In a dubious, polarizing quarterback class, there is often a flashy prospect at a different position that gets vaulted up to the tops of draft boards, touted as a “can’t-miss, generational talent.” In 2014, that player was Jadeveon Clowney. The thunderous South Carolina edge rusher blew the hinges off not just Michigan running back Vincent Smith, but also the NFL Combine, running a 4.53 40-yard dash and cementing himself as the draft’s No. 1 player.
Last year, that prospect was another edge rusher: Myles Garrett, the Texas A&M product replete with power and pliability. Now, this coming draft cycle, if top draft analysts like Matt Miller, Mel Kiper, Jr., and Daniel Jeremiah are to be believed, the franchise-shifting, unequivocal best player on the board is Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
Although Barkley is not a perfect prospect, he is extremely well-rounded. Coupling tremendous straight-line speed — as demonstrated by his 4.4 40 time at the Combine — with violent lateral cutting ability, size (233 pounds), and a terrifying willingness to hurdle, Barkley is a nightmare in the open field and a threat to take any run the distance. With sure hands and crisp routes, Barkley is also a major asset in the passing game — similar to former Chicago Bears stud Matt Forté.
Of course, Barkley still has his weaknesses. He tends to bounce runs to the outside early and often tries to create too much in the backfield, causing him to miss holes and lose yards. This was especially troubling against Ohio State, when the Nittany Lions failed to run out the clock because Barkley’s 14 second-half carries went for a total of -3 yards. Ultimately though, Barkley is still a tremendous player and worthy of a top pick.
Although the Cleveland Browns, who pick at No. 1, seem to have their sights on USC quarterback Sam Darnold, the New York Giants at No. 2 are a solid fit. The Giants have not seen a 1000-yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012. Considering that franchise quarterback Eli Manning — now 37 — is on the last legs of his career, it would be imperative to flood the offense with dynamic playmakers to have even the slightest chance to contend now.
In theory, drafting Barkley at No. 2 is a perfect move. It adds a 21-year old phenom at a position at a position of desperate need, prolongs Eli Manning’s value, and, seeing that Barkley would be going a pick below where many big boards have him slotted, amounts to a steal on paper. In practice; however, if the Giants were to draft Barkley at No. 2 overall, it would be a foolish move.
That is not unique to Barkley, either: staying at No. 2 to draft any of the top non-quarterbacks, whether it be Barkley, NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb, or Norte Dame guard Quenton Nelson, would be a terrible decision and could set the Giants back years. While it seems like the Giants have a world of possibilities at the second overall pick, there are two options that stand far above the rest: trade down, or take a quarterback. Here is why:
1. Opportunity Costs
As confusing as it may seem, drafting either Barkley, Nelson, or Chubb at the second overall pick would not just cost the tangible, explicit cost of the second overall pick. By doing so, the Giants would also be foregoing numerous opportunities to trade back with quarterback-thirsty teams, and the bounties of riches that such trades would yield. Take, for instance, a hypothetical trade with the Denver Broncos, who may have a desire to trade up after expressing an interest in Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield at the Senior Bowl.
Going off the basic draft trade value chart provided by drafttek.com, dropping from No. 2 to No. 5 would net the Giants 900 points in draft capital — roughly the equivalent of a mid-first round pick. However, in recent years, teams trading up for quarterbacks have routinely paid above the chart’s “going rate,” and prices are only rising.
Last year, in their trade up from pick No. 27 (worth 680 points) to pick No. 10 (worth 1300 points) for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs would have theoretically had to give up 620 points of draft capital. Instead; however, they traded their 2017 3rd round pick, No. 91 overall, and their 2018 1st round pick, No. 22 overall, gifting the Buffalo Bills with a significantly greater total of 916 points. In essence, to trade up for their quarterback, the Chiefs were forced to pay 148 cents on the draft pick dollar.
Then, just over two weeks ago, the New York Jets made an even more dramatic move, trading their two 2018 second round picks (No.37 and No. 49 overall), as well as a 2019 second round pick, to move up from Pick 6 to Pick 3 with the Indianapolis Colts. On paper, that move should have cost the Jets 600 points on the chart.
However, taking the values of the two picks this year (530 points and 410 points, respectively), and estimating the 2019 pick to be median second round value (415 points), the Jets actually paid closer to 1355 points, a whopping 226% of the “going rate.”
With that considered, a team like the Broncos would not just be paying the specified 900 points to move up. Giving a conservative estimate, any team trading up with the Giants will probably pay around 1.75 times the difference in draft pick value — so, for Denver, closer to 1575 points.
A realistic draft pick equivalent would be the Broncos’ second round pick this year (No. 40) and their first round pick next year, which is likely to fall in the 10-15 range. This is a deal that the Giants simply cannot afford to pass up, as it would allow them to address multiple pressing needs at once, which could spell a quick turnaround for a team that just went 3-13.
