A defensive overhaul in 2016 led to a playoff berth for the New York Giants, what will the focus be for them in the 2017 NFL Draft?
With the 2017 NFL Draft right around the corner, we look at what the New York Giants may aim to accomplish. After missing out on the playoffs four seasons in a row, the team moved on from two-time Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Coughlin before the start of the 2016 season. They then promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to head coach and brought him in a ton of new defensive weapons.
During free agency, they brought in defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. All were incredibly high priced, but the early returns were great. The Giants became one of the most well-rounded defensive teams in the NFL and wound up with a postseason berth following an 11-5 finish.
This offseason hasn’t been as high profile, but the G-men did make some moves. The most notable was the addition of veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He will be on the field with Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard, which gives them one of the best groups of receivers in the NFL. They also added former Chargers offensive lineman D.J. Fluker and backup quarterback Geno Smith.
With their new additions, what will their draft plan be? That’s what we try to figure out with this early-April seven-round mock draft.
Nov 14, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku (86) runs with the football chased by North Carolina Tar Heels safety Donnie Miles (15) and linebacker Shakeel Rashad (42) during the first half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The Tar Heels won 59-21. Mandatory Credit: Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 23: David Njoku, TE — Miami
With the 23rd pick in the first round, the New York Giants select Miami tight end David Njoku. Would this be a big pick? According to Njoku himself, it would be “huge.” That’s at least what he said according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post while discussing growing up in New Jersey and building a relationship with former Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey:
Yes, I’m very close with him,” Njoku told The Post. “We talk a lot. He told me it’s the place to be, the Giants, the fans are great, atmosphere is great, we both love ball. It would be home also. It would be huge.”
It really could be a great fit. With their collection of talented wide receivers, a game-changing tight end like Njoku could find a lot of room to work over the middle of the field. Njoku averaged almost 17 yards per reception in two seasons and proved to be a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties.
He is more than just a receiver though. Njoku is a very willing blocker as well. He has some room to improve in that area, but at least there will never be an issue with desire there for him. Adding the tight end to the offense and to give Eli Manning another playmaker would be huge. Their offense sputtered at times last season, but it’s hard to see that happening with Njoku and Marshall on the field.
Oct 3, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (77) lines up during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Florida State defeated Wake Forest 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2, Pick 23 (55th Overall): Roderick Johnson, OT — Florida State
After getting a potentially explosive pick with their first round choice, the Giants are back on the clock late in Round 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft. This time they decide to get some bulk up front with offensive tackle Roderick Johnson out of Florida State.
The offensive line has been an issue for the past couple of seasons for New York, although they hope the addition of Fluker this offseason will help that. Although the Chargers wanted the same thing when they drafted Fluker 11th overall in 2013. He played decently for them, but had to move from tackle to guard and it’s unknown where he will play for New York.
Johnson as a draft pick provides options and insurance. If Fluker is unable to play outside, Johnson could be a replacement. He also could be an upgrade over another first round pick who has underperformed. The ninth overall pick in 2015 was left tackle Ereck Flowers, who has struggled often to stop edge rushers. There are whispers he could switch to right tackle eventually, but there’s not a lot of options to play left for them.
Perhaps Johnson could become that guy for them. The 6-7, 298-pound offensive lineman has some room to grow as far as technique is concerned and also needs to fill out his frame some more. He could end up being a big time player if he reaches his potential.
Dec 28, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) throws the ball in the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Pull up your chair for story time. This one is about the second-round quarterback who stunk it up whenever given the chance. He then gets released by his first team only to go on and become the star of a different franchise after a couple seasons of grooming. Of course, this is just a made up story and in no way, shape or form should the Giants think former New York Jets second-round pick Geno Smith will ever be worthy of being the heir to Eli Manning.
If we want to get real, it’s a surprise Smith even was given a contract at all. This guy is such a bad leader, he actually lost his job after getting his jaw broken from a locker room sucker punch. Then, the guy that punched him was claimed by former Bills head coach Rex Ryan, who was a head coach with the Jets when Smith was drafted. Imagine someone punching Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Think head coach Bill Belichick would touch that guy with a 10-foot pole? No, because Brady is a respected player and Smith is awful.
