Year 1 of the Joe Judge era had a different taste than the previous failed Head Coaching regimes. NYG had been arguably the worst team in the NFL from 2017-2019 and even though 2020 still landed them 4 games under .500, there was a different aura about the organization. Whether it came to their on-field performance, in-game coaching decisions, or building the roster, there always seemed to be a plan in year one. Now we are onto year 2 and the plan is becoming more and more prevalent. Supply the young QB with credible and multiple weapons, enhance the pass defense, and don’t overlook special teams. The 2021 Draft had a very similar theme. Enough of the fluff, let’s dive into who they picked in combination with what I would have done.
*Yearly disclaimer*. I make picks for NYG in real time and do a comparison afterward. I have been doing this for years just for fun and to give a legitimate side by side comparison. No agenda. This will include the summary from my short-report on reach player with additional notes underneath.
ROUND 1 (#20 overall)
Kadarius Toney – WR/Florida – 6’0/193
Summary: Senior entry from Mobile, Alabama. One-year starter that was a key part of the offense all four years. 1st Team All SEC in 2020. Toney saved his best for last as a senior. He broke out in a big way and finally translated potential into real production. He did more in 2020 than his three previous seasons combined, partially because of the amount of talent the Gators had ahead of him on depth chart before this past fall. Toney has joystick quickness and change of direction whether he is running routes or carrying the ball. He is the kind of guy that can miss contact in the phone booth and will always fight for more yards. Toney plays bigger and tougher than his frame suggests. It will be hard to find a more competitive spark plug than him. There are concerns around character and durability and he needs a specific role. The right offensive mind can make him a dangerous weapon though, one that can really elevate an offense as a whole.
*Discussing this pick must require the fact NYG traded out of the #11 spot with CHI. I won’t address the media-driven narrative that “Gettleman refuses to trade down” talk that was clearly wrong. After PHI leapfrogged DAL for DeVonta Smith, this must have been a trade offer that was easy to accept. To be honest, I think Gettleman would have still accepted the deal if Smith were on the board (I do think that was their target at #11). They netted a future 1st, a future 4th, and a 2021 5th rounder. While it is impossible to predict just how well CHI will fare in 2021, all bets lean toward them being well under .500, which could make this first rounder a top 10 pick in addition to the extra capital. Prior to the draft I said getting any picks in next year’s draft would be a major win because of how deep that class is going to be AND the Giants cap situation in the upcoming 2-4 years. Major win by Gettlman when using any metric to determine the value of this trade down.
Now, on to Toney. I didn’t have Toney graded as a 1st rounder, however most did. I don’t pay attention to draft media too much anymore, as there are just 2-3 names worth listening to. They all had Toney as a 1st rounder. As a talent, he is certainly up there, no question. His quickness, burst, and grit are all something a team (both offense and special teams) will be able to use effectively. What exactly is he in this offense? How will Jason Garrett use him? I have 2 NFL profiles that I can see Toney fulfilling. One is Curtis Samuel (now with CAR). Over the past 2 years, he’s caught 65 passes on average for just over 11 yards per, he gets about 2-3 carries per game, and he can be used in the return game. He mostly lines up in the slot and they have similar frames/body types. The other is Deebo Samuel from SF. Samuel is a thicker body (looks like a RB), but in relation to how he is used as a gadget-type in that offense is how I see NYG using Toney early on. He has the physical capability to be a menace as a route runner. He has rare plant-and-go foot acceleration. However, running routes is an enormous task for young receivers to work on and you need more than physical gifts to be effective there. Toney will be a versatile weapon early on that Garrett needs to be creative with (not sure how confident I am there). Lastly, without getting too detailed, the first notes I have from a southeast scout on Toney came from last summer. “He’s trouble”. This was pertaining to the off-field issues. I fully respect the NYG organization in this regard and they definitely vetted him enough to give the thumbs up. Is it a risk? Sure. How big of a risk, only they know and won’t be for me or you to judge.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Kwity Paye – EDGE/Michigan – 6’3/261
Summary: Senior entry from Providence, Rhode Island. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors in both 2018 and 2019, 2nd team in 2020. A state champion in the long jump and 4x100 relay as a 250-pound senior in high school, Paye has one of the more interesting tool sets in the entire class. He has rare quickness, bend, and agility for his size. He wins a lot of battles with late movement and sheer head-to-toe power. He lined up all over the Michigan front and that is the kind of role he will thrive in at the next level. He has the power presence to play inside the tackle’s shoulder on all downs, but notably against the pass where he can provide elite interior rush. He does need to improve his production as an outside pass rusher, as he seems late and ineffective too often when trying to purely speed rush. Paye will be an ideal fit for a scheme that wants to move their exterior linemen inside at times and also demands serious running game responsibilities. At the very least, he will be elite at that part of the game.
