EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants finally found an heir apparent to Eli Manning and a couple potential starters for the defense in their first NFL draft with three first-round picks.
The Giants stunned many at the NFL draft by taking quarterback Daniel Jones of Duke at sixth overall, before selecting Clemson tackle Dexter Lawrence with the 17th pick overall and grabbing Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker with a late trade with Seattle for the 30th selection overall.
“It’s a wonderful thing when needs met value,” general manager Dave Gettleman said after the round.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, many prognosticators felt the Giants would fill the defensive needs with the sixth pick and then turn their attention to quarterback at No. 17, the pick they got from Cleveland by trading wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., perhaps targeting Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State or Drew Lock of Missouri.
Gettleman had other thoughts. He first took Jones, who threw for 8,201 yards and 52 touchdowns in three years starting for Duke after joining the program as a walk-on.
“We drafted a quarterback who we feel is a franchise quarterback,” Gettleman said, saying he had a strong conviction about Jones since the Senior Bowl and he was not going to risk losing him by waiting until No. 17.
New York grabbed the 342-pound Lawrence with the second choice in the round and then made a late trade getting Baker, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back last year.
New York sent three picks to Seattle, a second rounder (No. 37), a fourth rounder (No. 132) and a fifth rounder (No. 142).
New York failed to get a pass rusher. They do not have a second-round pick and won’t pick again until No. 95 overall, late in the third round. They also need a safety and an offensive tackle.
Jones probably will spend his first season being an understudy for Manning, who is now 38 and in the final year of his $84 million contract.
Gettleman spoke with Manning after making the pick and told him: “It’s your job, let’s roll.”
Jones said he would be comfortable learning from Manning.
“Physically, I think I can make every throw on the field,” said Jones, who also ran for 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns in his college career. “My accuracy is a strength of mine and I have the athleticism to extend plays. I play outside the pocket if I need to. Physically, I can do both those things well.”
Jones was developed by David Cutcliffe, the same coach who groomed both Peyton and Eli Manning in college.
Jones said he needs to improve his understanding of when to throw the ball away or dump it off to a back.
Before the draft, Gettleman said he was in favor of using the Kansas City model in developing a new quarterback. The Chiefs hit a jackpot with Patrick Mahomes, letting him learn under Alex Smith until giving him the starting job last season. The general manager even noted Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers waited three years before replacing Brett Favre.
The Giants, who had won eight games in the past two years, have made the playoffs once since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012.
Lawrence is massive in the middle, much like Snacks Harrison, who New York traded to Detroit during last season. While Lawrence was a force in the middle for the national champions, Gettleman said he can be a pass rusher, noting a foot injury slowed him the past two seasons.
Lawrence was suspended for last season’s College Football Playoff for failing an NCAA test for performance-enhancing drugs. He said Thursday night he was innocent. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in February that it’s possible the team could have unknowingly given him a supplement with the drug, though the school and NCAA were investigating.
“I feel like my game is very powerful, a smart player, non-quit effort kind of guy,”Lawrence said. “That’s just my mindset every play, and how I want to attack every snap.”
Baker is steady, tough and disruptive. He also did not give up a touchdown catch in the last two seasons.
“The last guy we traded up for we feel was the best cover corner in the draft,” Gettleman said.
When asked about having two interceptions last season, Baker said it’s hard to get picks when opposing quarterbacks don’t test him.
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