Still a Rebuild

I started writing a long post which only had a short message. It’s been a great season. The coaches have done a great job. But there’s only so much they can do when player after player get hurt. Next man up is great. What happens when it’s next water boy up? Was it enough that McKinney was lost for s few games due to an ATV accident during the bye. The only serious coaching mistake was putting Adoree Jackson on punt returns. I still haven’t recovered from Aug 1998 when Sehorn went down. This is “only” an MCL sprain. Wan’Dale Robinson and 3 more got hurt too. All of this doesn’t really matter because the Giants were moving along in a rebuilding year anyway. I’ll tell you what matters.

Daniel Bellinger.

Reports surfaced about 2 weeks after surgery that he has double vision. If it clears up, great. If not, his career is in jeopardy. So wish him, and the Giants, for a 100% recovery. He is a round 4 gem.

The Giants Go to 6-1

That last minute of clock was a torture chamber. At 5-1 on the verge of 6-1, we are invested in this underdog season. To possibly somehow blow that win at the end, after such incredible grit along the way, would have been too much to take. Longtime blog readers know that we subscribe to the Bill Walsh theory of close games- that you have to aim for 10+ points victory margins to minimize the variance and stupidity of the officials. The officials almost ****ed us today but the team slipped through. FANTASTIC! Superlatives don’t do this win (or this season) justice.

Saquon Barkley did not stay inbounds on TWO separate plays. I rechecked the first play at 12:21 on the highlights video, and it is very clear that you have already gotten the first down many yards ago so your job there is to cut back to keep the clock running. There are 3:30 minutes remaining, the clock goes down 35+ secs each down, your opponent only has 1 remaining timeout, and it is all about first downs AND clock. The second play, he is trying to give himself up but does not get it done there either. Terrible. Daboll admitted after the game that the Giants made it harder on themselves than it should have been. Good. I like that kind of honesty, responsibility and accountability… especially after a win. The Gmen are so well coached, but they can always get better.

There is actually a 3rd play on that same drive at 12:15 on the video where Barkley can do better to stay inbounds. I am not as tough on this one, but when looked at with all 3, it is clearly not acceptable. His job is to get the first down and then stay inbounds.

It’s like Groundhog Day every Sunday afternoon. The Giants are underdogs. They get outplayed during chunks of the game. They bend, but don’t break. They get some key stops or good fortune. Justin Tucker misses a FG. And then in the 4th quarter they turn it on and win games by the hair of their chinny chin chin.

It is time to talk about Daniel Jones. This is now his 5th consecutive terrific game. He is doing it with Moe Larry and Curly out there blocking and catching balls for him. Next man up? It’s more like next waterboy up. Neal, Bredeson, Bellinger and Robinson all got hurt. Neal may have an MCL, but early word from Jordan Raanan is that both his and Bredeson’s injuries are not expected to be serious. Bellinger could be the most significant story. Sorry Giants fans, but I spoke with an opthalmologist Giants fan after the game and he said that 2 of the 3 outcomes for Bellinger could be career-ending. I won’t go into all of the speculation because obviously those comments come from a television a thousand miles away, but the point is that a lot is at risk. Hopefully he is ok.

Back to Jones, yes, he lost his shifty rookie WR Robinson. He lost Bellinger. (We needed a mainframe computer to keep track of all the dropped passes.) He had backup backups blocking for him and he put the team on his shoulders. He is doing it every week. Maybe it is the coaching, I am not sure what, but he seems to have a better clock in his head re the pocket pressure, because he is actually beginning to step up in the pocket when he should. He is making so many good passes and going through progressions very well. He is making reads on his runs brilliantly at times. Simply stated, he is leading this team and taking care of the ball. The boneheaded plays are gone. They have been replaced by composure and order. The trend is fantastic. Both he and the coaching staff deserve tremendous credit. If the trajectory continues, he will earn himself a long term contract.

