What the Giants end up doing with the 11th overall pick in the NFL Draft may really be all about what happens in the Top 10. So it would be helpful at this stage for me to figure out what will happen in the Top 10.
Here’s my current guess:
1. Jacksonville – Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
2. Jets – BYU QB Zach Wilson
3. San Francisco – Alabama QB Mac Jones
4. Atlanta – Florida TE Kyle Pitts
5. Cincinnati – LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
6. Miami – Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
7. Detroit – Oregon OL Penei Sewell
8. Carolina – Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater
9. Denver – Ohio State QB Justin Fields
10. Dallas – Alabama CB Patrick Surtain
That would leave the Giants looking at, and probably deciding between, Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle and any of the top edge rushers on the board. But it would also leave them with the intriguing possibility of trading down with a team that maybe is eyeing a quarterback – a team like Joe Judge’s old team in New England that is drafting 15.
If that happened, the Giants would have to sweat out a few more picks, so here’s my guess of what could happen with those:
11. New England – North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
12.Philadelphia– Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
13. L.A. Chargers – South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn
Then at 14, the Vikings would probably take an edge rusher, but at this point the Giants could still be staring at two of their favorites – Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari. If Minnesota takes one, they take the other. If Minnesota takes someone like Miami’s Jaelan Phillips, the Giants can just choose the one they like the best.
Anyway, there’s the thought process on the Top 10 -- and the Top 14, if the Giants actually traded down that far. So with that, I’ll make my guess at what they actually might do in my penultimate three-round mock draft, version 8.0:
First round (TRADE DOWN to 15th overall) – Georgia DE/LB Azeez Ojulari
Yes, I did it. And yes, I am well aware that Giants GM Dave Gettleman has NEVER traded down in any draft, either here or in Carolina. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a first time.
Also, the Patriots trade down a lot. And while Gettleman is still in charge, Judge, the ex-Pat, has a strong influence on the Giants’ personnel strategy. There have been signs of new ways of thinking in the Giants’ front office, and this could be one of them.
Full disclosure: Very early in the offseason a scout told me of Ojulari: “That’s the guy the Giants want.” It was too early to take it seriously, but I’ve definitely heard of their strong interest since. At the same time, I’ve rarely found sources who believe he’s worthy of the 11th pick. Most sources couch the Giants’ interest for me by saying “Maybe if they trade down…."
So what could they get by trading down from 11 to 15? The closest comparison I could find was in the 2018 draft when the Arizona Cardinals traded a third and a fifth to the Raiders to move up from 15th to 10th to draft quarterback Josh Rosen. Maybe the Giants could get more if other teams get involved, but for this exercise let’s say the Giants get the Patriots third-round (96th) and fifth-round (177th) picks.
Then they’d be free to take Ojulari at a spot a little closer to where he probably belongs. He’s an explosive, 6-2, 249-pound edge rusher who had 9 ½ sacks last season. And if you don’t think the Giants want an edge rusher, then you don’t know Gettleman and his history. Also, they made a somewhat serious run at Leonard Floyd this offseason before he re-signed with the Rams for four years and $64 million.
They didn’t make a run at Floyd, only to then drop the idea of adding a top edge rusher. And the Giants have been looking into Ojulari for a while.
(Previous picks: Alabama WR DeVonta Smith; Michigan DT Kwity Paye; Miami DE/LB Jaelan Phillips; Miami DE/LB Gregory Rousseau; Smith; Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle; Rousseau)
Second round (42nd overall) – LSU WR Terrace Marshall
Here’s another reason for the Giants to pass on a receiver in the first round: This class is loaded with top receivers, and when that happens, receivers usually start to drop. Teams grab the top few guys and then everyone waits, believing they can get good ones in the second round.
Ten picks into the second round could be a good spot for the Giants, where they should be able to grab the 6-2, 205-pound Marshall out of the Tigers’ receiver factory. He’s got the requisite sub-4.4 speed and had big production as the third receiver in LSU’s national championship run in 2019. Last year he had 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns in just seven games before opting out – a decision that knocked him down a little on the NFL’s radar.
He could still go in the latter stages of the first round, but the way receivers tend to fall, this looks like a better spot.
(Previous picks: Alabama C Landon Dickerson; Ohio State G Wyatt Davis; Alabama OL Alex Leatherwood; Davis; Georgia LB Azeez Ojulari; Tulsa LB Zaven Collins; Marshall)
Third round (76th overall) – Ohio State C/G Josh Myers
With the Giants’ offensive line still a work-in-progress – which is the nicest way to put it – there’s almost no way they get out of the first two days without adding another young lineman. And the interior of the line is probably where they could use the most help. Shane Lemieux is unproven. It’s hard to imagine Will Hernandez will be a Giant beyond this year. And veteran Zach Fulton is really a one-year stop-gap player.
They still need more young, interior linemen and the 6-5, 310-pound Myers is a good one. They could play him at center or guard, which gives him the versatility the Giants like. And he could be part of the rotation this year with a chance to compete for a starting job down the road.
(Previous picks: USC DT Jay Tufele; Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace; Boston College TE Hunter Long; Tufele; Georgia CB Eric Stokes; Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg; Stanford OT Walker Little)
Third round (96th, from the Patriots) – USC DT Marlon Tuipulotu
With the bonus pick in my hypothetical trade, the Giants continue to fill the hole left by Dalvin Tomlinson along their front line. Yes, they signed veteran Danny Shelton, but only to a one-year deal. And the Giants’ three-man front is still pretty thin, both for now and in the future.
Much like at edge rusher, Gettleman isn’t likely to let that hole go unfilled. He believes games are won along the two lines.
What he’d get in the 6-2, 307-pound Tuipulotu is a defensive tackle who can play any position up front, but who probably needs to add a little strength to be really effective. Scouts love his character, which will play well with the Giants. He also has some underrated pass-rush skills, too, which is always a plus.