Sources: Giants looking closely at Sam Darnold, top QB prospects

Are the Giants ready to move on from Eli? (1:56)

Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg predict how the dysfunctional New York team will make adjustments going forward. (1:56)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As their season has spiraled out of control, the New York Giants have begun to prepare for their future by focusing on potential franchise quarterbacks who could be available in this year’s NFL draft.

There was a directive given several weeks back by co-owner John Mara to start looking closely at the top college quarterbacks, multiple sources told ESPN. This occurred around the time it became apparent that the Giants’ season was headed nowhere, in part, because wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. would be out with a broken ankle.

Vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross, who runs the Giants’ draft, personally went to scout UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen in recent weeks, sources said. Rosen is among the nation’s top prospects at the position.

Rosen (5), USC sophomore Sam Darnold (1) and Wyoming’s Josh Allen (6) are the quarterbacks in Todd McShay’s most recent Top 32 draft prospects. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, with a surge in recent weeks, are also highly regarded by scouts.

Darnold may be the most intriguing option, but whispers in league circles are that he may remain at USC for another year. Rosen (personality) and Allen (level of competition) also come with questions. Jackson and Mayfield are nontraditional quarterbacks.

Still, the Giants (1-7) are doing their due diligence. This close inspection of the draft’s top quarterbacks is necessary because they have a soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback and are in the midst of their worst season in decades. They would have the third overall pick if the season ended today and are coming off a 34-point home loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

That kind of draft pick would provide the Giants with options, and it would be irresponsible if they weren’t at least considering a quarterback. General manager Jerry Reese conceded earlier this year that Eli Manning was on the “back nine” of his career.

They drafted Davis Webb in the third round out of California before this season. He has been inactive for all eight games.

While the coaching staff has been thoroughly impressed with Webb’s work ethic and attitude, there remains an element of uncertainty after he played in an Air Raid offense in college and received limited snaps throughout training camp and the preseason. He was the fourth-string quarterback this summer behind Manning, Geno Smith and Josh Johnson. Reps in a live atmosphere were hard to come by.

Giants coach Ben McAdoo has left open the possibility in recent days that Webb could receive playing time later this season. Manning will start Sunday on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.

“Eli, he’s our quarterback,” McAdoo said. “But that doesn’t mean, at some point in time, we won’t throw another guy in there to get a look at him.”

If Webb develops into a significant player and the Giants hit on a quarterback early in this year’s draft, that is a good problem to have. It’s better than the alternative -- being stuck in quarterback purgatory for an extended period after Manning’s career with the Giants ends.

It inevitably will. Manning won’t be the Giants' quarterback for too much longer. He has two years remaining on his current deal, which has a no-trade clause. He costs $22.2 million and $23.2 million against the salary cap in 2018 and ’19, respectively. The Giants can cut him with some financial consequences any time in the next two years.

Manning’s successor will have substantial shoes to fill. The two-time Super Bowl winner has been the face of the franchise for much of the past 14 seasons. Manning has also been a model of stability. He’s set to start his 208th consecutive regular-season game on Sunday, tying his brother Peyton for second all time among quarterbacks.

It has been a while since the Giants were seriously in the mix for a top quarterback. They haven’t had a top-five pick since 2004, when they selected Philip Rivers and traded him for Manning, the No. 1 overall selection by the San Diego Chargers.

Manning has started every game for the Giants since midway through his rookie season. This year’s draft may be the prime opportunity for them to find their next surefire franchise quarterback.

The best bet for success at the quarterback position remains at the top of the draft. Three of the past four MVPs were No. 1 overall picks. Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick last year, is the current front-runner for this year’s award.