Back to the game. On the final drive, when the Jaguars have 38 men in the box (okay, I exaggerated, it was actually only 10) for an inside clock killing run by the Gmen, Jones fakes the handoff (12:36 on the video), goes right, and then runs a naked bootleg to the left side and there is no one there. Except Jones. 16 yards later he has converted a 2nd and 8 and makes sure to stay inbounds. This was the playcall I was yelling for near the end of the ATL NE Super Bowl (the 28-3 game) where Matty Ryan needed to do this for a wide open clock killing dagger against the cheaters (er I mean patsies). The Jones run should seal the win, except for the insanity that would follow. What gets me so excited is that we have the Offensive Coordinator who has the wherewithal to make this call. Just fantastic.

A reminder about media hype. Please by all means celebrate the resurgence of this franchise. The coaching is what is repeatable and that has me the most upbeat. The players will get upgraded and the young ones who are playing will get better with experience too. As far as this season is concerned, there are too many breaks that have broken the Giants way that we can get too enamored about the outlook. Missed FG by Tennessee. Special teams mishap vs GB but the ball finds its way out of bounds before any of 3 GB players can claim it. Lamar Jackson turnovers in Q4. Etienne fumbling into the end zone. Stopping the Jags on the final play at the half yard line. Winning teams win these games. This is great on-the-job training. The law of averages says this streak of good fortune cannot last forever. If just a few things go wrong the entire season, the Giants could easily be a 3-4 or 4-3 team, and that would not take a single thing away from where they are trending.

Wonder: “If you would have told me that the Giants and Jets would be a combined 11-3, I would have asked you what mental hospital you are receiving treatment at.” We will finish with Bill Parcells- you are what your record says you are. The Giants are 6-1. Enjoy it. I certainly am.

Recap of 2022 NFL Draft

We go to our Draft analyst Wonder for his brutally honest evaluation of how teams did. This being a Giants blog, let’s discuss the Gmen first. No matter what the Giants did in Day 2 and Day 3, Day 1 was so stupendous that that alone gave them a fantastic draft. Unfortunately, he did not like what they did in Day 2 and Day 3, so by not adding to the monstrous Day 1, they ended up with a terrific draft but it was not as good as it could have been.

Thibodeaux and Neal were so incredible. The Giants essentially got the best Tackle and arguably the best EDGE pass rusher (who is also going to be excellent in sealing the EDGE). Neal has the potential to be an All-Pro Tackle for year after year after year. Jacksonville needed to take Ekwonu to protect Lawrence. Detroit, in his opinion, should have taken Thibodeaux (or Walker if the Jaguars did the right thing). These things make it harder for the Giants to get both Neal and Thibodeaux. Do they take Neal and then what does Carolina do at 1.06- do they take Cross? Not clear. It creates risk Thibodeaux is not there at 1.07. We do not have to care. The point is that the Giants made out crazy good.

Wonder was disappointed in Day 2 and Day 3. We added italics to the previous post to add comments on Ezeudu and Flott. Summarized, he thought better players and better opportunities were there for them. R2 they got a good WR in Robinson, but was that helping a team with Toney? In Round 3 it was weaker, as Dean was still there and the injury is a pectoral. This is not an ACL. This is not a deal breaker. Ruckert (among others) was there too, but not taken. Ezeudu is ok but not much that gets him excited. Flott is given the kabash, called “jag” (aka just a guy). It may be anecdotal, and I hope I am wrong, but when Wonder calls a later round selection a jag, I cannot recall that player developing into a noteworthy contributor. Their Round 4-6 picks had enough bites of the apple but there was nothing from there to get overly excited about. “Beavers has good value as long as he’s not asked to cover downfield. Bellinger is ok. The rest are reaches/projects. Poor use of later rounds.”

Wonder is objective. He is not the final say on any player. He gets it wrong some of the time. “There are things I do not know that these teams are afforded… interviews and an assessment of desire are things I lack on many players. What does the player do with his time, on the field and off the field. Does he hit the weight room with zeal and abandon? How does he prepare as a professional? How does he respond to coaching? Do the coaches put him in a position to succeed? Much of my assessment is what I see on film. The rest is up to the player and the situation. But this is why I am looking for talent and potential (in later rounds) so that if the rest of the pieces come together, you have something.” It is worth pointing out that in the last few years, there really was only one later round Giants draft prospect that Wonder was really excited about on the day he was picked…

Given the Giants WR has nearly 2000 yds receiving and 13 TDs despite injuries, it is a big hit in Round 5. What does this mean? Merely that all else equal, we’d rather see a selection excite our Draft analyst than otherwise.

