You are the Giants. You might want to stick with Eli Manning for one more year but are fully cognizant the sand in the hourglass is ebbing on the career of the two-time Super Bowl MVP franchise quarterback.
You are the Giants and you realize you need to look ahead, into the 2019 NFL draft, and hope you see a youngster brimming with potential to take high in the first round, to groom and eventually take over for Manning. This is deemed preferable to signing a place-holder veteran, dipping into the uncertainty and high-priced world of free agency, if the decision is made to move on from Manning.
You are the Giants. And you are in trouble if you are counting on this draft-day search scenario to play out splendidly.
“I think it’s very underwhelming,’’ SiriusXM analyst Greg McElroy said of the 2019 quarterback draft class. “Probably as underwhelming a class as I can remember.’’
“We got spoiled last year, that’s the best way I could put it,’’ said Todd McShay, ESPN’s NFL draft and college football analyst.
“This year’s class is average if [Justin] Herbert comes out,’’ said Dan Shonka, Ourlads’ general manager and national scout. “Average to mediocre for backup quarterbacks. It’s not pretty for the Giants.’’
These dreary prognostications aside, there is no guarantee this is a downer of a class at quarterback. This process is littered with mistakes, year after year, and what is now viewed as rags can one day become riches. But if it does turn into a boom year for quarterbacks, it will go against an extremely strong consensus of naysayers.
There is Herbert from Oregon, Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State, Drew Lock (Missouri), Will Grier (West Virginia), Ryan Finley (North Carolina State) and possibly Daniel Jones (Duke) as the acknowledged front-end prospects.
Herbert, a junior, and Haskins, a redshirt sophomore, are most often seen as the top two. As underclassmen, they have yet to declare for the draft. There is some feeling Herbert might not come out, and Haskins, who will lead the No. 6 Buckeyes into the Rose Bowl to face No. 9 Washington, recently said, “We’re not done breaking records yet’’ at Ohio State. He also said it would be “extremely hard’’ to leave school after this season. Still, it would be an upset if Herbert and Haskins do not enter this draft.
Even with Herbert and Haskins in the mix, this is considered to be a weak class. How weak?
“I believe this is the most underwhelming class at the top since 2013, the EJ Manuel-Geno Smith draft,’’ said McElroy, a former national championship-winning quarterback at Alabama and a Jets draft pick and backup in 2012. “There’s no sure thing, there’s a lot of question marks, there’s a lot of projecting. And even the guys at the top have not exactly lit it up the way you would like a potential first-round pick to light it up.’’
Bringing up the 2013 draft makes general managers shudder. Manuel was the only quarterback taken in the first round and Smith was the only one taken in the second round. There was Mike Glennon in the third round and Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib in the fourth round.
This draft possibly could rival that one as far as a dearth of legitimate quarterback prospects. McShay said his top two this year are Herbert and Haskins, but he sees neither deserving of a first-round selection. He has both of them graded out as worthy of going early in the second round. “But I acknowledge they will likely go earlier,’’ he said.
The majority opinion is that last year was the time to pounce on a quarterback. Shonka of Ourlads said he rates 2018 draftees Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen ahead of any quarterback in this year’s class. Shonka is not high on Sam Darnold — he calls him “a turnover machine,’’ and last year told The Post that Darnold reminded him of “a cow on ice.’’ Shonka is tempted to put Herbert and Haskins slightly ahead of Darnold in his pecking order. Shonka, though, does like Darnold and Josh Allen better than any of the other quarterbacks set to come out this year.
McElroy said he would take Darnold, Rosen and Mayfield all ahead of any of the quarterbacks in this draft.
After the Browns with the No. 1 pick last year took Mayfield, the Giants eschewed a quarterback and took running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall selection, convinced he was the best player in the draft. The Giants were intrigued by the quarterbacks but did not have a clear-cut top choice — they liked them, but did not love them. This brings up the question: If they did not fall head over heels with last year’s far more acclaimed crop, how can the Giants possibly view any of this year’s talent as franchise quarterback material?
Herbert earlier this season was considered the top college quarterback, but some of that luster has dimmed, and Haskins’ record-breaking closing finish has not only closed the gap, but in the eyes of some analysts pushed him to the top of the list.
“Herbert would have the highest ceiling, probably, but I really like Haskins. I think he has some nuance, but he’s about two years away,’’ said McElroy, who actually rates Lock No. 2 and Herbert No. 3.
McShay likes Herbert better than Haskins, as does Shonka.
“I like his athletic ability, I like his size, he makes good decisions, he can make all the NFL throws,’’ Shonka said of Herbert. “He has a prototype look, he can legitimately pull that ball down and run for positive yards. He’s not like a Manning, either Manning, or Tom Brady, a tall skinny guy. This guy’s a legit athlete who can move his feet and get the ball down the field if he has to with his feet and slide.’’
Herbert has started since the middle of his freshman season. As a junior, he completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 2,985 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions in leading Oregon to an 8-4 mark. His numbers were better his sophomore year, as he completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 1,983 yards, 15 TDs and five INTs, though he missed five games with a broken leg.
