ORLANDO -- As soon as the Giants' traded Jason Pierre-Paul, speculation went wild that they were planning to take his replacement with the No. 2 pick in the draft. And why not? N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb is considered the draft's best defensive player, perfect for the Giants' new-look, 3-4 defense.
That, of course, is not the reason they traded JPP. The move was about dumping a contract and a player, and their draft board didn't change after they made the move. They are set for the time being at the edge positions with Olivier Vernon and the newly-signed Kareem Martin, plus Josh Mauro when his season-opening suspension is over.
It would be a mistake to completely rule out Chubb, though. Just as it would be a mistake to rule out Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, and a quarterback for their future, too. The Giants remain in a power position in this draft, destined to get one of the two best players on their board.
They have options, none of which have been completely ruled out, according to multiple sources. And now that free agency is all but over, and JPP is in Tampa Bay, here's a look at the possibilities they'll be considering in the month-long run-up to the NFL draft:
Drafting Eli Manning's replacement
This remains something they are actively considering, one source said. It's one reason why coach Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator Mike Shula, and Chris Mara, the Giants' senior VP of player evaluation, have been at the Pro Days of the top quarterbacks. And it's hard to imagine co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch would waste their time at a dinner with one of them - UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, whom they dined with last week -- if they weren't at least thinking about who'll be their franchise leader when Manning is gone.
It's true, they don't appear completely sold on any of the quarterbacks - yet. It is believed that USC's Sam Darnold will be the highest-rated quarterback on their board. Rosen is well-regarded by some in the organization too. This is a big decision, though, that could have 10 years worth of ramifications for the franchise. They'll be thinking about this one until the very end.
Take the best player: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
A lot of people think Barkley will be in the top spot on the Giants' board, and that they'll take him if he's there. No doubt they consider him a dynamic player, and Shurmur is on record saying how much he needs a dual-threat running back.
But they're also aware that the No. 2 pick is a major investment, and the shelf-life for running backs can be short. Also, a great running back with a mediocre quarterback usually results in a mediocre team. It's been hard to tell if new Giants GM Dave Gettleman has the team in win-now, or build-for-the-future mode. Barkley would seem to be a win-now move, to get one more title run in Eli Manning's final years.
Take the best defensive player: N.C. State DE Bradley Chubb
Gettleman believes in big men, which means players on both lines. He also understands that in today's NFL, you need a quarterback and someone who can disrupt the quarterback.
Chubb is certainly a disruptive force who can be both an immediate help, and a long-term one. With JPP gone and with Vernon's contract certainly shed-able over the next year or so, the Giants need to replenish their supply of pass rushers. To take him this high, they'd have to be convinced he's a potentially great pass rusher, not just a very good one.
Take the best offensive lineman: Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson
It's hard to imagine that Gettleman, with his love of "Hog Mollies" and his desire to "fix" the Giants' offensive line, loves any player in this draft more than Nelson. But a guard at No. 2? Given the four-year, $62.5 million contract they just gave LT Nate Solder, it's clear they are committed to rebuilding the line, and Nelson could be an interior anchor. His size, aggressiveness and attitude will be tempting.
Then again, Gettleman watched Andrew Norwell grow from an undrafted free agent into an All-Pro in Carolina. He knows good guards - even great ones - can be found in places other than the top of the draft.
Multiple Giants sources believe this is a longshot, but not an impossibility. They say Gettleman was telling the truth when he said the No. 2 pick should be considered a "Hall of Fame" type player, and that he doesn't want to "get too cute" by trading down too far. That makes it hard to envision the Buffalo Bills enticing him, even with two first-rounders (No. 12 and No. 22).
Could they use those to move up to, say, No. 6 (Indianapolis), and then try to trade up with the Giants? Sure, anything is possible. It's just hard to imagine the Giants dropping any further than that.
This is a very interesting theory that gained steam over the last few days, that the Giants will try to trade up with Cleveland to get the quarterback of their choice. Presumably it would be for Darnold, so the Giants could get the one quarterback they seem to love. As for the Browns, they still get a top quarterback at No. 2, and probably Barkley at No. 4, plus whatever extra picks the Giants want to give them.
If the Giants truly love Darnold and believe he's a worthy successor to Manning, this would be a brilliant move on their part. Doing it for any position other than a quarterback, though, would seem like a very big waste.