The NY Giants took a gigantic risk in the 2018 NFL Draft – passing on their opportunity to draft the quarterback of their choosing with the second overall pick. With an aging Eli Manning at the helm, the team infamously selected running back Saquon Barkley – allowing the NY Jets to take quarterback, Sam Darnold.
At the time, Darnold was arguably the best quarterback prospect in the draft – experts believed the Giants were in the perfect position to make him their signal caller of the future. The possible selection was even likened to when Manning’s older brother, Peyton, was replaced by Stanford’s Andrew Luck in 2012.
It’s fair to say both picks didn’t work out as either team expected.
For the Giants, Barkley had a phenomenal rookie season, but injuries have kept him off the field for the better part of two seasons. On the other hand, the Jets thought they had their guy after Darnold’s rookie year – but the hiring of Adam Gase and the lack of weapons surrounding the former USC product doomed his development.
With Darnold’s time in New York coming to an end after a trade to the Carolina Panthers, memories of his selection are conjured up. The burning question remains – if Darnold was drafted by the Giants instead, how different would things be for the Giants, Jets and the quarterback himself?
First, his weapons would’ve been upgraded immensely – even without Barkley in the backfield for the Giants. A receiving corps of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram would’ve been the best group Darnold’s had since his college days.
Another big change would be that with a young quarterback in the fold, it’s plausible the team doesn’t trade away their controversial star receiver. Instead of Darnold throwing bombs to Robby Anderson, he could’ve become a dangerous combination with Beckham Jr.
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Darnold’s coaching staff would’ve actually helped his development as well – not hinder it. Instead of Todd Bowles and Adam Gase helping the quarterback acclimate, new Giants’ coach Pat Shurmur would’ve headed up the quarterback’s transition to the professionals.
It’s no secret that Shurmur wasn’t a good head coach – but he was good for quarterback Daniel Jones’ development. It’s not a stretch to say Shurmur would’ve been a huge upgrade for Darnold over the teachers he had across MetLife Stadium.
It’s the AFC East that undergoes the biggest face-lift though. With Darnold off the board, perhaps the Jets pivot to Wyoming’s Josh Allen – the superstar quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.
Coming into the NFL even more raw than Darnold, the current Bills quarterback would’ve been run out of town even quicker than Darnold. Instead of finishing in the top tier of MVP voting, Allen would’ve been wondering what Darnold has for the last three years – what if.
Another ripple effect that drafting Darnold at second overall would’ve created is rearranging the 2019 Draft – giving the Giants the ability to draft a player like Kentucky’s Josh Allen or another talented defensive player. Of course, it also would’ve changed the fate of the aforementioned Jones – the Giants’ original pick to replace Manning.
It was reported that the Denver Broncos and the Washington Football Team were eyeing the Duke quarterback if he was available at their selection. Perhaps instead of beating up on Washington, Jones would’ve been manning their offense instead.
While Darnold’s potential is still there to this day, his flaws are just as prevalent. While Gase takes the criticism, the former USC star wasn’t innocent – his mechanics, inaccuracy and inconsistency drove fans insane for three years.
While he probably would’ve been better off, Darnold probably wouldn’t have been that much better with the Giants. While he enters a situation with better receiving weapons and coaches for his development, the Giants’ flaws still would’ve doomed him.
He would’ve entered an incomplete team – featuring a terrible defense, putrid offensive line and lack of run game without Barkley. Darnold, just like Manning was at the end of his career, would’ve fallen victim to an untalented roster put together by Dave Gettleman.
Beckham Jr. would’ve helped, but the he wouldn’t be enough to save the team – the story of his Giants’ career.
Present day, the Giants are on the upswing – it’s hard to see that still being the case if they drafted Darnold second overall. The team now features a quarterback and coach that the front office has supreme confidence in – it’s likely neither are with the Giants if they made Darnold their guy.
At the time, the Giants were a better fit than the Jets – but they still wouldn’t have saved the quarterback’s development. Just like the Jets did this week, the two parties likely would’ve parted ways – the Giants would’ve been in the market for a quarterback once again.
The Giants with Judge and Jones, Darnold in Carolina with a fresh start and the Jets starting over with Robert Saleh and draft capital to burn are great situations for all three parties. While things would look immensely different, it’s hard to imagine a timeline of the Giants being better off selecting Darnold in 2018.
Just like Evan and Kayleigh in The Butterfly Effect, the Giants and Darnold were better off just passing each-other by.