New York Giants Season Preview
NFC East - New York Giants
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Round 1a – Quarterback, Daniel Jones, Duke
Round 1b – Defensive tackle, Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
Round 1c – Cornerback, Deandre Baker, Georgia
Round 3 – Linebacker, Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
The selection of Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick received universal condemnation from the football experts, with the former Duke quarterback projected to go much later in the draft. While some scouts doubt that Jones has the talent to make it in the league, there are others who believe he can at least develop into an NFL caliber starting quarterback, albeit not an elite one. But with veteran passer Eli Manning clearly in the twilight of his career, it would be fair to say that draft options were limited.
On paper, Jones has many of the physical attributes teams look for in a starting quarterback and has prototypical size for the position. However, question marks remain about his arm strength, accuracy, decision making and abilities under pressure. Jones would benefit from sitting and learning for at least a year before he takes over as a starter, but given the decline of Manning, he may be pressed into action sooner than expected as a rookie.
Given his imposing size, Dexter Lawrence is surprisingly athletic for a man who is 6-foot-4 and more than 340 pounds. A powerful run defender, Lawrence should make an immediate impact as a rookie, but his value on passing downs is likely to be less obvious. An inconsistent college career featured few highlights beyond his freshman season and the former Clemson product will find it much harder to win his individuals battles simply because of his size as he did in college. While Lawrence has the potential to become a dominant run-stopper, his ceiling as a pass rusher is expected to be limited.
Cornerback Deandre Baker may turn out to be the Giants best pick of the first-round and is be expected to see more action as a rookie than the names picked ahead of him. With options like LSU cornerback Greedy Williams still available when they selected Baker, the pick was somewhat surprising, but there is still a lot to like about the former Georgia product. The Jim Thorpe Award winner as the best defensive back in the country in 2018, Baker is an impressive physical zone cover corner who also excels in press coverage and is willing tackler. With good but not great speed, he can struggle playing off-man, but should thrive in a system that plays to his strengths.
A total of 11.5 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss as a senior had Oshane Ximines on the radar of a lot of teams heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, but that production needs to be put in the context of the quality of the opponents he faced at Old Dominion. How well the FBS product handles the transition to the professional ranks will dictate his future and it could take him a while to adjust to life in the NFL. A physical player who has developed a decent array of pass rushing moves and a good understanding of how to use his hands, Ximines should see snaps as a situational pass rusher as a rookie.
The Giants have seen a significant number of high-profile departures this offseason with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. arguably the most notable loss of any team this year. Throwing in defensive end Olivier Vernon as part of the trade with the Cleveland Browns was another big name to lose but picking up veteran guard Kevin Zeitler in return should help the offense.
Allowing safety Landon Collins to hit the open market was a questionable decision and it was no surprise to see him quickly snapped up during free agency by the Washington Redskins to a six-year contract worth $84 million. Jabrill Peppers was another player acquired in the trade with the Browns and he is expected to take over the role vacated by Collins.
Wide receiver Golden Tate was the big money signing during free agency coming over from the Philadelphia Eagles and while he is an accomplished player in his own right, he lacks the talent of an option like Beckham. That being said, his presence on the roster will be far less destructive to team chemistry than that of his predecessor. A sizeable extension for Sterling Shepard this offseason has made a clear statement about who the top two wideouts will be in New York in 2019.
Free agent linebacker Markus Golden and safety Antoine Bethea join from the Arizona Cardinals and should help solidify the team on defense.
The Giants most recognizable player of the past few seasons now resides in Cleveland leaving New York relatively short on star power this year. Young running back Saquon Barkley is already considered among the elite at his position in some quarters, but realistically needs to produce at similar level to his rookie season for a least a few more years before he can be included in that group.
Even when he was winning Super Bowl there were few observers who had Manning ranked as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL and he is far from the player he was once. The former Super Bowl MVP often hurts the Giants as much as he helps them these days and he is a star player in name only now, much of that recognition coming from the connection to his brother Peyton.
With a collection of mostly young players on defense, there are few stars among the front seven, but names like B.J. Hill have the potential to become one in the future if he can build on an impressive rookie campaign. Veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins could be a star player in the secondary if he can regain his Pro Bowl form of 2016.
Little is expected from the Giants in 2019 and the bookmakers have them as big outsiders to win the division behind the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. A line of six wins on the season looks to be an accurate assessment of the team’s talent relative to the rest of the league and it might even be fair to suggest the Giants will struggle to achieve that total.
A youth movement on defense may yet prove to have been more effective than most outsiders believe and there is reason to be optimistic that there will be some benefit to team chemistry from the departure of Beckham. How that translates to wins on gameday remains to be seen.
If the veteran names on the roster can stay healthy, New York should be competitive enough to avoid ending up in the basement in the NFC East. But even if everything falls into place for them, it is hard to envisage them making the playoffs or finishing the year with a winning record.
Oddschecker spokesperson Pete Watt: “Where do we begin? Eli Manning has dragged himself up from the proverbial canvas to lead the team for what surely must be a swansong season.”
“The only thing stopping him from tarnishing his legacy will be the transcendent Saquon Barkley, who is changing the way that running backs are perceived in the sport.”
Based on the 2018 record of their opponents, New York will theoretically have the 27th ranked schedule in terms of difficulty heading into 2019. They will face teams that accumulated a combined record of 120-134-2 last season for a winning percentage of .473.
A relatively easy schedule is perhaps the only thing the Giants have going for them in 2019 but most of the teams they face will still be a challenge. New York will have been circled as a guaranteed victory by most of their opponents and it is hard to pick out any obvious wins for the Giants this year. Home matchups against the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins are possibly their best chance of victory, but recording back-to back wins at any point in the season is unlikely.