When John Mara announced he was bringing back Dave Gettleman for 2020, he said the Giants GM's "batting average has got to increase." That was especially true as he headed into the NFL Draft.
Gettleman needed a home run.
Whether he got one or not remains to be seen, but he clearly understood this couldn't be a draft of projects. He needed players that could step in and help now, to fill holes in a team that has won just nine games in his two-year tenure. And he particularly needed NFL-ready players to fix the position that has been his greatest failure: The Giants' disastrous offensive line.
Here's the report card on how Gettleman did in what might just be the most important draft of his NFL career:
Georgia OT Andrew Thomas (First round, 4th overall)
Gettleman said it all when he explained why he picked Georgia OT Andrew Thomas: "We wanted to fix this offensive line once and for all." This was his most significant step so far. In the 6-5, 315-pound Thomas they get a guy they believe will be their left tackle for the next 5-10 years - even if he ends up as the starting right tackle as a rookie. Sure, he wasn't the tackle that everyone expected. But all along, scouts and executives have said the Big Four tackles were virtually interchangeable and the order they were ranked in depended on who you'd ask. For a team that needed a tackle, it was hard to go wrong with any of them. And yes, a trade down would have been nice, but it was clear heading into the draft that the market for that wasn't there. So for a team that desperately needed offensive line help, the Giants were right to take the top one on their board.
Alabama S Xavier McKinney (Second round, 36th overall)
Every defense these days seems to need a multi-tasking weapon, and the Giants found theirs in the top of the second round. Yes, the 6-foot-, 201-pound McKinney is a safety. But he's also played linebacker and cornerback too. He's not as flashy nor does he have the upside as the more famous Swiss Army knife in this draft - Clemson hybrid Isaiah Simmons - but he possesses the same basic skill set and versatility. The Giants had a first-round grade on him and liked him enough to consider trading up for him. Instead, they stayed put and got the best pure safety in the draft, who will fit in nicely in their defensive backfield alongside Jabrill Peppers.
UConn OT Matt Peart (Third round, 99th overall)
Yes, another tackle, and yes, Gettleman is serious about rebuilding the offensive line. The 6-foot-7, 318-pound Peart might not be a Day 1 starter, but they don't need him to be - not after drafting Thomas and with veteran tackles Nate Solder and Cam Fleming on the roster. That will give him time to bulk up a little. But his size and strength are pretty good already. Scouts love that he had the longest arms among offensive linemen in the draft (36 5/8th inches). He was also a four-year starter for the Huskies - the first two at left tackle and the next two on the right. He probably projects as the Giants' right tackle of the future.
UCLA CB Darnay Holmes (fourth round, 110th overall)
The Giants were determined to bring in cornerback help, even though they signed free agent James Bradberry and drafted DeAndre Baker in the first round last year. Their issue wasn't starters, though. It was depth. And in particular they needed someone to push the disappointing Sam Beal for the nickel corner job. The 5-10, 195-pound Holmes should do just that. He's extremely smart, which will help him adjust to NFL offenses, and he's got 4.48 speed which helps make up for any technique deficiencies. There's a good upside here and his summer battle with Beal should be fun to watch. And oh, by the way, he can return kicks, too.
Oregon G Shane Lemieux (Fifth round, 150th overall)
Do you believe Gettleman now? He's all in on the Hog Mollies, because he absolutely had to be. And after drafting two tackles, he takes a 6-4, 310-pound guard, who one scout described as a "mauler." The Giants are actually set at guard with Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler, but they need depth. The only knock on this pick is that even more than guard depth they needed a center, and there were a couple of decent ones available at this spot. Maybe that means they really are serious about moving Nick Gates from right tackle to center. But taking Lemieux over a center does still leave them with an important hole.
Penn State LB Cam Brown (Sixth round, 183rd overall)
He is long and lean - 6-foot-5, 233 - and he can run pretty well (4.72). But he's going to need to bulk up to survive in the NFL. He has played both inside and outside and closes well on runners, as shown by the 12 tackles for loss he had over the last two years with the Nittany Lions. But he only had four sacks, so he's not likely to be much of a pass rusher. He's probably just a solid backup and special teamer. However, if there is potential there, nobody knows that better than the Giants' new defensive line coach, Sean Spencer (a.k.a. "Coach Chaos") who came from Penn State. He also knew that Brown was considered a high-character guy with strong leadership skills.
Minnesota LB Carter Coughlin (Seventh round, 218th overall)
The Giants say they can never have enough pass rushers, so why not take a flier on this undersized edge rusher? Coughlin is 6-foot-3, 236, and he's going to need to bulk up to survive as an NFL linebacker. But he's fast at 4.57 and he's known for playing with a lot of energy. His production wasn't great last year - just 4 ½ sacks - but it's hard to ignore the 20 ½ sacks he had over the last three seasons. Maybe he can translate some of that production into a role as a situational or rotational player. For now, if he wants to stick around, it'll have to be on special teams.
South Carolina LB T.J. Brunson (Seventh round, 238th overall)
He's a hard-hitting 6-1, 230-pounder, and he'd have to be since that's a little small for an inside linebacker. He's probably tough enough to make his mark on special teams and stick to the roster eventually, but his lack of speed will limit his upside. He is a two-time captain, which the Giants like. But given the amount of linebackers the Giants have added recently, his future is likely on the practice squad.
Minnesota CB Chris Williamson (Seventh round, 247th overall)
He didn't start much in college, but he did find a home on the field as a nickel back. At 6-foot, 205, the Gophers played him as a "Big Nickel," lining him up at times like a linebacker. He's probably not big enough to do that in the pros. But he is a former receiver with a decent nose for the football, who could find a home as a cornerback on the outside. First he has to find a home as a special teamer, though.
Georgia LB Tae Crowder (Seventh round, 255th overall)
"Mr. Irrelevant" was nearly overlooked when Georgia was putting together its recruiting class four years ago, and he was overlooked when the NFL scouting combine sent out its invitations. But the Giants liked enough of what they saw in this 6-3, 235-pound former high school running back. They got a tough player who has improved every season on one of the best college defenses in the nation. He was even good enough to be a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker.
This draft had to be mostly about fixing the offensive line, and it was. Gettleman not only found his anchor tackle in Round 1 (Thomas), but he may have found future starters at tackle and guard in Rounds 3 and 5 (Peart and Lemieux). Gettleman seems to think his line problems are now fixed, and he might be right. If he is, this draft will look a lot better in a few years. Of course, he still didn't find the "Blue Goose" pass rusher he knows he needs on defense (None of the developmental linebackers and edge rushers late in the draft will fill that role). He did get two players who should help immediately -- a highly-rated safety (McKinney) and a player who should win the nickel corner job (Holmes). Whether that's enough largely depends on how his free-agent spending spree and his draft class from the last two years pans out. For now, though, it feels like he found some key pieces for a team ready to turn the corner and start to win again.