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2024 NFL Draft: Five biggest takeaways from Giants', Jets' first-round decisions

The draft is the NFL's fountain of hope -- some of it, it turns out in hindsight, a bit false. Just two years ago, the New York Giants and New York Jets each had two picks in the top 10, fueling excitement that both teams were poised for rapid rises. The Jets' Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson and the Giants' Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal are all starters. But on Thursday, both teams picked in the top 10 again, coming off seasons that were so disappointing one quarterback (Zach Wilson) has already been traded out of town and the other (Daniel Jones) just spent the entire draft buildup watching his team study potential replacements.

Still, there isn't a team in the NFL that wouldn't say on Thursday night it was thrilled with its first round pick. The Giants and Jets were no different.

Here are our takeaways from the first round.

1) Five years after trading Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants finally replace his big-play ability with LSU's Malik Nabers. Nabers is an explosive play waiting to happen, something the somnolent Giants offense, which ranked 30th in scoring last season, desperately needs. The Giants have not had even an 800-yard receiver since Beckham was traded in the 2019 offseason. The Giants particularly love Nabers' toughness -- he simply doesn't miss games or practices -- and his competitiveness. In the ultimate compliment, Brian Daboll called him "a dog on the field." Nabers said that in his pre-draft meeting with Daboll, he came to like the head coach's personality after Daboll told Nabers he could guard him.

Uh, probably not. Nabers can create separation, play multiple positions and give the quarterback an easy window to throw the ball to. Jones' health and durability is the wild card, but the Giants have given him the kind of weapon who will help any QB succeed -- general manager Joe Schoen said he texted Jones and he was fired up about the pick. Nabers joins Jalin Hyatt, Darius Slayton and Wan'Dale Robinson in a wide receiver room that suddenly has a lot more speed than it did a year ago. That had been a stated goal of Daboll's since before the 2023 draft. And, Schoen noted, Nabers does not turn 21 years old until this summer, so he still has plenty of room for development while the Giants have him under a rookie contract.

2) The Nabers' pick was also the safe one once the Giants could not pry the No. 3 pick from the Patriots with a trade. Schoen acknowledged that the Giants had talks with teams about moving up and down, but once the Patriots stuck and took Drake Maye -- who was believed to be New York's target -- the Giants did not reach for a quarterback they weren't sold on, even with J.J. McCarthy on the board when the Big Blue picked at No. 6. That is likely to be a disappointment for some fans who have tired of the Jones roller coaster, especially as they saw six quarterbacks go in the top 12. It's unlikely all of those will pan out, though, and the Giants could not afford to tie themselves to another quarterback they are not bought into. Instead, in this offseason, they have tried to fortify the offensive line and improve the weapons for Jones -- two issues that have clearly undermined his chances for success. If Jones doesn't show dramatic improvement and sustained health this year, the Giants can get out of his contract next offseason, but at least they will know they put enough pieces around him to get a fair evaluation, something that could not be said before. In the meantime, they go into the season hoping a healthy Jones can regain his 2022 form, and with Drew Lock waiting in the wings if he can't.

3) Joe Douglas loves offensive linemen. The Jets took Penn State offensive tackle Olu Fashanu with the 11th overall pick and picked up additional mid-round draft picks in a trade. And if you're wondering why a team that just got two new offensive tackles during free agency drafted an offensive tackle that will not start right away, know this: Both of those new starting tackles -- Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses -- are in their mid-30s, and Smith has a long injury history. The Jets have a talented roster, but any team with legitimate championship aspirations -- which is what the Jets have -- also needs depth. Fashanu will surely see significant playing time, and in the best-case scenario, he can learn behind Smith and eventually become the starting left tackle. Most importantly, Fashanu is another boulder in the wall the Jets are constructing in front of Aaron Rodgers. The Jets are the most all-in team in the NFL right now, and everything they do has to be with the goal of enhancing the very small window they have with Rodgers, who is recovering from an Achilles’ injury at age 40. The dirty little secret of last year's Jets catastrophe is that while Rodgers' injury torpedoed the Super Bowl hopes, terrible O-line play contributed to the collapse of the offense and undermined any chance to remain competitive no matter who the quarterback was. Rodgers' brilliance can cover up a multitude of holes, but only if he is upright. Fashanu should help immediately.

4) The Jets should be able to pick up more weapons on Friday. They did bring on Mike Williams ahead of the draft, but he is coming off an ACL injury, and the Jets still need more help to ease some of the burden on Garrett Wilson. That is what made the possibility of drafting tight end Brock Bowers so tantalizing. And the additional picks received from the Vikings should give Douglas flexibility to trade into the second round, where the Jets do not currently have a pick, if there is a target there.

5) Both teams eschewed the sexy picks for the solid ones. That may not take the back pages from the New York Knicks tomorrow, but it does suggest that both teams had an intelligent plan and stuck to it, while also recognizing that New York football was an offensive wasteland last season. The Jets' Douglas and Robert Saleh are on very hot seats this year, as is Jones -- but both teams made picks that are likely to enhance their chances of winning, or at least scoring, in 2024.

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