So who did well for the entire Draft, soup to nuts, Day 1, 2 and 3 together? The answer might shock you.

The NY Jets.

“As strange and unusual as it is for me to say this, my team, the lovable loser NY Jets, had the #1 Draft in the NFL this year,” admits Wonder. “Top to bottom they did great. They got the best CB (Gardner). They got one of the best WRs (preferred London, who was taken ahead of them, but Wilson will be excellent). They traded back into Round 1 at 1.26 to get Jermaine Johnson, which was sensational. I love his motor and I had him the 6th ranked player in the entire draft, ahead of Hutchinson. They got Breece Hall, the best RB in the draft. They got Ruckert, who I like at TE. This was a better fit for the Giants than the Jets because of what the Jets did in the offseason, but he is still a solid prospect who can easily develop into a solid pro. They got Mitchell at Tackle, who will back up Fant and Becton and who I believe can be a starter in time. And they got Clemons, who is raw but has all the physical potential to develop into a starting EDGE.” Essentially, there was not a single throwaway pick. Every player taken has an opportunity to be a starter down the road; some obviously will be starting sooner, but the entire class is impressive.

Who had the second best Draft? “The Eagles,” says Wonder. “Davis is a monster. They traded away the 1.18 for AJ Brown, who is a proven premier Wide Receiver. Plus he is 24 years old and has been re-signed. In Round 2, they took Jurgens at Center, who is a great fit for them because he can play Guard this year and then move over to Center when Kelce retires. And they won the Nakobe Dean lottery.” Pound for pound, that is a great draft.

Another team who did very very well is Baltimore. “… but in a different type of way,” explains Wonder. “Their draft is more developmental. So this is a great draft for the future, not for today.”

Wonder also liked the Indianapolis and KC drafts.

Who did the worst? “That would be New England,” explained Wonder. “I think Belichick has lost his mind. First off, even the Rams head coach laughed out loud about their Round 1 pick, whom McVay was looking at with the 104th pick. And it went downhill from there. Every player they took was a round too high, a reach for where they went, so they squandered value. Could the players they took be something? Of course. But it was a terrible cumulative effort.”

Summary: Great Draft for the Giants. Less than we wanted in Day 2-3, but Neal and Thibodeaux can be huge pieces to a resurgence, and players like Robinson and maybe Ezeudu and Beavers may be able to pitch in down the road. The Jets and Eagles did great.

Wonder 2022 Mini Draft Board

At the UltimateNYG Church of Football Drafting, it is QB, Protect QB, and Rush the QB. So philosophically, we want to draft QB, Tackle, and Edge when given the special real estate of 1.05 and 1.07. Despite what this Draft Board has for ranking, it does not matter that there are CBs, Safeties or WRs ranked that high. I do not want to draft those positions. Not at 1.05 or 1.07. If given the choice of taking players who are not QB, T or Edge, I want to TRADE DOWN instead. My ideal draft is Ekwonu or Neal and trading down the other pick. And then if I am picking in the middle of R1, if I can then get Center Tyler Linderbaum, it is a slam dunk. My second best draft is 1 Tackle and 1 Edge. Those are 2 approved positions. Every other position- hard pass, trade down. They lack the positional value.

For clarification, to understand the rankings, they are based on the player, not the position. In 2018, we had Saquon Barkley as the #1 player on the Board. But in a league where championships are not won by running backs anymore, you do not take RB early in the draft. The Giants paid dearly for this mistake, one that we pointed out literally 5 months before he was selected. Taking CB, S, or WR is not as egregious as taking a RB this high, but it is still a waste of value. We argue that there is a significant difference in taking Gardner at ~1.10 versus taking him at 1.05.

