Re-picking the Giants’ 2014 Draft 5 years later

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 07: Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the New York Giants reacts against the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 7, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 07: Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the New York Giants reacts against the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 7, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The 2014 NFL draft once looked like one of the best in franchise history for the New York Giants. After the jettison of Odell Beckham Jr., we take a look back at what could have been.

It is said if you want to truly want to evaluate the strength of an NFL Draft, then you have to give it five years before you can really know if it was good or not. Pundits are quick to give their thoughts, then quickly eat those words. Here’s how one scribe from The Bleacher Report evaluated Odell Beckham Jr. , “Though he has a lot of fans, I wasn’t one of them (at least not this high in the draft), as I feel he has a low ceiling and will struggle to be much more than a complementary player to Victor Cruz“.

Of course the 2014 season would end up playing out much differently. Cruz would only play six games due to injury , miss 2015 and be out of the league after the 2016 season. Beckham ended up winning Rookie of the Year honors with 1305 receiving yards, 12 TD’s while averaging a breathtaking 108.8 yards receiving per game. Hindsight is certainly always 20-20, but it’s interesting when teams and pundits miss and sometimes miss badly.

As fun exercise, lets go back and look back at the New York Giants 2014 draft, looking at who they took and who they alternatively could have taken:

(RD1-14), Odell Beckham Jr., LSU- It’s not hyperbole to say Beckham Jr. was an absolute steal at 14. In his first three season he made three Pro Bowls, hauled in 288 receptions for 4122 yards and scored 35 touchdowns. After the 2016 season, however, things started to go south. Injuries limited him to only four games in 2017 and 12 in 2018, and he became a distraction in the locker room and off the field. At the end of the 2018 season Owner John Mara and the Giants front office finally decided enough was enough, and he was traded to the Cleveland Browns for safety Jabrill Peppers and two draft picks. Many Giants fans trashed the front office for this trade, feeling it wasn’t close to the value he was worth. In the end, GM Dave Gettleman and Coach Pat Shurmur felt it was time to move on.

Who they could have selected: Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Pitt (taken RD1-15 by the Rams)- Taken just one pick after Beckham Jr., Donald has been a force to be reckoned with on the field. The 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year has added five Pro Bowls, four All-Pro Selections and two consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards to his resume, along with leading the NFL with 20.5 sacks this past year from the defensive tackle position. One can only image who a Giants D-line would look like with Donald in the middle of it.

(RD2-43), Weston Richburg, center, Colorado State- One of the highest rated centers coming out of the draft, the Giants were thrilled to land him in the middle of the second round. Injuries to other players forced him to left guard his rookie year where he struggled due to size and experience. He acclimated himself well, being ranked by Pro Football Focus as the #2 center of 2015. He had another solid season in 2016, but injuries limited him to four games in 2017. Following that season he left for a five year deal with the 49ers.

Who they could have selected: Davante Adams , wide receiver, Fresno St. (Green Bay , RD2-53)- An emerging superstar in the NFL, Adams started slowly his first two season with the Packers but exploded onto the scene in 2016, when he scored five touchdowns in his first six games. Since then he’s been an elite player, earning two Pro Bowl selections, including his 2018 season where he hauled in 111 receptions for 1386 yards and 13 touchdowns.

(RD3-74), Jay Bromley , defensive tackle, Syracuse-This third-team, All-ACC selection out of Syracuse failed to make the starting rotation on the Giants D-line, while showing flashes of ability from time to time. He was never able to give the production that justified where he was selected. He moved on to the Saints after the 2018 season and just recently signed with the 49ers.

Who they could have selected: Devonta Freeman , running back, Florida State (Atlanta, RD4-103). This two-time Pro Bowler fell to the Falcons in the fourth round and quickly validated that pick surpassing 1500 all-purpose yards during both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Injuries hampered his 2018 campaign but he’s looking rebound this season. The Falcons rewarded his efforts, giving him an extension that was at the time one of the richest deals given to a runningback.

(RD4-113), Andre Williams , running back, Boston College- Williams appeared to validate his selection his rookie season, when he rushed for 721 yards along with 7 touchdowns, but his performance fell off a cliff his following season when he was buried in Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo ‘s running back by committee approach. He was released at the beginning of the 2016 season and picked up by the Chargers and was out of the NFL following the 2017 season.

Who they could have selected: James White , running back, Wisconsin (New England, RD4-130)- Taken 17 picks after Williams, this dynamic pass-catching back has become a central cog in the Patriots passing attack. This was never more obvious than in Super Bowl LI , when he set a Super Bowl record with 14 receptions to go along with scoring the game-tying and the game-winning touchdowns.

(RD5-152), Nat Berhe , free safety, San Diego State- The first Eritrean-American drafted in the NFL, this Aztec was nicknamed “The Missile” in training camp. He showed tremendous speed in college but a blood clot from a calf injury ended his season prematurely. He was never a factor for Big Blue, and moved on to the Steelers after the 2017 season.

Who they could have selected: Corey Linsley, center, Ohio State (Green Bay, RD5-161)- Linsley has been a mainstay of the Packers O-line since he was drafted, starting 70 of 70 games played.

(RD5-174), Devon Kinnard , linebacker USC- Taken with a compensation pick in the 5th round , this versatile linebacker played both middle and outside linebacker during his time with Big Blue, recording 9.5 sacks and 198 tackles. He signed as a free agent with the Lions before the 2018 season. Many fans were disappointed that he was not retained, as he was just beginning to show flashes of a promising player. Those flashes have further matriculated in Detroit.

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Who they could have selected: Alfred Blue, running back, LSU (Houston, 6-181). Honestly, Kinnard was the best pick available there, however this was a nice value pick in the sixth round for the Texans. In his five years with Houston he rushed for 2407 yards , peaking during the 2015 season when he gained 698 yards on the ground.

(RD6-187), Bennett Jackson , cornerback, Notre Dame- A practice squad player most of his time with the Giants, injuries kept him off the field and he was released in 2016.

Who they could have selected: Zack Fulton, guard, Tennessee (Kansas City, RD6-193)- Taken six picks after Jackson, this versatile offensive lineman started all 16  games his rookie year and stated all positions on the O-line during his time with the Chiefs. He moved on to the Texans in 2018 and started 13 games at right guard.

As a whole, the 2014 draft brought the Giants one amazing player and a couple pretty good ones. It’s interesting to see, though, how the fortunes of the Giants could have changed if they had come out of the draft with Aaron Donald, Davonte Adams and Davonta Freeman. You could certainly play this game with any team from any draft ever, it’s just fun to imagine what could have been. Overall, the 2014 draft went well for the team, and if the team was able to work out a resolution with Beckham, would have been looked at as an elite draft.