The Giants own the No. 11-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. This year, more than most others, they can go in several different directions with their first-round selection, and opinions can and do vary on what their top priority should be.
Here, in the second of a four-part series, A Case Can Be Made for the Giants going with a cornerback at No. 11. Coming tomorrow: Wide receiver.
Are most cornerbacks akin to many relief pitchers?
Think of it. There are a handful of truly quality players and too many guys who are in vogue one year and out of sorts the next year. Now you see them, now you wish you didn’t.
The problem is, a team can never have too many capable corners, but most teams rarely, if ever, do.
In a year when the Giants can legitimately think wide receiver, offensive lineman or edge rusher, using their first-round pick on a cornerback is hardly an out-of-the-box thought. This particular draft is not top-heavy with corners, though (sometimes there are consensus top-10 picks) and the desired interconnection of need and value might not be there this year to make a cornerback the most sensible Giants pick.
But it could work out that way.
There is a chance the Giants will have a shot at the top-rated corner on their draft board, as scouts are unclear if any cornerback will be selected in the first 10 picks. If one goes, it most likely will be Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II — whose father was a top-notch NFL player, a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback. If Surtain is off the board — the Cowboys are the team most-often linked to him, at No. 10 — it is unlikely the Giants will have Jaycee Horn (South Carolina), Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech), Ifeatu Melifonwu (Syracuse) or Greg Newsome (Northwestern) rated high enough to deserve to be No. 11 overall. It is also unlikely the Giants will be primed to move down to get one of these players, as general manager Dave Gettleman, in eight previous drafts, has never once traded down. Trading down for an edge rusher makes more sense.
There is a dissenting opinion that Surtain does not have the high-end speed to be labeled a can’t-miss prospect. Still, if he is there for the taking, the Giants have to consider him. Because … you cannot have too many corners.
It is not as if the Giants are starving at the position. In a 2020 free agency salvo, they unearthed $43.5 million on a three-year deal for James Bradberry and, after one year, it has to be considered money well-spent. Bradberry did everything a No. 1 corner needed to do and did it all in a low-key, no-bravado manner that makes him even more attractive to the front office and coaching staff.
The second outside cornerback was a problem-area all season, with Isaac Yiadom getting the most work (nine starts), showing that he should have a place on the roster, but not showing nearly enough to warrant lining up on the other side of the field from Bradberry on a weekly basis. Enter Adoree’ Jackson. He came aboard this offseason for $26.5 million, coming off an injury-ruined season for the Titans. If he is fully healthy, Jackson, a 2017 first-round pick, should be a big upgrade and give the Giants a young and athletic compliment to Bradberry.
There are other players defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can use. Darnay Holmes turned in an encouraging rookie year, and he looks to be a legitimate factor as a slot corner. Julian Love, a cornerback at Notre Dame, converted to safety with the Giants, but still possesses corner skills that Graham calls on when the need arises. Yiadom, in a reduced and more specific role, could be useful. No one knows what, if anything, Sam Beal adds, given that the 2018 third-round supplemental draft pick has barely seen the field, and opted out entirely last season.
As with many defenses, the Giants could be one injury away from a squeamish situation at corner. If the season opener comes against the Cowboys, always a strong possibility, the onus will immediately be on the defensive backfield — having to deal with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Depth at cornerback gets stretched mighty thin. Add a talent such as Surtain into the mix and just like that, the Giants could match up with anyone. In a league designed to favor receivers, it is quite an advantage to fill the field with defensive players able to match up favorably with the pass-catching talent thrown against them.
With the signing of Jackson, the desperation to go corner in Round 1 is mitigated, but not eliminated. It all depends on where the Giants rate the top corner with the top players at other positions where first-round expenditures are appropriate. No one has ever said cornerbacks are not worth such an investment, as long as they deliver when called upon.