Five spots in the draft may not seem like a lot, but go tell that to a team picking in the low teens pining for an elite pass rusher or Tackle this year. Two years ago, when the Giants took Thomas at 1.04, the UltimateNYG crew was silent. Why? We got a terrific prospect and a terrific position of need at Tackle. Yet the Giants squandered a ton of value because there were 3 more elite Tackles in the set of 4 (1.13 Wirfs, 1.11 Becton, and 1.10 Wills), making taking Tackle at 1.04 unnecessary. Thinking of this as a limit from elementary supply & demand, if there are 32 elite tackles in the draft, you could skip taking a Tackle because there will still be one remaining 1 or 2 rounds later. Value is everything in the Draft. The draft is a series of above average decisions over many years, and if you keep routinely squandering value, you will find yourself with … the worst record in the NFL over the past 5 years.

People think Draft evaluations are ultimately decided by how the player did in the Pros. That is true, but it’s far more nuanced than that…

The team and the system that takes you has as much to do with how the player turns out.

The team that takes you has as much to do with the player’s career trajectory as anything. We are dating ourselves, but how many people reading this have heard of Al Toon? If you have not, do yourself a favor and read up on his career. Toon went 1.10 in the 1985 Draft. Another WR was second off the board at 1.16. His name was Jerry Rice. If Rice went off first to the NY Jets and Toon went second to the 49ers, you just have no idea what that would have looked like. Toon, even on the Jets, became an All Pro. Montana throwing to Toon changes everything. Toon racked up ~9 concussions. It is impossible to comprehend the difference between the Jets + O’Brien vs SF + Montana/Young. Toon was picked by the Jets and that was his career. Situation matters. Toon was the fantastic dominant receiver you never heard of because of situation. We see players and we make verdicts on selections, but we mostly ignore the fit. Do not ignore the fit.

We have broken this Board down into 4 Sections.
Top 15
Injured Players
16-25 (in no order)
Miscellaneous

Section 5 will put this all together for the Giants in Round 1 and Round 2 in the next blog post.

