The Cleveland Browns might be on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, but it's the New York Giants whom everyone will be watching as the key to the first round.
Why the Giants and not the Browns? Wouldn't the team owning picks No. 1 and No. 4 overall (plus Nos. 33 and 35) be the key to the draft? The Browns will dominate the 2018 selection process with picks, but the Giants are the team that can turn the draft on its head with the decision the front office makes at pick No. 2.
For this week's column I spoke to an NFC high-level executive about the different scenarios the Giants could face. Here are the ways we see it unfolding:
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Scenario 1: The Browns draft Saquon Barkley, the Giants sell pick No. 2
Could the Browns do the unexpected and draft a running back first overall? Yes, is the short answer. Said the executive: "It's not what they should do, but it could happen. He's that good."
If Barkley is picked first, the Giants can open the phone lines and auction off the No. 2 selection to the highest bidder. And that may include the Browns as they try to move up from pick No. 4 overall to select a quarterback.
With the entire football world knowing the Giants covet Barkley, the Browns could make a calculated gamble and select Barkley first and then try like hell to trade up to No. 2 if the Giants aren't sold on drafting a quarterback.
Scenario 2: The Browns draft Barkley, the Giants draft a quarterback
Two weeks ago this seemed like a fringe idea, but the theory is gaining steam after Barkley's strong combine. The feeling is, "if he's the best player, why not draft him first?" according to the executive I spoke with. If the Browns draft Barkley, the Giants are in prime position to select their quarterback of the future at pick No. 2 overall.
According to rival scouts, the Giants are rumored to like the idea of keeping Manning and Davis Webb as the quarterbacks and instead focus on improving the team around them, but that could be a smokescreen. If the Giants want a quarterback, they're doing a great job hiding that interest.
Scenario 3: The Browns draft a quarterback, the Giants draft Barkley
This is the most likely scenario, according to the executive I spoke with.
If the Browns do what they should and draft a quarterback, the Giants' pick will be an easy one. Barkley is the best player in the class and could extend the life of Eli Manning at quarterback by giving him a dynamic running back to take the focus of the defense.
The Giants have plenty of options. New general manager Dave Gettleman may decide moving back to pick No. 4 overall and drafting Quenton Nelson while adding extra picks is too good to pass on. He may also fall in love with Barkley (if he's available) and make the running back the highest-drafted back since Reggie Bush went No. 2 overall back in 2006.
Here's what else is going on this week:
- News, rumors and notes from around the league
- A quick top 32 update
- Risers, fallers and sleepers
- Stick to Football podcast: NFL Scouting Combine rumors and best QB fits in free agency
The Scout's Report
• I mentioned on Wednesday's Stick to Football episode that multiple scouts and coaches told me coming out of the combine that former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson struggled during interviews when asked to do board work.
That's when teams ask the player to go to a whiteboard and break down coverages or concepts. Another coach I spoke with said Jackson's entire combine was disappointing because of "poor mechanics in the drills, he didn't run [the 40] and was average in interviews."
• The interview portion of the combine was the key event for Baker Mayfield, and I've heard mixed reviews from teams. One coach told me the Heisman Trophy winner came across as "fake" and "a punk," while another team scout said it loved its talk with him.
• Like Mayfield, Josh Rosen needed to do well in interviews, and I'm told by multiple teams that he aced his sit-downs. "The best interview we had was Rosen. Really makes you wonder where all the negative stuff comes from" said one scout.
• Ohio State center Billy Price partially tore his pectoral muscle while performing the bench press at the combine. Because it was a partial tear, he underwent surgery, but Price told me he's expected to be healthy in "three months."
• Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin was the star of the combine, running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and repping 225 pounds 20 times on the bench while wearing a prosthetic hand.
But Griffin had just one formal interview—with the Seattle Seahawks. We shouldn't read too much into that, but it is surprising that only one team would want to talk to Griffin.
