Revisiting NY Giants’ 2018 NFL Draft: What ‘mistakes’ were made? What could’ve been different?

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports) /
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NY Giants owner John Mara admitted last week that “mistakes” had been made in terms of the NY Giants’ calculations and personnel decisions in 2018, when announcing that general manager Dave Gettleman would be retained this offseason.

"“We made some miscalculations in 2018,” Mara said last week. “And I think we to a certain extent, paid for that this year by not having some of those players available. No question about it.”"

There is no question that Gettleman and the NY Giants made costly mistakes in free agency back in 2018 that have carried long-term ramifications both on the field and in the salary cap; signing left tackle Nate Solder, guard Patrick Omameh, running back Jonathan Stewart, along with trading away defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and trading for lienbacker Alec Ogletree, in a misguided and ill-calculated effort to build around 37-year-old quarterback Eli Manning.

But, perhaps most detrimental of all to the Giants’ long-term future in 2018 were the personnel mistakes made by Gettleman and the front office during that April’s NFL Draft.

Here’s a look back at each of the NY Giants’ selections made during the 2018 NFL Draft, and what could have been with each pick:

Round 1 – Pick No. 2: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

It had been evident for months that Barkley was the apple of Gettleman’s eye with the No. 2 overall pick.

Gettleman believed that the Penn State star had been “touched by the hand of God,” and had the potential to one day wear a gold jacket as a Hall of Famer.

At this point, it seemed the Giants’ front office was running a two-front rebuild operation; desperately trying to patch together an offense that could compete for one final playoff push around aging and declining quarterback Eli Manning, while setting up an explosive set of skill players to drop a quarterback into the following season — as the Dallas Cowboys had been able to do with Dak Prescott.

Barkley has only been on the field for eight Giants victories during his career, and just one with legitimate playoff implications, which reinforces at least some of the positional value concerns for picking a running back No. 2 overall. T

he 23-year-old Barkley has also missed three games due to a high ankle sprain and 14-plus with a torn ACL that he is rehabbing from this offseason.

Through his first 31 games, Barkley has rushed for 2,344 yards and 17 touchdowns but faces uncertainty in 2021. No one would blame Barkley for wanting to sign a long-term extension prior to stepping onto the field in his fourth season, similarly, the Giants will rightfully be cautious about making him the NFL’s highest-paid running backs before seeing if he can withstand a full season and return to his dynamic pre-injury form.

Team sources feel Gettleman believes Barkley is the most talented player that he’s added to the roster since his arrival. The question in 2021 and beyond will be whether Barkley will wind up being Gettleman’s most impactful addition, which arguably is significantly more important.

What could have been different?

With Baker Mayfield off the board No. 1 overall, the Giants had their pick of quarterbacks; Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson. If the Giants did not believe any of the four had the chance to develop into franchise quarterbacks, picking Barkley makes a modicum of sense.

Jackson’s emergence as the 2019 MVP leading, and the Baltimore Ravens to the AFC Divisional playoffs this season combined with Josh Allen ascending to become one of the game’s most prolific passers while leading the Buffalo Bills to the AFC’s No. 2 seed in his third season is a damning indictment of the Giants’ scouting of the 2018 quarterback class.

If not Barkley, offensive guard Quenton Nelson — who has been named a First-Team All-Pro each of his first three seasons for the Indianapolis Colts, or Denver Broncos defensive end Barkley Chub — who has 20.5 career sacks, might have fast-tracked the Giants’ rebuild along the line of scrimmage.