The 2018 NFL Draft is only a week away and it has the makings of an exciting event, as college players will realize their dreams of playing professional football. Meanwhile, executives will make decisions that will define their own careers and influence the next five to 10 years of their own respective franchises.
Some teams have more at stake than others, and the team with the most interesting decisions to make is the New York Giants, who own the second overall pick.
There are several avenues down which the Giants could go with the second pick and the most obvious one is to select a quarterback. The Cleveland Browns appear poised to anoint their franchise quarterback with the No. 1 pick and the Giants will have the opportunity to choose between three of the top four quarterbacks—Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield—in the draft at No. 2.
Despite the Giants’ public allegiance to Eli Manning this offseason, their need for a quarterback remains quite apparent. Even at his peak, Manning was not considered one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. Now, Manning is entering the twilight of his career at age 37; it is uncertain how long he will continue to play at a serviceable level.
Last season, the Giants’ offense was abysmal. The receivers were injured and the offensive line was porous, but Manning performed poorly and deserves to shoulder some blame. Manning’s performance was so bad that Coach Ben McAdoo benched him in favor of unheralded veteran journeyman Geno Smith. Although McAdoo was a mediocre coach criticized for questionable decision making, he likely would not have benched Manning if he believed Manning truly presented the best chance to win.
As a result, the Giants should select either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen to groom behind Manning for the last year of his contract, before handing over the franchise to the new quarterback. Aside from the Browns, teams are rarely presented with a top two pick and the opportunity to select a premier quarterback prospect.
The Giants should make the most of this opportunity and draft a quarterback, which would render their public endorsement of Manning one of the best draft smokescreens in recent memory.
Yet, if the Giants are sincere about building their offense around Manning, they can draft Saquon Barkley or even trade down for a lower pick and then draft him. Barkley is heralded as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He would serve as a dynamic runner, adding balance to the Giants’ offense and reducing pressure on Manning.
Manning would likely elevate his play if given an effective running back, which the Giants have lacked since Ahmad Bradshaw left in free agency after the 2012 season.
The 2017 New Orleans Saints serve as a template for the Giants, demonstrating how a running back can help an aging quarterback. After selecting Alvin Kamara last year, the Saints had more balance to their offense.
Thus, Drew Brees threw for 874 fewer yards and 14 fewer touchdowns last season compared to 2016. Yet, the Saints improved from 7-9 to 11-5 over the same period. If the Giants select Barkley, they will do so with the intention of maximizing their championship window while Manning is the quarterback.
In the event the Browns select Barkley and the Giants do not want a quarterback, the Giants should explore the market to trade down. The Jets, Browns and Broncos pick third, fourth and fifth, respectively, and each of these teams has some interest in moving up to draft a quarterback.
The Giants may be able to persuade one of these teams to move up for a quarterback, which would allow the Giants to acquire extra draft capital and then draft either Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson. Chubb could form a formidable defensive line with Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon while also filling the hole that opened up after the trade of Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Nelson could form a much-improved line along with newly acquired offensive lineman Nate Solder.
While deliberating what to do with the No. 2 pick, the Giants must also consider how to approach the future with talented but mercurial receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants have expressed frustration with some of Beckham’s antics both on and off the field.
The team went as far as to shop Beckham on the trade market, with an asking price beginning at two first round picks. A trade seems unlikely because of the high asking price. However, if Barkley is available, the Giants could also trade Beckham to the Browns for the No. 4 pick, which is likely more valuable than two first round picks from another team.
Barkley has the skill to replace Beckham’s playmaking, and Barkley would earn significantly less money on a rookie contract than Beckham would on a massive extension. For these same reasons, the trade may not make sense from the Browns’ perspective, but if history has shown us anything, it is do not underestimate the Browns on draft day.
Jeffrey Swanson is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. UNDER REVIEW appears every other Friday.