The Giants have the #2 pick in this weeks 2018 NFL draft. The word they have leaked is that they are strongly considering taking all world running back Saquon Barkley with this pick. In my prior blog, I explained how they could be using Game theory to get the Browns to take Barkley at #1 leaving them Darnold, who I believe is the only quarterback they highly value.
Here we will explain why it would be a very bad idea to take Barkley with the second overall selection.
Its all about The Relative Value of Positions
For any running back with more than a one year (Franchise) contract (meaning we are excluding the franchised Le’veon Bell for this), the highest paid in the NFL is Davonta Freeman at $8.25m. By the time you get to 15th highest you are at $4m per year.
The Jags signed Blake Bortles for $18m -BLAKE BORTLES!!!! He happens to be not much better than the 30th best quarterback but 18th highest paid quarterback. This is largely as a result of some very good quarterbacks still on their rookie contracts. The highest paid QB is now Cousins at $28m per, and the 15th (average for a starter) gets just under $21m.
The salary cap is at about $177m. To compete for the Superbowl you arguably need to produce significantly more value than that. Let’s say approximately $235m in production (the exact amount could be argued but the concept can’t).
If you can draft a top performing quarterback and pay him less than $7m per year, if he performs at just the top half that comes to $21m, a savings of $14m or just above a quarter of the outperformance you will need, from one position. Paying a running back the $7m that a #2 overall pick will make, if he performs at the very top level, you are still only saving approximately $2m. There is virtually no running back you couldn’t get if you would pay $9m per year. Walter Payton in his prime would likely not get more than $10-11m per year. You hope that Barkley is Walter Payton.
The relative value of these positions makes it that you can’t take a running back that high even if you think he will be a top 3 running back in the NFL. You would have to know you were drafting Jim Brown for that to make sense and even then, the numbers likely would not support it in today’s passing league.
The math and replacement value formula makes the argument clear. It is interesting to analyze whether the entire league has it wrong. Is it possible that the entire league just incorrectly evaluating the relative value of a good running back to a good quarterback? It’s unclear if the answer matters as you could get just about any running back you want for $9m per year, and therefore even if the league is incorrectly calculating the position, you should still “arb” that in the free agent market and not in the draft.
The typical QB is an active part of an offensive play an average of 500 times per year (based on attempts by 15th ranked QB in attempts) versus average running back of 210 carries by same metric. Even accounting for only receptions and the QB can affect materially more plays. Additionally, the variance around the average quarterbacks’ performance is substantially higher than the variance around a running backs production. Firstly, there is more variance in yards per attempt between a 90th percentile (top tier) QB versus a 50th percentile one, than there is in yard per carry of similarly stratified running backs (you must assume a certain number of minimum carries when doing the math since unlike QBs some running backs only run very infrequently and their averages are not statistically significant).
Secondly, the impact of the much wider variance on turnovers makes the QB even more important. The difference between lost fumbles for the most generous of ball carriers (again assume 95th percentile) on a given year versus the average fumbler may be about 1-1.5 lost fumbles per year. For QB INTs that would be at least 6. It could be argued that the average turnover would cost a team approximately 40 yards worth of field position. When that is factored into any yards per play analysis, the impact of a turnover on total value differential is significant, once again making QB a much higher “leverage” position.
Seattle had a dominant team when they had Russell Wilson playing on his cheap 3rd round rookie contract. Their ability to win went down materially when they had to start paying him full price. Without a doubt, one of the keys to the Patriots success has been Brady’s willingness to work for what is known to be well below his intrinsic value (I don’t know what kind of deal he and Kraft have worked out for a personal services contract after he retires to compensate for this).
Lastly, many of the things they are now saying about Barkley, they were saying about Leonard Fournette. He is/will be a good running back, but he averaged 3.8 yards per carry. If Barkley came in and did well and became a free agent a year from now he would command $8-9m. If a Rosen or Darnold did the same they would command $25m (see Garofalo, Jimmy).
You sign a Rosen and if he is only average quality you will get more added value out of him than a top running back. The relative value of the positions is just too lopsided to take a running back that high.
So, what should the Giants do?
