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NFL Draft

New York Giants 2021 NFL Draft Class Breakdown

  • The Draft Network
  • May 3, 2021
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New York Giants Post-Draft Breakdown

The 2021 offseason is a critical one for New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman. The Giants have been mired in mediocrity from the moment Gettleman has stepped foot in the building—although in all fairness the team’s issues have far preceded his hiring. The Giants are 15-33 under Gettleman’s watch, however. And no matter how bad things were when you first arrived, three straight seasons with 10-plus losses will have anyone on the hot seat. 

So for Gettleman, this year’s draft was about one thing: selling his long-term vision and ability to run the team. And from that perspective, the 2021 NFL Draft should be considered a success for the Giants. Gettleman traded down with each of his first two selections, aligning New York with extra draft capital moving forward. But, of course, the risk here is that if the Giants flop once more, it will be even more tempting to make a change before those extra assets go to waste. 

But before we recap where the Giants must go from here, let’s take a look back at their 2021 NFL Draft class:

Round 1: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

If I’m being completely honest, Toney’s selection here at No. 20 overall does feel a touch early. But with teams like Jacksonville apparently dialed in just a few picks behind New York, it wouldn’t be fair to call this a “reach.” Toney joins a wide receiver room that also added Kenny Golladay this offseason to help provide a “no excuses” season for quarterback Daniel Jones. The best thing Toney will provide Jones is someone who can create explosive plays for him over the middle of the field—Toney is electric in such opportunities and will feast if he’s allowed to roam the middle underneath the vertical routes from tight end Evan Engram. But the schemed quick throws will be another area of value for Toney as well; as Jones took those rhythm throws consistently going all the way back to his time at Duke. 

Expect Toney to push John Ross out of a starting role. He’s more diverse and plenty dynamic, but with better hands and more durability. 

Round 2: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

The value here is undeniable. The Giants secure a pass rusher who the TDN staff offered a first-round grade to, but they get him at No. 50 overall after a trade back that added an extra 2022 third-round draft choice to their futures portfolio. Ojulari becomes the latest Georgia pass rusher to enter the fray, joining Lorenzo Carter, who plays linebacker for the Giants. The fit here makes sense stylistically when accounting for the other types Gettleman has chased with New York. Ojulari should be considered a better version of 2019 third-round choice Oshane Ximines. 

Opportunities to rush the passer will be ripe. New York’s front seven is loaded with interior pressure players and stout defensive tackles, but the EDGE group was seen as a significant soft spot by our scouting team this offseason. Ojulari, along with free-agent signing Ifeadi Odenigbo, are my favorites to emerge as the third-down pass-rush duo. 

Ojulari was available at No. 50 due to a reported degenerative knee issue flagged at the Combine, so New York may not have a 10-plus year player here. But at the very least for his rookie contract, Ojulari is positioned to be a viable rush threat off the edge. And in 2020, he’s likely their best one, too. 

Round 3: Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF

If there’s one thing the trends of the 2021 NFL Draft taught us, it is that there is no such thing as too many good corners on your roster. That was the big question mark I saw associated with this pick: where does Robinson play? 

I’m not so sure we need a definitive answer. James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson likely man the outside. Safeties Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and Xavier McKinney are a versatile trio. And 2020 rookie Darnay Holmes is a solid player: but he’s not stopping me from drafting more mid-round cornerback depth. The Giants could roll out dime subpackages and still fit up against 11-personnel quite well between their safeties and depth in the nickel—so while you could have spun the argument here for a bigger position of need, I actually like this pick. 

Round 4: Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa

Smith is a personal favorite Day 3 pairing of mine. This is a twitchy, long pass rusher who simply needs to acclimate to higher levels of competition and further round out his pass rush menu. But if you told me that in three years Smith would be the better pass rusher out of this year’s class, I wouldn’t be surprised. He appears to have more of the flexibility and tilt in his frame that poses a big challenge for tackles when setting against speed. Granted, the floor for Ojulari is significantly higher than Smith’s. One thing that Smith has going for him is defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s background in multiple fronts, which could manufacture a designed role for Smith early on in his pro career to ensure he sees the field sooner rather than later. 

Round 6: Gary Brightwell, RB, Arizona

This is the first pick that I can honestly say I don’t have much of an appetite for, which means the Giants did pretty well for themselves. I’m not sure I see the appeal other than going out and drafting a “big back” to try to find an acorn to replace Wayne Gallman on the roster. Brightwell is not explosive, he’s not overly productive, and he doesn’t handle kick return duties. I would imagine Brightwell is a practice squad player in 2021, at best. 

Round 6: Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State

Williams does not sport the same athletic ability as his brother, Greedy (Cleveland Browns), but more importantly, he’s a ways off from stepping into the fray and being a productive NFL cornerback. In a cornerback room that features Bradberry, Jackson, Robinson, Holmes, and Issac Yiadom (plus safeties with man cover skills), I can’t envision a clear path to a roster spot. Instead, Williams will need to hope New York offers him patience—something not typically shown toward raw corners that will be 25 years old as a rookie. 

How did the Giants do? 

If I’m Gettleman, I feel good about my efforts. Extra picks? Check. Further isolate the quarterback variable in a “make or break” year? Check. Good value on Day 2? Absolutely. Drafting impact, premium positions early? Pass rushers and cornerbacks are a good way to go. 

The process was good. The results, which will fall into Joe Judge’s coaching staff’s hands, will ultimately determine if they are also good. They’ll need to be in 2021, or else the Giants may be facing a regime change next offseason. The Giants themselves are off the clock in a literal sense, but both Gettleman and Jones are very much still on it for all of 2021.

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