By Ernie Palladino
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The Jets had holes all over their roster and thought, "safety first."
The Giants needed to shore up their blocking, so they picked a pass-catching tight end.
If the two local teams wanted to create conversation about their first-round picks in Thursday night's NFL Draft Thursday, well, then, mission accomplished. But whether general managers Mike Maccagnan and Jerry Reese truly improved their teams with safety Jamal Adams and tight end Evan Engram, respectively, will be debated well into the 2017 season.
The draft isn't over, of course. There are still two sessions and six rounds for Maccagnan to find help at cornerback, wide receiver, tight end, or whatever other position that isn't already staffed by a first-round pick, and for Reese to find himself a quality tackle to keep Eli Manning upright. But as for their top picks -- the ones everybody pays attention to -- put both down as headscratchers.
That doesn't predict that either will fail on the next level. In fact, they could turn out as eastern versions of Earl Thomas and Antonio Gates, and wouldn't that be great?
It's just that neither served a real need.
The Jets, in fact, would probably have been better served by taking a cornerback like Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore, considering the huge hole left by the decline and eventual dismissal of Darrelle Revis. They might even have gone with Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, since the roster contains nary one who can latch onto a pass consistently.
Instead, the Jets spent the No. 6 overall pick on a safety who will skyrocket that position's financial expenditure given the first-round salary incumbent Calvin Pryor already commands. Of course, having two first-round picks in one position never hurts unless the first has already burned them with a subpar season.
Pryor did that last year, which is why analysts have already paired Adams, son of the Giants' 1985 first-round running back George Adams, with Marcus Gilchrist. Pryor? He may officially join the long line of Jets first-round busts after 2017, his final contract season.
If the Jets get as much value out of Adams as the Giants have gotten out of Landon Collins, their second-round pick of 2015, they'll have struck gold.
They can only hope the LSU product produces more than his old man, whose hip injury in 1986 turned him from lead runner to busted No. 9 overall pick in his remaining four years in Jersey.
Jamal Adams, who is 6-foot and 214 pounds, is regarded as a game changer and natural leader of men. He's a hitter who seems just as comfortable stuffing the run inside the box as chasing a tight end or running back downfield for a breakup.
He was clearly a value pick, as many scouts had him rated as the second-best player in the draft behind the Browns' pick at No. 1, Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett. But after the Bears moved up a spot to take North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubinsky and the Titans shocked the draft by taking Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis at No. 5, Adams was sitting there for the Jets.
He won't hurt a dismal secondary that allowed 30 touchdown passes against just eight interceptions last year. He might even put a stop to a trend that saw the defense give up 13 passes of 40 yards or more. And if he can wrangle the locker room as one of its Alpha-dog leaders, Maccagnan will have found himself a major piece.
But even that doesn't fill the hole at cornerback. Then again, Kyle Wilson (2010) and Dee Milliner (2013) proved that first-round cornerbacks aren't always the answer, either.
As for Engram of Ole Miss, the 6-3, 234-pound tight end ran a fast 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine, which translates into beating linebackers and safeties easily on downfield routes. Draft analyst Mike Mayock said his skill set is more that of a wide receiver, though he does block willingly on the perimeter.
Engram undoubtedly will add to a downfield game already glittery with Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall.
The problem is that Engram really isn't an in-line blocker. He probably won't be of much help to a ground game that needs to get going after an almost nonexistent season. And the Giants do have a serviceable pass-catching tight end in Will Tye on the roster already.
The free-agent pickup of Minnesota's Rhett Ellison gave them a blocking tight end.
Picking up Engram begs the question of whether there are enough passes in the playbook to accommodate him.
Reese would have done well to pick a tackle at No. 23. With only Utah's Garrett Bolles off the board to Denver at No. 20, the Giants still had high-quality tackles like Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, Alabama's Cam Robinson, and Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp available.
The fact that he passed on all of them means he probably feels he can grab one in the second or third round.
Engram, meanwhile, has drawn comparisons to Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed. Both are big, fast, and excellent route runners.
Neither, however, help keep the heat off their quarterbacks. Considering Manning's issues last year were exacerbated by a lack of time to find his receivers, Reese's choice Thursday night was iffy at best.
Also consider the Giants' success rate with first-round tight ends.
Jeremy Shockey's career turned turbulent almost from the day the Giants drafted him with the 14th pick in 2002. It was only after his departure following a broken leg in 2007 that Manning turn into a downfield quarterback.
Notre Dame's Derek Brown was supposed to be a game-changer when George Young drafted him at No. 12 in 1992. But when Lawrence Taylor broke his nose during one of his first rookie training camp sessions, Brown went steadily downhill.
Maccagnan and Reese made two value picks, leaving the gaping holes in their rosters for later rounds.
They had better hope the impacts Adams and Engram make are commensurate with their draft positions.
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