There is more pressure than ever on Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to get this year’s draft right, according to a former NFL player and personnel executive who not long ago interviewed with the team for the job Gettleman landed.
Louis Riddick said the Giants must get a player with the No. 11-overall pick in the NFL draft who will instantly hasten Daniel Jones’ development and markedly add to the win total for the 2021 season.
“I think the clock has kind of been sped up on this regime and Dave in particular and so I think he knows he needs a guy who’s going to come in and have an impact,’’ Riddick, an analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,’’ said on the “Giants Huddle” podcast. “I think you will see that kind of affect his decision-making here, whereas at the beginning of his tenure he would have looked at it a little bit more organically and say ‘I’m just gonna take the best player.’ ’’
Riddick heard what John Mara had to say two weeks ago, when the Giants co-owner admitted he was “tired of the losing’’ and declared he is also tired of “having a postseason press conference trying to explain what went wrong and why I think we’re making progress.’’
Mara signed off on a spending spree in free agency that cost nearly $100 million in guaranteed money for three players: Leonard Williams, Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson. Next comes the draft. The Giants have only six picks and must hit big with their first-round selection. Mara expects a franchise that has a 15-33 record in Gettleman’s three seasons to contend for something other than a high pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
“It makes it intriguing for the Giants,’’ Riddick said. “I can’t stress this enough, you have to factor in the human element of this, if you’re a general manager in Dave’s position and you haven’t had the kind of success that you want to have and you have pushed all your eggs in the Daniel Jones basket.
“Look, this is a performance business, everybody gets that and so Dave knows that pick at 11 has to produce and has to get a return on investment now.’’
Riddick met with Giants ownership in December 2017 to interview for the general manager job. He is not a big believer in the defensive talent in this year’s draft; he is not sure any player on defense is worthy of a top-10 or top-12 pick. Thus, Riddick expects the Giants to select an offensive player at No. 11.
Figuring offensive tackle Penei Sewell will definitely be off the board, Riddick could envision a scenario in which the Giants choose from three players with that No. 11 pick: Alabama wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle and Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater. Riddick views Slater as the best offensive lineman in the draft, largely because of his position flexibility: he can play tackle or guard.
“I know they’ve invested a lot, both in terms of free-agent money at the offensive line position over Dave’s tenure and in the draft, but the fact of the matter is it hasn’t been good enough yet, and in particular it hasn’t been good enough at left tackle,’’ Riddick said. “I know Andrew [Thomas] needs more time and he’s gonna be in his second year and needs to take a big jump, as far as what his development looks like.
“But before Daniel Jones can do anything, he has to be protected in the pocket. If he’s always running for his life, and then subsequently he’s not taking care of the football and turning the ball over and not winning games, then that coaching staff is not going to be there anyway to even see whether or not he can be good enough in the future, because they’re gonna be gone.’’
As to the receivers, Riddick prefers Smith to Waddle, but this is more splitting hairs than vehement conviction. Waddle is the more explosive player — the closest thing to Tyreek Hill in this draft, Riddick said — but also has an injury history (he fractured his right ankle this past season). Smith has been the more productive receiver.
“Is an offensive tackle more important than a playmaking wide receiver?’’ Riddick said. “This is what you get paid for. These are the kind of mental gymnastics you go through as a team-builder and that’s what Dave is possibly going to be faced with in two weeks.’’