Joe Judge, dealing with an unprecedented and restrictive work environment, is trying to ensure this will not be a Ruff Draft for the Giants.
The first-year head coach, in a COVID-19 pandemic world, is hunkered down in his basement for 15 hours a day — with his six-year-old golden retriever, Abby, nearby on the couch. Scanning film, conducting FaceTime interviews with prospects, engaging in virtual meetings with his coaching staff and the front office, Judge has a loyal companion by his side.
There is no proof Abby’s favorite Giants player is Saquon Barkley, but there are plenty of reasons to believe she is privy to inside information that will not be unveiled until the night of April 23.
“Right now she could probably tell you more about who we’re gonna take in the first round than anybody else,’’ Judge said Wednesday on a conference call from his home in North Attleborough, Mass.
There are plenty of dog-day afternoons lining up for Judge as he prepares for the draft and the 10 selections the Giants own, including the No. 4-overall pick. He has a wife and four kids (two boys, two girls, ages 6-14) all living under the same roof. Instead of spending this year’s draft at the Giants’ facility, Judge will contribute to the selection process without leaving his domicile — staying in constant communication with general manager Dave Gettleman and Chris Pettit, the director of college scouting, while also making sure to keep the peace in his family.
“I have told my kids there’s times I’m gonna need them to get out of the basement or be present, based on how we set up our draft board so I can have a visual in my basement,’’ Judge said. “I’ve already talked to them about possibly taking tags off the wall and organizing different things. I’m not looking to make this a vacation for anybody. We got a lot of serious work to get done. But it is still our house and like everyone in America is finding out, everyone’s working with their family always present, and that’s pretty true for us.’’
With the No. 4 pick, the Giants seemingly will go one of two ways. They either take linebacker Isaiah Simmons, a do-everything defensive player, or one of the top-rated offensive tackles: Jedrick Wills (Alabama), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa) or Mekhi Becton (Louisville). A trade down a few spots to take one of the tackles is a preferable option.
During a 24-minute conference call Wednesday, Judge did not recite the name of any player in this draft and, in keeping with his stance since he was hired, also did not mention by name any player on his roster. Judge did, however, offer some insight as to how he views the first-round decision and how he evaluates the other players the Giants will take in the later rounds.
In short: Think big picture and not how they help in 2020.
“I think when you’re looking at players in the draft, first off you’re always looking for the best player available, and to me that means long-term upside,’’ Judge said. “If you think you’re taking someone who is pro-ready, what all these rookies find out the second they step in the building is, none of them are pro-ready. That’s why they need the strength program, that’s why they need training camp, that’s why they go through growing pains as rookies.
“There’s really no short-term fix or Band-Aid. You’re not going to pick somebody in this draft and say, ‘We answered an issue there.’ It’s just bringing in the best guy available and working with him every day.’’
This line of reasoning suggests the Giants will not be so desperate to get a player to immediately start at right tackle that they will overlook the growth potential of the player.
Simmons could be an impact player on any defense, but his position is often viewed as undesirable to take so high in the draft — certainly not in the top four picks, where quarterbacks, edge-rushers and offensive tackles are considered premium values. Judge might not favor that way of thinking.
“The upside is the biggest part of it,’’ he said. “In terms of, it is someone who has to have a true position home, to me the position home is gonna be defined how you choose to use him. And that’s really up to us as coaches, to be creative and maximize their strengths and not talk about what they’re not, figure out what they can do for us and help us win.’’
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