Home News ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. discusses Rome Odunze vs. J.J. McCarthy for Giants,...

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. discusses Rome Odunze vs. J.J. McCarthy for Giants, says NFL Draft decision will ‘determine their fate for the next 10 years’

Whether the Giants go quarterback or wide receiver with their first pick in next month’s NFL Draft, they’re changing the long-term trajectory of the franchise.

That’s according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., who projected Giants general manager Joe Schoen to select Washington wideout Rome Odunze at No. 6 overall in his latest mock, but says he wouldn’t be surprised to see Big Blue take fast-rising Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy, either.

“This is an organizational decision that’s going to determine their fate for the next 10 years,” Kiper said Wednesday during his first conference call of draft season.

Kiper, a longtime advocate for current Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, describes the 6-3 Odunze as a “special” player who could become the team’s first true No. 1 receiver since it traded away Odell Beckham Jr. in 2019.

That Beckham trade to the Browns occurred weeks before the Giants drafted Jones with the sixth pick in that year’s draft.

“If you take the quarterback [this year], you lose [LSU receiver] Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze, which is something the Giants desperately need,” Kiper said. “They haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2018 with Odell Beckham Jr. Daniel Jones was dead last in terms of explosive plays in the passing game. Since he came into the league, he hasn’t had those guys, that weapon, at wide receiver.”

Jones appeared in only six games during a lost 2023 campaign plagued by a neck injury and, later, a season-ending ACL tear. Jones also missed the final six games of the 2021 season with a neck ailment, contributing to a concerning injury history for a quarterback reliant on making plays with his legs.

The 26-year-old Jones is entering the second season of a four-year, $160 million contract that the Giants can get out of with minimal cap ramifications after 2024.

The first three picks in Kiper’s third 2024 mock draft, which came out Tuesday, are all quarterbacks, with the Bears taking USC’s Caleb Williams, the Commanders picking LSU’s Jayden Daniels and the Patriots selecting UNC’s Drake Maye.

The 6-3 McCarthy went 27-1 over the last two seasons and won a national championship in January, but his 2,991 passing yards last year ranked 35th in the country. Williams, Daniels and Maye each ranked within the top 12.

“He was the toughest player, really at any position, to really evaluate because [Michigan] didn’t ask him to carry the team,” Kiper said of McCarthy.

“To say you know what JJ McCarthy’s gonna be, you’ve got to have a leap of faith there. He’s a great competitor. He’s a Josh Allen-type competitor. He’s super smart. He just turned 21 years of age. He had two really good years. He didn’t throw picks, but the picks he did throw were kind of memorable. … Then in the national title game, he did make a couple plays in that game that were game-changing.”

Kiper ranks McCarthy as the No. 21 overall player on his latest draft big board, but says it’s “never too early” to take a quarterback.

“There’s not much separating JJ with Drake Maye in a lot of teams’ eyes. Some may even have him ahead of Drake Maye,” Kiper said. “They all get overdrafted because they’re quarterbacks. … For JJ, if he goes to the Giants, it’s because they have concerns about Daniel.”

Kiper projects the Jets, meanwhile, to take Georgia’s matchup-nightmare tight end Brock Bowers at No. 10. The 6-4, 240-pound Bowers led the Bulldogs in receiving in each of his three collegiate seasons, two of which ended with national championships.

The Jets already added three offensive linemen this offseason, as well as Mike Williams to be their No. 2 receiver, allowing them to enter the draft without a glaring need.

While he could envision the Jets adding depth to an offensive line group with injury concerns, Kiper predicted they would help quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a different way.

“[Bowers is] a multiple-option player,” Kiper said. “You can put him in the backfield, slot, wing, outside, any which way. Fullback. H-back. You can do anything you want with Brock Bowers. He is not a tight end. He’s just an offensive weapon. Would he fit in well with Aaron Rodgers? Doggone right he would.”


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