*I’ve had a thing for Paye since last summer. The style of play, centering around his thickness and bend combined with outstanding hand-usage reminded me of Justin Tuck. That comparison just kept on re-appearing over and over during my study of him. The one catch here, and I will admit, is I don’t know just how well he would fit into the Patrick Graham scheme. When I hear both him and Judge talk about having the ultra-hybrid front, I take it literal. Both 3-4 and 4-3 looks. Paye may be better suited for a pure 4-3 DE role and he may be in no-man’s land within a 3-4. That said, I think he is the kind of player that can fit into any role no matter what the situation is, no matter what the matchup is, no matter what the front is. Just because he isn’t a pure upfield burner does not mean can’t win on the outside. I think he is going to impact the passing game from any and all angles. Pass rush battles are played in a phone booth (short areas) that favor burst and late movement more than straight-ahead space. Paye ended up going the very next pick to IND, an organization that has had several drafts I absolutely loathe. He is going to be a star in that scheme (another hybrid-front) and will impact both the run and pass defense equally. Every down player with top notch intangibles. The potential downside? I had a similar outlook on former Alabama prospect Courtney Upshaw in 2012, who ended up being drafted in the 1st round by BAL. He played 6 years in the NFL, started 56 games, and ended with 7 career sacks.
ROUND 2 (#50 Overall)
Azeez Ojulari – EDGE/Georgia – 6’2/249
Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Marietta, Georgia. A two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2020. The semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award led the SEC in tackles for loss and sacks in 2020, a year after leading the Bulldogs in sacks and pressures. Ojulari is a mature, hardworking kid that gets the most out of his talents. He won team-awards for most improved player in 2019 as well as one for his efforts during the offseason strength and conditioning program. Ojulari was also a team captain in 2019, the first time a freshman has earned that honor in the Coach Smart era. This is a kid that has high-end talent that can be used in multiple ways for a defense and it is paired with top notch intangibles. His game really started to blossom as the 2020 season came to a close. He finished with 5 sacks over his last 3 games. Ojulari still has more physical development to achieve, as he will need to add functional weight to play the every down edge in the NFL, but his versatility, talent, and intangibles will make him a dangerous defensive weapon and he can be one of the best when things come together.
*Once again, “Trader Dave” received an offer he could not refuse, this time from the Las Vegas Raiders. He was asked to move down 8 spots in the 2nd round and walked away with a 2022 3rd round selection. As previously discussed, these future picks mean something a little extra because of the expected depth in next year’s class. By the way, this is a notion echoed by everyone I speak with (both current and past NFL scouts). Add in the fact that LV has the look of a team that will finish in the bottom half of the league, the 2022 Draft outlook is looking really positive for NYG on multiple fronts. Ojulari was a 1st round caliber prospect on my board and everyone I spoke with. Some had him at the end of round 1, but I didn’t hear anyone call him a 2nd rounder. Did the knee actually knock him down that far? 1st rounders fall every single year without exception for one of several reasons that have nothing to do with that actual player. I think that is what happened here more so than his knee being a concern for teams. After all, Ojulari never missed a single practice at Georgia, he never missed a single game.