So the Giants cannot depend on Smith, but with Manning getting older they do need a young guy to start grooming. To do that they grab another Miami player. This time it’s quarterback Brad Kaaya. The underclassmen is coming off a season in which he threw 27 touchdowns to just seven picks and had a career completion percentage of 60.6. He is a perfect candidate to replace Manning in a few years.
At cornerback the Giants are pretty solid. They have the aforementioned Jenkins who is worth every penny of his five-year $62.5 million deal as well as the tenth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft Eli Apple. Their third-option at the position is no slouch either as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a talented veteran with big-play ability.
This group was excellent against some of the best wide outs in the game. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is a beast for instance, but can be tamed by this secondary—especially Jenkins.
There’s obviously no need for a high pick on the position, but that doesn’t mean a mid-round selection would be a bad idea. The Giants do just that and get themselves some depth with Houston corner Howard Wilson.
At 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds Wilson has excellent size for his position. He also has a knack for turnovers as he recorded five interceptions in 2016 for the Cougars. He’s a talented athlete, who probably could have benefited from playing one more season in Houston. The good news about him coming out early in this mock is he winds up with a good team as well as around some very talented mentors.
Oct 21, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey (19) runs for a second quarter touchdown against the San Jose State Spartans at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5, Pick 23 (167th Overall): Donnel Pumphrey, RB — San Diego State
With the 149th pick last year, the Giants grabbed UCLA running back Paul Perkins with their fifth round pick. The rookie went for 456 yards on the season and had a respectable average of 4.1 yards per rush. He did well enough at his job that New York was comfortable moving on from veteran Rashad Jennings, who was cut in February.
Heading into Year 2, Perkins should be the starter, but it wouldn’t hurt to grab another player at the spot in the draft—rather than free agency like they had been doing in the past with players like Jennings and Shane Vereen. Once again, it’s a fifth-round pick they use on a runner here as San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey is the choice.
Pumphrey is rather undersized at 5-8 and 176 pounds, but he is a heck of a football player. In four seasons at San Diego State he rushed for 6,405 yards with an amazing 62 touchdowns. His final season with the team, he went for 2,133 yards and 17 scores.
He was also an effective receiver, never catching less than 22 passes in a single season and finishing with 99 receptions for 1,039 yards. He will provide an excellent change of pace option behind Perkins as the running back youth movement continues.
Oct 17, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive end Hunter Dimick (49) tackles Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) during the first half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
New York has great depth at the defensive end spot after signing Vernon last year and then getting a new deal worked out with fellow edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. Behind them is the impressive Romeo Okwara, who stepped up in his limited opportunities last season. They also have Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who has some good qualities as well.
Just like with the cornerback spot earlier, adding depth never hurts. With their sixth-round selection the Giants add some help there with Utah defensive end Hunter Dimick. The 6-3, 268-pound defender was excellent as a pass rusher for the Utes.
In 2014 he racked up 10 sacks and had two forced fumbles. Injuries cost him a chunk of his following season, but he came back strong last year. In his final season for the Pac-12 school Dimick was credited with 53 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss.
Of course with the players they already have at the position, Dimick will be nothing more than a reserve for the foreseeable future. What he really can provide for New York is a credible edge rusher that keeps them from feeling like they have to re-sign a player like Darkwa or Odighizuwa to a bigger contract than they desire when they hit free agency.
Oct 9, 2016; Columbia, SC, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Brian Herrien (35) follows a block by Bulldogs guard Greg Pyke (73) during the second half against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. Georgia won 28-14. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
The Giants finish up the 2017 NFL Draft by once again addressing the offensive line. It’s no secret that Eli Manning is getting older and he wasn’t exactly a track star in his youth. The Giants need to make sure he is protected as he gets closer and closer to the dreaded 40-year-old mark. Part of that includes making sure suitable backups are on hand.
To build such depth the G-men grab University of Georgia lineman Greg Pyke. While the 6-6, 325-pounder played guard and tackle for the Bulldogs, he is considered a guard at the next level. He also has the ability to win battles with his strength and effort according to Lance Zierlein, draft guru for NFL.com.
Played both guard and tackle at Georgia but is a guard-only prospect. Pyke plays with great effort and determination and loves to bury his opponent when he gets a chance, but his lack of balance, leverage, and length limit his opportunities to become a productive NFL starter.
In New York, Pyke wouldn’t be expected to start anytime soon. Instead he can try to develop his skills, work on the issues that kept him available until Round 7 and eventually have a shot at being a starter.