SECTION 1: TOP 15

  1. DE Travon Walker (pictured). You cannot teach size and speed. He just has too much upside. Georgia dropped him back, zoned him, did all kinds of things with him, but I just have him as a simple 4-3 DE and LET HIM LOOSE! Seals the edge, stud at doing that. His potential? The sky is the limit. Everything is going for him. Always delivers the effort. If put on the right team with the right fit, will be Defensive rookie of the year. (Put him on ATL, they will double and he’ll disappear as a rookie.) Comp: Bigger Deacon Jones.
  2. T Ikem Ekwonu. Has the most upside of the Tackles. Athleticism. Better at the second level. More powerful in run blocking than Charles Cross. The dropoff to Cross is not big, but there is dropoff. Ekwonu is more physical, has some mauler. Comp: Younger healthier Tyron Smith.
  3. T Evan Neal. Just a massive beast. He can move for his size. It’s just impossible to get around him. I can’t see him failing. Good feet. Massive shadow. You pair him with a Guard, run behind him on 4th & 1, and you are moving the sticks. Comp: Trent Williams.
  4. DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. Immense talent. I want to see more care, more intensity, more motivation. He may have slowed it down to take care of himself so that he did not get hurt pre-draft. Some ask that he needs a consistent motor, and that is why they question this intangible. Interview him. Check out what his high school coach said. Get that read. If clear, has huge ceiling. Gets off the snap great. 4-3 DE, not a 3-4. I do not want him playing 5 technique 3-4. I think Wink Martindale can play either a 4-3 or 3-4, so make it fit if you take him. If he plays with all out abandon, he’ll be terrific and can be scary good. Upside Comp: Myles Garrett. Downside Comp: Jadeveon Clowney.
  5. CB Ahmad Gardner. I love him. If I somehow could get Neal or Ekwonu at 1.05 and trade down just a few spots to like 1.11 and get Gardner or Johnson, I am great. He has the body to gain some weight. Needs just a little more strength. Has the length. Has strong hands, tough to get off the line in press. Plays physical. But he will need to be careful early (as a rookie) against Jamarr Chase or DK Metcalf, because without more strength, if those guys beat him at the line they’ll beat him for a TD. Has talent, blue chip. People are having this debate between him and Stingley… ridiculous. It is so clearly Gardner. Note for Giants fans, this is not who we want at 1.05 or 1.07. Just not enough positional value for a CB this early. He is not a shutdown CB. Close to a shutdown CB, but those are the zebras, not the horses. Think horses. Do not take at 1.05 overall just because we have him as the 5th ranked player in the draft. Comp: a little stronger, slightly shorter version if we cross Cromartie and Ramsey.
  6. EDGE Jermaine Johnson. In a weird way, I like him more than Aidan Hutchinson because I know what I am going to get. Speed. Power. Length. Good athlete. Plays to the whistle. If you can trade down to 1.10-1.12 and take him there, great value. Almost for sure a very good professional football player. He does not have the ceiling of Walker or Thib. But his floor is higher than Thib. Comp: a taller bigger version of Dexter Manley.
  7. EDGE Aidan Hutchinson. With the success of the Watt brothers and the Bosa brothers, it affects Hutchinson’s stock price. But I do not view him as good as those guys. He is not a LBer. He is not a DE like JJ Watt or Bosa, so more of a tweener. 3-4 OLB. Can’t seal the EDGE. Not crazy enough to take on the big Tackles. Can be plenty good but not for me at the top of the Draft. I am not denying his worth. I still have him as the 7th best player in the draft. Just not the top. Comp: Poor man’s Kevin Greene.
  8. S Kyle Hamilton. Great at what he does, but he is a Safety. Like Gardner, you cannot be taking these players at the top of the Draft because their positional value is not there. We had RB Saquon Barkley as the best player on the Board, but that did not mean we wanted to take him at 1.02 overall. RB at 1.02 is a waste, and CB or S at 1.05 (or 1.07) is a waste too. Hamilton is great at what he does, but he is a Safety. Not fast, cannot play with the range of an Ed Reed or Earl Thomas. He has a SS body with a FS mindset. Has good ball instincts so he can see the field. Will be a very good football player. But how much is that worth? He is big and strong. Can drop down in the box, can move between LB and Safety. Hits. Tackles. VG value. Doesn’t cover and rush the passer for value there. Understand, like Gardner, he will be a terrific pro, but the Draft is about value and it is hard to use a super high pick on this player. Comp: Isaiah Simmons.
  9. WR Drake London. Tall. Strong. Fast. Catches the ball. What more could you ask for?! These are the kinds of guys I want as WR in Round 1. Aaron Rodgers makes this guy All-Pro. I want him for the Jets at 1.10* because he will give Wilson a big target who can go up for the ball and be an excellent red zone target. Comp: A better faster version of Mike Evans if in the right system.
  10. T Charles Cross. There is a dropoff from Neal or Ekwonu to Cross. He is fairly similar to Ekwonu except not as big or quick. But he is nonetheless still really good. Not as wide as Neal. Will be a good solid NFL Franchise Left Tackle. Very high floor. You will not go wrong with him at 1.12-1.14. Comp: decent ceiling to a Tyron Smith.
  11. DT/NT Jordan Davis. He loses value in a 4-3. I want to see him as a NT in a 3-4. His value is to take up space in the middle, require 2 blockers to take him on. Can be an All Pro NT with the right system and team. Comp: a faster Ndamukong Suh.
  12. LB Nakobe Dean. All over the field. Good football player. Will be a little of everything. Thumbs up. Comp: Poor man’s Micah Parsons.
  13. WR Garrett Wilson. Speedster. Runs good routes. Can he adapt to the NFL? Can he last? Can he get off press coverages? How well he answers those questions is how well he does in the NFL. At 1.13, obviously I like him, because he is very talented. Comp: bigger version of DeVonta Smith.
  14. ILB Devin Lloyd. Not as good as Dean, but like Dean, he does everything. Solid ILB. Quick. Strong. He gets this grade because he will be a 3 down LBer, which is what you need to be in today’s NFL to get taken in Round 1. Comp: a lesser version of Derrick Brooks IF he plays ILB rather than OLB.
  15. C Tyler Linderbaum. Who did we like last year as our fallback pick at the end of Round 1 or early Round 2? His name was Creed Humphrey. Regular readers of the UltimateNYG blog will know why we liked Humphrey … and why we like Linderbaum. What they have in common is that they were both wrestlers in high school. This ups their value because they understand leverage and hand placement. Shocking (not!) that the Chiefs took him at 2.63 and they have the leader of their OL in one rookie season. Linderbaum is a little undersized for me, smaller than Humphrey. He can have a little too much finesse; otherwise he would be worth more and be rated a little higher. Linderbaum is more athletic, smoother. This guy’s value is going to be huge to a zone blocking scheme. He will be tremendous as a pulling lineman in the run game because he’ll be able to pick up defenders in space. His only problem is- how does he handle the Jordan Davis NT one on one? He does not have the strength of a Nick Mangold to do that. So he will need help in that matchup, and that decreases his value a little bit. If he gains some mass, he may lose some of that speed and athleticism. Still, if the Giants were able to get Ekwonu or Neal at 1.05 (or 1.07, depending on what QBs go early), they could trade down to the 1.14-1.18 area and get Linderbaum. OMG, salivating at what that OL would look like. Comp: Tom Nalen (Denver’s smallish 286 lb great Center from 1995 to 2007).

