(CBSNewYork) — The 2020 NFL Draft, to be conducted remotely from many corners of the country, may seem a little strange when the clock starts soon after 8:00 pm this Thursday. Coronavirus has changed a lot about the way we live, and it will certainly affect the draft as well. One thing will remain relatively constant, at least of late, and that’s the New York Giants picking in the top 10.
The Giants will enter the first round with the fourth pick, barring a trade. It will be their fourth top-10 pick in the last five years. And they’ll basically have their choice talent from that spot. The only players who a consensus believes won’t be available are quarterback Joe Burrow and edge rusher Chase Young. The Giants already have their quarterback of the future (and present) in Daniel Jones, so Burrow doesn’t matter. But they’ll have to find a way to protect Jones from pass-rushing phenom Young, who every team could use but seems destined for the Washington Redskins.
The Giants have plenty of needs they could address with the fourth pick, including a pass rusher and an offensive lineman to protect against the pass rush. But Dave Gettleman has made it very clear lately that protecting Jones and clearing out lanes for Saquon Barkley are a focus. Their moves in free agency may tip their hand on which way they’re leaning in the draft.
As CBS New York sports anchor Steve Overmyer notes, “when you start looking at how they’ve added pieces in this offseason, you can help the team through free agency, trades, or the draft. They picked up a cornerback, they picked up a number of linebackers. They must feel like they’re okay in the pass-rushing department. But I feel like this idea that they’re going out there and getting [Isaiah] Simmons from Clemson in the fourth position is really just a smokescreen, because it feels like they want to have one of those offensive tackles.”
Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa is one option. At 6’5″ and 322 pounds, the decorated tackle would certainly shore up the left tackle spot for the Giants. And his draft status improved at the Combine when he showed the athleticism of a tight end.
Mekhi Beckton, a 6’7″ 360-pound tackle out of Louisville, is another option. The giant tackle can play the run and the pass, though he would need some seasoning in the pro game. His combination of size and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect for the Giants.
Jedrick Wills Jr. and Andrew Thomas are also possibilities with the fourth pick. Then again, the Giants could slide back in the first round, pick up some later or future picks and still secure a left tackle to protect Jones’ blindside. But that strategy would come with significant risk. Other teams picking in the top half of the first round have needs along the offensive line.
“Could be a dangerous game they’re playing,” Overmyer points out, “because at four, you have your pick of the litter of whichever offensive lineman you want to get. And if they’re smart, which they have certainly thrown curveballs at us in the past, it seems like it’s a no-brainer that they’re going to go with an offensive tackle in the first round.”
No matter who the Giants select in the first round, this offseason will present some challenges to this year’s draft class and NFL veterans alike. With social distancing commonplace and all teams forced to abide by much more restrictive rules, training becomes a question across the league.
“These guys do need to get back into shape,” according to Overmyer, “especially since there’s going to be a lot less contact in practices, which was agreed to by the CBA. And if they’re talking about extending the season even further, I think all of those conversations, kind of have to be brought into the mix right now as teams are preparing for… try to figure out exactly how do we get these guys as healthy as possible, and make sure that they stay as safe as possible. It’s a quandary that every NFL team is going through right now.”
However, the more immediate concern, for both the Giants specifically and the NFL generally, is pulling off a completely remote draft. Stay-at-home orders have revealed weaknesses all over the country’s internet infrastructure. And those connectivity issues are poised to add yet another layer of complexity to an already interesting draft.