The New York Giants felt they were close. Standing in a crowded Indianapolis bar during the week of the NFL Scouting Combine, a source with the team told me they were prepared to be aggressive in plugging holes around quarterback Eli Manning to make one more run with the potential Hall of Famer.
"Who's the best player in the draft?" the source asked. "Saquon Barkley," the reply came and was met by a big smile and a look that made clear the Giants were all-in on the Penn State running back. Ignoring need or the reality of an aging quarterback who had already shown signs of deterioration, the Giants left the phone unanswered when other teams called about acquiring the No. 2 pick in the draft and instead took the running back.
But this isn't about Barkley. He's a good player—arguably the second-best the Giants have behind Odell Beckham Jr. and a legitimate building block. This is about the quarterback position, how the Giants misplaced their confidence in Manning and how the roster can be fixed.
After trading Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions and Eli Apple to the New Orleans Saints, the Giants have made it clear that they aren't trying to win this year. With the No. 1 pick in the draft were the season to end today, all they have to do is keep losing and the team is guaranteed an early selection in Round 1.
Unfortunately, that pick is coming in a draft class that's been panned by scouts and evaluators as weak. There is no clear-cut quarterback that teams are positioning to draft early. Oregon's Justin Herbert, the presumed top passer, might not even declare for the draft. The obvious answer to fix the Giants is placed in the hope that Herbert won't be able to turn down the allure of New York and the chance to be the No. 1 choice in the 2019 draft instead of battling with Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia's Jake Fromm in the 2020 class.
If Herbert stays in Eugene, what do the Giants do?
The team owns eight picks in the 2019 draft—Round 1, Round 2, two in Round 4 (one from the Saints), Round 5, Round 6, and two in Round 7 (one each incoming from the Rams and Vikings and one outgoing to the Denver Broncos for punter Riley Dixon).
There is enough draft currency to trade up for a quarterback, but there has to be a quarterback worth trading for. And without Herbert, there isn't.
"It's really the worst possible year to need a quarterback," said one AFC director. "It really reminds me of 2013 a little where there isn't a quarterback worth drafting early but someone will anyway."
Said one high-level scout: "The Giants played this really poorly by not scouting ahead. Everyone knew this was going to be a weak quarterback class, which is why five teams drafted one in the first last year. The best thing they can do is sign a veteran and get ready for 2020. The worst thing they can do is try to draft a quarterback based on need."
It's not all bad news. Without Herbert, the Giants could load up on the defensive line with Nick Bosa (Ohio State) or draft an anchor at offensive tackle in Jonah Williams (Alabama) with an early selection in the first round. The best plan might be one that came from within the Giants' own building.
Said a Giants coaching source: "If Herbert doesn't declare, we'll push hard to trade back and get the extra picks in 2020 or 2021 to move up for a true franchise guy. That might mean a year of bad football [in 2019], but sometimes that's the only way to win in this league."
What else is happening this week?
- NFL draft prospect stock watch
- Rumors from around the NFL and NCAA
- Stick to Football podcast Tailgate Tour details
- Parting shots
The Scout's Report
—TCU head coach Gary Patterson announced that wide receiver Kavontae Turpin was kicked off the team following his second arrest of the year. Turpin was originally arrested in March on multiple charges, including battery against a woman, and was arrested again on October 21 and charged with assaulting a woman. A senior, Turpin is one of the best kick returners in the nation.
—This week, Denver Broncos quarterback Chad Kelly was arrested and then released by the team. What went wrong? Said one front office decision-maker: "Kelly's partying stories from college were amazing. Like, unbelievable stuff. We all knew he was undraftable, but [John] Elway wanted to do [Kelly's] uncle [Jim Kelly] a favor."
—The Jacksonville Jaguars join the New York Giants as teams with a clear need at quarterback heading into the 2019 NFL draft. Who will they look at? One scouting source told me to keep an eye on Duke's Daniel Jones as a fit for both clubs.
"He's smart, accurate, experienced. That's exactly in the [Dave] Gettleman-[Tom] Coughlin mold." Jones has a Round 2 grade on my board after suffering a broken collarbone but getting back onto the field after missing just two games.
—Will a poor season statistically hurt Houston's Ed Oliver or Michigan's Rashan Gary? Said one high-level NFC executive: "Are you kidding? They both go top five unless there's some kind of serious injury between now and the draft."
—The 15 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award—given to the top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback—finalists were announced this week. Last year, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph took home the hardware. Here are the finalists:
Jake Browning, Washington
Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Ryan Finley, NC State
Will Grier, West Virginia
Justin Herbert, Oregon
Drew Lock, Missouri
Trace McSorley, Penn State
McKenzie Milton, UCF
Gardner Minshew, Washington State
Steven Montez, Colorado
Shea Patterson, Michigan
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Jordan Ta'amu, Ole Miss
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Brady White, Memphis
Stock Up: Clemson Defensive Lineman Dexter Lawrence
There has been a lot of talk about risers like Alabama's Quinnen Williams and Mississippi State's Jeffery Simmons, but don't forget about former 5-star recruit Dexter Lawrence. The 350-pounder won't be for every team, but Lawrence has shown the power and push that originally excited football analysts when he signed with the Tigers out of high school. Now healthy, Lawrence is once again playing like a first-round pick.