Where do we see Ojulari fitting into this defense? Watch the right college tape and you’ll be quick to say he might be the best pure edge rusher on this team right now. He doesn’t have much competition, but the reason I bring that up is the likelihood of him starting and/or seeing significant snaps right away. The Giants’ edge rushers just haven’t been good and/or healthy, plain and simple. Lorenzo Carter is coming off an achilles rupture (not an easy injury to come back from), Oshane Ximines is coming off a shoulder injury that forced him to miss 12 games and has just 4.5 sacks in 20 career games. Cam Brown, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson, Niko Lalos, Trent Harris, and Carter Coughlin don’t exactly give confidence to the group. It is very realistic for Ojulari, a player with a similar tool set and style to Dee Ford, to see the majority of snaps at one of the outside spots very early on. He is a natural in coverage (although it isn’t why he will be on the field), and he shows a ton of hustle against the run. He should be a very solid every down player for this team that could occasionally reach that double digit sack mark.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Dillon Radunz – OT/North Dakota State – 6’4/301
Summary: Fifth year senior from Becker, Minnesota. Started for two complete seasons. In 2017, he started 1 game then missed the rest of the season with a knee injury. In 2020, North Dakota State’s season was just one game because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 1st Team All American and Missouri Valley Conference in 2019, 2nd Team All-Conference in 2018. Radunz has elite body control and balance and it led to him being dominant at the FCS level. He then went to the Senior Bowl and had a really solid week against the better competition. This is the kind of offensive lineman that has all of the movement and balance traits but may need some extra time before he is thrown into the mix at the next level. He doesn’t seem to have that natural power and anchor that handles the man-strength found on a play-by-play basis in the league. He is an ideal fit for a heavy zone-blocking scheme and if he reaches his upside, you are talking about a very solid left tackle for a long time.
*The “funny” (maybe just to me) part here is I would have wanted WR Rondale Moore at this spot. Again, assuming the first pick was Kwity Paye under this circumstance. He ended up going one spot before NYG was back on the clock at #50 to ARI. Anyway, Radunz was the backup option, and I would have been equally happy about either of them. He ended up going 3 picks later to TEN. As I said in a few pieces over the course of pre and intra-draft weekend, I was not at all surprised NYG didn’t attack the OL during the draft. That, however, does not mean they didn’t want anybody. Gettleman was quoted as saying they did have their eyes on OL for this pick, but a couple guys were picked. Who were they? If I had to guess, Teven Jenkins (went #39 to CHI) and Aaron Banks (#48 to SF) fit the Gettleman profile for offensive linemen the best. Anyway, I like what Radunz could have been to this offense on multiple fronts. He has a workable frame, excellent foot speed and body control, and ability to help out in multiple spots along the line. The one negative? I’m not sure he would be ready to contribute in 2021 and it could have just made the situation in the middle of their line more unsure and muddier.
ROUND 3 (#71 Overall)
Aaron Robinson – CB/Central Florida – 6’0/186
Summary: Fifth year senior from Deerfield Beach, Florida. Began his career at Alabama in 2016 where he played in 13 games. Transferred to Central Florida in 2017 and redshirted. Two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All AAC honors in both 2019 and 2020. Robinson has the pro-caliber foot speed and burst that enables him to stay sticky to his man on all levels of the route tree. He can play the game with his feet rather than getting too grabby with his hands. Robinson has a lot of dog in him. He is always one of the toughest players on the field and he knows it. Even though he needs to control where he gets aggressive and where to gamble, he is the kind of player that elevates the energy of a defense. That doesn’t occur much from cornerbacks. His size may keep him at nickel but he can play both.
*One thing I really respect about how this Joe Judge-led regime is going about things when it comes to drafting: They go hard after a certain profile and mindset. They truly want guys that play the game hard and smart. They want to be the toughest team on the field and that only happens if they individuals are tough, focused young men. The 5th rounder that was acquired from CHI in the round 1 trade down (#164 overall) was traded along with #76 overall to move up. 3 rounds, 3 trades by Gettleman.
