EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dave Gettleman stood at the podium for his introductory news conference and laid out what he believed were the basic tenets of winning football. In his mind, they’re the same now as they were in 1935.
“You got to run the ball. You got to stop the run. You got to pressure the passer,” Gettleman said after being hired as the New York Giants' general manager late last year.
Those beliefs were evident in the direction the Giants went early in the draft. Their top two picks were brought in to inject life into their dormant running game. After that, their two third-round picks and fifth-rounder were selected to pressure the passer.
Fourth-round quarterback Kyle Lauletta was the lone exception.
“We’ve got a quarterback. We got a running back. And we got the Giants back,” co-owner Steve Tisch said.
This is the thinking of an organization that meandered off track in recent years and is coming off a 3-13 season. Tisch views this as a new chapter with a new head coach and general manager. And with another star added to the stable: running back Saquon Barkley.
Addressing the run game
This was a priority at all costs. The Giants felt it was so important that they didn’t entertain trade calls when it was their turn on the clock in the first round. They didn’t contemplate any of the remaining quarterbacks over Barkley.
The Giants followed that up with the selection of UTEP’s Will Hernandez in the second round. Hernandez is a mauling guard who had a first-round grade from the Giants.
It has been a while since the Giants' running game has shown signs of competence. It has been eight years since they finished with a top-10 rushing attack.
“A lot better. We’re all saying that with a smile,” coach Pat Shurmur said. "I think when you bring in a dynamic runner and then you bring in a guy that can block, certainly those are two pieces to the equation.”
Barkley was the unanimous best player in the draft, according to the Giants brass. Gettleman went as far as saying he was touched by the hands of God. Barkley better be able to top the team's rookie rushing record of 830 yards set by Hall of Famer Tuffy Leemans in 1936.
With the type of investment the Giants have made, it better lead to an improved rushing attack. Their rushers averaged 1.50 yards after contact per rush last season, 26th in the NFL.
The QB situation
The Giants passed on Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen in the first round and quadrupled down on Eli Manning in the process. They then added competition for Davis Webb with the selection of Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta in the fourth round.
This was an interesting move, especially for a team short on picks and one that took Webb in the third round last year. The Giants like Lauletta a lot. Gettleman raved about his pocket presence, toughness and instincts. Shurmur praised his size, mobility and anticipation. He even downplayed the belief by some that Lauletta's arm strength was insufficient.
Gettleman conceded this was a pick for the long term. Maybe the Giants can develop Lauletta into something. Maybe they can develop Webb into something. Having both doubles the team's chances of maybe hitting it big with a future franchise quarterback.
The Giants insisted that picking Lauletta wasn’t an indictment on Manning or Webb. “Picking Kyle has less to do about Eli and Davis and more to do about Kyle,” Shurmur said. “We liked the player and we wanted to add him to our team and then just let them compete.”
It does say something about the Giants’ thinking, though. They’re unsure about both their quarterbacks’ future. Manning needs to play well this season to earn another year, and Webb isn’t guaranteed anything. He will have to compete with Lauletta, especially considering they're almost on the same page, since Webb has had only a few weeks to digest the new playbook.
The Giants still have holes on their roster. They could use a wide receiver, an offensive tackle, a linebacker and some cornerbacks.
“Rome isn’t built in a day,” Gettleman said of reshaping a roster that needed work this offseason.
The Giants had six picks in five rounds. They added a running back, quarterback, offensive lineman, two defensive tackles and an outside linebacker.
Gettleman's first draft went as well as the team could’ve hoped.
“Has any GM ever sat in this presser and said we just drafted crap? No. I’m thrilled,” Gettleman said. “I felt like we did really well. Again, you’re talking about a first-rounder in the second round, two second-rounders you draft in the third round, we had Kyle where we had him rated and we had [fifth-round defensive lineman] RJ [McIntosh] where we had him rated. I’m thrilled with this draft. We got big butts, we got power, we got speed. Sorry if that was inappropriate. And we got a quarterback that we really liked, so I’m not angry.”