The 2020 NFL Draft is over and New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman may not have filled all of the holes on the roster, but his selections may have moved the franchise towards respectability. Gettleman’s goal was to add pieces that make the Giants a more complete team in all three (offense, defense and special teams) phases of the game.
The Giants 2020 draft class consist of 10 players (seven defensive players and three offensive players) with a premium on linebackers (four) and offensive line (three). If Gettleman is going to continue running the team’s football operations, then he must hit on several of his top choices becoming starters that make an immediate impact on the field. If not, then Gettleman’s time with the Giants is over.
I cannot pretend to know how each draftee’s NFL career will play out. Together, we must come back in three seasons and re-visit how this draft class has progressed. We’ll probably end up wondering why some players stayed on the draft board for that long, while others became the perfect pick for the Giants.
However, we can project what role each rookie could have for the 2020 season:
Projecting Roles for the New York Giants 2020 Draft Class
Andrew Thomas, OT-Georgia (No. 4 overall)
Prediction: Week 1 starter at left tackle
To no one’s surprise, the Giants refrained from moving down in the first round of the draft. Gettleman didn’t waste any time on the clock before selecting Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick.
He made no bones about “fixing the offensive line once and for all,” in reference to addressing the Giants’ most pressing need. This year’s draft was loaded with offensive line talent that could provide immediate solutions to the biggest problem area on the roster.
It seems like the Giants have been linked to selecting one of the top four offensive (Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs and Thomas) linemen prospects since the conclusion of last season. During the Gettleman era, the one constant has been the poor offensive line play as he made the mistake of using free agency to rebuild the unit. The Giants have only drafted two offensive (Will Hernandez and George Asafo-Adjei) linemen before this weekend. So, the time was right to dip their toes in this year’s draft class.
The selection of Thomas fills the Giants most pressing need on the offensive line. His size and outstanding blocking technique makes him an immediate starter at the left tackle position and that’s exactly what the Giants need. What’s not to like about Thomas as he plays with a mean streak that allows him to dominate an opponent lining up across from him. Thomas has excellent pass-blocking footwork, which is a must-have in this era of the mobile quarterback.
If the Giants are going to win games next season, then it’s important to keep quarterback Daniel Jones upright and open a running lane for Saquon Barkley. Both are big investments, but they still need some help if the Giants are going to become a playoff contender once again. Ideally, you want Thomas to team up with Hernandez on the left side of the line and watch them win the line of scrimmage battle each week.
Xavier McKinney, S-Alabama (No. 36 overall)
Prediction: Week 1 starter at free safety
Xavier McKinney is a plug-and-play defender that helps the Giants biggest deficiency, the defensive secondary. He’s the type of defensive player that helps the Giants take that next step towards respectability. The Giants were lucky to draft a quality Alabama safety in the second round once before as they selected Landon Collins with the 33rd overall pick in 2015.
Gettleman was looking for a safety who can cover the field from sideline-to-sideline and tough enough to take down a running back in the open field. McKinney is a definite upgrade over last season’s starters at the free safety position. His on-field awareness will allow Jabrill Peppers to freelance more towards the line of scrimmage. No question that McKinney will become a Week 1 starter next fall.
Matt Peart, OT-Connecticut (No. 99 overall)
Prediction: Nate Solder’s protégé
To be truthful, it caught me off-guard when the Giants selected Connecticut offensive tackle Matt Peart late in the third round. But Peart’s draft stock has been rising since the NFL Combine. However, his skill-set isn’t refined enough to make an immediate contribution on the field this season. Most likely, Peart needs a full season to prepare for the rigors of the NFL. But his size (6-7, 303 lbs.) and potential make him a definite starter of the future for the Giants.
This draft choice can be considered a Giants head coach Joe Judge “special.” The roster lacks depth at the tackle position. Thomas was drafted as an immediate starter, Peart was drafted for the future. Judge expects his offensive line coach Marc Colombo to further develop Peart’s blocking skill level. No question, Nate Solder sees the writing on the wall. He has struggled with his play in his two seasons with the Giants. But Solder’s legacy could change if he becomes a mentor to Peart. Combined with Colombo’s teaching skills, Peart could be ready to take over the right tackle position in 2021.
