In case you have not heard the 2017 NFL Draft starts this Thursday in Philadelphia. The draft runs three days with round 1 on Thursday night, rounds 2 and 3 Friday night and rounds 4-7 Saturday afternoon. The New York Giants have the 23rd pick in the first round and will have a variety of quality players to choose from as this draft is very deep at a lot of different positions. In this piece I will go through some of the position groups I think the Giants will target throughout the draft and tell you who they should select in the first round.
The most glaring hole on the Giants roster is on the offensive line as most of us Giants fans know. However, this draft class is very weak in offensive lineman and most likely the Giants will have to settle for more of a developmental type player and not one that can start right away. The Giants could go offensive line in the first round, but I think it would be a mistake as I do not feel there will be any starting caliber offensive lineman available when the Giants pick. I do predict that a couple will go before the Giants pick, which I think is way to early for any of the lineman in this class, but it just makes the decision easier for the Giants to pass on the offensive line in the first round. I also, unlike many Giants fans, still believe in Ereck Flowers, the Giants first round pick from 2015. He is now entering his third season in the NFL and is still only 23 years old, so we have not seen him play to his full potential yet. I think this year is a huge year for the massive offensive tackle as I feel this year will really tell if he has the capability to start at left tackle in the NFL. I believe he will step up and accept the challenge and reward the Giants for sticking with him and I have a feeling the Giants sort of feel this way as well. I say look for the Giants to draft an offensive tackle on day two or day three of the draft to give Flowers some competition, but not take his job. However, I believe the offensive tackle they select should have a great opportunity to win the starting right tackle job that no one on the Giants’ roster currently has a hold on.
Another glaring hole on the roster is at the defensive tackle position alongside Damon Harrison. Johnathan Hankins vacated that spot last year, but he has since left for Indianapolis. The Giants will particularly look for a defensive tackle that can rush the passer and do not be surprised if they select one in the second round. The Giants have had great success drafting defensive tackles in the second round as recently the selected Hankins there in 2013 and Linval Joseph there in 2010. A name to watch out for is Chris Wormley a defensive lineman out of Michigan as he has been linked to the Giants throughout the draft process. He is a little bit less of a nose tackle and more of a guy that can rush the passer, he projects to be a day two selection so do not be surprised if the Giants call his name in the second round.
Some later position groups to watch for the Giants potentially picking are quarterback, running back and cornerback. Eli Manning is 36 years, but still has three years remaining on his deal. There have been some rumors that the Giants may look for Manning’s successor in this draft, but I do not think they should invest early in a quarterback as this class is fairly weak. If the Giants select a quarterback look for one late in the draft rounds 5-7 as they have a capable back up in Geno Smith already. If the Giants are going to find Eli’s successor I would see them doing it in the first or second round and when they pick I just do not see the right prospect being there. Running back is another interesting case as it has been known for a while the Giants are looking for a power back. They have been linked to Lagarrett Blount recently, but I see the Giants selecting one in the later rounds in the draft like they did with Paul Perkins last year. This will allow the Giants to get a fresh, young back at a very cheap price. I think the golden spot for this is the fourth round or fifth round, there still should be some very capable power backs available at this time. Lastly corner back is an interesting group as you see the Giants already have three starting caliber corners in Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple. However, I feel you can never have enough corners, it just seems like the most injured position group around the league. I do not feel the Giants need to find a starter, but certainly some one with some talent, maybe look for a height, weight, speed guy that can tackle. This will give the Giants someone that can contribute on special teams and step in and be serviceable if someone goes down.
Now onto the two position groups I think the Giants should look in the first round. It is two groups that the Giants often avoid early, tight end and linebacker. We’ll start with the tight end group there are two players I think should definitely be selected in the first round in O.J Howard from Alabama and David Njoku from Miami. They are both athletic freaks that can catch the ball well and can compete as blockers. Evan Engram from Ole Miss is also a fringe first round player in my book. If Howard falls to the Giants I say run up to the draft podium and draft him as he is one of the top ten players in this draft and come from a strong program in Alabama. However, I expect him to be gone when the Giants pick, Njoku and Engram are much more realistic options and will most likely be available when the Giants pick.
Linebacker is probably the Giants biggest need not on the offensive line. This year they will most likely start Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson and Devon Kennard all of whom are slightly injury prone and all of whom are free agents after this year. The only one I feel comfortable saying has a starting job is Kennard who has been a solid player for a couple of years and is in the final year of his rookie contract so he will be extra motivated for that payday. Other than that though Robinson and Casillas are really nothing special and will probably both be gone next year. This leads me to say that the Giants should be looking linebacker in the first round and the two names I am looking at are Jarrad Davis out of Florida and Zach Cunningham from Vanderbilt. The Giants are picking in the sweet spot for those two prospects and both could be available when they pick. I know a lot of people out there have Davis rated a little higher, but he has had some injury concerns over the last few years and has missed some time. Cunningham on the other hand has no injury issues that are known and can be a leader of a defense.
Taking all this into consideration I think if the Giants are on the clock and they have Njoku, Davis and Cunningham all still available they should do something they never do and trade down. I want them to select Cunningham but feel this spot may be a little too rich for him especially if Davis is still on the board. A team that is looking for a quarterback and wants to get in front of the Houston Texans who pick two spots behind the Giants are likely candidates. Ideally, the Kansas City Chiefs or perhaps even the New Orleans Saints. If the Giants can trade down with one of these teams Cunningham should still be on the board and the Giants should select him. I do not want to see them drop out of the first round as then they lose that useful fifth year option, but dropping 4 to eight spots and picking up a third or fourth rounder seems ideal to me. If they cannot trade down then I still take Cunningham because I do not think he makes it to them in the second round and he has similar talent to others in this area of the draft.
I chose to go against Njoku because the Giants have got a lot of tight ends already, they have newly signed Rhett Ellison, a talented player in Will Tye who has flashed some potential and Jerell Adams who was a sixth round pick last year. I feel the Giants are comfortable with this group and see a lot of potential in Adams, which will stray them away from the tight end position in the first round. However, I would not rule tight end out later in the draft as it is a very deep tight end class. So, all that being said this is how I see the Giants draft breaking down by position group.
1st Round: Linebacker
2nd Round: Defensive Tackle
3rd Round: Tight End
4th Round: Offensive Tackle
5th Round: Running Back
6th Round: Quarterback
7th Round: Cornerback