New York Giants Must Take a Quarterback in 2019 NFL Draft

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 23, 2019

FILE - In this April 19, 2018, file photo, New York Giants Dave Gettleman speaks to reporters during a press conference in East Rutherford, N.J. If the new general manager is convinced there is a guy who can lead to the team to a couple of Super Bowls _ and the Cleveland Browns haven’t taken him _ the Giants grab a quarterback.  It’s that simple when you are coming off a 3-13 season and Eli Manning is 37 years old. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The New York Giants haven't used a first-round draft pick on a quarterback not named Phil since they selected Lee Grosscup 10th overall in 1959

Since the 2019 draft class contains no quarterbacks named Phil, that has to change Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee. 

That may be the Giants' plan, but the lead-up to the NFL draft is always plagued by conflicting or false information, which is why the tea leaves are nearly unreadable. 

On Thursday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported "several smart people around the NFL" are "convinced" the Giants will take a quarterback with their No. 6 overall pick. On Monday, NBC Sports' Peter King relayed a quote from a veteran personnel man who said Giants general manager Dave Gettleman "wants a pass-rusher in the worst way."

Last week, current Giants quarterback Eli Manning suggested he figured his team would draft a quarterback early. But a few weeks earlier, word emerged that the Giants were open to bringing back the 38-year-old Manning in 2020, too. 

It's all so...confusing. 

But if the Giants are thinking straight, this should be simple. In the Super Bowl era, they've used two first-round picks on quarterbacks—Phil Simms seventh overall in 1979 and Philip Rivers (who they immediately traded for Manning) fourth overall in 2004.

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Those were good decisions that paid off. Now it's time to swing the bat again. 


They have the draft capital 

Rapoport and King's reports each may be correct, because the Giants could land both a quarterback and a premier pass-rusher early in the draft. That's the luxury that comes with having so much draft capital. 

The Giants possess an NFC-high 12 selections, three of which come in the top 37. They're in tremendous shape when it comes to both pick quality and pick quantity, but there's no guarantee that'll be the case in 2020. 

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Manning no longer has top receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but he does have reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley in the backfield, and the Giants haven't thrown in the towel on either side of the ball. With Manning, Barkley, veteran left tackle Nate Solder, new but established guard Kevin Zeitler, new but established receiver Golden Tate and talented young players like tight end Evan Engram, left guard Will Hernandez, defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill and safety Jabrill Peppers on the roster, the Giants could accidentally win seven or eight games in 2019. 

A top-10 pick is never guaranteed in this parity-plagued league. So while the 2020 quarterback class might be stronger than this one, the Giants can't assume they'll have a good one waiting for them next April if they abstain from taking a signal-caller this week. 


The supply-and-demand dynamics are in their favor

This might also be an ideal year to try to draft a non-quarterback in the top 10 and then select a quarterback in the middle of the first round, which is a popular Giants scenario projected in mock drafts.

Thanks to Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck (2012); Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo (2014); Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota (2015); Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott (2016); Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson (2017); and Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson (2018), the quarterback supply is beginning to catch up to the demand. 

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Fifteen of the league's 32 current starting quarterbacks were drafted in the last five years, and quarterback shelf lives are also longer than ever. That leaves only a few teams in desperate team of a franchise quarterback at the moment. 

There's a scenario in which the Arizona Cardinals decide they're happy with 2018 No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen and the Oakland Raiders stick with Carr, which would make perfect sense. The Washington Redskins also may decide they're paying enough to Alex Smith, Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, and the rebuilding Miami Dolphins could wait to draft their quarterback of the future in 2020. 

Who does that leave? 

Arizona, Oakland, Washington, Miami, the Denver Broncos, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Giants are the only teams with top-15 picks that might even consider drafting a quarterback in the top half of the first round Thursday night, but the Giants are better situated than at least four of those other six teams. 

They're in a position in which they won't have an issue landing a projected first-round quarterback like Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Daniel Jones or Will Grier, and they could even have an outside shot at widely projected top pick Kyler Murray. 

We can argue over who might be the best fit, but the draft is a crapshoot. What matters is that there isn't a lot of competition at that position, as Nick Foles' surprisingly sparse free-agent market last month seemed to suggest.

But those dynamics could change quickly. If the Cardinals stick with Rosen and he fails, they'll likely be in on a quarterback next year. Ditto for the Raiders and Carr, the Broncos and Joe Flacco, the Bengals and Andy Dalton, plus the Tennessee Titans and Mariota, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Winston and maybe even the Jaguars and Foles. 

Plus, things could still blow up in places like New England (Tom Brady will be 42 in August), New Orleans (Drew Brees is 40), Los Angeles (Rivers will be 38 in December), Pittsburgh (37-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is entering a contract year), Dallas (ditto for the shaky Prescott), Philadelphia (can Wentz stay healthy?), San Francisco (Garoppolo has yet to prove it) and Detroit (could Matthew Stafford be running out of rope?). 

This year might be as close as the Giants will come to having their pick of the quarterback litter. 


Regardless of what they say, Eli is toast

Whether or not they're smoke-screening us, the Giants continue to praise Manning. 

At last month's owners meetings, Gettleman told NFL Network that the 15-year veteran had "a heck of a year" in 2018. Last week, he said Manning had "plenty left," according to Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media.

But Manning did not have "a heck of a year" last season, and nobody outside of the Giants orbit believes he has much left at all. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 30:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)   Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in action against the Dallas Cowboys on December 30, 2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Cowboys defeated the Giants 36-35.  (Photo
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

His 92.4 passer rating ranked 21st among 33 qualified passers in 2018, and he hasn't ranked in the top 12 in that category since the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011. His rating since that season is 86.1, which ranks ahead of only four of 28 other qualified quarterbacks (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Keenum, Flacco and Blake Bortles). 

And it isn't as though he lacked support. Manning had Beckham at wide receiver since 2014, and Barkley and Solder came aboard in 2018. But his Pro Football Focus grade dropped last season (he ranked 27th) compared to the year before.

Twenty-nine quarterbacks—including Allen, Rosen, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens—threw more 20-plus-yard touchdown passes than Manning in 2018. 

Manning has led only one fourth-quarter comeback in his last 38 games, and he's been victorious in just eight of his last 31. He hasn't won a playoff game since that 2011 Super Bowl season, and he's participated in just one. 

Why would anybody expect that to change as he approaches his 39th birthday? 


Expedite the rebuild

It doesn't take long for NFL teams to rebuild anymore, especially if they find the key puzzle piece—their new quarterback—at the outset of the process. Just look at the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts or Dallas Cowboys, all of whom almost seamlessly transitioned from one competitive window to another thanks to Aaron Rodgers, Luck and Prescott. 

In a perfect world, the Giants would have used their No. 2 overall selection last year on a quarterback like Darnold or Allen. Instead, the other two New York state teams grabbed those two promising young signal-callers, and now there's far more optimism surrounding the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets than there is surrounding the Giants. 

They can't do anything about that now, and at least they have Barkley, who excelled individually even though the Giants continued to struggle as a team in 2018. Now they have to find somebody who can take pressure off their superstar running back, but if they wait any longer, they'll start to lose market share to Gang Green. 

And even if Giants fans don't defect within the sport, people have too many entertainment options nowadays to tolerate a slow-moving rebuild.

The Giants can't afford to go another calendar year without a glimmer of hope at the game's most important position. 

Phil or no Phil, it's time for them to pull the first-round trigger.


Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.