By Jason Keidel
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Thanks to their surprisingly good 2016 season, the Giants are looking at low picks at the NFL draft in a few weeks. And since they are sound at some essential skill positions, like quarterback and wide receiver, it’s a mystery which way they are leaning in their first-round pick thought process right now.
Let’s use CBSSports.com and their lineup of six experts, Pete Prisco, Rob Rang, Will Brinson, Jared Dubin, Ryan Wilson, and Dane Brugler, as the model.
Adding to the anarchy of the draft, let’s consider that crack staff’s latest, respective mock drafts. They have total homogeny over the first two picks, with Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas going to the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers, respectively. After that, it’s like a draft version of three-card monte. Each of the six CBS experts has a different player drafted by the Jets, who have the No. 6 overall pick, from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to tight end O.J. Howard to safety Jamal Adams.
A similar list of potential Giants draft picks is almost as varied. Considering their robust defense, and two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback who never misses a snap, perhaps the best wideout in the sport (Odell Beckham, Jr.) and the perfect veteran to compliment him (Brandon Marshall), the list of Big Blue needs isn’t as great as some other teams.
Still, the Giants have a big hole in two key skill positions — running back and tight end — so it should stand to reason that they will draft accordingly. Howard, who some see as the best tight end prospect in years, won’t be around if Big Blue stays at No. 23. And, with all due respect to Miami tight end David Njoku, there are no second choices in the first round.
The Giants are desperate for a running game, especially when you consider their leading rusher in 2016 was Rashad Jennings, who gained a meager 593 yards, at 3.3 yards per carry. As a team, the Giants were 29th out of 32 teams in terms of rushing, with 87.2 yards per game. Big Blue was one of just four clubs to average fewer than 90 yards per game. Even in the pass-addicted NFL, those are anemic numbers.
Four of the six CBS draft cognoscenti forecast a lineman plucked by Big Blue. And the G-Men could use some help on the O-line. But considering the dearth of dominant backs coming out of college lately, or at least their inherent value in the eyes of NFL general managers, the Giants could land quite a back off the banks of the Hudson (or Hackensack, if we’re being geographically adroit).
Rang, Brugler, and Wilson have Florida State’s Dalvin Cook sailing past the Giants in the first round. Brinson and Dubin have Cook going to the Colts, at No. 15. Prisco doesn’t have the former Seminole going in the first round, at all. So if we take the aggregate picks Cook could very well be lingering late in the round, available for Jerry Reese. It would be a sound, smart pick. Cook would slide right into the Giants’ backfield and gain 1,000 yards immediately.
But while we’re dreaming, the Giants would strike unvarnished gold if another halfback galloped into their lap.
Christian McCaffrey. The electric runner from Stanford is not getting the glittering praise afforded Garrett and Howard, nor is he getting a fraction of the traction we see around Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, DeShaun Watson, and other throwers in a rather weak QB class (aside from Watson, who deserves attention for scorching Alabama twice and defeating them once in the national championship game). Since QB is so easily the most vital position in the sport, potential stud signal-callers will always get the bold ink.
Five of the six CBS draft professors have McCaffrey long gone before the Giants pick, anywhere between No. 14 and No. 19, with the exception of Prisco, who doesn’t have the Cardinal all-purpose back going in the first round.
If by some small miracle McCaffrey hangs around past pick No. 20, the Giants would (or should) start salivating. Cook is a fine consolation prize, but McCaffrey is a bit more dynamic. He can run between or outside the tackles, return kicks, and would be a dangerous receiver sneaking out of the backfield. Maybe McCaffrey doesn’t have Leonard Fournette’s raw, rugged gifts as a runner, but he fits the football cliche as the Swiss Army knife of runners.
And unlike Cook, who is similarly talented, McCaffrey is not similarly tormented off the field. Between shoulder surgeries and dubious decisions, Cook is scaring some teams, according to draft analysts. While he doesn’t have a rap sheet, per se, Cook has three incidents in his past: a matter with a BB gun, an arrest for misdemeanor battery, and he was once cited for animal cruelty. Cook spent no time in jail and was acquitted in the battery case. But in the NFL, where “distraction” is the most toxic buzzword, the slightest whiff of malfeasance spikes the hairs of many GMs.
McCaffrey and Cook would be wildly productive for the Giants, who would be wise to pick the one who’s left on the board. But if you feel they are equally good, McCaffrey should be the pick.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel