THE CASE FOR QUARTERBACK AT PICK #6

The Giants passing offense has been abysmal since drafting Daniel Jones in 2019. In the last four seasons, they have not ranked higher than 27th in yards, which came during Daniel Jones’ widely praised 2022 season, or 29th in passing TDs, which was their placement for 2022 and this past season. Now, Daniel Jones apologists will tell you that’s not his fault. And I agree, to a point.

He had the great Wild Card playoff game in Minnesota just over a year ago, and in his rookie year, the Giants ranked 15th in passing yards and a shockingly high 5th in TD passes. However, the Giants were tied for last in the league that season with a -17 turnover differential. They had 17 picks and a league-high 16 fumbles—23 turnovers coming via Daniel Jones, though he did account for 26 total TDs that season.

So why did things turn for Daniel Jones? Joe Judge, replacing Pat Shurmur in his 2nd season, seemed to stunt Jones’ growth in a way he’s never recovered from. Judge stressing ball security appeared to make Jones play much more cautious and reserved and made him hesitant to take any real risks or go for the deep balls that he showed flashes of being able to make as a rookie. And if the coaching alone didn’t make him clam up, the atrocious offensive line the Giants had had dating back to even before Jones was drafted could have just a little to do with it, too.

The Giants have allowed the most sacks in the NFL since drafting DJ: 265, 9 more than the #2 Commanders. It’s hard to imagine many QBs having ball safety drilled into their heads, having the worst pass protection in the game, and still being able to play free and be their best selves.

Let’s put the lack of production in the last 4 seasons aside for a second because Jones’ fans will say that’s the fault of the offensive line, the pass catchers, or the 4 different play-callers, and there are probably elements of truth to all of it. Daniel Jones has missed games due to injuries in 4 of his 5 NFL seasons. 2 separate ankle injuries cost him time in 2019 and 2020. He also missed a game in 2020 due to his hamstring. And the most significant leg injury of all came this past season when he tore his ACL. For a quarterback who has excelled as a runner, those lower-body injuries have to give you some pause.

Can he be the runner he’s been, especially this season when most pro athletes will say it takes a whole year to get comfortable and up to game speed after an ACL tear? And more concerning than his leg is his neck. In 2021, he suffered an undisclosed season-ending neck injury that required surgery, and this past season, he missed nearly a month with another unknown neck injury. With lower body issues, players may be able to “tough it out” because, typically, the only risk is knowing you may live with leg pain after your playing days are done. But when neck issues arise, much more severe consequences are on the table.

The fact the team is still openly saying they plan on DJ being the starter when healthy makes me think they’re at least somewhat comfortable with the neck injuries, but can they believe his body will hold up not just through the 2024 season but through 2025 and 2026 which they’d be tied to if they don’t take the out clause Schoen built into his current deal after this upcoming season? That feels like a huge risk. Players don’t typically get healthier in this league as injuries pile up.

We’ve addressed the concerns with both production and health, but if Jones was on an affordable rookie deal, I might be able to overlook both and say the price makes it worth overlooking QB in the draft for another year. The problem is that Jones is currently slated to count $47.1 million against the cap this year, which is 18.4% of the total cap. This hit is nearly double the second-highest player (Andrew Thomas) and more than triple the 3rd and 4th (Brian Burns & Dexter Lawrence). And all four are decidedly better at their positions than Daniel Jones is.

If Jones were healthy and producing, his contract wouldn’t be nearly as big of a concern, but even then, none of the last 10 Super Bowl Champs have won with a QB taking up more than 17.1% of the cap. 8 of the previous ten had their QBs taking up under 13% of the cap. And that list includes arguably the three best QBs of all time: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Patrick Mahomes. Last year’s 6th overall pick, Paris Johnson Jr., counts an average of $6.9 million against the cap over his rookie deal. If we bump that up and assume this year’s 6th pick will count approximately $7.5 million per season on average, that’s still just 2.9% of the cap going toward your next quarterback for the next four seasons. You’d have a lot more money to get the help around a rookie quarterback they may need than you’d have to put talent around Jones, who he obviously needs.

The lack of production, the injuries, and even the contract would all be excused if there was evidence that Daniel Jones elevated people around him. Jones has missed nearly a season and a half worth of games over his five-year career, and if he were as good as his apologists think, you’d expect that to reflect in the team’s performance with him v. without him. But he’s barely mattered. Daniel Jones makes a 6.8% difference in the record of the Giants. They’ve won 37.2% of his starts with him and 30.4% without. Is that difference worth him taking up nearly 20% of your salary cap for the next three seasons? It doesn’t feel like it. With the out-built-in after next season, the logical thing to do is take it. And doing that feels much easier if you have a successor in place. So, draft your next QB this year.

                                                                                Now, which QB do they take? 

USC’s Caleb Williams seems sure to go #1. And while his talent may be otherworldly, there’s a lot more that goes into being an NFL quarterback than talent. Dealing with local fans and media is another big part, and Williams seems to hear it all. Now that’ll make him the next Aaron Rodgers, where he’s smug and vengeful but great. But Giants fans and NY/NJ media would rip him apart at the first sign of struggle, so (famous last words, huh?) I’m glad he’s going to be a Bear.

Drake Maye from UNC has been the consensus #2 in this class going back to the 2023 Draft, and while I didn’t see many “Wow” plays on his highlights for me to fall in “full bloom love” with him, I’ll defer to the “experts” here and trust that the hype around him is warranted and just something I’m not seeing. Still, he is a safe bet to go top 3 and be off the board by the Giants.

That leaves LSU’s Jayden Daniels, who I adore. His talent is incredible. He’s the best runner in this class and has an absolute cannon of an arm. He could use some coaching up, though, which understandably scares some. I’ve seen critics say he doesn’t show enough use of the middle of the field, which was evident in his highlights.

Yet after how Daboll and Kafka turned Daniel Jones from a guy they wouldn’t pick up the 5th-year option for to a guy they gave a multi-year top 10 paid extension to and how the NY Giants took an undrafted rookie in Tommy Devito and made him football’s Linsanity if they get their hands on Daniels to mold him into a great pro.

The final of the top 4 is JJ McCarthy. The QB of the National Champion Michigan Wolverines has been a late riser in this process, which is always scary, but the one thing you keep hearing from those around the league is that coaches and GMs love how heady he seems. The praise for his ability to break things down on the board and “get it” seems unanimous. That processing and football IQ is huge and complex to teach. But people still doubt him because the production never matched the potential people see. How much of that he was not being able to produce and how much he was not being asked to remains to be seen, but I lean the latter. Highlights don’t tell you who a player is, but they do tell you what a player could be, and JJ’s first highlight on his reel is him rolling out and then throwing a bomb across the field for a long completion. That showed exceptional talent to me, and while it’s not a throw many quarterbacks would attempt to make in the NFL, I wonder if it’s one that many could even try. He’s my personal #2 behind Daniels.

Then there’s Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix. I need to watch more of Bo Nix to judge, but the fact that no one has him projected as a top 4 quarterback gives me a lot of hesitation about taking him in round 1. Penix, on the other hand, is incredible. I’d like my quarterback to be more mobile, but he’s one of the best passers in this class. My issue with him is his injury history. Supposedly, he checked out fine on the combine medicals. Still, it’d be hard for me to feel confident in replacing an injury-prone Daniel Jones with a guy who has had multiple season-ending injuries in college. If Penix is there at 47 or lower, I’d have no problem with him, but not at 6.

QB should be a top priority. GMs and Head Coaches often differ from fans, though. Where I, as a fan, can say, “I’d be okay with any of these 4 QBs,” NFL shot callers seem to be much more decisive when it comes to the position. More than any other spot, QB is where teams generally have “their guy.” It’s the one position that Coaches and GMs live and die by, so they’re more focused on getting that guy in this class who might present a real challenge. The fact that the Giants picked up some wins after Jones went down meant they no longer had a choice in quarterback.

The general belief is that 3 QBs are going in the top 3 picks, and lately, there’s more and more smoke to a team like Minnesota, Denver, or even Vegas trading up to 4 or 5 to get ahead of the Giants and snipe a 4th or even 5th QB. If that happens, the Giant’s hands become tied, and QB is taken off the table for them. Sure, they could take the QB5 or QB6, but historically, those groups have yet to perform well. They could trade up and target their guy, and as you don’t want to be “half pregnant” with your pick, I’d appreciate the conviction a move like that would show. The issue is you need one of those teams to be willing to trade back, and it seems unlikely that the top 3 will. The Cardinals and Chargers may, but with all those teams fighting for their picks, the bounty may prove more than I’d be willing to pay.

If the price is pick #6, pick #47, and the Giants 2025 1st, that’d be a price I’d be willing to pay to jump for a QB if there’s one they love. I might even part with a 2nd rounder in 2025. But if the cost to move up starts to become three first-rounders, it becomes too rich for my blood regardless of QB unless you believe there’s a Tom Brady/Patrick Mahomes caliber QB in this class, and I stop short of going that far.

There are a few potential upgrades on Jones, especially relative to his cost, but I don’t see any of them as the set-in-stone top-caliber guy to make that move. I

n short, in that order, my draft preference is Jayden Daniels, JJ McCarthy, and Drake Maye. Ideally, I’d like any of them to fall to 6 as I’d rather any of them at 6 to any of the others in a trade, but if Schoen and Daboll believe enough to trade up, you won’t hear a peep from me. They’ve tried changing everything else during their 29-53-1 run since drafting Jones—it’s time to make that one change they haven’t.