After losing to the Packers in Week 11, the Giants fell to 2-10. They were going nowhere fast, but the loss kept them nominally in play for a prize some would have argued was almost as good as a playoff berth: Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young.
Young had long been considered one of the best (if not the best) prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft for some time, and the question of whether or not the Giants should tank to get him had been up for discussion for some time.
The New York Post took it up prior to the Giants’ Week 16 game against Washington, highlighting the delicate dance the Giants had performed around the question. And to be fair to the Giants’ front office, what were they going to say? “Yeah, we want Chase Young, and we’re going to lose as many games as possible to get him” might be accurate, but it’s poor competitive form and might end up earning you a call to the commissioner’s office.
The Giants beat Washington and finished the season with a 4-12 record. It wasn’t enough to save head coach Pat Shurmur, but it was enough to push the Giants out of contention for Young.
They selected Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas fourth overall instead, and he’ll be out there trying to slow down Rashan Gary and Preston Smith on Sunday.
Thomas was a pretty good prospect, though, in typical Dave Gettleman fashion, the selection raised more than a few eyebrows.
Thomas was a long-term starter at Georgia and a good athlete, but there were other players who might have been a better value at the spot. A consensus mock draft had the Giants taking Tristan Wirfs with the fourth pick, which was much more in line with how many draftniks had ranked the class. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked Wirfs as the second-best tackle in the class and the eighth-best player overall. Thomas was fourth and 15th on the same lists.
Wirfs has gone on to start every game for the Buccaneers, earning Pro Bowl and All Pro nods in 2021. Thomas has developed much more slowly. Pro Football Focus has given him an elite-level grade so far this year, but he was below average as a rookie and merely competent in his second season.
This shouldn’t be read as an indictment of Thomas as a player or an endorsement of tanking. But it does go to show just how different a win here and there can be. The Packers should know that pretty well from the 2020 Draft as well, as they watched Justin Jefferson come off the board just a few picks ahead of their slot. The ripples of a single win can extend pretty far.