Giants create draft questions by sticking with Manning

The New York Giants appeared ready to move on from Eli Manning when he was benched for a game during their disastrous 2017 season. The benching ended Manning’s historic streak of starts while the dismal year gifted the Giants the second overall pick in a 2018 draft overflowing with quarterback talent. But, a new front office in New York has reaffirmed Manning’s status as starter for the foreseeable future, raising questions about what the Giants will do with their pick.

Manning is under contract for the next two seasons, and neither new coach Pat Shurmur nor new general manager Dave Gettleman seemed to be entertaining the idea of a Giants team without Manning as quarterback during their media appearances at this week’s scouting combine. Manning turned 37 in January, and his brother played until he was 39, so the expectation of a couple more seasons doesn’t seem unreasonable, even if his yards-per-pass attempt was the lowest it’s been since his rookie season and he fumbled the ball a career-worst 10 times in 2017. If Shurmur and Gettleman believe Manning’s dip in production can be blamed on the offense around him, that’s where their focus will be for the draft.

The second overall pick guarantees either Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen – the consensus top two quarterbacks available – and the value of landing one of those potential franchise passers might be too much for another franchise to ignore. Gettleman expressed an openness to trading the pick if he is presented with an enticing enough offer, and judging by trades for top picks in recent years, the offer would need to contain a mountain of draft picks to be enticing. New York’s roster has plenty of holes to fill, and turning one pick into five or six could help fill them faster.

If the Giants are keeping the pick, it is likely because they want Saquon Barkley. New York was one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL over the last two seasons, which is what makes a running back like Barkley a perfect fit. Barkley has the size, speed, and vision of a potential superstar, and he has single-handedly made mockeries of opposing defenses on a regular basis while playing at Penn State. Adding Barkley would force teams to respect New York’s running game and give Manning more time to make plays as a result.

The Cleveland Browns could decide to take Barkley first overall and see which quarterbacks are still available when they select again with the fourth pick, especially now that they know neither the Giants nor the San Diego Chargers (who own the third pick) are desperate for a quarterback. But if Barkley falls to the Giants they will enter the 2018 campaign with an offense built around him, Manning, and Odell Beckham Jr., which seems like a good position to be in after a 3-13 season.