A strong draft class could elevate the New York Giants to new heights under second-year head coach Joe Judge. The G-Men fought hard for their new coach last season, nearly punching a ticket to the playoffs despite injuries to Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones. Judge’s team could capture a division title in the weak NFC East with some help from the class of 2021.
New York and general manager David Gettleman got down to business quickly this offseason. They signed star defensive tackle Leonard Williams to a three-year extension and reached deals with free agents Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson. Those additions don’t preclude New York from adding more cornerbacks and receivers in the draft, but they solidify an assembling roster.
Most of New York’s 2021 season comes down to how Barkley and Jones perform. The two former top-six picks are the cornerstones of a young but inconsistent offense. The team’s defense held opponents below 21 points nine times last season, but the offense only scored more than 21 points five times. The Giants have a reliable defense, but the offense isn’t at a playoff level yet.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed spots over several simulations. I didn’t include any trades and added an “ideal pick” after every selection for those optimistic fans. You know who I’m talking about; the fans that mock their team all of the best players, even at unrealistic positions.
Round 1 (No. 11): DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama
The Giants have a nearly endless supply of possibilities at 11. Ideally, Rashawn Slater falls past Carolina at eight and reaches New York. The Northwestern product is a plug-and-play blue-chip prospect with elite positional versatility. However, it’s unrealistic to bank on Slater getting past multiple tackle-needy teams.
Other elite prospects that could remain on the board at 11 include Christian Darrisaw, Jaycee Horn, Micah Parsons, Patrick Surtain II, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and the top edge rushers. Upgrades at corner and recent assets poured into the offensive line make most of those selections unlikely.
Judge’s team could also target some extra defensive firepower. Unfortunately, outside of Miami’s Jaelan Phillips, who has significant medical concerns, there isn’t an edge rusher in this class worth a top 15 pick. The Giants could trade back several spots and still land one of this year’s best sack artists, but I didn’t include trades in this article.
Last year, Smith turned in arguably the best collegiate season by a wide receiver in history. While he doesn’t have a conventional build, Smith thrived against elite SEC defensive backs. He has two years of high-level production under his belt and could provide Jones with a go-to weapon. Unlike Golladay, who relies on contested catches, Smith always creates separation with his release and route running.
New York already has numerous productive receivers, including Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. However, the Giants could save a lot of money by exercising an out in Shepard’s contract after the 2021 season. The 28-year-old only has one season with over 750 receiving yards in his career.
Ideal pick: Rashawn Slater, OT Northwestern
Round 2 (No. 42): Landon Dickerson, IOL Alabama
Two names stood out at 42. Alabama’s Landon Dickerson and Miami’s Gregory Rousseau both made it into the second-round. Nick Gates started at center for New York last season, and the former undrafted free agent had a below-average season. Dickerson played center and guard in college, meaning he could replace Gates or anyone in New York’s volatile left guard position.
Unfortunately, Dickerson has a significant injury history. Meanwhile, Rousseau underwhelmed at his pro day and only has one season of relevant tape. He can line up outside but also showed promise rushing from the interior. At 266 lbs., the former Hurricane needs to add more weight to maximize his impact up front.
Ultimately, New York takes Dickerson here because of how much the offensive line continues struggling. We’ve reached a point where the Giants have to bite the bullet and find a way to solidify a rotation along the line. Good pass protection and run blocking will create more opportunities for Barkley and Jones during this crucial point in their careers.
The Giants could also take a linebacker here if they aren’t comfortable with Dickerson’s injury history. Nick Bolton, Baron Browning, Zaven Collins, or Jamin Davis could slip down the board to 42.
Ideal pick: Jayson Oweh, EDGE Penn St.
Round 3 (No. 76): Payton Turner, EDGE Houston
It’s tempting to give New York tight end Brevin Jordan or linebacker Pete Werner here, but it’s time to address the edge situation. At the Senior Bowl, Turner’s measurements came out to 6-5, 270 lbs. with 35-inch arms. I shouldn’t have to emphasize how impressive and important those numbers are.
Turner possesses the body of a 4-3 defensive end, but he’s capable of contributing from various launch points as a 3-4 end. Turner’s versatility makes him an asset for a Giants team looking to regain their dominance from over a decade ago. While Turner should see plenty of snaps as a rookie, don’t expect him to become a premier rusher immediately. The Houston product is very rough around the edges, but his upside is immense.
Ideal pick: Turner
Round 4 (No. 116): Dylan Moses, LB Alabama
At 116, Moses is the last undrafted linebacker that could make an immediate impact during his rookie season. While some might view Moses falling this far as impossible, he didn’t go until after the 100th pick in the PFF simulator and was still unclaimed in the TDN mock draft machine.
Moses never fully capitalized on his potential at Alabama. The former five-star recruit amassed 192 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks during his three playing seasons with the Crimson Tide. The athletically gifted linebacker struggles with deconstructing blocks and reading offensive plays. Moses bites on eye candy too often, but his athletic traits make him a desirable mid-round selection.
Moses should see playing time as a rookie, but he needs time to continue learning the game. The Giants can use him in sub-packages before evaluating his growth heading into next offseason.
Ideal pick: Pete Werner, LB Ohio St.
Round 6 (No. 196): Shakur Brown, CB Michigan St.
New York has two reliable outside corners and several options in the slot between Julian Love and Xavier McKinney. Brown could add his name to the rotation or see playing time specifically as a sub-package defender. The former Spartan produced seven interceptions and nine passes defended during his three collegiate seasons.
Brown lacks speed. He only ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at his pro day, and his other measurables hardly cover for that crucial shortcoming. However, it’s worth taking a shot on the 5-10 corner in the sixth-round. Brown is a good man-to-man corner that thrives when allowed to press opponents.
Ideal pick: Tedarrell Slaton, IDL Florida
Round 6 (No. 201): Malcolm Koonce, EDGE Buffalo
The Giants close out their 2021 draft class with a promising in-state prospect. Koonce tallied 17.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over his final 17 games with the Bulls. He’s a little undersized at 6-2, 249 lbs., but that fits the mold of a 3-4 outside linebacker. Luckily, Koonce has over 33-inch arms, which will play a crucial role in battles against NFL-caliber linemen.
Koonce doesn’t have much experience in coverage and still needs to develop an arsenal of pass rushing moves and counters. However, he’s already a solid situational pass rusher that could make some noise as a rookie and develop into a starter within three years.
Ideal pick: Jonathon Cooper, EDGE Ohio St.