Last year, a lethal combination of devastating injuries, inept coaching, poor on-field play and turmoil in the locker room was a perfect storm for the Giants as they fell from a returning playoff team to a 3-13 squad who fired their head coach and general manager midseason.
Now, with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Giants need to come to grips with reality: for the first time since 2004, a quarterback is a position of need and the Giants can’t afford to ignore this on draft day.
Eli Manning has been a very solid quarterback for the Giants over the past 14 seasons and his two Super Bowl MVPs will earn him some Hall of Fame consideration, but he also just turned 37 and his level of play has declined over recent years. He particularly struggled on the deep ball last year. Among passes that traveled 20 or more yards downfield, Manning ranked last in adjusted completion percentage (26.7 percent) and only Derek Carr and DeShone Kizer tossed more interceptions.
A new regime taking over a squad who went 3-13 last year means one thing: the Giants are going to rebuild. When a new regime comes in, unless the team has a franchise quarterback, finding a new signal caller is almost always on the top of their to do list. New York is in a position they don’t expect to be in again in the near future with the No. 2 pick in the draft and they are even more fortunate to be in position to have this pick in a draft that has talent at the quarterback position. The NFL is a quarterback-dominated league and it’s easily the hardest position to fill. Cleveland has never found their franchise quarterback since returning to the NFL. Miami has struggled in the post-Dan Marino years. The Jets may never find one. And while yes, teams like New England, Seattle and New Orleans found an alternative way to land their signal caller, they are exceptions, and many more times that late round draft pick busts or that free agent signing doesn’t pan out.
Because Manning is there, the rookie quarterback also won’t be thrown to the wolves and, in what has become atypical in today’s NFL, he can sit for a year and learn under his predecessor, something especially important when you play in New York and must learn to deal with the infamous New York media.
Many are pounding the table for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, but in today’s pass-heavy league, he would be a waste of resources. For one, the Giants offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL and could lose both Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg this offseason. Running backs also have the shortest life span of any position in the NFL, so by the time New York is finished rebuilding and ready to contend again, they could have wasted Barkley’s best seasons. Due to the short lifepsan of the position, there is also a lot of turnover. Out of the running backs who finished top 10 in rushing yards five years ago, one is retired (at age 29), one came back last season after a one-year hiatus, one did not finish the season on an NFL roster and only one eclipsed 900 rushing yards. Additionally, out of the top 20 leaders in rushing yards last season, 14 were taken after the opening round, including Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing yards.
Some are clamoring for an offensive tackle and while yes, it certainly is a position of need, there simply isn’t a tackle talented enough to be taken second overall in the draft.
Trading down is also a risky bet. Yes, the Giants would fetch a good haul of draft picks in return, but there are as many as 12 teams who could use an early draft pick on a quarterback, including New York, so they could trade down and lose out on getting any of the top quarterbacks. Ask Cleveland if they would still trade away the draft picks that ultimately became DeShaun Watson and Carson Wentz.
This shouldn’t be overthought, New York needs a quarterback and they have the resources to take one in a league where teams are desperate to have one. Stand pat and don’t risk losing out on your future by getting greedy and trading down.