Steve Serby puts NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah on the clock for some Q&A ahead of Thursday’s kickoff to this season’s draft, which will be held remotely.
Q: You’re leaning Jedrick Wills to the Giants with the fourth pick. Why him over the other two tackles you like, Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs?
A: Those are kind of the whispers you hear around the league. I really like Wills a lot. I think he’s the most ready to play right now. So when you look at kind of the weird circumstances we’re in, that’s part of it. He’s got better tape than Wirfs. [But] I would take Becton, I like him the most.
Q: What if Isaiah Simmons is graded way high on the draft board of Giants GM Dave Gettleman? Does he still take an offensive tackle?
A: I would think, when you look at their situation, I can’t speak to where they would have those guys, but for me, I have a high enough grade on Mekhi Becton. Isaiah Simmons is graded higher, but it’s close enough to me that I would just take the tackle because I want to protect my quarterback. If you think that that’s a Hall of Fame player versus a solid starter, you take the Hall of Fame player. That could be the decision that he’s faced with there, but I think that’s a little bit closer between those two guys … maybe some other people, too.
Q: Between your three top offensive tackles — Becton, Wills and Wirfs — and Simmons, you mean?
A: Yeah. It’s close enough where I would probably just take the tackle.
Q: Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold: Where would they rank in this quarterback class?
A: Sam probably would be in the conversation for me. I gave him and Joe Burrow the same grade, so that would be a close one. I think Joe would probably get the nod just because he was a little bit cleaner, the way he played. Sam’s got more arm talent. Daniel Jones to me would have been behind Burrow and Tua [Tagovailoa], but ahead of [Justin] Herbert. He would have been right there.
Q: How important is it for Jets GM Joe Douglas to get Darnold a No. 1 receiver as opposed to continuing to build up the offensive line?
A: I think they need to get a blue-chip player. I think that both of those need to be met. But what you don’t want to do is reach for an offensive lineman at the expense of an elite receiver, or do the opposite. When you look at the grand plan there, Joe’s got a lot of years on his [six-year] contract, so they’re gonna be patient. The goal is in three years, when you look back, you want to see that you’ve accumulated a bunch of blue-chip players. That’s gonna be the challenge, is trying to move around the board, not just in the first round, but in other rounds, to make sure you can maximize that. I think the offensive line is the priority. If it’s close, you definitely go with the offensive line over the receiver in my opinion. But I won’t be in the business of reaching for somebody you don’t love just to take an offensive lineman.
Q: How many first-round grades do you have overall in this draft?
A: It probably cuts off for me at about 29.
A: [Louisiana Tech cornerback] Amik Robertson. He’s got a ton of production, he’s really tough, he’s undersized [5-foot-9, 183 pounds], but he’s gonna be a Day 1 starting nickel. He’s a fun one. I don’t know that he’s a huge sleeper, but a guy like [Boise State receiver] John Hightower, he’s got big-time speed. He’s a home-run hitter, and they use him some in the run game on fly sweeps.
Q: The Panthers just signed Christian McCaffrey to a $16 million per-year deal. Should the Giants eventually re-sign Saquon Barkley?
A: I think you can be patient. I’d be more likely to try and stretch this out as long as you can. Get to the franchise portion of the deal, the fifth-year option, then get to the franchise tag, then make those decisions at that point in time. I don’t think with the nature of that position that you need to get out in front of it as you would at any position. I want to have more time to evaluate before I’m locking myself into long-term deals. He’s a special, special player and that offense runs through him, that’s why they need to surround him with some studs so they can start winning and not wasting all of his prime carries on a bad football team.
Q: What if Douglas wanted to trade Jamal Adams? What would be a fair deal?
A: I don’t know, that’s a tough one because of not only what kind of player he is, but what he brings from a leadership standpoint. It would take an awful lot. You’re talking about a [first-rounder] and a couple of other things, whether that’s a 1, a player and another pick, or a 1 and 2 pick. That’s gonna be a tall asking price.
Q: Who is one guy over the years you evaluated as “can’t miss” who missed?
A: The one that I always come back to is the [Seahawks] linebacker from Wake Forest, Aaron Curry. He was a clean player, high character, intelligent, super-productive. He was like Khalil Mack, but at Wake Forest.
Q: Do you expect fewer trades in this pandemic draft?
A: Not in the first round, maybe. I think Day 3 you could see that where the time is short. Maybe a little bit of a reduction in trades there, but the first round, I don’t think many people understand that those trades are all agreed to before the draft even starts. When you’re on the clock, you call and say, “Hey, do you want to do it?” All the negotiating has already taken place, so there’s no need to have a long, drawn-out phone call. It’s just a simple, “Do you want to do this, yes or no?”
Q: What is the biggest lesson you learned from observing former Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome when you were with the Ravens?
A: I would say Ozzie is the best listener that I’ve ever been around. He hears everything, not only from the players, when he’s talking to the prospects. … If something doesn’t sound right, he can then ask the right question. For a guy with a gold jacket in his closet, his humility he displayed as a leader was something that I’ll always remember.
Q: What made him such an elite evaluator?
A: He had a feel for it, and he didn’t get hung up on numbers — what this guy ran, what this guy jumped. … He really, really had a good eye for it, he trusted his eyes. And he knew kind of what the makeup looked like, and he had that vision of what he wanted it to look like. I think some of that comes from playing in those Browns games that were real grimy and physical and tough. He could expose a fraud and he could identify the authentic deal. They still do it to this day, they talk about guys that “play like Ravens.” That kind of comes from Ozzie.
Q: Joe Douglas?
A: Joe grew up in that. Joe’s a PhD in Ozzie Newsome’s way of scouting and looking at players. I think you’ll see a lot of the same types of players and the same types of leadership there. He was very close with Ozzie. Ozzie was definitely a mentor to Joe, so I think you’ll see a lot of that in his DNA as a GM.