Giants’ Hard Knocks episode 2: Malik Nabers, Joe Schoen’s draft process, more

Malik Nabers Giants
LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers poses after being chosen by the New York Giants with the sixth overall pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The second episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks: Offseason series centered around the front office of the New York Giants gave unprecedented access into the NFL Draft process as well as another look into the end of Saquon Barkley’s time in New York.

The Giants’ front office team, led by general manager Joe Schoen, took to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. The episode featured some of the most prominent names in the 2024 NFL Draft being put through the wringer as the Giants decided who they would draft. 

While questions were leading up to the debut of the series, Hard Knocks: Offseason established itself as a series worth watching for football fans with its second episode. While the expected throughlines of the Giant’s offseason (Barkley, Brian Burns, Xavier McKinney) were all touched on in the episode, the unquestionable highlight was the combine interviews. In past seasons of Hard Knocks, centered around NFL training camp, audiences got access to players fighting for roster spots. By highlighting the pre-draft process, all of a sudden audiences got an inside look at the future stars of the league. Here are some of the key takeaways: 

The Giants were clearly drawn to Nabers’ competitive attitude. Nabers was adamant that he hates losing more than he loves winning and does not like not seeing enough of the ball early in games. Some NFL front offices might be put off by that, but Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll seemed to believe that Nabers’ attitude would add something different to the Giants’ locker room. He could bring a fire that they previously did not have. Schoen also noted that quarterback Daniel Jones was a huge fan of Nabers. 

Brian Daboll Giants
Brian Daboll (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Another major takeaway is that Daboll is considered a quarterback whisperer for a reason. The episode shows Daboll putting Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, and JJ McCarthy through rigorous recall tests. At one point Daboll stops the recall tests and asks Daniels about how he would handle the New York media. About five seconds into Daniels’ answer, Daboll cuts him off and asks him to recall a play from earlier in the interview. This kind of access to see how teams judge a player’s football IQ is nothing short of fascinating, and Hard Knocks is the first to get the audience in that room in Indianapolis. 

The rest of the quarterback tests left a few interesting tidbits. Daboll and Schoen noted that now Patriots quarterback Drake Maye was similar to Jones personality-wise. It was unclear whether Daboll and Schoen thought that was a good or a bad thing. JJ McCarthy seems to have a jump on the rest of the pack on how to run an NFL offense due to his time at Michigan with now Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh. McCarthy had to recite long play calls in the huddle. Caleb Williams’ decision not to talk to the media after USC’s loss to UCLA in 2023 was seen as a small red flag by Giants front office members. Sometimes fans think small decisions like that don’t matter, but NFL teams take notice. 

The episode ended with Schoen calling Barkley’s agent, Ed Berry, and eventually Barkley himself.  Schoen informed them that the Giants planned to let Barkley hit the open free agent market, see what kind of price he demands, and try to work out a deal based on that.

When Schoen asked for Barkley’s word that he would come back and meet with the Giants after testing the open market, Barkley responded by saying, “I already told you where I want to be…” insinuating that he wanted to be a Giant, so naturally he would meet with them. It will be interesting to see where exactly things went sideways in that deal. 

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