Initially, Dave Gettleman was not planning to stay in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. He’d watched the practices, which are usually more fruitful for scouts than the game itself. But there were a few players who were going to be on the field whom he had not yet had a chance to watch during the college football season, so he altered that travel itinerary and stuck around.
On Thursday night, that decision wound up changing the future of the Giants.
Gettleman selected Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, a player he had not seen play in person until that all-star game — in which he was named MVP. “He walked out there and I saw a professional quarterback after the three series that I saw,” Gettleman said after the first round of the draft Thursday night. “That’s when I was in full bloom love.”
So much so that Gettleman would not risk waiting to select Jones with a later pick in the first round. While many speculate that Jones could have been available to the Giants at 17, Gettleman did not want to chance it.
“He’s just perfect for us,” he said. “We really believe in this kid and believe he’ll be a real quality quarterback for our franchise . . . I have no doubt he’s going to do everything he can to follow Eli [Manning] when the time comes.”
Gettleman, who has spoken about the “Kansas City model” during the offseason in regard to drafting a quarterback and having him sit and learn for a season the way Patrick Mahomes did for the Chiefs, said on Thursday night that this could be more like the “Green Bay model,” in which Aaron Rodgers sat for three seasons behind Brett Favre.
That’s a heck of a thing, to select a player sixth overall in 2019 and be willing to not have him play until perhaps 2021.
Then again, that timeline is really up to Manning and his performance. Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur spoke with Manning on Thursday night as they made the pick. Gettleman said he told Manning he still is the Giants’ starting quarterback. Shurmur said he told him his job is to keep Jones off the field.
Jones has long been compared to Manning and now will serve as his heir. Jones played for Duke coach David Cutcliffe, the same coach who helped shape Peyton Manning as a coordinator at Tennessee and Eli Manning as head coach at Ole Miss.
The Giants know that Eli Manning will not play forever — he is 38 and in the final year of his contract — but they have virtually ensured that they will have an Eli Manning-type quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Not that Jones wants that label as a Manning clone. “I’m going to try to be myself,” he said after the selection was made, “and not be Eli or anything but myself.”
Jones has a long-standing relationship with Eli Manning. He not only attended the Manning Passing Academy twice but was on the Duke campus when the Giants quarterback held his annual spring workouts there with his receivers. Jones also has said that during his college career, Cutcliffe showed him clips of both Manning brothers.
Jones’ stats were not as impressive as some of the other quarterbacks in the draft class, but many scouts noted the talent he had around him. Jones is expected to be one of the few quarterbacks drafted in the first round who does not have any other teammate selected in the same draft.
In three years as a starter at Duke, he threw 52 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions, completing almost 60 percent of his passes for 8,201 yards.
“That’d be awesome,” he said Wednesday when asked about the possibility of being drafted by the Giants. “I’d be extremely excited about that. The opportunity to learn from a guy like Eli, to watch him the way he carries himself day-in and day-out, would be a tremendous learning opportunity for a young guy and that’d be an awesome situation.”
The Giants had two other first-round picks.
With the 17th overall selection, the big pick they acquired in the trade of Odell Beckham Jr. last month, the Giants selected Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. The 6-4, 350- pounder gives them a true nose tackle and a presence up the middle. Lawrence is a space-eater and is known as a “bully’’ on the line of scrimmage, making him an ideal run-stuffer in the heart of any defense — another Gettleman staple, given that he looks for “hog mollies” on both lines.
They also traded up to select Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker with the 30th pick. Baker did not allow a touchdown reception in the past two seasons, and Gettleman said he was the best cornerback in the draft. To get him, they traded their second-round pick (37th overall) plus the picks they received during the season in trades of Eli Apple (132 overall) and Damon Harrison (142) to the Seahawks.
Both are expected to be opening day starters and could become cornerstones of the Giants’ defense for years to come. But the first round of this draft will not be judged by their careers.
“We drafted a quarterback we believe is a franchise quarterback,” Gettleman said. “That’s really the long and the short of it.”
Whether he is right or not will be the legacy of the Giants’ 2019 draft . . . and likely Gettleman’s tenure as GM of the team.
Has links to Eli Manning and Peyton Manning via Duke coach David Cutcliffe … Threw 52 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions in three years as a starter … Considered a quarterback who did the most with the least, meaning he played well without much talent around him … A cerebral quarterback who also has good athleticism and can move in the pocket … Was MVP of the Senior Bowl, marking the third straight year the Giants have selected a player so honored …Graduated from Duke with a degree in communications in December.
A “bully” on the line of scrimmage who many scouts compare to former Giant Damon “Snacks” Harrison … Did 36 bench reps at the NFL Combine … Quick and darting for his impressive size … Will help the Giants’ run defense but had just 10 sacks in his three-year college career (only 1 1/2 last year as a junior) … Was suspended for using a performance-enhancing substance in college and missed Clemson’s postseason games on the way to their national championship.
Considered by some scouts as the top cornerback in the draft … Won the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college in 2018 … Plays bigger than his listed size and is highly competitive … Some scouts compare him to Josh Norman in terms of his intensity and abilities … Had seven interceptions in his college career to go with 23 passes defensed ... Has not allowed a touchdown reception in the past two seasons.