While most of the first-round attention at the NFL Draft was hogged by the Arizona Cardinals’ selection of Kyler Murray, there was a fair amount of drama about what happened five picks later when the New York Giants stepped to plate.
The Giants have won only eight games over the last two seasons. That’s put them squarely into Cleveland Browns territory, although the argument can be made the Browns are now headed north in the standings.
There is another fundamental difference between the teams. While the Browns have their quarterback of the present and future in the estimable Baker Mayfield, the Giants are still in the Paleozoic era with aging Eli Manning.
So one year after passing on Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, the Giants were determined to find the “next guy” last week.
A few weeks ago, word came the Giants were enamored with Duke’s Daniel Jones, a strapping lad who compiled nice numbers last season despite an early injury and playing with AAF talent.
What wasn’t quite clear was how many teams in need of quarterbacks, like Miami, Washington, Cincinnati and maybe even New England and San Diego, felt the same way.
With the sixth and 17th selections in the first round, the Giants had to make a strategic decision. Would they try to acquire Rosen from the Cardinals and use their picks in another way. Would they pass on the defense studs available and use the sixth pick on Jones? Or would they risk Jones would be available at 17 take him there.
The Giants decided to take Jones with the sixth pick and the ground beneath them immediately cratered.
“That’s why I always say, I’m on a tightrope,’’ Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said. “I’ve got to think short term, and I’ve got to think long term. That’s the box I’m in. That’s the position I’m in. Coaches have to win now, and I ask myself that question, am I giving Pat (Shurmur, the Giants coach) and the guys enough players to win with?”
The pundits and Giants fans immediately accused Gettleman of panicking, claiming there was no evidence anyone behind them in the draft was more interested in Jones than Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, taken with the 15th pick by the Redskins.
Many Giants fans booed the pick at the team’s draft party. When asked about that, Gettleman said he would tell them that “In time, you’ll be very pleased.”
The conclusion: The Giants wasted the chance to take a dominant defender such as defensive end Josh Allen, nose tackle Ed Oliver or linebacker Devin Bush to take a guy they could have locked up 11 picks later.
The accusations did not make Gettleman happy. Normally cranky and willingly argumentative under the best of circumstances, he fired back over the weekend by making it clear he did the right thing.
“I can say this to you guys right now. When we got in here Thursday night, the question was posed, ‘Why didn’t you wait until 17?'” Gettleman said. “Well, I know for a fact there were two teams that would have taken him in front of 17. I know that for a fact.
“So it’s tough. It really is. It wasn’t easy for me to pass up Josh Allen (who was taken at No. 7 by Jacksonville). For me, my background, that was very, very difficult. But I think that much of Daniel Jones and his future as an NFL quarterback.”
Gettleman did not say which teams were poised to take Jones, but the two in desperate need of a QB, the Bengals at 11 and the Dolphins at 13, passed on Haskins. No one traded up to get Haskins, either.
Of course, the Dolphins showed us why on Friday by trading for Rosen, something Giants fans probably wish Gettleman had done instead.
League sources told ESPN the Redskins would not have taken Jones at 15 if he were available. What’s more, the Denver Broncos, who were looking for a backup for Joe Flacco, wouldn’t have used the 10th pick they traded to Pittsburgh on Jones. Denver took Missouri’s Drew Lock in the second round.
So who would have beaten the Giants to Jones?
“We were going to make the pick at 6 and then go from there,” said Gettleman who admitted he’s been smitten with the Jones since the Senior Bowl. He expressed his affection as “full-bloom love.”
Jones, originally a walk-on at Duke, threw for 2,674 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a junior last season. He rushed for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
“There will always be naysayers,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said on the Blue Devil Network, “and I told him, ‘Get used to that — you’re headed to New York.’”