By Ernie Palladino
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We know two things about the Giants’ quarterback situation.
1. Eli Manning will be under no pressure to remain the starter in training camp once he gets back from the ankle surgery that will force him to miss most or all of the offseason program.
2. If Manning can’t go, veteran free agent pickup Josh Freeman will take over.
Now, here’s the question. Given the presence of a longtime starter and a capable, if unspectacular back on the roster, should the Giants consider taking a quarterback in one of the first three rounds of this week’s draft?
The knee-jerk reaction would be no, since last year’s fourth-round pick, Ryan Nassib, also appears on the depth chart. It’s also a sure thing the Giants won’t be going after a passer with the 12th overall pick Thursday, considering other college luminaries like tight end Eric Ebron, wide receiver Mike Evans, and offensive lineman Zack Martin are said to hold high grades on the team’s value board.
They probably wouldn’t do it in the second round, either, since they can still get a great player who fills a need with the 43rd pick.
It’s the third round that is intriguing. Jerry Reese has the 74th overall pick, meaning the Giants can get three players among the top 100 prospects. The quarterback crop just happens to be one of the deepest in years, so it might be wise for Reese to pluck an arm with his final pick Friday.
The Giants would have to have something good happen to get one of the five so-called elite names in that scenario. Central Florida Blake Bortels is projected in some quarters as the No. 1 overall pick, with Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel also getting some projections there. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is a sure-fire first-round pick, and Fresno State’s Derek Carr could go at the tail end of the round or high in the second round. It’s unlikely, too, that Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage or Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo will last through the second round.
If one of them falls inexplicably, then it might be worth it for Reese to pick him up. Barring that, though, the one guy who might be available is Zach Mettenberger. The LSU product, who is said to have an arm capable of sending frozen ropes through the passing lanes along with good decision-making abilities — traits, by the way, that will fit in well with Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense variation — could be a worthwhile pick. It would all depend on how severely the Giants view his problems with a sexual battery arrest, recreational drug use and ACL surgery.
That’s a lot of red-flag stuff, certainly. But the Giants could use a young quarterback, because Nassib apparently isn’t that guy. He took less than 20 snaps last preseason. Reese said the staff likes Nassib, and he could get a good look at the No. 2 spot in the spring — if he’s on the roster. That’s the rub. Nassib, apparently, is desirable trade bait. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, he grades out higher than most of the other quarterbacks in this quarterback-heavy draft.
But he might not fit in with the new offense. That’s why Reese was so noncommittal about him during his pre-draft press conference. He said he’s keeping all his options open, which ultimately means Nassib will be dangled as trade bait either on draft day or shortly thereafter.
Curtis Painter is also on the roster, but he’s recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s just a place-holder, anyway, a handoff guy. And Freeman has had such a sketchy career that he can only be regarded as a short-term backup. Who knows what Rusty Smith will bring to the table.
The best news is that Manning is three weeks ahead of schedule in his surgery rehab. He is expected back for training camp, and Reese said he anticipates a bounce-back year for him. Even if that happens, he’s 33, which means he’s approaching the back-nine of his career. If Freeman or Nassib aren’t regarded right now as his eventual successor, they need to find that guy.
That would make the expenditure of a third-round pick worthwhile, especially in this quarterback-rich draft.
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