It wasn’t long ago when New York Giants faithful clamored for a wide receiver early and often in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. New York was coming off a season in which they ranked 31st in total offense and threw for 11 touchdowns. Fans dreamt of LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, or either of Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle being available for the Giants at the 11th overall pick.
But with Big Blue’s signing of wideout Kenny Golladay, and to a lesser extent John Ross, in free agency, the urgency of their need at receiver has greatly dissipated. Add in the Giants’ signing of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson last week, and New York’s two most glaring weak spots have already been addressed. Now, the Giants’ options at their 11th-overall first-round draft choice are wide open.
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That’s not to say New York has a flawless, complete roster. There are still vulnerabilities on this team and positions that could use improvement. So, let’s rank the Giants’ top three post-free-agency needs, while giving some corresponding prospects they could target at the 11th-overall draft pick.
The addition of Jackson rounded Big Blue’s secondary, giving them one of the NFL’s very best on paper. Despite losing Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and B.J. Hill should give New York a formidable defensive line. Blake Martinez should once again provide solid play at inside linebacker. The one area on the Giants’ defense that remains in question is the pass rush.
At this point, the projected starters at outside linebacker are former third-round picks Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines. Both are coming off injury-riddled seasons and have yet to prove themselves as quality players. They have enough talent to potentially stay healthy and play well in 2021, but relying on that as a plan is foolhardy.
Unfortunately for the Giants, the edge-rusher class in the 2021 NFL Draft isn’t particularly strong. There’s no prospect at the position that would represent great value at the 11th pick. If New York does go edge rusher in the first round, look out for Michigan’s Kwity Paye. The 6’4, 272 pound Paye is an athletic marvel who plays with great effort. He’s already a tremendous run defender, and is still developing as a pass rusher. He played with his hand in the dirt for the Wolverines, but he has the movement skills to transition to outside linebacker for the Giants.
The Giants appear set at offensive tackle. Last year’s first-round pick Andrew Thomas and third-round pick Matt Peart project as the starters. The returning Nate Solder should be the primary backup. Nick Gates played rather well last season in his first year at center. The guard spots are where things are uncertain for Big Blue. With the release of veteran Kevin Zeitler, the position’s depth chart currently consists of Will Hernandez, Shane Lemieux, and the newly signed Zach Fulton. None of those players inspire tremendous confidence, and a talent injection would be quite welcomed.
If New York wanted to address guard in the first round, their only realistic option would be Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. Slater played left tackle in college, but many project him as a guard in the NFL due to his relatively short arms. Despite opting out of last season because of COVID-19, Slater is a technically refined blocker with great mobility. He would be an instant starter for the Giants at either guard spot.
It’s a testament to the job general manager Dave Gettleman has already done this offseason that inside linebacker is among the Giants’ top three needs. Martinez played at an All-Pro level there last season. Second-year player Tae Crowder and the newly signed Reggie Ragland are in line to compete for the second starting spot. While both Crowder and Ragland are worthy of playing time, neither are surefire starters.
The consensus top linebacker in the draft is Penn State’s Micah Parsons. Parsons opted out of last season, but he’s long been seen as generational prospect at linebacker. The 6’3, 245-pound converted defensive end is an explosive athlete with sideline-to-sideline range and exceptional blitzing ability. He’s not yet great in coverage, but he has the agility and football IQ to excel there as well. There are some off-the-field maturity rumblings with Parsons, but he’s an elite-level prospect if those concerns get vetted.
Other possible targets: Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah