With a win-loss record of 2-6 through the first half of the 2019 National Football League (NFL) season, the New York Giants are unlikely to make the playoffs, but they’re expected to have a Top 10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (as of November 5, the team was slated to select No. 6).
In the first round of last year’s draft, New York had the No. 6 and No. 17 overall picks, selecting quarterback Daniel Jones and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. One of the biggest areas of need heading into the 2020 NFL Draft is providing more protection for Jones, who has been sacked 26 times through eight games this season, the fourth-most in the league.
The following are five players the Giants could consider taking in the 2020 NFL Draft:
1. Austin Jackson (USC)
One of the players who could help make Jones’ job a little easier is University of Southern California offensive tackle Austin Jackson. The junior is expected to forego his senior eligibility and declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, at which point he could be one of the top tackles available (although Georgia’s Andrew Thomas has also earned high praise as a potential franchise tackle).
Jackson is a 6-foot-6, 305-pound athletic tackle whose agility and quick feet would serve him well in the NFL, despite the fact his technique needs improvement.
Beyond his play on the field, Jackson has earned praise for his maturity and overall character. Despite being in the middle of training for the 2019 season, Jackson voluntarily took time away to undergo a surgical procedure to donate bone marrow to his younger sister, who has Diamond-Blackfan anemia. The rare syndrome leaves one’s bone marrow unable to produce red blood cells.
Said Jackson’s teammate Jalen McKenzie, “This is a crazy situation that you would have never expected to happen, but just that it’s happening to him and the way he’s responding to it, if you knew Austin, you wouldn’t be surprised because of his character.”
2. Tristan Wirfs (Iowa)
Another offensive tackle who could provide protection for Jones is Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs. While Thomas and Jackson are both rated slightly higher in some analysts’ projections, Wirfs could still be on the board if the Giants fall back in the draft from their current projection of No. 6.
Moreover, at 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, Wirfs is a skilled run blocker who could also help open up holes for Giants’ franchise running back Saquon Barkley. Wirfs is particularly regarded for his ability to recover after small mistakes and his dedication in the weight room.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wirfs allowed no sacks and only four quarterback hits in 2018. Furthermore, he anchored the Iowa Hawkeyes’ defensive line that allowed only 16 sacks, which was fewer than all Big-Ten Conference teams. While he usually plays right tackle, Wirfs proved himself just as effective on the left side this season while filling in for injured starter Alaric Jackson.
3. A. J. Epenesa (Iowa)
If the Giants opt to improve its defense with their first-round pick, the team could potentially target defensive end A. J. Epenesa, a teammate of Wirfs at Iowa.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Epenesa has some of the same traits as the 2016 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa. He would be a particularly great fit in helping the Giants’ outside pass rush under James Bettcher’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Through 32 games at Iowa, Epenesa had 73 total tackles, 18.5 quarterback sacks, and five forced fumbles.
4. Isaiah Simmons (Clemson)
The Giants haven’t had an elite linebacker in quite some time, but Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons could fill that role if the team selects him with their first-round pick. Regarded as a “game-changing” linebacker, Simmons played an integral role in helping Clemson win the 2018 National Championship—he had 89 tackles, three forced fumbles, 1.5 quarterback sacks, and one interception.
He’s doing even better through nine games this season, achieving single-season career-best figures in sacks (six) and tackles for loss (12).
5. Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)
Another way the Giants can help Jones is to provide him with better players to throw to. To that end, the Giants’ blog Big Blue Review anticipates New York targeting wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, particularly if offensive tackles like Wirfs, Thomas, and Jackson are off the board. Jeudy, who would immediately give the Giants a true No. 1 receiver, registered 1,315 receiving yards on 68 catches as a sophomore with the University of Alabama in 2018. He also scored 14 touchdowns. Through the first eight games of the 2019 season, he has 682 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.