The Giants’ division rivals collaborated on a trade to steal a top receiver. So Dave Gettleman made his first ever trade down.
Gettleman and Joe Judge moved back from No. 11 to No. 20 with the Chicago Bears, after the Eagles leapfrogged them from No. 12 to 10 with the Cowboys to steal Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
The Bears then charged up to draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
The Giants’ focus on the receiver position was clear. They used the No. 20 pick to select Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney, a 5-11, 193-pound gadget receiver who can give the Giants versatility on offense and special teams as a returner.
The Giants also obtained the Bears’ 2022 first-round pick, this year’s Chicago fifth-rounder (No. 164 overall) and a 2022 fourth-rounder.
Two years after trading Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland, Gettleman has signed Kenny Golladay as a free agent and drafted Toney to upgrade the position he weakened in that OBJ deal.
“It’s kinda crazy growing up watching like NFL football sometimes, like me just going to a team like Eli Manning was there, you know what I’m saying?” Toney, 22, said in a Zoom call. “Odell Beckham was there, you know what I’m saying? Like, Tiki Barber… I’m just next in line to do something special I guess you could say.”
Toney compared himself to Packers wide receiver Davante Adams and Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
“Just quick, dynamic, explosive… real elusive,” he said.
He started only one season at Florida in 2020 and battled injuries throughout his college career, but he had 70 catches for 984 yards and 10 receiving TDs last season and also plays running back and returns punts.
“To me, behind (Jaylen) Waddle, he was the second most dynamic player in this draft,” Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy told the News of Toney, who attended this year’s showcase. “Change of direction skills are elite. The ability to accelerate and decelerate and cutting ability, he has the highest upside as a route runner in this draft because not many can do what he can do physically. And he can play inside and outside.”
This marked Gettleman’s first ever trade down as a GM in his ninth NFL draft. Judge’s influence coming from the New England Patriots school of draft value likely helped out.
At first glance, it appeared that Gettleman and Judge got great value back in the trade.
The Broncos made a similar trade down from No. 10 in 2019 with the Steelers and received No. 20 overall that year, a 2019 second-rounder (No. 52) and a 2020 third. Pittsburgh came up for linebacker Devin Bush. Denver used its first-rounder on tight end Noah Fant.
But there was a feeling of disappointment hovering over the Giants’ first round, as well, since both Alabama receivers Jaylen Waddle (No. 6, Dolphins) and Smith came off the board ahead of them.
Especially since the Eagles jumped ahead of the Giants to take Smith, they will now have to try to cover the Heisman Trophy winner twice a year in the NFC East.
Gettleman made light of the Eagles-Cowboys trade and said “it’s not a big deal.” He wouldn’t admit surprise or dismay at Philly’s actions. He countered by saying the trade partner easily could have been the Giants, too.
“Howie’s not afraid to trade with anybody,” Gettleman said. ”I had a conversation with him earlier in the week and he said, ‘Dave, do you have any problems trading with me?’ And I said no, if it works for both of us, it works for both us. So they made the trade and we decided to trade back at that point.”
Gettleman said he spoke with Bears GM Ryan Pace prior to the draft and that Pace called again around the sixth or seventh pick.
There was a sense the Giants were caught flat-footed when the Eagles charged over them, however. Their trained sights on the receiver position were confirmed by the Toney pick.
The Toney selection is curious, though, when examining the scouting reports of him off the field.
Per The Athletic, he was also suspended for the 2018 season opener after his involvement in an on-campus confrontation between players and Gainesville locals where he painted an air-soft gun to look like an AR-15 assault rifle in May 2018.
He was also pulled over by Gainesville Police, revealing an authentic and loaded AR-15 rifle in his back seat that Toney had “for protection because of the locals” (no charges filed).
Some scouts also have voiced concern that the Mobile, Ala., native is more passionate about rapping than football (his stage name is Yung Joka).
In the wake of the Giants’ DeAndre Baker fiasco, releasing a 2019 first round pick over an alleged gun-related incident, drafting Toney in the first round is curious.
“Right now like everybody not really like concerned about like anything that I had off the field because that was like two, three years ago,” Toney said.
Joe Judge insisted several members of the Giants’ staff have known Toney for a while, including defensive assistant Jeremy Pruitt, who recruited him out of high school.
“In terms of anything else off the field, look, it’s no secret i’m pretty particular about who I bring into this building,” Judge said. “I think sometimes you have to understand the person and understand the character on a deeper level than what’s just maybe tweeted out.”
Director of scouting Chris Pettit said spending face-to-face time with Toney at the Senior Bowl in his hometown in January was helpful in the vetting process.
“We actually met with him the first night down there, one of our last interviews and got to spend a lot of time with him,” he said. “Really great to meet him and get that face to face at that point in the scouting process.”
Toney recalled “the conversation back then was more like just trying to figure me out, it was so early in the process.”
Pettit said: “We were all tired that process down there was pretty strenuous going back to back to back with those long interviews. It was late in the night. We were tired, talking through plexi-glass and everyone had masks, and he brought energy at that point and we loved that… He was open and honest and we loved everything about that conversation.”
It will be interesting to see what Toney’s addition means for veteran slot receiver Sterling Shepard.
But the bottom line is the Giants landed an extra play-maker for Daniel Jones’ offense entering a judgement season for the third-year quarterback — even if it wasn’t the one they had eyes on before the Eagles swooped in and stole Smith.