The Giants had a specific shopping list at the NFL Draft this past April and they missed out on several of their top targets when several teams adroitly traded up in front of them to snatch them up.
The Tennessee Titans moved up to grab OT Jack Conklin of Michigan State with the eighth pick. Conklin has been outstanding this season, not allowing a sack, and the Giants would likely have taken him with the 10th overall selection had he been on the board.
With Conklin gone, Jerry Reese and Co. were high on Georgia’s pass-rushing phenom, OLB Leonard Floyd, but the Chicago Bears swapped picks with Tampa Bay to take Floyd at No. 9. The Giants then selected Ohio State DB Eli Apple with the 10th overall pick.
Bears head coach John Fox was asked on Wednesday about the thought process that went into trading up for Floyd in the draft.
“You have no idea really what is going to happen in the draft, you really don’t. There is a lot of information out there. Sometimes it can be misinformation. Sometimes it can be factual information. I just know that was a need that we had and we like the player a lot and you try to maneuver in the draft to get the players that you want and he was a player that we wanted.”
Floyd was coveted by many teams but was labeled a “tweener” by some scouts. There were doubts that he could succeed with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end at the next level. The Bears are using Floyd as a pass-rusher out of the OLB position.
“I see great potential and I think he is doing quite well,” continued Fox. “I think earlier in the season he had some nagging injuries, he had a calf strain, a hamstring strain that kind of slowed him down a bit. But here as of late, I think over the last month he has had a very productive run there in that stretch of time and he continues to get better, so I see a bright, bright future in Leonard Floyd.”
“He’s really coming into his own,” Giants head coach said of Floyd Wednesday. “He has a lot of nice length. They’re using him as an edge player and outside linebacker or defensive end. They do drop him into coverage a little bit but he’s getting his feet wet and he’s coming on for them…I saw a couple of plays, he had a nice play versus Green Bay on the caused fumble and a score.”
Floyd actually has performed well as a rookie in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme, racking up five sacks this season with 4.5 of those coming over the last three games. He is getting comfortable in the pro setting and he is coming to MetLife Stadium this Sunday with his sights set on Giants’ QB Eli Manning.
“I see a good defensive front and a good defensive line,” Manning said of the Bears on Wednesday. “They’re getting a lot of sacks. Quarterbacks are having to move in the pocket a bunch. They do a good job of throwing the quarterbacks off rhythm. They’ve played good defensively all year. They have a good plan. We’ve got to make sure we’re sharp. It’s going to be a tough game. We have to prepare for that, go out there on a short week and make sure we’re preparing well. Everyone is learning the game plan. Today we had a walk through. Tomorrow is our one full speed practice and we have to take advantage of it.”
A player with Floyd’s athletic ability is rare, and the Giants know that. There’s no sense in pondering what might have been. Had the Giants read the tea leaves better perhaps they could have made a stronger play for Floyd.
But the reality is, Floyd may not have flourished in the Giants’ 4-3 scheme. They would have had to either gamble that Floyd could play the conventional DE spot or create schemes that would feature Floyd’s talents.