Giants GM Dave Gettleman talks with the media after the...

Giants GM Dave Gettleman talks with the media after the season on Jan. 2, 2019. Credit: Errol Anderson

Dave Gettleman was relaxed and conversational as he addressed the media one last time before next week’s draft, but his countenance belied the importance of the task facing the Giants’ 68-year-old general manager:

Gettleman is about to preside over one of the most important drafts in franchise history, and the decisions he makes ultimately will define his legacy.

With 12 picks in a draft considered loaded from top to bottom – especially at his two most critical positions of need – Gettleman insists he won’t force the issue to come away with an impact player on defense and – most critically – a quarterback to shepherd the franchise through the next dozen years or so.

“You just gotta relax,” he said, “and see what happens.”

But there is no overstating the importance of what is about to take place. By passing on a quarterback last year in favor of running back Saquon Barkley, who has turned out to be just as exceptional as the Giants had envisioned, Gettleman urgently needs to find a long-term replacement for Eli Manning. And with a defense that is short on playmakers, Gettleman must come up with a solution to reinvigorate the pass rush.

With the Giants in the midst of a prolonged championship drought that has drawn some unfortunate comparisons to the dark years of the late 1960s and '70s, Gettleman must do as another general manager did to bring the team out of the depths. Just as George Young brought Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor to the Giants as building blocks for their first two Super Bowl championships, Gettleman must now do the same for a team that will soon move on from the Manning era.

Gettleman relishes the opportunity that lies ahead, calling this one of the best drafts in years and realizing that there a unique opportunity at hand. He has the sixth and 17th overall picks – the second of which he acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade – which should be good enough to come away with two players who can help bring the franchise out of its post-2011 abyss.

Gettleman has shown he can tear down the guts of a roster that ultimately proved unsuccessful. Now he must prove he can build it back up and create the foundation for a championship. 

He insists he will not force the issue.

"It’s about value,” Gettleman said. “You start reaching for need, you do that, you get into trouble.”

He’s right about that, as all too many general managers seeking answers have found out. There is fool’s gold in every draft, and surely there will be busts in this year’s class. But Gettleman is convinced that there are enough trustworthy prospects to make this one of the most productive drafts in recent years.

“We have more players rated as first, second, third and fourth-round values than I’ve had in any draft I’ve had – seven as a general manager,” he said.

That’s about as solid an endorsement as there can be for a draft, and with a dozen picks, Gettleman has a unique opportunity to upgrade his roster and set the foundation for years to come.

But only if his instincts are correct and his choices pan out.

There are several quarterbacks worth considering, even if Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray comes off the board first to the Cardinals. Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, Drew Lock of Missouri, Daniel Jones of Duke, Ryan Finley of North Carolina State and Will Grier of West Virginia are the consensus top players at quarterback, and Gettleman will have done his due diligence on all of them before next Thursday night’s first round.

The feeling here is that it will come down to Haskins, Lock and Jones, with Jones getting the edge. Whether the Giants take him – or another passer – at six or 17 is the only remaining issue.

There is a slew of highly rated defensive prospects – even more than at quarterback. The draft is loaded with edge rushers, although the best one, Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, almost certainly will be off the board. Other possibilities include Josh Allen of Kentucky, Rashan Gary of Michigan, Clelin Ferrell of Clemson, Montez Sweat of Mississippi State. And a bunch of defensive linemen as well, a list that includes Quinnen Williams of Alabama, Ed Oliver of Houston, Christian Wilkins of Clemson and Jeffery Simmons of Mississippi State.

For Gettleman, it is the perfect intersection of need vs. talent. Now all that’s left is making the right decisions.

The Giants depend on Gettleman making the right ones. So, too, does Gettleman’s legacy.

Giants 2019 NFL Draft picks

Round 1: 6, 17

Round 2: 37

Round 3: 95

Round 4: 108, 132

Round 5: 142, 143, 171

Round 6: 180

Round 7: 232, 245