Ideally, they like a quarterback available to them at number 2. If they really do not like the quarterback options available to them (I suspect that they like Darnold who could go to the Browns at number 1), they should look to trade down (although the best deal they would have gotten and the trade I’d have liked was the trade the Jets made with the Colts).
Lastly, if neither is a possibility they should look at Bradley Chubb as their next best option. It still doesn’t have QB positional value but top defensive ends make double what top running backs make and get a bit closer to the value of a QB.
The Giants are letting it get leaked that they are not going to take a quarterback with the second pick in the draft, and that specifically they are targeting Saquon Barkley.
For reasons to be discussed in the next blog to be posted prior to the draft, the Giants would be foolish to take Barkley. I believe they must recognize the positional value and that Walter Payton would not be paid what an average NFL quarterback makes.
So why are they letting everyone believe they are in on Barkley?
It’s all about game theory. I believe the Giants would like to draft Sam Darnold. They are unsure as to whether the Browns intend to take Darnold or Allen but don’t think the Browns are strongly convicted on one versus the other. It’s almost obvious that the Browns intend to take Barkley with the 4th pick. They obviously are not going to take a second quarterback with that pick and are not very likely to take Chubb as they took Myles Garret with last year’s number one and need to spread it around a bit more. The Giants are hoping by introducing the idea of Barkley as their choice at #2, they get the Browns to take Barkley at 1, leaving Darnold to the Giants. The Browns would still know that either Darnold, Allen, Rosen or Mayfield will be available at 4.
The former Giants regime had too many leaks which led to teams trading up to jump them. If I’m right, they are using the false leaks this time around to meet their objectives. It’s a smart move.
The Giants announced that Eli Manning would be benched for the rest of the season. They actually gave him the option of starting games to keep the streak alive and he turned it down. The Giants are getting ripped for this decision from all corners: former players, former coaches and every talking head on TV. I appreciate loyalty as much as the next guy but it’s the wrong approach. Eli Manning has been a great Giant. He’s been a great player and a great guy. However, the organization needs to prepare for the future. This year is over. The Giants will wind up with a top 3 pick and likely have the opportunity to draft Sam Darnold, or Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield. They need to figure out whether they have their quarterback of the future in Davis Webb. This is about Davis Webb, not about Geno Smith. Once they have Smith here they can go through the box checking exercise of giving him a game or two to see if he has anything, but this is about Webb and this is about next year.
At some point Manning was going to be playing his last game. It was always going to be a sad day. Don’t confuse loyalty and appreciation for Manning (who ironically I always assumed I appreciated more than most until the internet exploded on this benching), with the need to start working on 2018. Their PR guys could’ve handled it better and discussed more about Webb than Smith, but this is 100% the correct move. Manning is absolutely not what went wrong with this season. Almost no quarterback could produce with this line and the current array of weapons available. It will actually also make it difficult to evaluate Webb under similar circumstances. Manning is without a doubt past his prime at 37. He potentially has a productive year or two left, but the Giants can no longer fool themselves into believing that they are competitors for a Super bowl; or will be soon. They need to plan for the future. Even better if they can get something for Manning in a trade this off season.
If it turns out that Webb has a future, the Giants will be in a position to trade their draft pick for a number of picks. If he doesn’t prove anything they can draft a quarterback and start the rebuild process around the new quarterback.
It was with mixed emotions that I watched the Giants win, in a convincing fashion against a heavily favored Broncos team that had dominated some other teams. Surprisingly the Giants’ offense displayed strong running game against a team that has not allowed much to running backs all year.
There are a number of reasons for this. One was clearly the addition of D.J. Fluker (ultimately instead of Hart) on the offensive line. The second was the reconfiguration that put Pugh back at tackle where his athletic abilities are probably best suited. We have been positive on Darkwa for a while and he was great. It should be clear that Perkins will not get his starting job back when healthy.
They didn’t post overall gaudy numbers and passing to wide receivers was virtually non-existent, but they did what they needed to do and controlled the game.
JPP had a big game for the first time all year. With Vernon injured, that was desperately needed. The Giants improved against the run led by the typical all-world Snacks Harrison. Thankfully a mediocre quarterback like Simeon could not expose the fact that DRC was benched via suspension. Interceptions tend to be random and come in bunches. The Giants got 3 after doing very little for the first 5 games. Simple mean reversion.