In fact, such a trade would kill two birds with one stone, as picking at 5 the Giants would not only have a bounty in their back pockets, but also two of Barkley, Nelson, or Chubb to choose from — assuming the Browns, Broncos, and Jets all take quarterbacks. Each of the three is tremendously impactful in his own right, and would put the Giants well on their way to a fruitful rebuild.
2. Positional Depth
While trading down with the Broncos is the ideal scenario, it is far from the only possibility. The Buffalo Bills at pick No. 12 and the Arizona Cardinals at pick No. 15, and both are in severe need of a franchise quarterback. Orchestrating a trade with one of those teams is highly probable, and would also be highly profitable. After all, while these trades would take the Giants out of striking distance for a blue-chip player, there is a saving grace: depth.
Say, for instance, that the Giants favored Bradley Chubb at No. 2 as a replacement for DE Jason Pierre-Paul following his recent trade to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Giants swapped picks with the Cardinals, they would no longer have a shot a Chubb, but would still have an opportunity to draft the next-best player in a strong crop of edge rushers: Boston College product Harold Landry.
Considering that the Giants would receive a massive haul of draft picks — likely upwards of two future first rounders, considering how pricey franchise quarterbacks have become — to go along with an extremely flexible pass rusher that some, such as NDT Scouting’s Jon Ledyard, have dubbed to have “higher upside” than Chubb, the Giants would recoup double or even triple the value of picking Chubb at 2.
Meanwhile, if the Giants are dead-set on taking a running back, trading back to 12 or 15 would still afford them the opportunity to draft the close second to Barkley: LSU’s Derrius Guice. Although Guice doesn’t have Barkley’s speed or receiving ability, he runs with more vision, power, and tenacity, and has impressive subtle quickness in the backfield, making him another potential All-Pro at the position for a fraction of the price.
3. A Need At QB
While trading down and scoring a windfall of picks would certainly be enticing for the Giants, they could still stay put at the second pick and come out winners–but only if they take a quarterback. Primarily, this is because quarterback is the most important position in football by a wide margin. In the past fifteen years, just four quarterbacks have represented AFC teams in the Super Bowl.
Three of them (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger) are future Hall of Famers, while the sole outlier — Joe Flacco — won his title on the heels of an improbable postseason performance. Just goes to show just how vital a productive quarterback is to both long-term and short-term success. With two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning clearly aging and regressing, having just posted his lowest yards per attempt average since his rookie season (6.1), the Giants badly need a successor in the building, and are in prime position to nab one.
Although each of this year’s top quarterbacks is flawed in his own right, there are multiple that have serious long-term potential. Assuming that Darnold goes No. 1, the Giants would still be left with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and UCLA’s Josh Rosen to choose from.
Mayfield, my favorite of the top prospects, offers tremendous accuracy to all levels off the field, elusiveness in and out of the pocket, and a hefty arm despite his diminutive stature (6’0). Rosen, meanwhile, boasts a quick release, tremendous instincts in manipulating defenders with his eyes, and solid ball placement into closing windows. Both could turn into championship-caliber players, especially if given a chance to sit and learn behind Manning and new head coach/QB guru Pat Shurmur.
If the Giants were to pass on a quarterback, they would be taking a substantial risk. There is no guarantee that next year’s crop will offer even a single potential franchise quarterback. There is even less of a guarantee that the Giants will once again be in position to draft one.
Although the Giants have glaring holes throughout their roster, including linebacker, interior offensive line, and running back; with a new coach in Shurmur, a new left tackle in Nate Solder, and star receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. returning from injury, there is a solid chance that the Giants will be out of the top 10 in the next draft cycle. Without an heir apparent to Manning, they would be forced to trade a horde of picks to move up for one, which is always a difficult situation to manage.
Of course, if the Giants trade down this year, that risk is lessened significantly. With a wealth of assets at their disposal from either the Broncos, Bills, or Cardinals, the Giants would be able to to move back up for a future QB using that very same trade bounty, and avoid burning draft capital further along down the road. However, if they were to stay at two and take Barkley, Chubb, or Nelson, they truly would have to mortgage their future once Manning’s time is up.
After all, that is what this is all about: maximizing value, and minimizing risk. With a responsible quarterback selection at 2, the Giants would have a definitive successor to Manning, and would also save any future assets it would take to get up for a top QB. With a trade back, the Giants would have a player of similar caliber to Barkley, Nelson, or Chubb (or, as in the Denver scenario, one of the three regardless), as well as a cache of draft pick currency to either continue building their roster or move up for a QB in the future without killing picks further down the road.
By standing pat at two and taking one of the three “blue-chippers,” however, the Giants would put themselves in a major bind. Although they would get a game-changing player, they would be left with severe uncertainty at quarterback, fewer picks to continue building the rest of the roster, and a dearth of firepower for when the time comes to finally move up for a signal caller.