The NFL Combine will be held this week in Indianapolis which will feature a glut of young quarterback talent in what is being considered one of the strongest draft classes in years. The Giants and Jets will both be keeping a watchful eye on the group as both teams are in the market for a future franchise signal caller.
The Giants, who hold the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, will be represented by new football czar Dave Gettleman, longtime assistant GM Kevin Abrams and first year head coach Pat Shurmur. Gettleman is intent on rebuilding the Giants from the inside out, meaning he wants to restock the depleted offensive line.
The Jets will be sending GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles among others to Indianapolis. Maccagnan will be picking sixth in April, the third time in the last four years he has done so. His other picks at No. 6 have been hits (DL Leonard Williams and S Jamal Adams) and he will hope to top himself this year.
But this week all eyes will be on the quarterbacks. Twenty draft eligibles will be on hand displaying their wares for the 32 NFL camps. The Giants and Jets are likely to have their pick of the litter and this week will afford them an opportunity to lay their eyes, hands and ears on a talented bunch of young arms.
The locals have more than an excellent shot a coming away with two of the top QBs in this class. With five elite players at the position and several teams selecting high in the draft not looking at QBs, it’s almost a certainty each team will be bringing in franchise-changing faces.
Perhaps the players that will be the most scouted will not come from the QB group. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley, DE/LB Bradley Chubb of NC State, Alabama DB Minkah Fitzgerald and Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey are all candidates who could land in the top six selections. Gettleman revealed last week that he is not locked in to any one particular player or position with the No. 2 pick.
“I’m an inveterate people watcher,” he told Tom Rock of Newsday. “I’d watch people. My father told me that you can learn a lot by doing that, and he was absolutely right…A lot of it is just watching how guys carry themselves and how they interact with other people and how they are on the floor. It’s another piece of the puzzle.”
The Combine is just one of the venues and methods scouts and executives utilize to evaluate talent. There will be a bevy of pro days, individual workouts and invites before the draft for GMs and coaches to get to know the players.
The Jets are actively pursuing a QB in free agency, which begins March 14. If they sign, let’s say, Kirk Cousins, then they may not be inclined to select a QB at No. 6. They are still in a great position to grab one even if they don’t land Cousins. Denver, who owns the fifth overall pick is also interested in Cousins, so if they sign him, they will likely be passing on a QB or trading the pick away.
The Giants still have Eli Manning for the next two seasons and selected Davis Webb in the third year of last year’s draft. Shurmur has said that Manning will be his starter in 2018 but logic has it that he and Gettleman would like to have some clarity at the position for the future. That could very well be Webb, who took zero snaps as a rookie last season.
But it will be hard for the Giants not to take a QB at No. 2. That is, if they keep the pick. Cleveland is likely to select Barkley first overall and then use the fourth overall to take a QB. That leaves the Giants in the clear for all of the top five names at the position: USC’s Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen of UCLA, Josh Allen of Wyoming, Heisman winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner. Whoever it is won’t see much action as a rookie, so they’ll be no feeding anyone to the proverbial lions. Plus that player will have to contend with Webb, who is highly regarded by the Giants.
Indianapolis selects third, and with Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett in the fold, they are unlikely to take a quarterback. At four, Cleveland will step up and grab a QB to compete with Deshone Kizer. Denver, depending on the outcome of the Cousins situation, will be the determining factor of who Maccagnan takes at Six.
Right now, the Jets have three QBs on their roster: Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty and Joel Stave. None of those players are considered starting QB material in the NFL. They will be selecting a QB if they don’t land Cousins. They have to. And that player has to be ready to play as a rookie.
In looking at the group, Rosen may be the most NFL-ready but he comes with strings. He has had concussions and a knee injury and has a reputation for speaking his mind, which may come as a refreshing twist for the stale Jets’ brand. Darnold is only 20 and he’ll need to sit for awhile, meaning the Jets are going to have to start the season with either Petty or someone else under center. Allen is raw also. He has the physical traits teams love but his accuracy needs work. Mayfield could be either be the next Save Young or the next Johnny Manziel. Caveat Emptor. Jackson may be a fit. He is much better that he is being given credit for. Look what Deshaun Watson did for the Texans before he got hurt last year.
The Giants will be looking to get the best football players they can. Guys that can hit the ground running. That would be Barkley. If Cleveland passes on him, he could re-energize the Giants’ offense the way Alvin Kamara did for Saints or Todd Gurley did for the Rams. Then again, Gettleman could stick to his mantra and focus on those big bodies he covets so dearly.
This week is the beginning of the process. After they eyeball all of this talent up close, NFL teams will turn their lasers on free agency, which is where Gettleman is most effective. He may fill some holes in the trenches there and then be free to do something different with his top pick. Maccagnan has about $80 million in cap space to burn, so he has a lot of ammunition to land some of his free agent targets.
It will be interesting for sure, but don’t rule anything out. Stocks will rise and fall this week in Indianapolis, as they usually do, and next week I’ll be looking to rewrite this article all over.
Combine workout schedule:
» Friday, Mar 2: RB, OL, PK, ST
» Saturday, Mar 3: QB, WR, TE
» Sunday, Mar 4: DL, LB
» Monday, Mar 5: DB
John Fennelly is a veteran NFL columnist and reporter and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. His new novel, DIRTY WHITE BOY, is currently available online through all of the amor booksellers.