• What does Orlando Brown's historically bad combine do to his draft stock? One general manager I spoke with said Brown may end up off the team's board following his uninspired showing in Indianapolis. I had Brown ranked in the third round before the combine, but he was often listed in the first round of mock drafts.
The Big Board
I'll have a full Big Board update coming Monday morning, but here's a sneak peek at the top 32.
1. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
2. OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
3. EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
4. S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
5. QB Sam Darnold, USC
6. QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
7. QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
8. CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
9. S Derwin James, Florida State
10. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
11. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
12. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
13. OT Connor Williams, Texas
14. CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
15. WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
16. EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
17. EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
18. LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
19. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
20. C Billy Price, Ohio State
21. OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
22. C James Daniels, Iowa
23. OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
24. DL Vita Vea, Washington
25. DL Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
26. EDGE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
27. CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
28. RB Derrius Guice, LSU
29. RB Sony Michel, Georgia
30. DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan
31. CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
32. WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
10. This is a first. University of Houston sophomore Ed Oliver has declared for the NFL draft. The 2019 NFL draft.
Oliver announced he would leave Houston for the NFL after his junior season. That much was widely expected—he'll enter the year as my No. 1 overall player—but it's rare to get that announcement in March 13 months before his draft.
Perhaps Oliver just wanted to end any speculation before it started, or maybe he wants his focus all season to be on football and not his future. Either way, he's one of the best players in the 2019 group.
9. The franchise-tag deadline has passed, and six teams tagged players.
Chicago Bears—Kyle Fuller (transition tag)
Dallas Cowboys—DeMarcus Lawrence
Detroit Lions—Ezekiel Ansah
Los Angeles Rams—Lamarcus Joyner
Miami Dolphins—Jarvis Landry
Pittsburgh Steelers—Le'Veon Bell
8. The NFL Scouting Combine is a bit of a job fair and a bit of a class reunion. There are parties every night, and you can't walk a block without seeing a group of NFL personnel. One party you might not want to be invited to is the fired Browns coaches party.
7. The Alabama pro day was Wednesday, and it was an all-star event of NFL personnel. I was told the attendance included over 80 scouts, five general managers (Titans, Vikings, Steelers, Lions, Panthers) and numerous head coaches, such as Belichick, Mike Vrabel and Mike Tomlin.
The pro day was more for the players not invited to the combine, with headliners like Calvin Ridley only doing positional drills. Ridley and Co. will have a full pro day on March 28, where they can look to improve upon any combine times.
6. The full pro day schedule is available, and here are a few key dates:
5. If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at the combine (they do more than the 40-yard dash and positional drills), then you have to check out The MMQB series from Jonathan Jones on 24 hours with Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates. You'll learn about 3:00 a.m. drug tests, MRIs, psychological tests and all the battery of examinations these players go through before they ever run on the track.
4. NFL Draft Sleeper: OT Geron Christian, Louisville
Geron Christian got a bit lost in this year's tackle class, but after a strong workout at the combine, I went back to review my notes on him and found that he was ranked way too low. Christian is surging up my board after a correction and additional film study. He has a shot to creep into the top 50.
3. NFL Draft Riser: DL B.J. Hill, North Carolina State
Hill's strong Senior Bowl propelled him up my board, and he moved up again following a brilliant combine performance. It's time to start talking about the stout North Carolina State defensive tackle as a second-rounder. Hill has the tools to be an immediate starter as a 1- or 3-technique.
2. NFL Draft Faller: OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
As mentioned above, you can't have a historically bad combine and expect your stock to stay the same. Brown was already a third-rounder on my big board before the event, and after failing at every test he participated in, he's falling like it's Black Monday. He'll be listed as a Day 3 player on my next big board.
1. A new Stick to Football episode is ready for download—and if you haven't already, subscribe and leave a five-star review!
This week, Connor Rogers and I empty our combine notebooks to update you on rumors, news and notes from Indianapolis. We also discuss the best fits for each free-agent quarterback and give a scout's quote. We close the show out with your questions in #DraftonDraft.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.