As a realist I know there is no chance for the Giants to make the playoffs. In that regard they would be better off planning for the future as discussed in last week’s blog. The fact that there are articles about the path to the playoffs is absurd but also an indication that they won’t give up in time for the trading deadline. It would be a wasted opportunity to not set themselves up well for next year.
The Seahawks are not the team they once were. They never were as good on the road as in Seattle but none of their victories have been that impressive. While the Giants played above their heads last week and materially benefited from the one-time surprise that comes with Mike Sullivan being newly responsible for play calling, the Giants have a few things working for them this week. For one, it appears likely that Sterling Shepard will return from his ankle injury. It’s a really big deal specifically because of how many good receivers have been lost and the fact that they are down to guys who were mostly unemployed a few weeks ago. Given the comparison it’s a meaningful upgrade. Having some receivers to go along with a newly found running game could provide reasonable offense.
On defense DRC returns from his one game suspension and that will materially help the secondary. On the D line, Olivier Vernon could come back. Given the very weak Seahawks tackles, he and JPP could wreak havoc. The Giants are 6.5 point underdogs at home. I think they keep the game close and it would not surprise me if they came away with a win.
Time to Suck for Sam?
The rallying cry of Jets fans coming into the season was to be bad enough that they would get the first pick in the draft and be able to take the # 1 player in the coming draft which was expected to be USC quarterback Sam Darnold. The Giants season is over.
It was really over prior to this past weekend’s loss to the previously winless Chargers, but now is officially over. Not only did the Giants lose yet another game they were leading the 4th quarter, this one had them suffer significant injuries at wide receiver, most importantly the gruesome injury suffered by Odell Beckham.
He is out for the year with a broken ankle and it was so bad that you need to wonder if he will ever be the same player he was. The Giants will sign Travis Rudolph from the practice squad and former Giant, Tavarres King. Rudolph looked great in the pre-season and I think will surprise people. He doesn’t have the measurable (40-yard dash time, height), but will be productive if given the chance.
More importantly, 0-5 has an advantage. The early trade deadline in the NFL of October 31, usually leaves team within shooting distance of a playoff game and afraid to dump assets. To be sure, there are other reasons trades don’t happen too much in the NFL. Integrating into a new system is tough, and salary cap ramifications, specifically the requirement to accelerate un-accrued bonuses, prevent a lot of trades from happening.
Between the 0-5 record and the injuries to star players the Giants will have 100% support from their fans to give up on any premise of being competitive this year and can start planning for the future. This of course could have major ramifications if the Giants start their own Suck for Sam campaign. It would be giving up on the last couple of productive years from Eli Manning (arguable but consider the line in front of him and his lack of running game support prior to deciding he is finished) and also giving up on the prospects of Davis Webb. Of course if they do get the top pick they could also do what’s been done recently, which is trade top picks for a ton of picks and players that can build a team for years to come.
The Giants can start trading away any parts they have that can be plugged in elsewhere. Serviceable parts that could help other teams if the other teams were to have injuries could include a John Jerry or D.J. Fluker, or a Shane Vereen. None are great but each could have value to other teams with injuries and none have un-accrued bonuses that are too large to eat. The likeliest piece of trade bait is DRC. He plays at very high level, can impact a team materially and is on the last year of a contract so wouldn’t have much left in un-accrued bonus and not be that expensive for a half a season rental for a good team who needs improvement in the secondary. While I’m sure the Giants would love to have him back, he is on his last year of his contract so any signing would be a full market price next year anyway. He could theoretically still sign with the Giants next year if each were so inclined. For a team on the cusp of competing in this year’s playoffs, I could see him potentially generating as high as a second round pick in return (as opposed to the others which would garner no better than a 5th round pick at best).
On another note, the Giant’s ran the best they have all season. Gallman looked good and aggressive again and Darkwa looked very good before he got hurt again. I don’t see Perkins getting his starting job back any time soon. It should be noted that the Chargers are notoriously weak against the run so a week’s stats should be taken with a grain of salt, but they still looked a lot better. Part of me wonders if Brent Jones at his natural center position can make enough of an impact that you could add Weston Richburg to the list of trade-able parts with value before the traded deadline.
