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Giants like 2021 pass rusher class, have no problem with Alabama receivers’ size

Giants brass did nothing this week to dispel the notion that receivers and pass rushers are two of the strongest possibilities with their No. 11 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

Director of college scouting Chris Pettit said this is a “good group” of edge rushers, which includes some “that fit our system.”

“It’s obviously an important position that we look to fill every year,” Pettit said at a Thursday press conference. “So we’re going through it, and hopefully if we decide to address that and one’s there at a certain time, and he fits what we do, you take him.”

Pettit insisted No. 11 is not too high to draft an edge rusher in this class and emphasized how critical that position is to this team’s plan.

“Edge rushers are how you win,” he said. “You win with guys that rush the passer. Where they are on the board, we’ll see how it shakes out. There’s a lot of factors to it. But I wouldn’t say there aren’t guys available.”

Michigan end Kwity Paye, Miami edge Jaelen Phillips and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, an inside linebacker with pass rush ability, come to mind.

But then GM Dave Gettleman said Kenny Golladay’s free agent signing does not preclude the Giants from adding another receiver next week.

“You’re always looking to upgrade every position, whether it’s wide receiver, offensive lineman — you can never have too many good players at one position,” Gettleman said.

Importantly, the GM also said he is not deterred by the smaller size of Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith (6-foot, 166 pounds) and Jaylen Waddle (5-9, 180).

“You evaluate the film, and their college film suggests they’re very good players,” Gettleman said. “There are plenty of smaller guys that have been very successful in this league, just like there are plenty of huge guys that have been successful, and everyone in the middle.”

Offensive line shouldn’t be out of the question for these Giants either, but it’s possible the team will wait until later rounds to address that need.

Gettleman made an interesting comment about evaluating opt-out players and how skipping a season might be different for a lineman than it would be for a skill player.

“Wide receiver opts out, he can get a JUGS machine (to practice his craft),” Gettleman said. “Offensive lineman opts out, I’m not so sure. It’s different.”

Not that Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater will even be on the board, but does this viewpoint lean the Giants toward USC tackle/guard Alijah Vera-Tucker if they pick a lineman? Or does it rule them out on the early O-line market altogether?

Another player on the defensive side of the ball that would fit the Giants’ defensive scheme perfectly is Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He is a versatile athlete who is ferocious behind the line of scrimmage and adept in coverage, as well.

Gettleman actually said the linebacker position is where head coach Joe Judge provides the most direction in the draft, and the GM cited Giants corner Julian Love, another former Notre Dame player, for the kind of versatility Judge seeks on D.

“The biggest direction is with the linebackers, very frankly,” Gettleman said. “It’s really the linebacker fit and the versatility we’re looking for with certain players: You’d like to have a talented two-way go guy, a guy who can do a couple things. So you turn around and look at what Julian Love has developed into, where he’s a corner (and other times) he’s a safety. What it does is gives the coordinator (Pat Graham) a lot of flexibility.”

It will be fascinating to see which direction the Giants go on Thursday to upgrade their roster. There are, of course, still days remaining for the board in front of them to change with trades and the focus to narrow approaching their pick.

WHAT BROWN CAN DO FOR YOU

Patrick Mahomes has a new left tackle, and the Baltimore Ravens have two first-round picks.

The Ravens shipped Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday, along with a second-round pick (No. 58 overall) and a sixth-rounder in 2022.

The Chiefs gave up their lone first-round pick at No. 31 overall, a third-rounder (No. 94), a fourth-rounder (No. 136), and a 2022 fifth in return.

Kansas City badly needed O-line help after releasing starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz early this offseason.

Mahomes spent most of the Super Bowl running for his life with Fisher and Schwartz injured and out. So GM Brett Veach had to act to better protect his franchise quarterback in 2021.

Baltimore upgraded this year’s draft assets to nine total picks, including two in the first round at Nos. 27 and 31.

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta also could pick up more capital and get back into the second round if No. 31 becomes a trade up spot for a team looking for a fifth-year option on a quarterback.

Baltimore took a risk by sending Brown, 24, to one of its most formidable AFC foes, but it also found a good deal to offload a player who craved a new opportunity.

Brown wanted to stay at left tackle permanently after playing well last season in place of injured starter Ronnie Stanley, but staying in Baltimore wouldn’t have given him that chance.

INCENTIVES TO GET THE SHOT

NFL players and staff who receive the COVID-19 vaccine no longer will have to undergo daily testing for the virus at team facilities. They’ll only be tested once per week.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a Friday memo to teams that the league and players’ union had agreed to modify the protocols, effective immediately, “to reflect the reduced risk of infection and transmission for fully vaccinated individuals.”

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Vaccinated players and staff also no longer will have to quarantine when identified as high risk close contacts of an infected individual, nor will they have to go through a lengthy entry testing process after travel.

Goodell himself has been vaccinated, so the league said on a conference call that hugs on stage at the NFL Draft in Cleveland are allowed.

MINI ROOKIE MINICAMP

NFL teams will be allowed to host a maximum of five tryout players at their rookie minicamps next month in order to limit numbers for safety purposes, the league said this week.

Clubs typically invite a slew of tryout players to their rookie minicamps to practice with their draft picks and undrafted free agent signings. But there were no rookie minicamps at all in 2020, and the NFL is keeping the number to a minimum with COVID-19 still prevalent this spring.

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THE MAIN EVENT

There will be 13 prospects attending the first round of the NFL Draft in person on April 29. Will the Giants’ pick be on the list? Here are the names: Smith, Waddle, Parsons, Rashawn Slater, BYU QB Zach Wilson, Alabama QB Mac Jones, North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase, Florida TE Kyle Pitts, Alabama DL Christian Barmore, Miami edge Gregory Rousseau, Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley … Giants wideout Darius Slayton will announce a pick for the team on night two of the draft. All 32 clubs will have either a current player or a legend announce its pick on night two.

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