While any draft pick has the potential to become a star or a bust, and while none of us know for sure which destiny lies ahead of those picks, the New York Giants still made a poor decision by taking former LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
This has little to do with Beckham, who is a superb route-runner with superstar potential. He's probably a better all-around player than current starter Rueben Randle and has a hell of a high ceiling as both a receiver and return man.
But by passing up on a stud defensive line prospect like Aaron Donald in favor of Beckham, the Giants displayed poor prioritization. This team knows more than anyone that you win with strong quarterback play and an elite array of pass-rushing studs up front on defense.
The Giants already have the quarterback, but they've lost most of those pass-rushing specialists and stellar defensive linemen who helped them win not one, but two Super Bowls in a five-year span earlier in the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era.
Donald was, by most indications, the best player on the board, and he just so happens to be a defensive lineman who can wreak havoc against the run as a tackle while also applying consistent pressure on the quarterback.
He could have replaced Linval Joseph immediately while also grabbing some of the sacks Justin Tuck left behind, making life significantly easier for Jason Pierre-Paul. And he could have been inserted into the starting lineup without stunting the progress of last year's third-round defensive end, Damontre Moore.
It was too perfect.
I had the Giants picking Zack Martin because I thought there was no chance Aaron Donald would be here.— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) May 9, 2014
Aaron Donald has to be a no-brainer for the Giants. Fell into their laps.— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) May 9, 2014
A lot of folks are dismayed that they didn't take an offensive tackle like Zack Martin, but that would have been a poor decision too. This team had already committed a boatload of money to left tackle Will Beatty before drafting Justin Pugh one year ago. You don't take offensive tackles in back-to-back first rounds, period. That's especially the case with Beatty locked in on the left side.
Newsday's Tom Rock noted on Twitter that this is a deep draft for offensive linemen and that the G-Men can get one in Round 2, but that exact same rule applies to the wide receiver position. This is an incredibly deep draft for wideouts, and Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Cody Latimer, Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews were all still available when the Giants picked.
The gap between Beckham and that group just isn't as large as the space that separates Donald from everybody else on the defensive side of the ball.
This doesn't mean the Giants are already giving up on Randle, but they sure appear to be second-guessing whether he has the ability to become a reliable No. 1 outside receiver. It was too early for that. In this spot, a usually disciplined franchise grew uncharacteristically impatient. Randle is only 23 years old and two seasons into what remains a promising career.
Who should the Giants have drafted?
Besides, since when have the Giants felt the need to use first-round picks on potential top receivers? Current top guy Victor Cruz wasn't drafted in 2010. Amani Toomer, Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon came out of later rounds, too.
So sure, Beckham could become the best receiver in this draft class and he could make life easier on Eli Manning. There's a chance he becomes the difference in another Giants Super Bowl run. But that also applies to Donald, who would have filled a bigger need and who most experts rated higher.
Beckham, who isn't exceptionally fast and lacks size, will have a much tougher time establishing himself amid his 2014 draft peers, which is what makes this pick so perplexing.
Without hindsight on our side, this is the sort of decision that indicates the Giants are losing confidence in their former bread-and-butter system—the one in which they drafted top-notch pass-rushers to fuel the defense while looking elsewhere for puzzle pieces to surround Manning and those rushers.