McShay sees a little bit of Josh Allen in the 20-year-old Herbert; both are statuesque.
“Justin is a big-framed guy (6-foot-6, 233 pounds), unusual athleticism for such a tall quarterback, big arm, can make all the throws and looks special at times but the inconsistency is concerning,’’ McShay said. “A lot of the same things I said about Josh Allen a year ago. If he gets with the right organization and develops properly and has a little bit of time and patience, he’s got a chance to be really good.’’
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McElroy is not sold on Herbert.
“Everyone says Justin Herbert’s this can’t-miss guy,’’ he said. “I see a little bit more gunslinger than I do artist in watching him. Just on natural arm talent alone, he can rip it, he’s got the best arm of the bunch. But the best arm can sometimes get you into trouble as well. Very long, whippy release, which is nice, but he’s raw. He’s very, very raw. I really wonder if he’s gonna be able to refine his craft.’’
McElroy’s comparison for Herbert? Joe Flacco.
“Good athlete, much better athlete than people would realize,’’ McElroy said. “Flacco would be his ceiling. He’s just very, very raw. I’d be curious to see how he progresses.’’
Haskins, a 6-3, 218-pound 21-year-old, has gaudy numbers, setting Big Ten single-season records for touchdown passes (47) and passing yards (4,580). He has come the furthest from the start of the season — when it was not a thought he would contemplate forgoing his final two college years.
“He’s very accurate,’’ Shonka said. “It’s like an oasis in the desert after Herbert and all these other guys, hell, you don’t know where the ball’s gonna go with them. Over people’s heads and in the dirt. Haskins is a very consistent guy. He’s only played one year. He is just so poised for a guy who really never played before. He’s got good hands and he moves well in the pocket, he’s a fluid athlete, he’s got zip on that ball, got some real velocity on it. He does all the things you’re looking for, he makes good decisions and he’s accurate and that’s essential.’’
McElroy says Haskins “reminds me a little bit of Ben Roethlisberger coming out of college’’ but with a caveat.
“He’s a great thrower, very accurate with the football, the problem is that system has not translated to NFL success,’’ McElroy said.
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“I don’t know if we’ve seen an Urban Meyer product outside of Alex Smith go on and really tear up the NFL, and Alex Smith even took a couple years to get comfortable. That is not a system that’s really good as far as projecting. I also just really like that kid, I like the way he moves. He’s not overly athletic. He can kind of shrug off defenders and can make adjusted throws. His offensive line did not help him much this year. He has a good internal clock built in and he’s fearless, he’s a very confident player. He’d be my No. 1.’’
As for the Roethlisberger comparison, McElroy cautions, “if he becomes the player he’s probably capable of becoming, if everything is perfect for him, he can be Roetlhisberger. Very few people have a perfect journey in the NFL. I’m not saying he’s the next Ben Roethlisberger, but I see similarities within their skill set. He’s very, very raw at this point.’’
There is lukewarm support for the other quarterbacks. McElroy likes Lock second-best, saying he reminds him somewhat of Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins, a comparison not meant to be a critique or a punch line.
“Tannehill’s really not that bad,’’ McElroy said. “He’s had some injuries and he’s had some unfortunate circumstances. He’s also had some moments.’’
McShay has second-round grades for Lock, Grier and Finley. Shonka mostly agrees. “Drew Lock, Finley and Grier, you can have those guys,’’ Shonka said. “Those guys are all second-, third-round guys.’’
The free-agent route could bring the Giants Teddy Bridgewater or Nick Foles or Tyrod Taylor, stopgaps who will cost money — although less than Manning’s $23.2 million salary-cap hit — and might not necessarily be significant upgrades.
So, what to do for the Giants, currently sitting with the No. 8 pick in the draft? Shonka says Herbert and Haskins are the only two worth considering in the top 10.
“Take Herbert or Haskins if they are there, in that order,’’ Shonka said. “Keep Eli. That would be great. Eli’s a good person and he will work with him. I see him being a helper, not a guy who’s gonna be an a–hole like Brett Favre was to Aaron Rodgers.’’
McShay believes it is time to move on from Manning but reasons, “If they didn’t love those guys [last year], I can’t imagine six picks later they can love any of these guys.’’ Still, he said, “I think you have to take your hacks. It’s not always the greatest strategy, and sometimes you swing and miss, but you have to take your hacks with quarterbacks.’’
McElroy: “Maybe I’m just crazy or maybe I’m just a fan of Eli, I know everyone wants to throw him under the bus. I just don’t know for sure that he’s done.’’
His solution: Keep Manning, draft Haskins.
“As long as Eli was good with it,’’ McElroy said. “Is Eli really gonna sign up for mentoring, or is he gonna politely ask, ‘By the way, the Jaguars are looking for a quarterback, let me go down there and play.’ ’’
Fifteen years is a long time for a franchise to bask in the glow of quarterback stability. It will be quite a surprise if this NFL draft produces the next in line for the Giants.