SECTION 2: INJURED PLAYERS

The second section of this 2022 Draft Review is a Memorial to 3 players who would otherwise be elite top prospects, but fell victim to injury in college. I just do not know how to evaluate these players without a detailed medical evaluation. Not all ACL injuries are the same. And yet, if you are taking a player who tore his ACL in college, he has one less bite of the apple. These are absolute beasts, studs, if not hurt. I absolutely love Ojabo but feel terrible for him because of him getting hurt. Yet, it must change the evaluation and require medical/risk on where to take these guys. These guys will go in Round 1 but I have no idea where they should go because the medical report needs to detail the impact of the injury/risk to their career.
WR Jameson Williams
CB Derek Stingley
EDGE David Ojabo

SECTION 3: PLAYERS RANKED 16-25

Listed alphabetically
CB Andrew Booth
WR Treylon Burks
WR Jahan Dotson
S Daxton Hill
EDGE George Karlaftis
(overdrafting risk on this player)
CB Trent McDuffie
WR Chris Olave
G Trevor Penning
(yes, move him to Guard, barely top 25)
QB Malik Willis
DL Devonte Wyatt

SECTION 4: MISCELLANEOUS

Okay, it is time to talk Quarterback. There is not a single QB in this year’s draft that is worthy of a Round 1 ranking. Yes, I have QB Malik Willis in the 16-25 grouping, but that is because of some potential. So let’s explain. He is a freak, physically strong. He can throw the ball, and run the ball. He has a strong arm. But he is not as evasive as Lamar Jackson, so stop thinking like that. He needs to go to a team where he can sit for 2 years and learn. In today’s NFL, because of rookie contracts, the value is in getting them developed as soon as technologically practicable. So they are going to rush this guy onto the field, and that is a mistake. Because I will be burning 2 years of the cheap rookie deal, that is why his draft value drops, and that is why I do not like him too high. Yet, if is he is taken behind an Aaron Rodgers in GB or a Matt Ryan in IND, I know he will carry the clipboard and will take the time to develop properly for the pro game. Sit. Learn. Patience. Great coaching needed. Upside COMP: Steve McNair. Downside comp: Bust.

These other QBs? QB Kenny Pickett? No. QB Matt Corral? No.

Early Round 2 Guards for the Giants… G Kenyon Green or G Zion Johnson. I prefer Green to Johnson, but very close in similarity. Kenyon Green is going to be a 10 year plug and play Guard. Stick him in and let him go. Will do a good job for the Gmen and if you get a chance to take him at 2.36, run to get your pick in, because that is good value. Comp: for Giants fans, these guys are lesser versions of (yes, Center) Shaun O’Hara.

Do you have a particular player we did not discuss which you would like Wonder to evaluate? Let us know. If the player is mocked in Round 1 but we did not mention him in this post, it probably means that Wonder likes him less than consensus/where he will be selected.