The NFL schedule won’t be unveiled for another couple of weeks, but the Giants have known who they’ll be playing in their 17 games in 2021 for some time. Now they know which first-round rookies they’ll be facing, too. And, if you read this, so will you.
Here’s a look at which players were selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft by teams that will face the Giants this season. First, the ones they’ll probably face twice in the NFC East this season and for years to come:
Dallas: With a pick that changed hands four times, from San Francisco to Miami to Philadelphia and finally, on Thursday night, to Dallas, the Cowboys got linebacker Micah Parsons. A good fit for them schematically, he’ll replace Sean Lee who recently retired. He’s also a good fit for the Cowboys personality-wise: loud, brash and confident. Watch for the meetings between Saquon Barkley and Parsons, two Penn State products, coming to a gap near you.
Philadelphia: The Giants will get a good look at the player they were coveting at 11. DeVonta Smith, the Heisman-winning wide receiver, was taken after the Eagles leapfrogged the Giants to get him. That will only add to an already heated rivalry between the two teams even though the other causes of recent friction, Doug Pederson and Nate Sudfeld, are no longer in Philly. Smith could become the DeSean Jackson-style heartbreaker for the Giants in the coming years, with the added element of their dealing with how close they came to getting him themselves.
Washington: Remember them? The division champs? They picked up Jamin Davis from Kentucky with the 19th overall pick. He’s a fast, athletic linebacker who can fly around the field; scouts say he’s the one player in college football who stood a chance going up against Kyle Pitts of Florida. How he’ll handle Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley and, perhaps, Kadarius Toney out of the backfield or from the slot, will go a long way in determining the results between these two teams that finished first and second (despite a combined 13 victories between them) in 2020.
The rest of the schedule
Chicago: The good news for the Giants in this game is that their draft stock will rise no matter who wins since they acquired the Bears’ first-round pick in 2022 as part of their trade back on Thursday night. Depending on when the game takes place they’ll either see Andy Dalton or rookie quarterback Justin Fields, the player the Bears traded up with the Giants to select. The Giants had zero interest in drafting a quarterback this year so they won’t have any pangs of remorse about the prospect of facing Fields, but you can bet there will be plenty of pressure on Daniel Jones to prove the front office right in their devotion to him in this game.
Atlanta: Dave Gettleman was on record touting tight end Kyle Pitts. "He’s a different cat," he said. It will probably be up to one of the versatile members of the Giants’ secondary – Xavier McKinney or Logan Ryan – to make sure they don’t get clawed by the fourth overall pick and the consensus best non-quarterback in the draft class.
Carolina: Jaycee Horn was the top cornerback in the draft and went to the Panthers at No. 8. There will be plenty of storylines in this game, between Sam Darnold’s first game back at MetLife Stadium and James Bradberry’s first game against his old team, not to mention the showdown of rehabbing superbacks between Saquon and Christian McCaffrey. But Horn having to cover Kenny Golladay – or maybe even Toney when he lines up as a true receiver – will be a key matchup.
Las Vegas: The Raiders made a pick that would have put Al Davis to sleep, selecting Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood with what most consider a bit of a reach with the 17th overall pick. Who will the rookie offensive lineman be most concerned with blocking among the Giants’ edge rushers? We might have a better idea of that answer after Day Two of the draft on Friday.
Denver: They took Patrick Surtain II, another of the top corners available, with the ninth overall pick. It’s a bit of a leap, but you can manufacture some drama there since the Cowboys likely would not have traded out of 10 if Surtain was available, so this is really the move that set in motion the Giants’ inability to draft DeVonta Smith and have to trade back.
L.A. Chargers: Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater was probably one of the players the Giants hoped might be available at 20 when they traded back from 11. Instead he lasted just two more picks and went to the Chargers at 13. More of a draft storyline, though, will be Justin Herbert’s first game against the Giants. He’s the quarterback they might have taken ahead of Daniel Jones had he been available in the 2018 draft. Instead he stayed in college for one more year, the Giants drafted Jones, and Herbert was Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020.
Tampa Bay: The defending Super Bowl champs took Joe Tryon, edge rusher from Washington, with the 32nd overall pick. It’ll be up to the Giants’ starting tackles – whoever they turn out to be, some amalgamation of Andrew Thomas, Nate Solder and Matt Peart as of now – to stop him, Shaq Barrett and old pal Jason Pierre-Paul.
New Orleans: No more Drew Brees, but the Saints tried to improve their defense with the selection of end Payton Turner from Houston with the 28th pick. He’ll be a powerful player for them on the edge both against the run and the pass. The Giants will likely try to use the speed of their skill players to avoid him, but at some point the O-line will have to muscle up against him.
Miami: The team added as the Giants’ 17th game will be touting a pair of first-round picks against the Giants. They were both players the Giants were interested in selecting themselves were they available at 11 or 20. Instead the Dolphins selected receiver Jaylen Waddle from Alabama with the sixth overall pick, then grabbed edge rusher Jaelen Phillips from Miami at 18.
L.A. Rams: They didn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft. Still, it should be a good game and a yardstick challenge for the Giants to see how they measure up to elite teams.
Kansas City: Ditto.