Robinson was a second rounder according to everyone I spoke with. As was the case with Ojulari, for reasons beyond his control he ended up being available in round 3. This kind of thing happens every year and he wasn’t the only player that had a true round-2 value at this point, but the point is NYG got big time value here. How come they traded up? There were multiple teams in the 72-75 range that were clearly looking for defensive help in this draft, cornerback in particular. DET, PHI, and NO were all in that discussion in addition to several teams within trade up striking distance. Robinson was sought after because he has credible inside-out versatility. He can be a solid nickel, stemming from his toughness in the run game and top tier foot speed. He can be a solid outside corner, stemming from his body control, speed, and instincts. What JC Jackson has brought to the NE defense is what I can see Robinson bringing to NY. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking this selection, as Robinson could easily pass Darnay Holmes at nickel in a hurry and make as big an impact in year one as any rookie in the NYG class.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Josh Palmer – WR/Tennessee – 6’1/210
Summary: Senior entry from Brampton, Ontario. Four-year starter that came to Tennessee as an overlooked recruit that was very raw to the game after being a star basketball player growing up. Palmer is a dog on the field, meaning he is tougher and more physical than the guy that he is up against at all times. He wants it more, plain and simple. He plays such a physical and aggressive brand of football and it does make up for some skillset shortcomings. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking his talent with that in mind. He is more than fast enough, he has plus-burst in short areas, and he can go up and get it. Palmer still has some rawness to the techniques and mechanics the position requires, but this is a pure gamer that will make things happen with the ball in his hands. He projects to be a really solid number two or three option in a good passing offense.
*I really wanted NYG to add talent for Daniel Jones to throw to in this draft. In this scenario, I used the first 2 picks on the trenches (Paye in round 1, Radunz in round 2). I was confident in the value this deep receiver class would present at this point in the draft, and according to my scale there was a round 2 talent available here. Palmer is the kind of presence at receiver I think would balance out this position group in relation to the current personnel. They have the big downfield threat in Golladay, they have the slot in Shepard, they have the deep speed guys in Slayton and Ross. Palmer would have been that short and intermediate possession type that can win the traffic battles. Palmer is one of the more physical and aggressive pass catchers in the class and just has a lot of dog in him. He abused the Georgia secondary (filled with NFL defensive backs) and he abused Patrick Surtain (1st rounder to DEN). He was a victim of horrid QB play at Tennessee and still found a way to produce in big moments on every level of the route tree. I believe in this kid and his ability to stick in the league for a long time as a really solid #2 or #3 option in a good passing offense. He went #77 overall (1 pick behind the NYG slot prior to the trade up) to the Chargers.
Elerson Smith – EDGE/Northern Iowa – 6’6/252
Summary: Fifth year senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota. One-year starter that had his senior season canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 1st Team All Missouri Valley Conference and 1st Team AFCA FCS All American in 2019. Smith broke out in his redshirt junior season, netting 21.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 2 blocked kicks. He plays the game with a level of ease and smoothness in traffic. He gets off the ball in a hurry with great leverage and upper body positioning, his hands are exceptionally fast, and the foot quickness is elite. Smith is just scratching the surface when it comes to his true potential. He needs to sleep in the weight room for a year before he can be an every down asset, but he will be a solid rotational pass rusher right away and has the upside of being a solid starter in multiple schemes.
*It is a common thought among those that watch the draft to cross players off that play positions a respective team has already drafted. I’m not quite sure why so many will do that, especially during day 3 where the odds tell us these prospects project to backup and/or role-player type roles for just a few years before exiting the league. Day three picks can be considered a win if they simply fill the depth chart, make a few plays per year, and play out their rookie contract. Of course you want more, and it does happen in every draft class multiple times, but the point of these rounds is to create depth, fill special teams, and try to develop in to usable players over the course of 2-3 years.
