With the 2017 NFL season officially over, general managers, head coaches and fans alike are now looking forward to the 2018 NFL draft on April 26. After going 3-13 on the season and 0-6 against the NFC East, the New York Giants secured the No. 2 overall draft pick.

There will be plenty of talent for Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to choose from. Gettleman must balance drafting for positional needs with special talent at the No. two spot. Let’s decide the best and most likely player the Giants will draft.

There are already two options that sportswriters have predicted the Giants will take since the end of the regular season: 1. Draft a quarterback and Eli Manning’s permanent replacement or 2. Keep Eli under center and draft a player like Saquon Barkley, Roquan Smith or Quenton Nelson.

Path 1: Back in 2015, the Giants signed Eli Manning to a 4-year, $84 million contract extension. Manning, 37, is set to make $10.5 million in 2018 and $11.5 million in 2019 with a $5 million roster bonus for both seasons. Thanks to poor play and injuries on the team, many people believe that it is time to part ways with the two-time Super Bowl MVP. Gettleman, however, was with the Giants when they drafted Manning in 2004 and the team’s two Super Bowl victories in 2007 and 2011.

When Gettleman and Manning sat down for a meeting in mid-January, Gettleman told the NY Post that “it was a great meeting.” He did not confirm his plans for the draft or Manning at the time.

The main determinants of Manning future are the top QB prospects in the draft. Players like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen have been appearing at the No. two spot on mock drafts for months now. Darnold, the most talented at his position, and Rosen, the more polished passer, are both considered viable franchise quarterbacks.

There would be little to no surprise if the Giants took either player this spring, but Gettleman and Manning have an established relationship and are comfortable with one another. Gettleman knows what Manning can do on the field. It seems like a very real possibility that the Giants will pass on a QB.

Path 2: If the Giants pass on a quarterback, there will still be many talented players available. Offensive guard Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame is one of the best lineman in the draft and would help the Giants compete in the trenches against division opposing like Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan. Drafting Nelson makes sense considering both Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh are free agents this year.

Linebacker Roquan Smith from Georgia is another realistic option. Former general manager Jerry Reese never filled the obvious roster gap at LB through the draft or free agency. Smith, who is extremely fast, would help with that. Smith showcased his talents during this year’s College Football Playoff against Oklahoma, and then in the National Championship game against Alabama.

Running back Saquon Barkley from Penn State is the most interesting option out of the non-quarterbacks. Barkley, who is widely considered the best player in the draft, has been compared to Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. The combination of quickness, strength and speed make Barkley the top RB prospect coming out of college and an immediate three-down running back in the NFL. This season the Giants used a mixture of backs including Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins, and received mixed production results. Barkley would shore up the running back position for the next five to eight seasons, barring injury or any other circumstances.

Out of the aforementioned players, Saquon Barkley is most likely to be drafted. As already stated, Barkley is viewed by analysts as the best player in the entire draft. Barkley can beat defensive backs on the outside as well as run through lineman on the inside. Drafting Barkley would add to the recent trend in the NFL of taking RB studs early in the draft and receiving immediate production in return; just as the Jacksonville Jaguars did with Leonard Fournette in last year.

Drafting Barkley makes perfect sense for Gettleman whose teams almost always have a strong run attack. Furthermore, the Giants have not had good running backs since the days of Earth, Wind and Fire (only die-hard Giants fan will get this reference) or even Tiki Barber before that.

Ultimately, Dave Gettleman and his staff will consider all options for this decision. Should the Giants draft Darnold or Rosen and try to convince Manning to waive his no-trade clause or stick with Manning and draft Barkley or Smith? Based on all the points outlined above, the Giants should pass on a quarterback, let Manning play out his contract and draft Saquon Barkley to pair with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.


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