BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo Credit: Mindy Small/Getty Images)
Thursday night turned out to be a banner night for New York football. The Giants and Jets celebrated the occasion by drafting two picks in the first round, and then the Jets traded up to draft another first-round pick.
This is what we resorted to these days: The NFL Draft has become our Super Bowl. This is what happens when the Giants haven’t won a playoff game since they last won the Super Bowl. This is how it goes when they miss the playoffs in nine of their last ten seasons. This goes with the territory when the Jets missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season.
Thursday nights in late April have now given hope for a better tomorrow every year. It’s a sad commentary when our town should be expecting postseason football year in and year out.
The Jets drafted Ahmad Gardner with the No. 4 overall pick, and with the No. 10 overall pick, they drafted Garrett Wilson. They also moved up at No. 26 in the first-round draft via trade with the Tennessee Titans to draft Jermaine Johnson II. Meanwhile, the Giants drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux with the No. 5 overall pick, and with the No. 7 overall pick, they drafted Evan Neal.
Here’s the nice thing I can say about the Jets draft night: They moved up to get another first-round pick. To build around three first-round picks is a great thing. It could accelerate the rebuild.
Want to know what else can accelerate a rebuild? Trading first-round draft picks for a proven player that can make a difference on offense and help Zach Wilson’s development at quarterback.
The opportunity presented itself for the Jets to acquire disgruntled 49ers star Deebo Samuel with the three first-round picks. They did not get it done. That is disappointing. Trading one of this year’s first-rounders and next year’s first-rounder or both this year’s No. 1 draft picks for Samuel would have made sense for both teams.
The Jets need a home run hitter at wide receiver. They need a player who can make a play on offense. They needed a difference-maker that can make Wilson’s job easy at quarterback. They needed a player that can elevate the franchise. Samuel checks all the boxes.
The Jets had no excuse to not make that move. It would show this team is serious about winning this season. It would mean this team is serious about making progress. Acquiring Samuel would send a message this team means business.
Maybe Wilson can be a good player one day, but the Jets need to find someone who can win now. Samuel has been there and done that. He knows how to win.
Building through the draft is nice, but at some point, the Jets need to go for it and make a move now than wait for a better tomorrow. A team can have all the draft capital in the world, but it’s not going to mean much if they can’t win. The Rams were criticized for giving up draft picks for players that were ready to win. It paid off when they won the Super Bowl. Sure it’s risky, but at least a team can say it tried. This is what the Jets should have done.
As for the Giants, the more things change, the more they stay the same. First-year Giants general manager Joe Schoen made the same mistake his predecessors Jerry Reese and Dave Gettleman did. He fell in love with Thibodeaux’s talent rather than addressing a need. He went with the best player available rather than going with the safe pick. He picked talent rather than character and smarts.
The Giants should have drafted Ickey Ekwonu instead of Thibodeaux at No. 5. He was the best offensive lineman in that draft. Considering their offensive line stunk since they last won the Super Bowl, drafting offensive linemen should have been a priority. Yes, they made up for it by drafting Neal in another draft pick, but it would have made more sense for the Giants to draft Ekwonu and Neal, especially in a draft that really does not have dynamic players out there.
It’s troubling the Giants went with Thibodeaux despite his lack of focus and not enjoying football. He has a tendency of being lazy. He plays when he wants to play. There are also concerns he doesn’t like to deal with contact. In other words, he has the work ethic of Ben Simmons. Is this the hill Schoen and staff want to climb?
The Giants have had a history of being tantalized with guys with talent that are just not smart such as Odell Beckham Jr, Kadarius Toney and Eli Apple. One would think they would learn their lesson, especially with a new general manager. One can’t help but wonder how much involvement the Maras had with this pick. After all, they have been known to meddle often. They also love pass rushers.
The Giants shouldn’t be in the position to start drafting troubled players, especially at the state of what is another tired rebuilding project. They can’t be taking risks. This is just another short-cut move for a franchise that has made a habit of doing shortcuts.
The Jets had a chance to make a statement by acquiring Samuel on draft day, and they blew it.
The Giants show they don’t get it.
Both teams made puzzling decisions. Sure, both teams received high marks for their draft-day selection. Guess what? Every team gets that every year. The Giants received high marks for Beckham, and while he served as a human highlight reel, they did not win with him because he was a troublemaker.
The Giants, Jets and their fanbase can love the picks all they want.
But it would be nice if the Giants and Jets stop the cycle of making the draft day an important event in New York’s football.
Somehow, it’s hard to believe these moves will end it.