Perkins didn’t look like the same running back even before he got hurt. It wasn’t just the line. He seemed lack both vision and burst. Part of it seemed to be a confidence thing.
McAdoo continues to make bad decisions in play calling and clock management. Going for 2 on their last score was a bad idea when they were at the 2-yard line. It was colossally stupid when they were moved back to the 7. He is almost lucky Odell got hurt and the game is irrelevant. Otherwise it would be the big story of the week.
Olivier Vernon’s absence certainly hurts the Giants. They cannot generate an organic pass rush without him in there. Without him JPP can be doubled. It’s important to have two guys who are plus rushers as only one can be double teamed leaving the other to have a better chance at getting to the quarterback. He was ineffective playing injured, so hopefully some real recovery time can get him healthy and back.
I’m a loyal fan so I will still watch the rest of the games, but it will be a painful season to watch. I hope they at least develop all the youngsters and even potentially let Davis Webb play some ball. What do they have to lose?
On a side note, I think the Knicks may have an even lower winning percentage this year than the Giants. That is another story for another time on another blog.
Yesterday’s 27-24 loss to the Eagles was as gut wrenching and painful as any in memory.
Minutes earlier, after the great comeback that seemingly had culminated with the Sterling Shepard 77-yard touchdown catch, I had visions of 2007 when the Giants went 0-2 and were looking awful against the Redskins until a goal line stand turned their entire season around. I thought that is what this blog would be about. I was wrong.
The ESPN app has a chart showing percentage chances of winning. After having little chance while falling behind early and looking bad, the Giants rallied and were showing an 83% chance of winning. A confluence of unlikely events transpired to lead to a loss. It was horrible and as a result the Giants have virtually no chance of making the playoffs. We are still in September and the season is nearly over.
I’m going to try to spin some optimism here. Here it goes. The Giants were underdogs for two of the three games and were expected to be underdogs for these games when the seasons started. Even if you projected them for 10-6, you likely had them losing road games in Dallas and Philly. They are a game behind what they should have been.
More importantly, the change in the game plan sort of worked. Planning to throw the ball quickly to eliminate the liability that is Flowers and the offensive line was working. Manning had good stats and was relatively clean for most of the game. I saw a statistic where his average length of holding the ball prior to passing yesterday was 25% shorter than the second quickest team. It’s not a long term plan that should work but it helped. They seemed to get some real momentum later in the game as they learn what their personnel can and cannot do. I assume defenses will respond to it but it was helpful.
Other observations: the Giants run defense which was excellent last year no longer is. It’s not clear if this is because of the loss of Hankins or something else. It could be that you can attribute Dallas to being a great O Line and the last two games to the absence of BJ Goodson. It’s not clear when he will be returning but having an undrafted free agent in the middle is not ideal. Their pass defense does seem to still be keeping opponents in check, although the last two completed passes on the game ending drive should not have been so easily given up. At the very least they should have tackled Jeffrey in bounds on that last pass. The coaching also leaves something to be desired. Playing from the shot gun on that third down play from the 6-inch line was a bad idea. Not coaching Shane Vereen to stay in bounds on the Giants last drive was bad. Darian Thompson is an awful tackler and a liability against the run. I’m not sure Adams shouldn’t be reinserted into the lineup ahead of him at safety. Olivier Vernon not being able to play at the end of the game hurt tremendously. It gave Wentz too much time. The rushing game is abysmal. When Hart returns from injury, Pugh should be put at left tackle and they should send Flowers to the bench. He is done. This can’t be undone by more work. He just lacks the talent for the job. Suggestions that DJ Fluker should see the lineup are clearly being made by people who didn’t a watch the preseason and still grade him from his draft spot. He was horrible. Much worse than Flowers. Perkins has no confidence left. Even when there are some holes he doesn’t see them Whatever he had last year he has lost.
