The winds of the Meadowlands certainly seem to be blowing in Saquon Barkley's direction. He was caught on camera wearing a Giants hoodie. Louis Riddick, one of the men who interviewed to be the Giants GM, is sure they're taking the Penn State running back. So are many around the league who claim to know GM Dave Gettleman well.
And when the Giants are on the clock next Thursday night, Barkley may indeed be the pick.
It would just be a mistake to completely rule the quarterbacks out yet.
The Giants certainly don't seem to have ruled them out, which is why they are wrapping up their pre-draft visits with USC's Sam Darnold (Tuesday) and Wyoming's Josh Allen (Tuesday night into Wednesday). They have spent a ton of time with all the top quarterbacks -- and all the top prospects, really -- as they consider a wide array of options with the second overall pick.
Looming over it all, though, has been the undeniable truth that they have a 37-year-old quarterback with only two years left on his contract, and that they are at a quarterback crossroads where they need to answer the question: What's next? Despite all of the noise about Barkley -- and perhaps N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb -- the Giants understand as well as anyone the value of taking a quarterback that can set them up well for the next 10, post-Manning years.
They know they can't pass on that kind of franchise quarterback, no matter the greatness of Barkley or any of their other immediate needs. That's why the only question that has mattered during this entire process is this one:
Do they see the next, great franchise quarterback in the draft this year?
And that's why these last two visits are key, because they are the two quarterbacks reportedly being considered by the Cleveland Browns at No. 1, and they both have at least some measure of support in the Giants' building at No. 2. Several NFL sources -- including a few that think Gettleman can't and won't pass on Barkley -- believe Darnold is the only quarterback the Giants will consider. A few others have heard from Giants coaches who prefer Allen, like so many scouts around the league.
Both of them probably need some time -- Allen moreso than Darnold. But that's OK, because the Giants seemingly do believe what new head coach Pat Shurmur said, that Manning still has "years" left of playing at a high level. The new guy could sit and learn for two years, maybe three if the Giants added a year to Manning's contract. And then he'd be ready for a smooth, Brett-Favre-to-Aaron-Rodgers-like transition in 2020 or 2021.
Since Gettleman holds the keys to this decision, it seems the most likely scenario that involves them taking a quarterback would be if the Browns take Allen -- and a lot of people who say they know Cleveland GM John Dorsey have popped up in the media anonymously lately insisting that Allen is his guy. In that case, even some of the greatest Barkley backers think Gettleman would have to take Darnold -- generally considered the best of the bunch -- and choose the long-term welfare of the franchise over any short-term boost.
But what if the Browns take Darnold? Would the Giants take Allen? That does seem like more of a stretch. He's the darling of scouts around the league for his size and arm strength, but is a risk because of his poor numbers in college and accuracy issues. He could easily be the biggest boom of the crop -- or perhaps the biggest bust.
The general belief seems to be that Gettleman won't take a quarterback if he's not completely sold on him, and most people don't think he's sold on Allen. But if Allen has the support of the coaching staff, that will have some sway -- especially if it turns out that Shurmur is one of those coaches. Remember, he admitted at the NFL owners meetings last month he has an "urge" to find "a young, generational quarterback."
Gettleman will listen if Shurmur thinks Allen is that guy.
And one more thing about the quarterbacks: While Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield doesn't appear to be a factor with the Giants (they'll leave him for the Jets at 3), don't completely rule out UCLA's Josh Rosen, either. Months ago, when the evaluation period began, multiple NFL sources said Rosen was the guy the Giants liked best. The more the process went on, though, the more that talk disappeared.
Until recently, when at least one source familiar with the Giants thinking circled back towards the guy he thought the Giants liked from the beginning. Maybe it's all part of the pre-draft smokescreens. Maybe it's just because we all have too much time to change our minds. But a few days ago that source said "Don't completely rule Rosen out."
Of course, in the end, it may end up being Barkley anyway. From a variety of sources it appears he's going to be the top name on the Giants' draft board. And the word used most often about the Giants' feelings towards the talented running back is "love." Gettleman has glowed about him publicly and both he and Shurmur have trumpeted the value of a running back in the Giants' new offense, making it clear they don't think drafting one at No. 2 is too high.
And, well, he was pictured wearing that Giants' hoodie. So there's that, too.
But before anyone rushes out to buy that Barkley jersey, it's worth waiting a few more days just to make sure. The lure of avoiding the constant search for a franchise quarterback -- or what Gettleman called "Quarterback Hell" -- is strong inside the Giants' offices. The window on finding Manning's successor is closing. And the Giants hope -- and believe -- they won't be picking this high in the draft again any time soon.
Despite all that, it's true, they might select Barkley anyway when they're on the clock next Thursday night. But between now and then, at least a couple of the top quarterbacks will be in the conversation. And it's definitely possible that one of them will be the Giants' first pick.