The New York Giants need an upgrade at the tight end position, but using a first-round draft pick on such a prospect is rarely necessary.
The 2017 New York Giants should, at the very least, compete for a playoff spot barring unforeseen catastrophes or disasters. Last year’s Big Blue squad won 11 games, and we can only imagine what might have been had the Giants taken advantage of multiple scoring opportunities during the first 28 minutes of the team’s playoff game versus the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
On paper, the Giants are close to winning a conference title, but the club’s roster is in need of several upgrades. One position that routinely pops up in fan discussions on social media platforms and mock drafts regarding the Giants is tight end. Late last month, Dan Salomone of Giants.com wrote about both O.J. Howard out of Alabama and Miami’s David Njoku as being potential draft candidates for New York.
It makes sense that analysts and fans would link supposed top-tier tight en prospects with the Giants. Even after signing veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall earlier this offseason, quarterback Eli Manning could still use a reliable weapon at the position. New York will have a pass-first offense with Manning, Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard on the field, so why not give opposing defenses one more target to worry about during midweek practices and film sessions?
The Giants acquiring a to-be rookie tight end in the first round of the upcoming draft may sound appealing to fans, but general manager Jerry Reese must consider all aspects of that decision before even thinking about writing a name down on a draft card. For starters, there’s no guarantee Howard or Njoku will be available when the Giants are asked to turn in their first draft selection. Reaching for a tight end in the first round, one who isn’t Howard or Njoku, would be silly for any franchise, let alone for one that made the playoffs this past January.
Reese and his staff must also do well to get the most value possible out of pick No. 23, whatever that means. As long as everybody stays healthy, Beckham, Marshall, Shepard and TE1 will all (theoretically) be on the field together during scoring situations. There’s only one ball in play, and Manning can only toss so many passes in a game and in a season. Things will have gone horribly wrong for the Giants if a tight end leads the team in catches or touchdowns at the start of Jan. 2018.
Furthermore, recent NFL history suggests there’s little value in spending a first-round pick on a tight end. Per NFL,com, Dennis Pitta, Travis Kelce, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen and Zach Ertz led the NFL in receptions at the position last year. Cameron Brate and Hunter Henry found the end zone eight times, while Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates, Delanie Walker and Rudolph scored seven touchdowns.
Of those players, Olsen is the only one picked in the first round of a draft. Gates will forever be remembered as one of the greatest undrafted offensive players in NFL history. Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints allowed Brate, who also went undrafted, to get away before he eventually found a home with the Bucs. Rob Gronkowski, who will go down as an all-time great tight end, fell to the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft until the New England Patriots took a flier on him.
The reality of the situation is that tight ends are a dime a dozen in the modern NFL. Finding a solid player at the position is far more about scouting unheralded athletes, some of whom may have only played a season or two for a major school or university, than it is about selecting the best guy available in any given round of a draft. All the 2017 Giants require from a tight end is a middle-of-the-road candidate who can score a handful of touchdowns, but who also doesn’t have to finish in the top five of any category.
The Giants need to win the first day of the upcoming draft, but a tight end likely won’t be part of the equation. Offensive tackle and running backs are two other positions that immediately come to mind as it pertains to the 23rd overall selection. New York may even draft a quarterback depending on what happens during the opening 22 picks. The Giants should and probably will draft a tight end at some point, but only after casual fans have stopped watching.