National Team quarterback Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh runs through drills...

National Team quarterback Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh runs through drills on Feb. 3 during practice for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Credit: AP/Butch Dill


The Giants’ plan is for Daniel Jones to continue as their quarterback, although general manager Joe Schoen is quick to add the qualifier "right now." Which means there are no guarantees for the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft, even if Jones hasn’t had the luxury of coaching stability or the good fortune of an injury-free run in his nearly three years as the starter.

But life moves fast in the NFL, especially if you’re not a proven quarterback. And while Jones has impressed Schoen and first-year coach Brian Daboll with his work ethic — he’s often at the team’s practice facility at 5:30 a.m. to get his daily workout in — that won’t stop the Giants from perusing the market for his replacement, whether that replacement is the team’s eventual starter or a more immediate contributor.

Fortunately for Jones, this is not a year of quarterback greatness in the draft. Unlike the recent past, in which as many as five quarterbacks have gone in the first round, there might be only two who go that early in next month’s draft. Then again, never underestimate teams’ willingness to overdraft players at the greatest position of need, so that number might grow by one or two.

Will the Giants be in that group? It’s too early to tell, but don’t dismiss the possibility.

Jones missed the last six games of 2021 because of a neck injury, although he didn’t require surgery and indicated he will be ready to go for the start of training camp. But there’s a lot of time between now and then, time for the Giants to pay close attention to Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh and Malik Willis of Liberty, the two front-runners atop this year’s quarterback class.

Pickett had a highly productive senior season for the Panthers, throwing for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Willis, who transferred from Auburn to Liberty before the 2020 season, threw for 2,857 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year. He also ran for 878 yards and 13 touchdowns, proving to be one of the country’s most versatile players.

But neither player is considered a can’t-miss prospect.

Willis stands just 6-1 — not the prototype height for an NFL quarterback but certainly not a fatal flaw, considering the success of other shorter quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. Pickett is a more imposing 6-3 and 220 pounds, but his hand size — 8 1⁄2 inches — concerns some scouts. Coaches prefer quarterbacks to have bigger hands, not only to better grip the football but to hold on to it and avoid fumbles.

Pickett understands the concern, even if he doesn’t agree with it.

"It is what it is," he said. "I think the media runs with it more than I’d say NFL teams do."

In fact, he hadn’t heard any teams express trepidation.

"There wasn’t much talk about that in all the formal interviews and informal interviews I’ve had so far this week," he said.

Willis saw his stock rise with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl and the practices before it, and he seems to have solidified his status as the second-best quarterback. Or, in the eyes of some talent evaluators, the one with the biggest upside.

"I thought it was pretty cool we got to experience a coaching staff from the next level," Willis said of being coached by the Detroit Lions’ staff at the Senior Bowl. "I think they were really cool people."

That up-close-and-personal interaction with the Lions might foretell his future. Detroit might be in the market for a quarterback after Jared Goff’s disappointing season in 2021 following his trade from the Rams.

The Giants surely are mindful of Willis’ talents, and they’ll scrutinize him, Pickett and the others. The top-tier group also includes Matt Corral of Ole Miss — the same school as Eli Manning, although Corral certainly isn’t in that elite company — and Sam Howell of North Carolina.

It’s not a great group on paper, but Willis speaks for his contemporaries when he says the future might be brighter than many people expect.

"I would say that everybody is entitled to their opinions," he said. "Informed or not informed. It is what it is."

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