The Giants selected B.J. Goodson, a linebacker out of Clemson, with the 109th overall pick in the fourth round of the draft Saturday. He started at middle linebacker for one season in college, was a regular player for two seasons. He is smart, physical, and what general manager Jerry Reese called “a tackling machine.”
He could also be a starting linebacker for the Giants this season.
In fact, almost all of the players the team selected in this year’s draft have a chance to step in and win starting jobs. It has nothing to do with the depth of this draft or the prowess of those who selected them. More so, it is a reflection on the roster the Giants had coming in and the muddled collection of players they have at several key positions.
Strangely enough, the drafted player least likely to start for the Giants as a rookie is first-round pick Eli Apple, who will probably begin his career as a nickel back, barring an injury to corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins.
“We may have zero starters out of the mix, we may have six starters in the mix,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “No one knows at this point, it’s too early to tell.”
What they certainly have is more competition at positions that were already filled with possibilities. Goodson, for example, will compete against Jasper Brinkley and Keenan Robinson at middle linebacker, neither of whom is a cornerstone of the defense. Running back Paul Perkins, the fifth-round pick out of UCLA, joins a crowded position room that already includes five other players. And tight end Jerell Adams, the sixth-round pick from South Carolina and the final selection by the Giants on the draft’s final day, instantly becomes the only tight end on the team who was drafted by anyone.
Second-round pick Sterling Shepard should be in the top of the rotation at wide receiver — how high depends a lot on how healthy Victor Cruz will be — and third-round pick Darian Thompson could emerge as a starting free safety.
The Giants might not have provided themselves with any clear-cut answers at those muddied positions, but they certainly increased the competition at all of them.
“You don’t want to give up a good player because you think you have depth,” vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross said. “We’ve thought we’ve had depth certain times at other positions throughout the years and the No. 1 guy gets hurt, No. 2 guy gets hurt and the No. 3 guy gets hurt, and where is your depth? It is gone, so you always want to just keep putting good players on your football team.”
That attempt continued Saturday.
The Giants touted Goodson as “NFL-ready” in terms of his maturity and intellect. “The guy wants it,” Ross said. “Is he going to start? I don’t know, but he is going to push people and he is going to work his butt off to get on to the field.”
Ross also was happy with Perkins’ mind-set, calling him “the hardest worker” on his UCLA team and an “all-around” running back.
“The two most important things for a running back: No. 1, protect the ball, and No. 2, protect the quarterback,” McAdoo said of Perkins. “He certainly fits that role.”
Adams is more of a blocker, but the Giants believe they can improve his pass-catching and route-running abilities. He is the fastest tight end in the draft.
“There’s always a learning curve coming into this league,” McAdoo said. “Getting him in the building next week [for the rookie minicamp that begins Friday] will obviously help, see where he is and see how he can handle the terminology that we’re going to throw at him. But we certainly feel that he has traits that we can develop into a good in-line player. He also has good speed down the middle of the field, he’s a big target. He has a unique skill set for the position that we like.”
The effectiveness of this draft won’t be measured by the opening lineup in September, and probably won’t be decided for several years. The players need to develop, they need to stay healthy, and they need some luck along the way.
“We’re just looking to add good players on the roster,” Reese said. “We thought those three players were three good players that create some competition.”
Ultimately, that may say more about past drafts than this one.