This could be one of the most consequential drafts in the history of the Giants and Jets, and the decisions that general managers Dave Gettleman and Mike Maccagnan make Thursday night might shape their rosters for years to come.
No pressure, fellas.
Either or both could come away with a franchise quarterback capable of leading his new team for the next decade. Either or both could wind up with players who fizzle out and set their franchises back years.
Months of scouting and interviewing are over, and their homework is done. Now it’s time to execute the plans Gettleman and Maccagnan have been formulating.
But fate doesn’t completely rest in their hands. While the Giants go in with the second overall pick and the Jets with the third, it’s what happens at No. 1 that could shape how Gettleman and Maccagnan proceed.
The Browns own that pick, and GM John Dorsey isn’t giving any hints.
“You know, a man once told me, don’t show all your cards at once,” Dorsey told reporters at a predraft news conference.
Speculation has been all over the map with what Dorsey is thinking. Some say he has a clear preference for USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Others have mentioned Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. There is speculation that Dorsey will take Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen have been in the mix.
There also is some chatter — some of it created by Dorsey himself — that he’s ready to move out of the top spot for the right price. The Browns also own the fourth overall pick, so he’s in a great spot to maneuver.
“I’m a guy of processes,” Dorsey said. “I’m a guy of structure. I’m a guy of systems and I’m a creature of habit. I’ve done it for 20-some years . . . I’m very confident in where we are in the process.”
The best-case scenario for the Giants and Jets is Dorsey taking Allen with the top pick. Though the strong-armed quarterback is part of the quartet of blue-chip passers expected to go in the top 10 — perhaps even the top four — he also carries risk. Most notably, his .562 completion percentage has scared off some scouts. So if he’s taken off the board right away, that leaves three potentially cleaner prospects in Darnold, Rosen and Mayfield.
The chances of the Giants and Jets winding up with franchise quarterbacks are enhanced if Dorsey is enamored of Allen.
There’s also a school of thought that Dorsey is willing to gamble by taking Barkley at No. 1 and still being in position to get a quarterback of his liking at No. 4. That, too, would open the door to the Giants and Jets getting closer to their quarterback of choice — if indeed that’s where they’re going.
It’s almost guaranteed that Maccagnan is getting himself a quarterback this week. Why would he move up from No. 6 to No. 3 if he’s not looking for a passer?
Gettleman appears far less certain about where he stands on the quarterback position. The scouting grapevine suggests he favors Barkley, and if he does, that’s an awful lot of draft capital to spend on a position with decreased importance in today’s NFL.
Gettleman on Thursday called the devaluation of the running back “a myth,” arguing that it still is important to run the football because it makes offenses — including quarterbacks — that much more balanced.
But tell me the last time a running back proved to be a difference-maker in the construction of a Super Bowl team (the answer is “years ago’’). So why waste a No. 2 pick?
Consider: The Giants’ last two Super Bowls were won with one of the NFL’s worst rushing attacks, and their best two runners in both seasons were a fourth-round pick (Brandon Jacobs) and a seventh-rounder (Ahmad Bradshaw).
The leading rusher for the Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl season was LeGarrette Blount, an undrafted free agent in 2010. The leading rusher for the Patriots in their Super Bowl run the year before: Blount.
The point here is that you can find effective running backs lower down in the draft, so placing such a high premium on one is risky — especially when there are capable quarterbacks and a blue-chip pass rusher in Bradley Chubb available at that spot. In fact, if Gettleman does pass on a quarterback at No. 2, he shouldn’t pick Barkley. He should take Chubb, who plays a far more important position as a coveted pass rusher than a running back with a more limited shelf life.
Perhaps Gettleman is playing coy and making other teams seem he’s enamored of Barkley in order to set the stage for a trade down. After all, he did note Thursday that depth is a factor in his draft thinking.
“Sometimes you have to look at it this way,” he said. “We’re all in school; do I want to get an A and four C’s, or do we want an A-minus, a couple of B-pluses and a couple of B’s? Winning requires depth. If you get a chance to accumulate quality, you put yourself in a position to potentially accumulate picks and have a lot of very solid players. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Gettleman would be best served by taking a quarterback, as long as he has enough conviction on one. But he also knows that you can’t force it if your heart of hearts tells you there isn’t one you can stake your reputation on.
There are plenty of examples of teams that talk themselves into believing in a quarterback’s potential, only to see him fizzle. JaMarcus Russell, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Ryan Leaf are only a few names on a long list of high-draft disappointments.
For Maccagnan, it’s a far less complicated but equally treacherous line of thinking. It’s almost inconceivable that he won’t take a quarterback, because everything he has done leading up to this point has trended in that direction. The hard part is getting the right one.
There’s a growing belief in NFL circles that he’d love to get Mayfield. But his lack of height (6-1 on his tiptoes), his background in a spread offense (which doesn’t always translate to the NFL game) and a temperament that befits an aggressive linebacker more than a quarterback offer plenty of red flags.
If Dorsey and Gettleman leave an opening in which Rosen is available, the Jets will come away with the smartest quarterback in this year’s class and probably the most ready-to-play prospect of the bunch. He’s a terrific pocket passer with plenty of moxie.
Yes, there is a concern about two concussions he suffered in college — don’t forget, Mayfield has suffered three concussions — but there is physical risk for every player at every position.
Best-case scenario: Rosen is on the board and the Jets get their quarterback.
Welcome to draft week, Giants and Jets fans.
What happens next could make — or break — your team for years to come.