The last time the Giants pulled off a blockbuster draft-day trade, it required a leap of faith.
Not in the player they desired, not in their process to arrive at that point, but in . . . the San Diego Chargers.
That was in 2004, when the Giants wanted Eli Manning, Manning wanted the Giants, and the team had a decision to make with the fourth overall pick.
Manning already had been chosen first overall by the Chargers. The Giants could have selected the second-best quarterback on their board: Ben Roethlisberger.
Instead, with wheels in motion on a deal for Manning, they took Philip Rivers. For a little while, at least.
“I would have been happy with Rivers, but I wanted Ben,” then-Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi later said. “I took a risk. If [Chargers GM A.J. Smith] would have called back and said I’m backing out of this trade, there’s no Ben for me.”
The eventual trade set up both franchises with a quarterback for the better part of the next 16 seasons. And it was finalized because the Giants not only knew the value of what they were getting but what they were giving up.
This year the Giants are back to holding the fourth overall pick in the draft, back to looking to trade it (although this time the preferable direction would seem to be down rather than up) and, perhaps, back to trying to strike a deal with the Chargers.
They again could be the ideal partner for the Giants. The Chargers hold the sixth overall pick, one spot behind the Dolphins, and both teams are in need of a quarterback. To make sure they get the one they want (other than projected first overall pick Joe Burrow, of course), the Chargers again could come calling on the Giants.
That’s one of the reasons the Giants have been doing their homework on a position that ranks rather low in terms of their own needs: quarterback. An NFL Network report on Monday said coach Joe Judge has even had FaceTime meetings with Oregon’s Justin Herbert as part of their “exhaustive” draft prep.
General manager Dave Gettleman has never traded backward in any round of any draft he has overseen, but he was with the Giants in 2004 and learned a lesson from that exchange with the Chargers. The key to any deal on draft day is not only whom you get but what you give up. That’s why the Giants have been researching players they probably won’t be drafting. It may seem like a waste of time, but it’s actually one of the most important steps in the process.
“We evaluate every position because you want to set your board the right way,” Gettleman said in February at the NFL Scouting Combine. “If you don’t evaluate everybody in the draft, whether people perceive you have a need at that position or not, your board is not right, and if your board is not right, you can’t maneuver properly. You have to evaluate everybody and give them the full schmear . . . You give them complete shrift, you don’t give them short shrift.”
Gettleman said he does not rely on trade charts for deals, because the value of the fourth overall pick is not universal. It is in the eye of the beholder . . . and the evaluator.
“If someone calls you up and their chart doesn’t match yours and they make an offer and you don’t think it’s a good deal, you don’t do it,” he said. “It’s that simple. If both groups are motivated, you’ll come to some kind of conclusion.”
Given the logistics of this particular draft, with teams working from home and conversations with those who need to sign off on trades having to take place, coming to an agreement on a deal could be more complex.
In 2004, everyone was in the same room when team president John Mara balked at the Chargers’ last-minute price addition of a fifth-round pick in 2005 and was ready to play chicken. He eventually was talked into not jeopardizing the deal over such a minor detail.
This year, there may not be as many accessible voices to talk through the fine print. Then again, that may mean that trades could take longer than usual to finalize. Perhaps they could be announced after the picks themselves have been made.
Is there a scenario in which the Giants use the fourth overall pick to select Herbert, a player they hope not to keep, and then later in the night trade him to the Chargers in exchange for whomever they selected sixth overall? The Giants want to be prepared for such an unorthodox contingency.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened.