The Draft has had many forms over the years. The first one in 1936 featured nine teams and nine rounds. In the 1950s, the Draft got up to 30 rounds, with four rounds on day one and 26 coming on day 2. In 1994, the Draft finally settled in as the 7-round Draft we’ve come to know, and in 2010, the NFL modified that format to the 3-day Draft we’ve had since. And in all that time, the Giants have had some incredible and terrible drafts. It’s nothing as unique as the 1974 Steelers taking a record four future Hall of Famers in a single class (though they had 17 rounds to do so), but still some good ones.

I only became a Giants fan in 2002, so I can’t speak to the Giants Drafts prior. Instead, I present my top 5 Giants Draft Classes of this century! And a disclaimer: You can only correctly judge a class once they’ve had at least three years in the league, so the 2021 & 2022 classes will not be on my list.

Honorable Mention: 2019

This one might get me in some hot water as Daniel Jones, who was picked 6th, is very divisive among Giants fans. But whether you love him or hate him, he did get a big playoff win less than two seasons ago and a big second contract, so he wasn’t a total bust.

Dexter Lawrence, however, took 17th with the Browns pick acquired in the Odell Beckham trade and has become a cornerstone player for this franchise and arguably the best defensive tackle in the league.

They also found Darius Slayton at pick 171 in the 5th round, who, similarly polarizing like Daniel Jones, has had 720+ yards in 4 of his five seasons since and earned a second contract. He’s been thrust into a #1 role when he’s better suited to be more of a middle-of-the-pack #2 or high-end #3, but still, in the 5th round, he was a steal.

Trading back into round 1 and taking Deandre Baker at #30 was a greedy move they completely whiffed on, but they did find Julian Love in the 4th round at pick #108. While it took him a few years to reach his potential, he did start on that 2022 playoff team and has become a fine safety with the Seahawks. Other picks included; Oshane Ximines (Round 3, #95), Ryan Connelly (R5, #143), Corey Ballentine (R6, #180), George Asafo-Adjei (R7, #232) & Chris Slayton (R7, #245)

#5 2020

Dave Gettleman could have been a better GM. He was pretty terrible. He needed to know the salary cap, trade, or positional value. But he had two solid draft classes, which was the better 2 for me.

Andrew Thomas was the big get here as the second-team All-Pro tackle went 4th off the board in round 1. Round 2’s pick (#36) Xavier McKinney may have left for Greener (Bay) pastures but has up until now been one of the better safeties in football and, along with LB Bobby Okereke, were the only Giants defenders not to miss a snap last season.

4th round pick (#110) Darnay Holmes has been a serviceable slot corner who the Giants just gave a second contract to, while LB Carter Coughlin (R 7, #218) also just got a second deal with the team to be a special teamer and depth piece primarily. They also took Matt Peart (R3, #99), Shane Lemieux (R5, #150), Cam Brown (R6, #183), TJ Brunson (R7, #238), Chris Williamson (R7, #247) and Tae Crowder (R7, #255) as well.
#4 2007

Jerry Reese’s first Draft as GM of the Giants helped put the finishing touches on the team that would pull the biggest upset in NFL history.

With the 20th pick, he took Aaron Ross, who would go on to win 2 Super Bowls for the Giants as a starting CB. In the second round (#51), he took WR Steve Smith, who made a Pro Bowl in 2009 with 108 receptions, 1,220 yards, and 7 TDs, though he only stuck with the Giants for one contract.

The best value pick for the Giants in my fandom would come in the 7th round of this class when they took Ahmad Bradshaw out of Marshall with the 250th pick. Bradshaw went on to have two 1,000+ yard seasons and rush for 6+ TDs 4 times while tag teaming with Brandon Jacobs to win 2 Super Bowls as one of the better “Thunder and Lightning” RB duos of the late 2000s/early 2010s.

Ivy League LBer Zak DeOssie was drafted with the 116th pick in round 4 and went on to hold down the long snapper job for 13 years and make 2 Pro Bowls as a special teamer. As somebody who saw my first season of fandom ruined by a bad snap from Trey Junkin, I will always appreciate what DeOssie (and currently Casey Kreiter) meant to this team.

5th round pick (#153) Kevin Boss stepped up big when they lost star TE Jeremy Shockey to injury during the season and would start the next three seasons before leaving for Oakland.

7th-round pick Michael Johnson (#224) started every game for the 2008 Giants and 35 overall in his time here. The draft class featured Jay Alford (R3, #81), a solid rotational DT, and Adam Koets (R6, #189). This could be considered the deepest class for the Giants of the last 25 years, but I’m still putting a few groups higher.

#3 2003

The 2003-2005 Draft run Ernie Acorsi put together was incredible. So, it should be no surprise that they have just been mentioned. At first glance, this class had a lot of duds.

The 25th pick DT William Joseph never became what he was supposed to be, and Rod Barbers (R4, #123), Charles Drake (R7, #240), and Kevin Walter (R7, #255) didn’t even make the roster.

But with the 56th pick in round 2, Acorsi took Troy defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who would initially start as the Robin to Michael Strahan’s Batman but later become Batman himself, registering 3 11.5+ sack seasons, making 2 Pro Bowls, 2 All Pros and winning 2 Super Bowls.

In the 5th round, they found another gem in David Diehl, who would go on to start at left tackle for 2 Super Bowls and spend his entire 11-year career in a Giants’ uniform while only once making a Pro Bowl.

In the 6th round at pick #21, they took a guy who would be the first-team All-Pro (albeit as a special teamer) in WR David Tyree. He’d have had a completely forgettable career as a wide receiver, starting just five games and never topping 211 yards, if not for combining with Eli Manning to complete the single most iconic play in Giants history and maybe Super Bowl history.

They also took Visanthe Shiancoe (R3, #91), though his breakout came when he stepped out of Jeremy Shockey’s shadow and left for the Vikings. That class also included Willie Ponder (R6, #199), Frank Walker (R6, #207), and Wayne Lucier (R7, #249).

#2 2004

This may shock people as this Draft saw them take (technically trade for) Eli Manning #1 overall. The future Hall of Famer became one of only six players to win multiple Super Bowl MVPs. He also had the longest active NFL start streak by a QB at one point and kept this team relevant for most of his 16 years as a starter.

Not only did they take the co-owner of TB12, they also took a ten-year starter to protect him with guard Chris Snee at pick 34 in round 2. 5th Round pick (#136) safety Gibril Wilson only played four years as a Giant but started in Super Bowl 42. Other picks that year were Reggie Torbor (R4, #97), Jamaar Taylor (R6, #168), Drew Strojny (R7, #203), and Isaac Hilton (R7, #253).

#1 2005

After trading for Eli Manning the previous year, the Giants were left with four picks in the 2005 Draft, none in round 1. It would have felt like a decent draft if they had come away with even one solid starter from that group for a couple of seasons. Instead, what Ernie Acorsi did was nothing short of magical. He drafted not 1, not 2, but 3 critical contributors to 2 Super Bowl Championships.

The Giants took CB Corey Webster with their first pick, #43 overall, in round 2, and he went on to start 2 Super Bowls and spend his entire 9-year career as a Giant. He attempted to find another NFL job, but this past season, a decade after he last played, he signed a 1-day contract to retire a Giant, joining Eli, David Diehl, and Chris Snee in the “Only a Giant” room.

With the 74th pick in round 2, Acorsi drafted Justin Tuck, the essential 3rd DE in making Tom Brady’s life miserable in Super Bowl 42, and started alongside JPP in Super Bowl 46. Tuck would make 2 Pros as a Giant, be inducted into the Ring of Honor, and become a staple of the celebrity fan contingent at New York Rangers games. While he did leave for the Raiders, which never looked right, he’s probably my second favorite Giant, behind only the next man.

At pick 110 in the 4th round, the New York Giants selected a 6’4, 260 lb player who ran a 4.5 40-yard dash. He had to be a monstrous defensive end. An oversized LB or undersized DT? Nope! It was the mythical unicorn himself, Brandon Jacobs. A man who nearly shattered my brother’s hand with a high five at Giants training camp one year. And a monster who absolutely no defender wanted to tackle. This behemoth topped 1,000 rushing yards twice in his nine-year career and was the thunder to Ahmad Bradshaw’s lightning and earth in the vaunted “Earth, Wind and Fire” backfield along with him and Derrick Ward. He rushed for 15 TDs in 2008, and I’ve wanted the Giants to have a destructive, nasty force like him at RB ever since.

While technically not a draft pick, they also signed Chase Blackburn, who won 2 Super Bowls as an LB for the Giants and started every playoff game en route to Super Bowl 46. Considering how little Acorsi had to use in this Draft and what he got back, he got his franchise QB by getting three critical players for 2 Super Bowls and 2 of my all-time favorite Giants, so this had to be #1 on my list.

Will the 2024 class one day be up there with the abovementioned groups? Will they end up with one of my upcoming worst-list groups? Or will they float in the middle? We’ll find out in a few years. But for now, let’s enjoy having the hope it’s the first outcome!