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NFC East Draft Review: Giants gamble on high upside picks

Dave Gettleman ... did some good things?!

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Giants lost 10 games in their first year under Joe Judge but still barely missed the playoffs (thanks to the Eagles!). They went into the offseason taking themselves seriously as hopeful contenders, spending big on free agency. In the 2021 NFL Draft, their approach was mostly sound. They traded back from the 11th pick after the Eagles jumped them for DeVonta Smith and were able to pick up a ransom (including a 2022 first-round pick) from the Bears in the process. Overall, their draft class is highlighted by high ceiling players who will require some bringing along. PREVIOUSLY IN THIS NFC EAST DRAFT REVIEW SERIES: Philadelphia Eagles.

Kadarius Toney, Wide Receiver, Florida

It’s not hyperbole to call Kadarius Toney one of the most exciting players from this year’s draft class. With the ball in his hands, he is an electric playmaker who can run through, around, and past defenders.

Of course, there is a whole process of actually getting him the ball and that is where projection is required. Toney has room to improve catching the football and getting natural separation, which brings into question how the Giants will use him early on. New York actually has a really solid group of receivers with deep threat Darius Slayton, newly acquired Kenny Golladay, and Sterling Shepard slated to start. They also have John Ross and Dante Pettis for depth and Evan Engram playing solid football as a flex tight end. Factor in a returning Saquon Barkley and they have a well-stocked cupboard of players who can contribute in the passing game.

Needless to say, there won’t be much pressure on Toney to perform early in his career and the Giants can bring him along slowly as a gadget player. Which is ideal for his early projection.

Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia

The Giants traded back again in the second round and selected Azeez Ojulari, a Georgia defender that many had slotted as a potential first-round pick. Ojulari is coming off a highly productive year at Georgia that he followed up with a fantastic offseason where he tested very well.

Ojulari is not without risk. Not only is he a bit small for an edge rusher, but he was also reportedly recently diagnosed with arthritis in his knee. Both, in varying ways, factored in his fall on draft night. It’s to be seen how his health will hold up long term, and here’s hoping it does.

Ojulari projects as a situational player early on, but he could see a lot of involvement in the Giants defense over his rookie season. They are thin at edge rusher and he is by far the most talented player in the group now. This pick has a lot of potential for New York’s defense to take another step.

Aaron Robinson, Cornerback, UCF

New York’s acquisition of James Bradberry paid off in a big way last year with the former Panther playing great football for them. Now they need to find some solid play at the number two cornerback spot. New York gave Adoree’ Jackson a nice deal, but they were smart to beef up the cornerback room with their Aaron Robinson pick in the third round.

Robinson’s athleticism and physicality stand out on tape and is probably what the Giants were so enamored with. Factor in his ability to play outside and in the slot, and the Giants have a nice player on their hands. Robinson is an aggressive defender, for better or for worse. He looks for big plays and can get burned, badly, but can also make game-changing plays for the defense. Betting on a higher variance cornerback at this point in the draft feels like a smart move for New York. While Robinson will have a learning curve tempering his play, he could develop into a nice defender for the Giants.

Elerson Smith, Edge, Northern Iowa

The Giants kept swinging on big-time athletes when it came to their day three picks. Elerson Smith is a great athlete with a professional frame at over 6’6” and 250 pounds. If he is able to bulk up a bit while maintaining his movement skills… scary.

Elerson Smith was highly productive at Northern Iowa, but hasn’t played football in over a year with the FCS season postponing due to covid. He is a raw, but extremely gifted player and it’s easy to see why the Giants were enamored with him.

Gary Brightwell, Running Back, Arizona

Gary Brightwell was another bet by the Giants. The Arizona running back never saw the ball very much in college, either due to being buried on the depth chart or the Pac-12’s shortened 2020 season. When he does touch the ball, the 5’10”, 218-pound bruiser runs hard and with great vision.

Brightwell seems like he could be a solid spell for Saquon Barkley with Wayne Gallman out of town.

Rodarius Williams, Cornerback, Oklahoma State

Rodarius Williams is the older brother of Cleveland Browns cornerback Greedy Williams. You read that right. Older. Williams will be 25 years old during his rookie year.

Obviously, drafting an older prospect in the sixth round isn’t a disastrous move. Rodarius Williams had a solid career at Oklahoma State, setting a school record for consecutive starts (48!), so he will be bringing lots of experience to New York. The Giants cornerback room, with rookie Aaron Robinson also joining, looks really solid and the competition will be stiff. Williams being a physical and technically sound defender should give him a shot at making the roster.

The Giants’ roster is probably better than their record last year would indicate and they have had a really commendable offseason. This draft showed the team is willing to take chances on flashy players that, if they hit, could massively catapult the team. Last year’s draft felt like they went with safe, smart picks, and this year they are really looking to take the extra step with high ceiling players.

Of course, everything hinges on Daniel Jones being the guy. Which ...

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