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Giants still could draft a wide receiver with their first pick

DeVonta Smith #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide

DeVonta Smith #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs for a 42-yard touchdown during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  Credit: Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox

When this offseason began — which is to say the moment the regular season ended with six wins and no postseason berth — the Giants already knew what task would top their to-do list for the next few months. They needed to find a way to become more efficient, more dangerous, more successful at scoring points.

They needed playmakers.

So in free agency, they went out and got a few. They signed wide receivers Kenny Golladay and John Ross and added tight end Kyle Rudolph, all in an effort to give Daniel Jones the broadest and most dynamic armory of choices possible. With those new players teaming up with returnees such as Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and an expected-to-be-healthy Saquon Barkley, the Giants have themselves a pretty good slate of skill players on offense.

But those signings did something more than just satisfy the most glaring need for the team. When co-owner John Mara was giving the reasons why the Giants signed Golladay last month, calling him a "vital piece" of their long-term plans, he also noted the impact he and the rest of the newly-inked targets would have on the second phase of the roster-building season.

"It also takes pressure off of us going into the draft," Mara said. "We don’t have to take a receiver in Round 1 or Round 2. We can sit there and just take the best player available when it comes to our spot. I think that’s another reason why it was so important to us."

Yes, signing Golladay means the Giants don’t have to draft a receiver.

It does not, however, mean that they won’t.

The group that could be available to them with the 11th overall pick could very well include Alabama’s Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. If enough quarterbacks are taken in the top 10, perhaps even Ja’Marr Chase and tight end Kyle Pitts will be within reach.

If they go in another direction at 11 — say edge rusher or even trade back — Rondale Moore and Kadarius Toney could come into play for them late in the first or early in the second round.

The point is that there is no one on the current roster, no move already made this offseason, that will preclude the Giants from selecting another offensive playmaker.

"You’re always looking to upgrade," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "It’s about value and how you’re building your team, what you’re looking to do. You can never have too many good players at one position."

Are Smith and Waddle good players?

"You evaluate the film, and the college film suggests that they’re very good players," Gettleman said.

They’d seemingly be good fits for the Giants as well.

Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, already has fit into the local sports landscape. He popped up at a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden this past week wearing a Yankees cap. Will he be donning a Giants cap on Thursday?

Waddle would give the Giants more blazing speed than Smith, who is a more polished route-runner.

"When you start with the wideouts of who would fit better there, it's splitting hairs," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I think Devonta Smith would give you that pure route-runner that's going to be able to uncover and win on third downs and be kind of Daniel Jones' best friend. But I love Waddle . . . I don't think there's a bad decision to be made."

If the Giants were to select a receiver on Thursday, it would be the fifth straight year they went with an offensive player with their first pick, a trend that predates Gettleman and began with Engram in 2017. It also would bring Gettleman’s current plans to rebuild the Giants — the ones that began in earnest with the selection of Jones in 2019 — full circle.

"I’ve always believed that when you draft the guy that you feel is going to be your franchise quarterback, first thing you’ve got to do is get people around him to keep him upright and then you’ve got to get him playmakers," Gettleman said.

So he drafted Jones. Then, last year, left tackle Andrew Thomas.

This year?

Let’s just say that finding explosive offensive players has not been entirely crossed off that to-do list just yet.

A look at some of the receivers the Giants could be targeting in the first rounds of the upcoming NFL draft:

Devonta Smith, Alabama

A smooth, long-strided artist when it comes to route running … 2020’s Heisman Trophy winner; the Giants have not drafted a Heisman winner since Ron Dayne in 2000 … While he is listed at 170, he reportedly weighed in at a feathery 166 at the NFL’s medical combine earlier this month.

Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

While he is known for his blazing speed, Waddle’s greatest strength may be altering it between gears to mess with defenders’ timing … He’s short, but has the tenacity to go up and get jump balls … Eleven of his 20 career touchdowns at Alabama went for 50 yards or more.

Rondale Moore, Purdue

Despite a lack of size he can make contested catches and scouts say he runs like a tailback with the ball in his hands … Good character and effort player who would fit well in Joe Judge’s culture … Was named honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2020 despite starting in just three games (35 receptions, 270 yards; six carries, 32 yards, one TD).

Kadarius Toney, Florida

Most NFL scouts see him being most effective in the slot, which could create a competition for that spot with Sterling Shepard … Missed lots of time with injuries in 2017 and 2019 before a breakout year in 2020 … Has good added value as a punt returner.

— Tom Rock

New York Sports