The New York Giants made out well in the 2021 NFL Draft — so well that general manager Dave Gettleman deserves some of the highest marks of any personnel chief from over the weekend. Much like their fellow NFC East contenders, the G-Men added potential play-makers on both sides of the ball, most notably first-round wide receiver Kadarius Toney and second-round pass rusher Azeez Ojulari. There’s still one glaring hole to fill before the season, however, and it was made especially clear by Big Blue’s investment (or lack thereof) at a certain position during the draft.
The Giants’ entire 2021 offseason has been centered on surrounding third-year quarterback Daniel Jones with talent. And Gettleman has gone above and beyond to do just that, spending big on former Lions wideout Kenny Golladay, adding other veterans like Kyle Rudolph, then bolstering defensive support with signings like Adoree Jackson. He continued in the draft, adding Toney as an electric slot target, Ojulari as a potential Day One edge presence and other high-upside pieces like cornerback Aaron Robinson, linebacker Elerson Smith and bruising running back Gary Brightwell.
But there’s one thing missing: The offensive line.
If we’re offering instant grades on draft classes, the Giants passed 2021 with mostly flying colors. That’s accounting for Gettleman’s smart trades to add a first-, fourth- and fifth-rounder in 2022. And yet not a single one of New York’s six picks this year came up front, where you’d think protecting Jones is one of the club’s most pressing priorities.
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Gettleman downplayed the issue after the draft by reiterating support in New York’s current depth chart.
“It’s really apparent that we have a little more confidence in our offensive linemen than you guys do,” the GM said. “So I’m just going to say we’re happy with the group that we have. Obviously you’re always trying to get better and you’re not going to take a player just to take a player, you take a player because you think he’s going to improve the value of your team.”
Is he wrong? No, not necessarily in terms of draft strategy. But if that mentality bleeds into the rest of their preseason plans, they’ll be banking a little too much on spare-part depth. Left tackle Andrew Thomas flashed as a rookie, but here’s the rest of the lineup, from left to right: Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Zach Fulton or Will Hernandez and Matt Peart, with Nate Solder back from his COVID opt-out at tackle. That’s passable, perhaps, but no one’s writing home about it. Now just imagine if one or more blockers go down during the season. Jones may have Toney and Golladay and everyone else at his disposal, but he also needs bodyguards.
The Giants’ best chance at improving up front came in the draft at No. 11, from which they traded to collect future picks. They could’ve easily added a tackle or guard on Day Two. But neither of those things happened. While adding a top-tier reserve or starting-caliber lineman is a lot easier said than done at this point, it’s clear New York must continue exploring the position until kickoff. Again, did they ace draft weekend? You could certainly argue that. And this offseason they’ve definitely taken steps to return to the playoff hunt in 2021. But they still need help up front, regardless of what Gettleman says, and whether that help comes via free agency or trade, it’d behoove them to get some between now and September.