The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft is over and the New York Giants and New York Jets have planted their flags for the future. After the Cleveland Browns selected Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy-winning QB out of Oklahoma, the Giants and Jets shaped their destinies by selecting Penn State RB Saquon Barkley and USC QB Sam Darnold in rapid-fire fashion.
The Giants had several paths ahead of them at the No. 2 spot. They could have taken any of the remaining quarterbacks which included Darnold, Josh Rosen of UCLA or Wyoming’s Josh Allen. They also could have selected the draft’s top pass rusher in Bradley Chubb of NC State or a much needed offensive lineman such as Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame. Then, there was the possibility of a trade, which never materialized.
In the end the pick was Barkley, which Giants GM Dave Gettleman gushed over during his joint presser Thursday night with head coach Pat Shurmur:
“We felt Saquon was the best player in the draft. In baseball, they call it a five-tool player. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pick five tools, but I have not seen a guy like this in a long time and I have been around a long time. I have been doing this for 30-plus years. The kid is so unique because of his size and his speed. He has the ability to string together multiple moves. He has the ability to step on the gas. He can do what we call cross the formation. There are a lot of good backs in this league, but they don’t have the speed to go across the formation. We all know he can catch the heck out of the rock. He is smart in blitz pickup, he sees it. That is probably the biggest issue with all these young rushers now. He is powerful, he runs through tackles and he runs through hits. When we were in here before, we were talking about quarterbacks and if they make everyone better. If you think about it, this kid makes our quarterback better, he makes our receivers better, he makes our O-line better. He makes our defense better because he has the much stronger ability to hold the ball. He is a great kid and he will be great for our culture. He was the unanimous best player in our draft.”
The Jets had to be worried that their co-tenants would take a QB and reduce their options. They had been rumored to be enamored with Mayfield but he was obviously off the table. When the Giants passed on a QB, GM Mike Maccagnan wasted little time at No. 3 selecting Darnold, the 20 year-old wunderkind who many consider the best QB in the class.
“First, as a player, we like him from an ability standpoint,” Maccagnan said. “He obviously played at a high level in terms of college. He got thrust into playing very early on.”
Maccagnan admitted to personally scouting Darnold five times in person and had him in for a select workout one week before Darnold’s official Top 30 visit to Florham Park. He gives them five QBs at the moment, but they are expected to ditch two of them in the coming days and weeks.
“Once we get him in and he starts the playbook, there is no timetable,” head coach Todd Bowles said. “We have to see how fast he learns, and then get some experience. We’re not going to throw him in there, but at the same time, we’re not going to hold him back either.”
For the Giants, Barkley gives them another dimension on their changing offense. With WRs Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard and TE Evan Engram, Big Blue has the tools to become a very potent offense. A new offensive line will help, too. They will go from a passive, lateral offense to a more attacking, vertical approach. That should lead to the revitalization of QB Eli Manning, who many are writing off at age 37. The Giants still believe he can play at a high level in the right scheme and with playmakers around him. They’ve changed their scheme and the return of Beckham and addition of Barkley, they now have some of the top playmakers in the NFL.
The Giants are still in the driver’s seat in this draft the second overall pick in the second round on Friday and two high third round selections (66 and 69). There a re still a ton of quality players on the board, including several stud offensive linemen.
The Jets signed a ton of free agents this offseason and they will have to do for now since he won’t get much help in this class. They do not have a second round selection, surrendering both of their picks in the round (Nos. 37 and 49) in the trade with the Colts that moved them up from No. 6 to No. 3. Their first – and only – selection on Friday night will be in the third round (No. 72).