When Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was asked at his predraft press conference last week about replacing Eli Manning, he said that he looks at more than talent.
“Being a quarterback of a team in this type of market is a load,” Gettleman said, referencing the perceived difficulty of playing in New York. “It is a mental load. You have to really vet out the background of these guys.”
On Thursday, Gettleman shocked nobody who has been paying attention when he drafted Duke’s Daniel Jones with the no. 6 overall pick. He explained the pick afterward not by citing Jones’s talent, but Jones’s maturity.
Jones may be mature enough to withstand criticism from the New York media, but there’s little evidence that he is talented enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He is not considered a first-round prospect by most draft analysts, and Jones’s most frequent comp is Blake Bortles, which should tell you everything you need to know. Jones was not a particularly accurate passer at Duke when he was playing in the ACC, and it’s unlikely he’ll be better in the NFC East. His arm strength is about as low as a quarterback can have and be an NFL quarterback. That’s a big reason why his deep-pass adjusted completion percentage was 25th among the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class, according to Pro Football Focus. He was ranked no. 100 on The Ringer’s NFL draft board out of 100 players.
Jones’s main strength is that he looks like a quarterback. He is 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds and is considered “tough.” He has a strong throwing foundation after working with Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, who famously groomed both Manning brothers. Now Jones has been tapped to be the one to replace Eli Manning, who turned 38 in January. But Cutcliffe didn’t recruit Jones—Jones wanted to play for Cutcliffe because of his reputation and sought out a spot at Duke (smart kid!). Cutcliffe didn’t offer Jones a scholarship. He accepted Jones as a grayshirt only after a last-ditch call from Jones’s high school coach.
While at Duke, he didn’t impress many nationally. He started three seasons and never once surpassed 6.8 yards per pass attempt, which is below average at the NFL level. It is immensely difficult for any quarterback to become a more efficient passer in the NFL, so Jones already has an uphill battle to mediocrity. Even if Jones’s yards per attempt at Duke last year were translated to the NFL, it would put him tied for no. 27 last year, one spot ahead of … Blake Bortles.
Handing the reins to Jones would be stunning for any other organization in the NFL, but the Giants have quickly become the league’s laughingstock. The Giants passed on taking a quarterback with the no. 2 overall pick last year, including USC’s Sam Darnold, in favor of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley—a move that looks worse after Thursday’s draft. Gettleman banished the Giants’ best defender in safety Landon Collins rather than franchise-tagging him in March. Then Gettleman traded away the league’s most talented receiver and a legitimate icon in Odell Beckham Jr. for the no. 17 pick, a third-rounder, and safety Jabrill Peppers, who filled the hole at safety Gettleman had just opened. Gettleman said last week Beckham created a culture problem, though Beckham was reportedly well-liked in the locker room. The Jones pick, however, is the crown jewel of Gettleman’s offseason.
With the 17th pick acquired in the Beckham trade, the Giants took Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, a talented run-stuffing defensive tackle, but the third-best prospect on Clemson’s defensive line last year. Lawrence has a questionable role on passing downs, and he also tested positive for ostarine, a performance-enhancing drug, at the tail end of the college football season. Lawrence may be a strong player, but he’ll inevitably be measured against Beckham for at least the beginning of his career.
Gettleman is now inextricably tied to Jones (and to a far lesser extent, Lawrence). If Jones doesn’t pan out, Giants co-owner John Mara will be under pressure to fire the GM, a scenario that happened to Gettleman at his previous job. Gettleman was a longtime Giants executive who left the organization in 2013 to become the GM of the Panthers. He quickly burned his reputation among fans and players. He jettisoned Josh Norman, Carolina’s best defensive player, after rescinding Norman’s franchise tag, a move that foreshadowed the Collins decision. When Carolina abruptly fired Gettleman just nine days before training camp in 2017, Panthers players celebrated with each other on social media and their fans followed suit.
“Gettleman was a dyed-in-the-wool scout/general manager who had little experience managing people,” Bill Voth of the official Panthers website wrote. The official team site.
Five months later, the Giants hired Gettleman to be their general manager. Gettleman is right that the Giants have a culture problem, but it isn’t in the locker room—it’s in the front office. Ownership put them in this situation, and if Jones isn’t a worthy heir to Manning, they’ll likely have to find someone other than their current GM to get them out of it. As Gettleman said, “You have to really vet out the background of these guys.”