It happens every year.
You project a player for the Giants in the second round of the NFL Draft and the retort coming back is, “He won’t get out of the first round.’’
This is an exercise that can be rinsed and repeated, oh, around 45 or 50 times. Guess what? There are only 32 players taken in the first round, so invariably, players with first-round grades on some draft boards slip through and are waiting there on Day 2. Teams have a night to sleep on this, making the early moments of the second round the wild, wild west in the selection process, with teams salivating over a player they thought would not be there, a player that, gleefully, is still available.
The Giants adore how the first round went down. They took their top-rated offensive tackle, Andrew Thomas of Georgia, and now turn the page and can move in several different directions. They would like to trade out of their spot at No. 36 overall – the fourth pick in the second round – in order to acquire an additional third-round pick. That will be difficult, as there are several attractive options on defense that will be hard to pass up.
If the Giants want to double-up on the offensive line and go for a center in the second round, there are choices to be made, as only one of them, Cesar Ruiz of Michigan, was taken in the first round. No pure safety was selected yet, leaving two very attractive possibilities. There also is a desire to get a wide receiver at some point and, in an incredibly deep class at that position this year, there are a few intriguing prospects to consider.
The key here is about prioritizing. If the Giants want to fill their next glaring need – someone capable of accumulating sacks – they need to sit tight and take their top-rated edge player. Here is a look at what could come next:
Zack Baun, Wisconsin
His story is similar to Ryan Connelly, taken by the Giants in the fifth round last year. Midwest (Baun, Wisconsin, Connelly, Minnesota) high school quarterback goes to college and transitions to defense. Baun is a very different player, though. He turned into a star in 2019, with 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He can run sideline-to-sideline and could be useful covering tight ends.
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
At 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds, he might be better-suited as a defensive end in a 4-3 front but there is no denying his pass-rush potential. He had 17.5 sacks and 35 tackles for loss as a two-year starter.
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
This is an even bigger version of Gross-Matos, at 275 pounds. Epenesa was an accomplished pass rusher for the Hawkeyes (11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles) in 2019 and is better as a pass rusher than he is against the run. He did not help himself with his workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and looks more suited to a four-man line but he will not be on the board very long.
• Giants’ NFL Draft tracker: Live round-by-round picks and analysis
Xavier McKinney, Alabama
He has the coverage skills of a cornerback, a sleek athlete at 6-foot and 201 pounds, although he did not run well (4.63 in the 40-yard dash) at the combine. Considered the top safety by most analysts.
Grant Delpit, LSU
This is a big (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) hitter who won the Jim Thorpe award in 2019 as the nation’s best defensive back. He was actually much better, and healthier, in 2018, when he had five interceptions.
Matt Hennessy, Temple
Three-year starter grew up a Giants fan in Nyack, excelled at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey and is solid as a rock.
Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
Three-year starter on the Badgers always-robust offensive line is called Tyler Badass, which says something about his on-field tenacity. He is coming off shoulder surgery and did not work out at the combine.
Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU
Earned the coveted No. 18 jersey at LSU — given to the team’s most selfless player — and started on a national championship team. He might be a better third-round option.
Tee Higgins Clemson
Tied DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins for the school record with 27 receiving touchdowns and his the only player in Clemson history with back-to-back seasons with 10 or more touchdown catches.
Michael Pittman Jr., USC
Good-sized target at 6-foot-4, and the Giants need a good-sized target. Excellent route runner without blazing speed.
Chase Claypool, Notre Dame
Another big target at 6-foot-4 can actually be viewed as a hybrid receiver/tight end combo who excels at going up and snatching the ball in traffic.
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Big senior year (66 catches, 1020 yards, 12 touchdowns) elevated his standing in the class. What is not to like about a 6-foot-2 guy who runs a 4.37?
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