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Why GM Joe Schoen's first New York Giants draft changes franchise's feel

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In a span of seven minutes on Friday evening, general manager Joe Schoen did something that should have made the New York Giants and their fans realize they finally have a chance. He traded back (twice!) before you could even blink in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft to add extra picks.

It might not sound like anything special, but it shows a level of competence the organization didn't have as recently as the beginning of this year. In that seven minutes Schoen traded back as many times as Dave Gettleman did in nine years as general manager of the Carolina Panthers and Giants. And the two times Gettleman did trade back, sources say it was at the behest of former coach Joe Judge last year.

"We just thought it was what was best for us at this time. More picks would benefit us the most, we thought, based on who was on our board," Schoen said Saturday. "We had deals in place before the draft started. So we were confident. We knew we could move back. That was part of the plan."

A plan that made sense. Again, the bar is low -- perhaps below the basement -- for a franchise that went 19-46 under Gettleman.

Schoen began the second round on Friday by sending Pick 36 to the New York Jets for Picks 38 and 146 (a fifth-rounder). Moments later, he moved back again, shipping No. 38 to Atlanta for No. 43 and a fourth-rounder (114). The two picks he netted by moving down seven spots became Iowa safety Dane Belton (No. 114) and Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden (No. 146).

This is how rebuilding teams are supposed to operate. Remember this in a couple of years if Belton or McFadden become starters or even consistent contributors.

We can argue about the merits of the player the Giants ended up selecting 43rd overall in the second round, Kentucky receiver Wan'Dale Robinson. Some analysts, including ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., say the diminutive wide receiver was selected too early. And the Giants might have missed out on a cornerback they liked by moving down. Auburn's Roger McCreary went 35th to the Tennessee Titans, Washington's Kyler Gordon went 39th to the Chicago Bears and Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr. went 42nd to the Minnesota Vikings.

It doesn't really matter. This Giants team, bereft of talent, got extra dart throws during the draft because of Schoen's elasticity. Contrast that with Gettleman's ill-fated decision during the 2019 draft to trade fourth- and fifth-round picks to move up seven spots to No. 30 for cornerback DeAndre Baker. At least two other teams told ESPN that spring that they had concerns about the Georgia prospect. Baker was placed on the commissioner's exempt list in 2020 because of legal issues and released that September by the Giants.

Schoen's draft résumé with the Giants is already off to a better start. He began by taking Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux fifth overall and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal at No. 7. Those picks were pretty much universally lauded, even if the rest of the class of 11 players was met with some skepticism. It was New York's largest draft class since 2003.

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"I don't love the Giants' class after their first two picks, but Thibodeaux and Neal are good enough to keep this grade on stable ground," Kiper wrote in his explanation for giving the Giants a B grade.

Like every team's draft class, the newest group of Giants comes with some warts. Robinson lacks ideal size at 5-foot-8, 178 pounds. Third-round guard Joshua Ezeudu, selected 67th, was ranked 151st overall by Scouts Inc., which said he lacks polish and grades out as a versatile backup with a chance to develop into a starter. And during the pre-draft process, some scouts and coaches told ESPN they view Thibodeaux as "good, but not special" -- a player who isn't very big (6-foot-4, 254 pounds) for his position and doesn't possess any counter moves as a pass-rusher.

The reality is nobody knows whether any of the 262 players drafted this weekend will be any good. That is analysis for another day down the road. What we can judge is Schoen's logic.

What he did throughout his first offseason and draft at least makes sense. In Gettleman's first draft as Giants GM (2018), he selected running back Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall following a 3-13 season, trying to prop up soon-to-be-38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning.

Schoen realized he couldn't get it all done in one swoop and began what appears to be a methodical roster overhaul. He had a realistic goal for his first draft class.

"We wanted to add depth and competition to the roster, which I think we did," Schoen said. "Again, not every guy is going to come as a starter. It takes time. Guys have to develop. ... Over time, you have to have depth players and frontline players. I think the idea was to get the best we could.

"Defensively, the guys with versatility. And offensively, as you're around [coach] Brian [Daboll], you'll see, he'll take the pieces and whatever we have and develop the offensive scheme around those pieces that we have, and [defensive coordinator] Wink [Martindale] kind of adheres to the same philosophy."

For now at least, it all sounds good. The Giants' roster might not be in great shape at this point -- look at the thin secondary -- but there is reason to feel good with how they're operating and where they seem to be going. It seems coherent rather than slapped together.

Schoen deserves most of the credit for that.