on defense, where they need plenty of help and are leaning heavily on this draft to provide it. They are expected to go defense at No. 6 and will be able to land one of the highest-rated defensive players, as at least one of the highly rated trio of edge rusher Josh Allen, defensive tackle Ed Oliver and inside linebacker Devin White will be there for the plucking.
“Pass rush is something that we all want,’’ coach Pat Shurmur said. “We need to get someone who can affect the quarterback.’’
Any sort of defensive help works at No. 17 — cornerback is definitely an option — and offensive tackle is a need that will unquestionably be addressed somewhere near the top of the draft. Offensive tackles Jawaan Taylor from Florida and Jonah Williams from Alabama will likely be gone, but Washington State’s Andre Dillard or Oklahoma’s Cody Ford probably will not be, and any one of the four could get plugged in at right tackle.
The draft is not only about the first round, of course. The Giants have 12 selections, adding picks after trading away Beckham, Eli Apple, Damon Harrison, Brett Jones and in deals to acquire Alec Ogletree and Riley Dixon. They also have a compensatory pick in the fifth round. The last time the Giants owned 12 picks in a draft was 1992, the final year the draft extended to 12 rounds.
Despite all the picks, the Giants will have to watch 58 players come off the board from early in the second round until very late in the third round before they are scheduled to be on the clock again. Expect Gettleman to acquire a pick in that span in exchange for picks later in the draft.
“Having 12 picks is crazy,’’ Gettleman said. “One of the things I have talked about is that you don’t want to draft a player that you are going to cut. Every guy you draft, there is a reason you are drafting him and a reason that he should make your team.’’
No. 6: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston.
If Josh Allen is on the board, he is the pick based on his pass-rush prowess. If not, the Giants go for an active, athletic defensive lineman with uncanny quickness who can thank Aaron Donald for paving the way for undersize guys up front.
No. 17: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke.
If he looks like Eli Manning and has many of the same mannerisms as Eli Manning and was coached by the same person as Eli Manning, why not take him to eventually replace Eli Manning? The Giants might have to trade up to get him, even with concerns about Jones’ arm strength and how high a ceiling he has as a prospect.