The Giants certainly were more competitive and seemed to have turned some corner offensively (at least in the passing game) and their defense despite messing up at the end was still overall solid. As a fan I’m committed to watching each game, but it was a sad day. End note: OBJ celebration not worth discussing. It’s all been said. As for the national anthem, I’ll leave that to others.
We don't usually post videos and certainly not one of practices, but WOW -you need to see this one!
The wait is over. After a long off season, the Giants kick off their pre-season this Friday night. I have some initial thoughts on the upcoming season, which are admittedly going to be refined significantly prior to the regular season.
I can’t recall the last time that there was a wider gap between the upside and downside possibilities for this team.
The negative case is that the Giants had a ton of close games last year and mean reversion usually means that they should only win about half of them. That alone would cost them two wins.
Additionally, the Giants have one of the toughest schedules in the league. That too could be good for an expectancy of a couple of more losses. All else being equal, last year’s team playing this year’s schedule, would average about 7 wins. Their biggest liability last year, the offensive line, went basically unaddressed in the off season. Also, their most expensive player, QB Eli Manning clearly started the back 9 of his career. It is highly unusual for this to get better. The more likely path is for it to get worse. All these facts don’t bode well for the Giant’s.
Here is the upside. They were an 11 win playoff team. Their defense was not only good last year, but gradually improved over the course of the year, amazingly even after JPP went down with an injury. With the possible exception of Dominique Cromartie, not one significant player on the defense is at an age where he should be getting worse. The one loss on the defense in Hankins was adequately replaced. The free safety situation should be reasonably improved with the return of Darian Thompson from injury. I expect B.J. Goodson to be an improvement from last year’s Kelvin Sheppard (who still remains unsigned if you needed to be sure of that). Eli Apple looks improved from last year and he continued to improve throughout the year last year. The secondary could be the best in the NFL. Most importantly, it seems the defense improvement over the course of the year last year was not a coincidence. The last time the Giants won the Superbowl, defensive coordinators Steve Spagnuolos defense started out by giving up 80 points in their first 2 games before learning the system and improving. This team seems to have learned the system and should be able to utilize this knowledge and improve their game.
On the offensive side, even though the line remains the same, there is an argument that it does not. Pugh missed some time last year and is now healthy. Westburg apparently played with an injured hand which is now better. Disappointments Flowers and Hart stayed in Jersey all winter to work on their bodies and their games. Even a minor improvement should help. They also had no tight end last year who could block and they do now with Rhett Ellison, who was one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. In terms of passing targets for Manning, Marshall is a huge improvement over a post-surgical and ineffective Victor Cruz, and rookie tight end Evan Engram has been flashing in practices and looks like a size/speed mismatch that Ben McAdoo will utilize well. In addition to the obvious expected greatness from OBJ, Shepard is coming into year 2 where may receivers make a jump. He has one of the better statistical years of any first year receiver last year. The Giant’s stuck with Jennings at running back for too long last year and he was awful. Perkins when given a chance did much better than Jennings and will be the main ball carrier. Also Shane Vereen coming back as a receiving back will be helpful. More so the diverse talent they have should allow them more formations and make them less predictable. The Giant’s are only 2 years removed from having a good offense and it was with a substantially similar line. The subtle improvement the offense has made since last year, via additions and health could have a significant impact. If their defense is as good as I think it can be and the offense even gets back to middle of the pack, even with a tough schedule the Giants could be as good as any team.
After round 1 we gave our thoughts on Engram. I would have still gone with Reuben Foster. I think adding an elite MLB to that defensive line and backfield would have made for a truly dominant defense.
The Giant’s tight end situation is poor enough that very solid solutions could have been had through round 4 or 5 that would have represented an upgrade on their current team. I would have liked to see Jake Butt taken in the 4th round. Maybe Engram will be a nightmare matchup problem and prove me wrong but it didn’t seem like the pick to make. In the second round, as we predicted they would, they took a DT to replace Hankins. They selected Dalvin Thompson. He should reasonably be a swap for Hankins who, while loved by the Giants, was not worth the $10m he got from a defensively desperately bad Colt team. The PFF guys happened not to have rated Hankins very highly last year and there is reasonable thought he was better situated to the NT position occupied by Harrison. The replacement cost here is materially less. Now if the Giants knew they would have been replacing him they potentially could have allotted that salary cap piece elsewhere, either to a Martellus Bennett at TE or to a quality offensive lineman.