Darnay Holmes, CB-UCLA (No. 110 overall)
Prediction: Slot cornerback in nickel packages
Giants fans might have raised their eyebrows with the selection of Darnay Holmes in the fourth round. Cornerback wasn’t a major need after James Bradberry was signed in free agency, but you never have enough quality pass defenders on the roster.
Some draft experts wouldn’t put Holmes in the class of Jeffrey Okudah as far as being shutdown corner, but he’s a very effective pass defender in his own right. Holmes has a combination of speed and technique that will allow the Giants to put him against the top slot receivers in single coverage. No question, Holmes will put pressure on Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine for playing time and don’t be surprised if he’s included in nickel package schemes at the start of the season.
Shane Lemieux, OG-Oregon (No. 150 overall)
Prediction: Depth at the guard position
It was the Giants top priority in this year’s draft to upgrade the offensive line across the board. The drafting of Oregon guard Shane Lemieux isn’t a shocking decision as his toughness and durability makes him a viable candidate to start in a few seasons. Lemieux has a thick, squared build which allows him to over-power the opposition off the snap of the ball. He’s the perfect example that you don’t have to flashy to be successful on a football field.
The Giants seem to have some pieces in place as Thomas and Hernandez are set on the left side of the line. Kevin Zeitler looks to be the long-term answer at the right guard position. Selecting Lemieux is the perfect addition to the mix as he will add depth to the roster. Judge won’t be apprehensive in putting him into games if one of his starting guards becomes injured and forced out of the contest.
Cam Brown, LB-Penn State (No. 183 overall)
Prediction: Depth at the outside linebacker position
The Giants have lacked a consistent pass rush for far too long and the selection of Penn State LB Cam Brown helps them get a solid reinforcement this season. Brown isn’t a classic edge rusher, but he has the potential to make a contribution. He comes to the Giants with a good mix of size (6-5, 230 lbs.), strength and outstanding work ethic. Now, it’s up to the defensive coaching staff to determine what is Brown’s floor as a prospect. But he could become part of the rotation and put consistent pressure on the quarterback.
Carter Coughlin, LB-Minnesota (No. 218 overall)
Prediction: Special teams performer
The selection of Minnesota LB Carter Coughlin gives the Giants another edge pass-rushing option as they’re looking to put more pressure on the quarterback in 2020. Last season, the Giants defense ranked 25th in the NFL as they allowed opponents an average of 337.3 yards in total offense and 28.1 points-per-game. If the pass rush doesn’t improve, then these numbers won’t change much next season. Coughlin is tall, long and rangy prospect who loves the dirty work of creating some havoc in the opponent’s backfield. The Giants believe Coughlin has double-digit sack potential, but he will need to add some muscle onto his frame to play at the next level.
T.J. Brunson, ILB-South Carolina (No. 238 overall)
Prediction: Practice squad candidate
South Carolina T.J. Brunson is considered a slightly under-sized inside linebacker who’s athleticism allows him to play in several different defensive alignments. You may see the Giants try to sneak Brunson onto their practice squad next season. His production in the SEC makes him an ideal candidate for a starting position in a few seasons. Brunson has tremendous upside with his potential. A year on the practice squad gives Brunson time to develop his body and skill-set before competing for a role on the defense.
Chris Williamson, CB-Minnesota (No. 247 overall)
Prediction: Practice squad candidate
Minnesota CB Chris Williamson has a unique combination of speed and length that allows him to be use at several different positions on the field. This type of skill-set will put Williamson in the conversation for a nickel back role in 2020. Versatility shouldn’t hinder Williamson from making the final 55-man roster, but he needs to define himself to the Giants coaching staff in training camp. Williamson may not have the time necessary to show how he makes a contribution on the field. Williamson will become a likely practice squad candidate because of his athleticism. You cannot teach someone to be athletic, it’s inherited.
Tae Crowder, ILB-Georgia (No. 255 overall)
Prediction: Special team performer
Mr. Irrelevant is Georgia ILB Tae Crowder, who the Giants drafted with the final pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. Crowder is a very sure-handed tackler from the inside linebacker position. His speed and quickness could force him on the roster as a special team performer. It will be important for Crowder to play above his skill level in training camp. He lacks experience as a defender due to switching from the running back position in college. But Crowder is one of the hardest workers in practice each day, which will catch Judge’s attention this summer. Gettleman was smart to select Crowder.
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