The New York Giants went 3-13 in 2017, the team’s worst record since the 16-game regular season was adopted in 1978. When Dave Gettleman was installed as general manager on Dec. 29, he outlined the three most important factors for winning football.
“You got to run the ball. You got to stop the run. You got to pressure the passer,” Gettleman said.
Running the ball has been an issue with the Giants for at least the past two seasons. In 2016, the team averaged 88.2 yards per game with a Giants running back having a 100-yard rushing game once. Last season wasn’t much better. The Giants averaged 96.8 yards per game with two 100-yard rushing games.
The Giants used their first two picks of the 2018 NFL Draft to address the running game.
Saquon Barkley, widely regarded as the draft’s best player regardless of possession, was selected with the No. 2 overall pick. Despite speculation to the contrary, the Giants never seriously considered trading that pick. Gettleman issued a mandate not to take calls for it.
Once Barkley was available, the Giants draft room exploded with high fives.
The team used their second round pick (No. 34 overall) to select Will Hernandez, a large, aggressive offensive lineman who fits the mold of what Gettleman refers to as a “hog mollie”. Barkley will behind a run that includes Hernandez and free agent acquisitions Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh.
“A lot better. We’re all saying that with a smile,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think when you bring in a guy that can block, certainly those are two pieces to the equation.”
The Giants also addressed their defense. They added linebacker Lorenzo Carter (No. 66 overall) and defensive lineman B.J. Hill (No. 69 overall) in the third round. Both players were considered second-round talent.
The Giants considered trading up to get Carter but he was available at the 66th pick. He is an edge rusher that is expected to compete with Avery Moss and Romeo Okwara for playing time as backups and will see time on special teams. Hill provides depth to the defensive line, joining Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Robert Thomas. He can be used as either a shoot-the-gap defensive end or a nose tackle in defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s base 3-4 defense.
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Gettleman raved about Lauletta’s size and mobility while downplaying the general consensus that he lacks the arm strength to succeed at the NFL level. Lauletta and Davis Webb, a 2017 third round selection, will compete for the opportunity to be Eli Manning’s backup and, perhaps, successor.
The Giants insist that Lauletta’s selection is not an indictment on either Manning or Webb.
“Picking Kyle has less to do about Eli and Davis and more to do about Kyle,” Shurmur said. “We liked the player and we wanted to add him to our team and then just let them compete.”
The Giants did put both of their quarterbacks on notice with Lauletta’s selection. Manning needs to play well in 2018 to justify the team bringing him back for 2019. Webb and Lauletta are pretty much in the same position despite Webb getting the new playbook just a few weeks ago. If either Webb or Lauletta develop into a quality NFL franchise quarterback, that’s good. If they both develop, that’s even better.
The Giants are better now than they were when the regular season ended on New Years’ Eve. They still have holes to fill, mainly a wide receiver, another offensive tackle, and some cornerbacks.
“Rome isn’t built in a day,” Gettleman said.
All in all, Gettleman was pleased with his first Giants draft.
“Has any GM ever sat in this presser and said we just drafted crap? No. I’m thrilled,” Gettleman said. “I felt like we did really well. Again, you’re talking about a first-rounder in the second round, two second-rounders you draft in the third round, we had Kyle where we had him rated and we had (fifth-round, 139th overall defensive tackle) R.J. (McIntosh) where we had him rated. I’m thrilled with this draft. We got big butts, we got power, we got speed. Sorry if that was inappropriate. And we got a quarterback that we really liked, so I’m not angry.”