Giants' Blockbuster Trade Has Big NFL Draft Implications
The NFL draft isn't your standard jigsaw puzzle. No, it's like one of those massive Puzz 3D contraptions that comes together slowly, consuming the lives of 32 general managers for months.
The Giants sent defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a pillar of their defense who had been with the franchise for eight seasons, to Tampa in exchange for third- and fourth-round picks in the 2018 draft. As part of the deal a Giants fourth-round pick also went to the Buccaneers, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
It wasn't a cost-saving move by the Giants, as they stand to save just $2.5 million against the cap, per Rotoworld. Instead, it's a trade that ships out a valuable asset who didn't fit well into the Giants' new 3-4 base defense.
But a massive hole up front is left temporarily. Pierre-Paul recorded 68 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 2017, leading the team in the latter category. That is why the movement you just felt beneath your feet was the top of the draft getting shaken up with one name in mind: Bradley Chubb.
He could be at the center of the Giants' rebuild under new general manager Dave Gettleman. Let's begin there with this look at the trickle-down effect of the Pierre-Paul trade, and how the first round could fall into place now.
Chubb Is in the Giants' Crosshairs Now
The draft dots here are easy to connect. But there wasn't much of a link between the Giants and Chubb until Gettleman decided to trade away a core pillar of his defense. Now NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports the team has already had Chubb in for a private workout, and he'll also visit the team facility soon.
This speaks to a larger plan, with Pierre-Paul's trade being the first in a two-step process. The second step would be scribbling down Chubb's name and happily handing the card in on April 26.
Chubb is widely viewed as the best pass-rusher available. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, who compared Chubb to the Chargers' Joey Bosa, had him coming off the board third overall in his most recent mock draft. Now there's a good chance Chubb doesn't last that long.
Pierre-Paul wouldn't have been an ideal fit for the 3-4 scheme run by new Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher. But Chubb is an athletic wonder, and he tore apart the combine while posting a 36-inch vertical and running the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, all while standing 6'4" and weighing 269 pounds.
That lethal mix of size, speed and power led to 20 sacks and 44 tackles for loss over Chubb's final two seasons at North Carolina State. He's a solid all-around defender, too, and finished 2017 with a run-stop percentage of 11.0, according to Pro Football Focus.
Chubb would give the Giants the versatile edge-setter they need. Drafting him would also re-install an imposing pass-rushing tandem after Pierre-Paul's departure, with Chubb slotted in across from outside linebacker Olivier Vernon, who recorded 6.5 sacks over only 12 games in 2017.
Or Are the Giants Still Looking for a Quarterback?
It's still possible the Giants take a long, hard look at Chubb, and then, despite being intrigued by his athleticism, Gettleman's eyes will drift elsewhere.
The aim for every general manager is to land a franchise quarterback. Doing so can lead to more than just championships. Super Bowl rings are great and shiny, and parades are fun. But what's even better is job security, an elusive comfort GMs crave.
Chubb won't provide that in the same way finding Eli Manning's successor would. And although new Giants head coach Pat Shurmur has said he believes Manning has "years" left even at the age of 37, the veteran's yards per attempt in 2017 say otherwise. Manning averaged a mere 6.1 yards per throw, a low since his rookie season way back in 2004.
It's difficult to wave off a potential long-term solution at quarterback. Especially when, ideally, the Giants aim to reshape their roster quickly, and hope to have much lower first-round picks going forward. This means having the chance to draft Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield—or really, any quarterback other than the one the Browns likely take at first overall—is a rare opportunity.
Or Are They Still Going to Hold an Auction and Trade Down?
The urgency to draft a franchise quarterback and capitalize on a good class at the position is even stronger among other teams in the top half of the first round. This is why the Giants could instead continue to stockpile picks by trading down after holding an auction for their No. 2 overall selection.
If Shurmur is really serious with his Manning comments, and Gettleman's heart longs for Chubb, there's a solution that can satisfy everyone.
The Giants can trade down and swap picks with the Denver Broncos, a team that just signed Case Keenum but surely knows the career journeyman isn't a long-term answer. The Broncos signaled they're still shopping for a quarterback by giving Keenum only a two-year contract.
Denver holds the fifth overall pick. So, by trading down to that spot the Giants could collect future selections to add depth and accelerate Gettleman's rebuild and also still be in a prime position to land Chubb, or perhaps even Barkley.
It's a scenario that's easy to imagine and doesn't take much reaching. Quarterbacks would be taken with each of the top three picks after the Giants trade out of their No. 2 slot. Then at No. 4 the Browns understandably wouldn't be able to resist the allure of Saquon Barkley (more on him shortly). After that the Giants would catch Chubb after his slight fall.
The Jets Are in the Danger Zone
If you're wondering, the answer is no, I couldn't get through that headline without doing air guitar to a historically significant theme song in film history. Also, yes, I am old.
The Jets are in a difficult spot if other teams make the obvious observation that the Giants are open for business. Gettleman is pulling plenty of levers in an attempt to turn his team around fast, and he's now made two immediate-impact trades.
The Pierre-Paul trade allows the Giants to collect more picks and add youth. But prior to that Gettlman also addressed New York's longstanding linebacker issue by shipping off fourth- and sixth-round picks to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Alec Ogletree.
So with that bright neon open sign dangling in the Giants window and the quarterback-needy teams taking notice, there could be a dent in the Jets' plans.
The Jets pulled off a blockbuster trade of their own to move up three spots in the draft. They sent a massive haul of picks to the Colts for that privilege, waving goodbye to two second-round picks in 2018 (37th and 49th) and a second-round pick in 2019.
They did that likely in pursuit of a quarterback, hoping to pounce on Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or whichever passer the Jets considered the second-best available after (or if) Cleveland selects Sam Darnold.
But now with the Giants maneuvering aggressively through trades, teams thirsting for a quarterback will be dialing them up, looking to ruin the Jets' plans by leapfrogging ahead.
Is Saquon Barkley Destined for the Browns Now?
Chubb is the most significant non-quarterback impacted by the Giants trade. But running back Saquon Barkley isn't far behind.
The Penn State running back is highly coveted atop the draft. And rightfully so, as what he does at his size shouldn't be possible. At 6'0" and 233 pounds, Barkley ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.40 seconds at the combine. Incredibly, he also posted 29 bench-press reps and a vertical jump of 41 inches.
He's a possible generational talent at a position that still suffers from suppressed value in the NFL, which starts with the draft. Barkley can be the exception, though, after he was white hot for three years, finishing his collegiate career with 5,538 all-purpose yards and 53 touchdowns.
The 21-year-old is easily worth a top-five pick. But which top-five pick?
The Giants could turn their attention elsewhere after dealing Pierre-Paul, most likely to Chubb. Beyond them the Jets will surely still take the best quarterback available, as that's why they sacrificed so much in their trade with the Colts to move up to the third spot.
Barkley would then tumble pleasantly into the Cleveland Browns' lap at No. 4, which could shut down the factory of sadness for good.
The Browns hold two of the first five picks, and despite the recent addition of Tyrod Taylor they're still likely to prioritize a quarterback at first overall. There's a very real scenario that has the Browns strutting away from the first round with both Barkley and Darnold.
And if that happens, Browns fans finally have permission to feel an unfamiliar emotion: hope.