With that in mind, NYG got one of the best values in the draft right here in round 4. Smith has big time upside, big time. That notion is derived from his elite-production on the field in 2019 (albeit at the FCS level) and his size + athleticism + tool set that is nearly off the charts. Smith has rare movement traits for a player that stands 6’6” with 34” arms. Pop on the tape and you will find a guy that is way beyond the “raw” label (in a good way). Smith really opened my eyes at the Senior Bowl with his ability to line up as a stand-up outside linebacker one play, and inside the tackle’s shoulders on the next. He can play tall and long when rushing the edge, he can play low and quick when he is inside. This guy just screams Jayson Taylor when I am watching him, a guy that rarely comes up in comparisons because of how uncommon a player he was. He needs to add bulk and sustainable power to his game and that will take time, but I fully expect to see him on the field in 2021. He is more 4-3 DE than he is 3-4 OLB, but he can fit into both roles which is an ideal fit for the scheme. No bias here, this pick was one of the best values when looking at need, value, and scheme that we saw across the entire league.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Elerson Smith – EDGE/Northern Iowa – 6’6/252
ROUND 6 (#196 overall)
Gary Brightwell – RB/Arizona – 5’11/218
Summary: Senior entry from Chester, Pennsylvania. One-plus year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 honors in 2020. Brightwell put himself on the radar in 2019 when he led the team in yards per attempt at 5.9. The shortened 2020 season limited his exposure as a senior and kept a few questions unanswered. Brightwell checks a lot of boxes when it comes to size, speed, and aggression. He is a no-nonsense slasher that will take advantage of every crease that comes before him. His issues revolve around skill set more so than tools. He may need some extra fine tuning and time, but he has a upside most simply do not have that go on day 3.
*Last year we saw a clear late round strategy that is woefully common around the league, but NYG had struggled to properly execute for a long time. That was to draft in the late rounds (notably rounds 6-7) with a strong lean toward special teams contributions. After all, Joe Judge made his path in the league via special teams with New England. I don’t want to dive too deep down that rabbit hole, but the point remains that if there is one standout impact within the draft now that Joe Judge is in town, it revolves around these late round picks being drafted for the “forgotten side of the ball” of a team.
Brightwell may rarely if ever see the ball on offense. Yes, he is a thick body that can slash hard and push tacklers back. He has some homerun-aggression to his game that, when he guesses correctly, can make big things happen. However, he is a tight mover that lacks consistent vision. He also has major ball security issues and if there is one way to stay off the field for a back, that is it. Listening to Brightwell talk after he was drafted leads me to believe that special teams are why he was drafted. Yes, he can fill the back end of the depth chart, but I think we will mostly if not fully see him as a guy that will be running down the field with a head of steam to make a tackle.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Kary Vincent Jr – CB/LSU – 5’10/185
Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Three-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season. Son of former NFL cornerback Kary Vincent Sr. A former high school state champion sprinter that also ran track for the Tigers in college. Vincent may be the fastest defender in the class. His burst, acceleration, and top end speed are all tied together. He plays at a rate faster than everyone else when he knows what he is going after. The issue seems to be that he just doesn’t always mentally click when deciphering route concepts and the passer’s intentions. Vincent was moved around the secondary a ton, seeing a lot of looks at nickel corner and free safety. A team needs to try and develop him at one spot because the tools are good enough to be a big-time factor at the next level. He isn’t a physical player and his instincts aren’t natural, so the nickel spot is likely his best spot where the power-shortcomings won’t hurt as much.
*Vincent was a top 5 corner on my preseason stack. Those stacks aren’t always accurate because the tape study done on them is minimal. When he opted out, I kept him in that top 5 for a while but once I got̉ a hold of more 2019 film I did have to bump him down a bit. I still think this would have been outstanding value. Vincent has the look of a playmaker that can defend from the middle. Whether he sticks to nickel or gets moved to an undersized safety role, he is a guy that the quarterback will be aware of. His speed, both off and on the field, is credibly elite. It shows up. His ability to make plays on the ball is, credibly, very good. His lack of instincts and physical nature can really hinder his ability, however, and perhaps that isn’t a guy this coaching staff would want to work with. My thought is that on a pick this late, I don’t mind taking a shot on an athlete like this that makes plays the way he did. Honestly, if he didn’t opt out and had a solid year, he would have been early day 3 at the latest. I see a less physical LaMarcus Joyner here. He went #237 overall to DEN.
