The New York Giants could end up coming out smelling like roses, despite refusing to acknowledge that the garden is run down and in need of some upkeep. Yes, it’s possible that despite themselves, the New York Giants come out looking crazy like a fox when we revisit the 2018 and 2019 drafts.
The primary issue is that the Giants–a franchise that has not won a playoff game since the February 2012 Super Bowl victory–have refused to acknowledge that they need to move on from Eli Manning. It needed to happen a year ago. Manning averaged 6.4 yards per attempt and threw 29 interceptions over the last two years. His passing numbers have actually rebounded quite a bit this year, thanks to Saquon Barkley making big plays and Odell Beckham Jr. returning. At the same time, the masses are coming to the realization that it’s time to move on.
Ben McAdoo, for all his other faults and errors in handling, recognized this. But it seems like ever since Eli Manning was benched for one game, the rest of last year and the entire offseason was spent apologizing and honoring and appeasing a 37-year-old quarterback who has fallen off a cliff. They sat in the 2nd position in a quarterback-rich draft and showed no interest. They took Saquon Barkley and all his immense talents at the running back position to help Eli, rather than address the position while drafting highly for the first time since they draft Eli in 2004.
And so the conventional wisdom now is that the Giants screwed up. But what if their denial and burying their head in the sand when it came to addressing quarterback ends up being a master stroke? Here’s how:
#1: Saquon Barkley is really, really good. He’s a generational talent, the best back I’ve seen since Tomlinson. Drafting Tomlinson early worked out for a downtrodden San Diego franchise, because they also found their quarterbacks. From 2004 to 2009, the Chargers were 3rd in wins behind only Brady’s Patriots and Mannings’s Colts.
The problem with Barkley, acknowledging his talent, was that quarterback was still a glaring issue even if they were in denial. But it was expected that with his arrival, and with Odell coming back, the Giants would be a competitive if not great team, maybe a 7-9 to 9-7 type team. That’s the kind of team that could end up in quarterback purgatory for years, like the Dolphins post-Marino.
But, well, the Giants have started 1-5, which leads to …
#2: The collapse of the offense and Eli is more pronounced, which means that despite themselves, and despite GM Dave Gettleman making moves trying to win now around the veteran QB, they could still end up with a top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Unless they go on a run and win at least half their remaining games, they will be drafting somewhere in the Top 6.
And speaking of drafting in the Top 6 …
#3: Because they zigged when others zagged in taking quarterbacks, they may be the best-positioned buyer for the same position in 2019. These are the teams that would project to draft highly based on current standings and how they’ve looked so far:
Arizona– just drafted Josh Rosen
San Francisco– just paid Jimmy Garoppolo, who will return from knee injury
Buffalo– just drafted Josh Allen
Oakland– signed Derek Carr to a big contract before 2017 season
Indianapolis — Andrew Luck
New York Jets — just drafted Sam Darnold
After that, you have to get to teams like Dallas and Denver to find the first potential buyers at the quarterback position. Dallas, though, isn’t a lock to decide to move on from Dak Prescott versus try to upgrade the offense around him. And those teams are likely to finish in more the 6-10 to 8-8 range.
So there’s a real chance that the Giants are the only team that will be ready to draft a QB among those picking near the top, and others would need to make a big trade to get in the mix. The Giants will be best positioned to take someone like Justin Herbert, even if it requires a trade to move a few slots. Anyone else wanting him may have to move from outside the top 10 picks into the top 2 or 3, a very costly proposition.
So that’s how, when we look back, the Giants may be in good shape despite themselves. If they get to collapse their way into a draft where few teams will be ready to draft another quarterback, where so many teams have young quarterbacks that they aren’t ready to give up on yet that demand is relatively low, they can still get the franchise guy everyone thought they must grab all along.
If they come out of consecutive drafts with Saquon Barkley and Justin Herbert, with both a generational talent at running back and the top quarterback in a draft, then they may just have won despite losing while trying to win now in 2018.