Stock Up: Kentucky Edge-Rusher Josh Allen
A former 2-star recruit, Josh Allen looks like a top-20 pick for the 2019 NFL draft. At 6'5" and 260 pounds, he's been a wrecking ball off the edge of the defense, totaling eight sacks and three forced fumbles in seven games. With his size, athleticism and production, Allen has made himself into one of the best draft prospects in the nation as a senior.
Stock Down: Ole Miss Wide Receivers
The 2018 college football season started with many believing Ole Miss had the best wide receiver corps in the nation. Merely eight weeks later, the draft stock of their starters is down. D.K. Metcalf is out for the year with a broken bone in his neck (per a team source), A.J. Brown has struggled to separate against top-tier cornerbacks despite having a good year statistically, and third receiver DaMarkus Lodge has been solid but has a thin frame (6'2", 204 lbs) and lacks the speed to be a vertical threat in the pros.
Stock Down: 2019 Quarterbacks
With recent rumors from scouts that Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert will return for his senior season and skip the 2019 NFL draft, where will teams turn for answers under center? One source recently suggested that teams will "invent" a top quarterback prospect. We've seen this before with EJ Manuel and Ryan Tannehill as overdrafted quarterbacks to fill needs. This could benefit Missouri's Drew Lock, Duke's Daniel Jones and Auburn's Jarrett Stidham greatly.
The Big Board
It's updated Big Board time. Here's my most recent top 32:
1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
2. Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
3. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
4. Devin White, LB, LSU
5. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
6. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
7. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
8. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
9. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
10. Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
11. Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida
12. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
13. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
14. Dre'Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State
15. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
16. Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
17. Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
18. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
19. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
20. Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson
21. David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
22. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
23. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
24. Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
25. Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
26. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
27. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
28. Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
29. Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
30. Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
31. Brian Burns, EDGE, FSU
32. Irv Smith, TE, Alabama
8. I recently updated my short list of front office candidates when looking at a potential change for the Raiders. Many have asked for a similar list of head coaching candidates, so I added one below.
It's unfortunately a down year for coaching prospects. There isn't a Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan on the market that will excite teams and potentially result in a bidding war. There are good candidates, but owners and general managers will need to be creative and thorough in finding them.
Matt Campbell, Head Coach, Iowa State University
John DeFilippo, Offensive Coordinator, Minnesota Vikings
Brian Flores, Linebackers, New England Patriots
Lincoln Riley, Head Coach, University of Oklahoma
Zac Taylor, Quarterbacks, Los Angeles Rams
Dave Toub, Special Teams, Kansas City Chiefs
7. The Athletic's Nicki Jhabvala shared an amazing stat:
Elway was hired to run the team and quickly won a Super Bowl after recruiting free agent Peyton Manning to the Broncos. But that team's foundation is rotten now and the offense has struggled since Manning's final season. Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback, needs to identify a long-term solution at his own position. That's his main priority as the architect of the Broncos.
Supporters will point to the fact that Elway delivered a ring with Manning and his free-agent signings, but his complete failure to stabilize the quarterback position should result in much more criticism than the local legend receives.
6. Corey Coleman has resurfaced, this time on the active roster of the New York Giants, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Will he finally stick after bouncing from the Cleveland Browns to the Buffalo Bills to the New England Patriots (twice) this season?
Coleman is a small, speedy receiver, but he's never shown above-average hands or an ability to master an NFL route tree. Coming out of Baylor he was a three-route player, and that's been one of his issues in the pros—as has what sources in Cleveland called a poor work ethic that limited his ability to learn.
Coleman is a big name and was a first-round pick, but it's time to call it like it is and realize he's a talented athlete but will never live up to his draft status.
5. The NFL season has given us seven weeks of games thus far, which means there is a clear picture emerging of what the draft order will look like. Here's the current order based on win/loss percentage and strength of schedule.
1. New York Giants
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. Oakland Raiders
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. Buffalo Bills
7. Cleveland Browns
8. Philadelphia Eagles
9. New York Jets
10. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)
11. Jacksonville Jaguars
12. Tennessee Titans
13. Atlanta Falcons
14. Denver Broncos
15. Seattle Seahawks
16. Detroit Lions
17. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago)
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
19. Miami Dolphins
20. Baltimore Ravens
21. Houston Texans
22. Cincinnati Bengals
23. Green Bay Packers
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
25. Minnesota Vikings
26. Carolina Panthers
27. Washington Redskins
28. Los Angeles Chargers
29. New England Patriots
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans)
31. Kansas City Chiefs
32. Los Angeles Rams
4. This is the earliest I've ever added an Underclassman Watch List to the Scouting Notebook, but with two juniors now declared for the draft, it's time to start tracking:
Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
3. Game balls for Week 8 of college football:
Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky: 32 carries, 169 yards, 1 TD
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: 27 carries, 159 yards, 0 TD
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue: 12 catches, 170 yards, 2 TD
A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss: 10 catches, 155 yards, 1 TD
Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State: 9 catches, 154 yards, 1 TD
2. Here are the college games you'll want to scout this weekend:
Miami at Boston College
No. 2 Clemson at Florida State
No. 20 Wisconsin at Northwestern
No. 9 Florida vs. No. 7 Georgia
No. 18 Iowa @ No. 17 Penn State
No. 12 Kentucky @ Missouri
No. 14 Washington State @ No. 24 Stanford
1. Stick to Football covers the NFL trade deadline with rumors and news on the Wednesday show. Friday brings us previews and picks, plus a special spooky Top Five. And don't forget our Joplin, Missouri, tailgate coming up on November 10 when Missouri Southern hosts Pitt State. Check out the podcast and subscribe if you haven't already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.