Round 3 pick David Webb could ultimately make or break the draft. Unless they had him ranked significantly higher, I’m against the pick. The Giants have current holes that needed filling, and realistically speaking, this is a pick who likely won’t play for 3 years. This is a problem for 2 reasons. One is that the Giants have a very good team right now and every chance to take advantage of the “Manning Window” should be taken. Two, with very few exceptions, good teams don’t just go from one franchise QB to another without a big drop. At some point post-Manning, it’s likely that they will need to rebuild. At that point they can get a high draft pick and get their man then. If they had Webb rated much higher than he was taken, then it’s reasonable to take a crack at him in round 2. Reports are that he is not very accurate and that is something that doesn’t generally improve sufficiently over a career.
I am not enamored with 4th round pick Wayne Gillman. The Giants have their good, but great lead back in Perkins, who is young and flashed reasonable potential last year, running for a much higher average than Jennings behind the same exact line. For the most part this very mediocre line should only get better as except for John Jerry they are all young guys still on the ascent their career. They won’t be good but should be improved. Gillman who ran a slow 4.6 40-yard dash time is supposed to be the stronger in between the tackles compliment to Perkins. I like Darkwa in that role. His numbers decreased last year but that was primarily because most of his runs came against the Packers and Vikings, two excellent run defense teams and were while Justin Pugh was injured. He is a solid runner and as good as Gillman making this a wasted pick.
In round 5 they took Avery Moss, a DE who could add to the pass rush. Once you are down to round 5 it’s not crazy to take guys that could come in as specialist and its possible Moss can fill that role. He has the right body type. They traded up in round 6 when they realized they didn’t take any OL. They took Bisnowaty. It’s doubtful he becomes more than serviceable but he performed well in a good conference. It’s possible he can add muscle and get better.
He won’t be a year 1 starter, if ever. Some of the URFA looked good. USC OT Chad Wheeler could make the team. Same for Notre Dame DT Jarron Jones. I look forward to seeing these guys in the upcoming rookie minicamp.
The Giants selected Evan Engram from Ole Miss with their first-round pick. While we expected that the tight end position was a likely choice, we thought it would be Miami’s David Njoku. Shockingly, the early round run on quarterbacks created a dynamic where OJ Howard slipped to 19. It raised hope but the Bucs grabbed him and it was not meant to be. The problem I have with the Engram pick is that he is only a tight end in name only. At 235 pounds, he is similar in size to Brandon Marshall. He is a wide receiver who is called a tight end. It’s not that he isn’t a good player who can create major mismatches. I think he could be. He is surprisingly fast (4.42 40) for a man of his size. It’s just that we didn’t need a wide receiver. We are good there. Perhaps the Giants will come up with creative game plans to use his unique skills. The Giants are stacked at wide receiver and didn’t need this pick with all the needs they have.
OT Bolles did get picked a few picks beforehand as well. As we predicted in the preview, I didn’t think the Giants loved the other tackles as first rounder’s, so it’s not shocking that they passed on them. I did think they could take Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster with the pick - that is who I would have taken. Given the question about his character and the Giants focus on high character players it’s not shocking that they passed.
Perhaps Engram can add 20 pounds and become something else, but I am not convinced. He is exceptionally fast and big enough to cause matchup problems but it’s not a pick I would have made. Perhaps they are more bullish on last year’s 4th round pick B.J. Goodson than we realize and that was a reason to pass on Foster.
They also could feel there is decent quality tackles to be taken in later rounds and didn’t want to reach for one they didn’t love in round 1 once Bolles was gone.
I’m looking forward to the upcoming rounds over the next couple of days. I think they will take a DT in round 2 or 3 and an OT but it really depends on how the draft shakes out.
This is my favorite time of the year.
- Ari Glass
Ari has been an avid Giants fan since 1979. He attends many home games and has attended the Giants last 2 Superbowl victories. This blog will talk about anything related to the New York Giants. Ari also blogs about the New York Knicks, at http://www.ariglassknicksblog.com