ROUND 6 (Pick #201)
Rodarius Williams – CB/Oklahoma State – 6’0/189
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Shreveport, Louisiana. Four-year starter that earned 2nd Team All Big 12 honors in 2020. Started a school-record 48 straight games. The older brother of Cleveland cornerback Greedy Williams will be a 25-year-old rookie. He has the kind of style that fits into a hybrid cover-scheme that demands outside corners to be adept in both man and zone coverage. Williams’ physical upside is limited because there is a lack of true top end speed, but he routinely showed he can stick with receivers faster than him because of his instincts and reaction time. He is a twitchy defender that plays with good balance and control. Williams had a long and productive career than should suit him well at the next level in a backup role with the upside of being more once he cleans up his techniques.
*The Giants have created a ton of intra-squad competition at cornerback. Even though there isn’t a ton of roster space available, they added a valuable piece that most people had graded as a 4th or 5th rounder. This is a passing league and that won’t be changing anytime soon. A trend we are starting to see and one that will continue to strengthen is the subtraction of a linebacker or two from 53-man rosters and an addition of a defensive back or two. It is a spot that teams just can’t afford to be poor at and the ones that are have a very hard time consistently winning.
One thought I have here with Williams in regard to the roster: He is going to make it. If NYG tries to stash him on the practice squad, there were just too many teams that had an earlier grade on him and just couldn’t get their hands on draft weekend. Throw in the fact by the time September rolls around, injuries will pile up and teams love to scour opposing practice squads at that point. If NYG wants to work with him, he will need to make the 53-man roster. Does that push someone unexpected out that we aren’t thinking about right now? Probably. Williams has the ball production, aggression, and size that is always worth trying to develop. The question will be speed on an island. His upside could bring him to a Nik Needham (Miami) type level if things break right.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Khalil Herbert – RB/Virginia Tech – 5’9-210
Summary: Fifth year senior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Spent four years at Kansas before grad-transferring to Virginia Tech where he became the starter right away and earned 3rd Team All ACC honors, finishing second in the conference in rushing. Herbert averaged just under 8 yards per carry over his final two seasons. He is one of the best backs, if not the best, at gaining yards after contact in the entire class. He has a stout, muscular frame but can move with plenty of twitch and a surprising level of burst. Physically, Herbert has it. Mentally, he shows advanced ability when it comes to reading the defense and reacting to it. His vision is a major plus. He didn’t show much as a receiver and there are occasions, he gets a little too east/west when he shouldn’t. Herbert put the ball on the turf just one time over his 500+ carry career in college. This is a starting caliber back that will produce in multiple ways within the running game no matter what scheme he is put into.
*I really wanted NYG to add a running back to their depth chart in this draft. I like the 1-2 punch of Barkley + Booker but we have to be real about this position, you need more depth than you think. SF does a really nice job of that and it shows. Herbert is a starting caliber back down the road in my book. He is NFL ready right now when it comes to protection and ball security. I think there are some overrated traits that teams look for in backs where he is lacking. He has small hands, there is some tightness in his hips, and he wasn’t involved in the Virginia Tech passing game much. I think there is an easy case to negate all those perceived negatives in his final report. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I see Tiki Barber in him. CHI got a nice value grab for him at #217 overall. David Montgomery better watch out.
Once again, don’t overlook what NYG walked away from in this draft. 6 quality players, some of the best value grabs in the class, and 3 extra draft picks in what will be a loaded 2022 Draft class, one of which being a 1st rounder from a team that could easily finish bottom 10 in the league. Remember, Andy Dalton is the starting quarterback and that defense is slowly losing some key assets. This was one of the best NYG drafts in a long time, as much as one can evaluate a draft just a few days after.
To Sum up the comparison:
1: Kadarius Toney – WR/Florida
2: Azeez Ojulari – EDGE/Georgia
3: Aaron Robinson – CB/Central Florida
4: Elerson Smith – EDGE/Northern Iowa
6: Gary Brightwell – RB/Arizona
6: Rodarius Williams – CB/Oklahoma State
1: Kwity Paye – EDGE/Michigan
2: Dillon Radunz – OT/North Dakota State
3: Josh Palmer – WR/Tennessee
4: Elerson Smith – EDGE/Northern Iowa
6: Kary Vincent Jr – CB/LSU
6: Khalil Herbert – RB/Virginia Tech