Giants can change entire offense in tempting NFL Draft scenario

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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, as opinions can and do vary on what their top priority should be.

Here, in the third of a four-part series, A Case Can Be Made for the Giants going with a wide receiver at No. 11. Coming tomorrow: Edge rushers.

Can you imagine what the vibe around the Giants would be had they not shelled out $63 million to sign Kenny Golladay, taking a free-agency plunge many did not anticipate this year? Yes, we can imagine that vibe. It would go something like this: With the No. 11 pick in the NFL draft, the Giants select (fill in the name of the top-rated available wide receiver on their draft board).

Without Golladay, the Giants might as well have sent out a tweet or a mass email or rented out a billboard on Route 3 near their team facility proclaiming their intention to get a receiver in the first round. It would have been a necessity, a pick borne out of desperation. Now that they have Golladay? An argument can, and will, be made the Giants should double-down and take advantage of the talent likely to be there when it comes time for them to make their first selection.

Another wide receiver? You betcha.

Not just any other wide receiver. Jaylen Waddle, in particular. Or DeVonta Smith, if he’s still there. If either of these former Alabama stars do not go in the first 10 picks — mocks are all over the place as to whether they will or won’t — it is the smart play because both of them change the offense. Considering the Giants were 31st in the NFL in scoring in 2020, change must be considered a good thing.

Hold on. Doesn’t the towering Golladay change the offense? Well, yes, but more accurately he greatly enhances the offense. Smith or Waddle changes it, and there is a difference. Add Smith or Waddle to Golladay, Sterling Shepard and/or Darius Slayton and, voila, Daniel Jones has passing weapons to break open any game. Add in Saquon Barkley making a successful return from knee surgery — lest we forget, he is a feared threat as a receiver — and the Giants are all set.

Figure Ja’Marr Chase from LSU is long gone. Smith probably comes off the board before Waddle. If both are on the board, it is like choosing between a Neapolitan or Sicilian slice. You cannot lose.

Sure, at 6-foot and only 166 pounds there is legitimate concern over Smith’s thin frame. He probably does not have much potential to add bulk to his body. Still, Smith in 2020 put together one of the greatest seasons in college football history, earning the Heisman Trophy after leading the nation in receptions (117), yards (1,856) and touchdowns (23). He is uncommonly gifted as a pass-catcher and provides a playmaking threat that does not exist on the Giants’ roster.

Waddle at 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds is no physical monster, but he is a thicker athlete and thus more of a prototype slot target. As far as yards after catch, Waddle is the king of this draft class (Florida’s Kadarius Toney is second and Purdue’s Rondale Moore is third).

The NFL is a passing league, and surrounding Jones with as much talent as possible is the best way to help him develop in his critical third season. The Giants took three offensive linemen in the 2020 draft (Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux) and all three could find their way into the starting lineup. This coaching staff is more bullish on the line than most outsiders. This will play itself out.

As far as the glaring need for an edge rusher, the Giants cannot find at No. 11 what is not there in this draft. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can manufacture pressure if need be. What a breakaway receiver adds cannot be manufactured.

Shepard has three years remaining on his contract, but the Giants can get out of the deal after the 2021 season at a cost of only $4 million in dead money in 2022. No one is pushing him out the door, but forecasting the roster moving forward is always important. Slayton was a revelation in 2019 as a fifth-round pick but did not have a strong second season. It is not as if a grouping of Golladay, Shepard and Slayton is a feared, multidimensional trio. A dynamic, state-of-the-art player capable of getting the ball in his hands and taking it into the end zone can lift an offense into rarefied air.

The Giants averaged 18.3 points a game last season. No need for concern that there are too many mouths to feed. Spreading the ball around is the way to go. Opponents can’t cover everyone when there are multiple threats on the field. Waddle or Smith give that to the Giants.

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