Dave Gettleman believes that teams picking at the top of the draft should expect to land a "gold jacket" player, with Hall of Fame potential. He said that two years ago when he took Saquon Barkley second, and he thinks it "should" be the case this year when the Giants pick at No. 4.
And if that's Gettleman's criteria heading into the draft, many people around the league believe Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons will be tough for him to pass up.
The do-it-all linebacker was one of the most dazzling prospects at the NFL scouting combine last week, and according to one AFC scout is not only a "future All-Pro", but he'd be a "perfect" fit for the scheme new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is expected to bring to the Giants. Gettleman has also made it clear that adding linebacker help is one of his top offseason priorities, according to multiple NFL sources, and the available free agents are an underwhelming and likely overpriced group.
That's why, as much as the Giants are sincerely open to trading down, Simmons could be the anchor that keeps them where they are.
Why? Because he's viewed as a weapon on defense, not just a linebacker. In college, he lined up at every position except for defensive tackle. In fact he said he once played five different positions in a single college game. That's not just because of his athleticism either. He's got to be pretty smart to learn all those positions at once.
"I think it's really beneficial for me," Simmons said. "I know years ago it wasn't good to be a position-less guy. But now it's become a benefit for me just because of all the versatility I'll be able to do -- play linebacker, play safety, whatever it is.
"Mentally I feel like there isn't anything I can't do."
Physically there aren't any limitations, either. He ran a blistering, 4.39 in the combine 40-yard dash. He had a 39-inch vertical leap and an 11-foot broad jump. Those are stunning numbers for someone who is 6-3, 238 pounds. In fact, if you're looking for a comparable player, don't look at linebackers. Because numbers-wise, he's much more comparable to a Pro Bowl receiver.
And actually, he out-ran and out-jumped the combine performance of Julio Jones.
Simmons would be a heck of a fit somewhere on the Giants' defense, either in coverage (he had three interceptions last season), as a pass rusher (eight sacks), or as a jack-knife to cut through and disrupt opposing offenses from anywhere on the field (16.5 tackles for loss). It's been decades since the Giants had a linebacker who could do all that.
That's why so many think Simmons is the one guy Gettleman won't be able to pass up.
Here are some more bits of information on the Giants from a week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis...
Other Giants draft targets? Think big
The Giants loved Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs before the combine (as SNY reported) and the only thing that changes is that now everyone else loves him too. The 6-5, 320-pounder put on a show by running 4.86 40 (ridiculous for a man his size) and setting records with a vertical leap of 36.5 inches and a broad jump of 10-foot-1. If they want him or Louisville's Mekhi Becton - who dazzled with a 5.11 in the 40, despite being 6-7, 364 pounds - they might have to consider them at 4. They might be gone if they trade down too far.
There was some combine buzz about the Giants zeroing in on Auburn DT Derrick Brown at No. 4, but my sense is that had more to do with Gettleman's history with DTs. He obviously loves them and has loaded up on them. He drafted Dexter Lawrence in the first round last year then traded for Leonard Williams. He drafted DTs in the first two rounds of his first draft in Carolina in 2013. So don't rule it out, especially since Brown is one of the four best defenders in this draft. But I'm not buying it (yet).
Cornering the market, to a point
The Giants are definitely looking to add a cornerback in free agency, according to NFL sources, but it does not appear that they're willing to make a big splash despite their abundance of salary cap space (about $75 million). The feeling I got was that if they are going to be tempted into spending big money, it'll be for a pass rusher or an offensive lineman. At corner, they want a veteran (at a bargain) who can guide their young players like DeAndre Baker and Sam Beal.
The lone exception might be James Bradberry, whom Gettleman drafted in the second round in Carolina in 2016. There is some interest there, according to a source, but the Giants are wary of his price. Several sources said the 27-year-old Bradberry and Dallas' 27-year-old Byron Jones could end up with deals worth more than $15 million per year.
By the way, the consensus is that both Jones and Bradberry will end up in the NFC East - Jones in Philly and Bradberry in Washington.
Tag still likely for Leonard Williams
Nothing Giants-related got NFL people more worked up last week than talking about the trade for Leonard Williams, which was universally panned. It's not about Williams' ability, either. The general feeling is Williams was going to get a rude awakening in free agency this year and might have had to settle for a one-year, prove-it contract. Now he's got all the leverage because Gettleman can't end up with nothing after trading away a high third-round pick.
Gettleman said he and his "thick rhino hide" are prepared for the criticism, but the general consensus was he'll use the franchise tag to make sure the organization at least gets a minimal return for the ill-advised deal.
Offensive line is a priority - maybe the No. 1 priority
In case you haven't been paying attention, the Giants have offensive line issues. And Gettleman recognizes that, with a young quarterback like Daniel Jones, nothing is more important for his development than a strong line in front of him.
"The bottom line is, last time I checked, it's really difficult to complete a pass when you're on your back," he said. "I've done that study. The bottom line is, it's really the front. You need to give the young kids a front that allows him to learn how to play the game."
Don't completely rule the Giants out in the chase for the top-of-the-market tackles, though it's a good bet Jack Conklin's price will be too crazy for them. It sounds like most people expect the Giants will look more at second-tier free agents. And if they don't take a tackle in the first round of the draft, you can pencil in one for the second.
Big (chunk of) change
One interesting, under-the-radar thing Gettleman said last week was how he's changed his thinking on doing in-season contract extensions. "Since I became a GM,philosophically I've been against doing contracts in-season," Gettleman said. "That's wrong. I'm wrong about that and we have to have the money to do it then as well."
And that's another factor in what could be an underwhelming dip into the free-agent pool for the Giants. They have key players like tight end Evan Engram and safety Jabrill Peppers entering the final year of their contracts (not including likely fifth-year options) and it seems Gettleman is open to extending them during the season. Maybe DT Dalvin Tomlinson, too. They'll likely save some of their cap space for that