Giants could land Auburn’s Derrick Brown in ‘best player’ scenario

Giants could land Auburn’s Derrick Brown in ‘best player’ scenario

INDIANAPOLIS — There’s no chance, right?

No way the Giants use their first-round draft pick on another interior defensive lineman, right?

Not when there is a dire need for starters at offensive tackle, linebacker, pass-rusher and safety, right?

Not after drafting an interior defensive lineman in the top three rounds of each of the past three drafts (Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill and Dexter Lawrence) and trading for another (Leonard Williams), right?

Hold on.

There is growing sentiment in NFL circles, The Post learned at the NFL combine, that Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown is the best player in the draft regardless of position. And that includes Ohio State’s Chase Young.

When deciding between best available and filling a need, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman says: “Best player. You want to use unrestricted free agency to put yourself in a position so that you can draft the best player. More often than not, when you draft for need, you’re going to make a mistake.”

The Giants needed — and the coaches wanted — an edge-rusher at pick No. 17 last year, but the best available option (Montez Sweat) was diagnosed with a heart condition. Any others would have been a reach, so they took Lawrence, who had a strong rookie season against the run but just 2.5 sacks in the 3-4 defense.

“A lot of teams say they don’t even scout for defensive tackles or nose guards no more,” Brown said. “They scout for D-linemen. They want to find guys that can play the positions across the board.”

Derrick Brown
Auburn Derrick BrownGetty Images

Gettleman expects many of the top free agent pass-rushers to be franchise- or transition-tagged. That will raise the asking price of those who make it to the open market.

There are two scenarios in which Brown-to-the-Giants starts to make sense: If Williams is not tagged and leaves in free agency, or if the Giants trade down from pick No. 4 to later in the top 10 and Brown still is available.

“I think I’m one of the top guys on defense,” said Brown, who added he met with all 32 teams this week. “I try to impose my will on people.”

Picking the 6-foot-5, 326-pound Brown would be unpopular with Giants fans and would fuel critics who say Gettleman is stuck in the 1990s run-first NFL. The GM, however, said he has “thick rhino hide” when it comes to criticism. Coach Joe Judge hired Patrick Graham to run a multiple-look defense.

“If you can’t play defense, you can’t be successful in this league,” Judge said. “You have to run the ball, stop the run and cover kicks. Those are three things you need to do to be a physical team, and you can’t win in this league without being a physical team.”

Multiple offensive linemen at the combine, including possible top-10 pick Andrew Thomas of Georgia, cited Brown as their toughest matchup in college. He had 13 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss in his career.

“Pass, run, it was a double-team frenzy when it came time to play against us,” Brown said. “And that’s what I was supposed to be doing in the defense — be able to help other guys be better.”

Brown closely follows Fletcher Cox, Chris Jones, Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald — four of the best interior pass-rushers in the NFL. He returned to school and graduated rather than entering the 2019 draft.

Teams noticed a difference.

“They asked, ‘In 2018, you weren’t as consistent as 2019. How do you know we won’t get that guy?’ ” Brown said. “That guy don’t exist no more.”

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