There will be ghosts in the Giants’ draft room. The Giants have struck out ignoring red flags three times in eight first-round picks since 2015: Ereck Flowers’ work ethic, Eli Apple’s immature
There will be ghosts in the Giants’ draft room.
The Giants have struck out ignoring red flags three times in eight first-round picks since 2015: Ereck Flowers’ work ethic, Eli Apple’s immature response to adversity and DeAndre Baker’s 2020 arrest on gun charges still haunt a roster that has turned to free-agent spending sprees. None of those three draft selections finished out their rookie contracts.
So, the big question on April 29 is whether those failed picks will shout “Boo!” loudly enough to scare away the Giants from Micah Parsons — and his potential to be their best linebacker since Lawrence Taylor retired in 1994 — if he is available when they are on the clock at No. 11?
“The Giants are hoping another team takes him,” a talent evaluator with another NFL team told The Post, “so they don’t have to decide.”
The NFL Draft is an annual balancing act of assessing risk and talent, especially with projected high first-round picks.
Parsons, 21, is the prospect in this class who has spent the most time answering about his character, as he acknowledged at Penn State’s Pro Day. Parsons was suspended from his first high school for allegedly “inciting a riot” in 2016 — he yelled “Gun!” while police were in the cafeteria, his father told PennLive.com after watching soundless surveillance footage of the incident — and he and other Penn State football players were accused of hazing another teammate in a 2020 civil lawsuit.
“Obviously, people had some concerns about things that had happened,” Parsons said when asked by The Post about his character. “We all made mistakes when we were 17, 18. If someone is going to judge me over that, then I would rather not be in their program. I know the type of person I’m becoming. I know the type of father I’m becoming [to his soon-to-be 3-year-old]. That’s all that matters to me.”
For some teams, that answer — and the positive influence provided by former Giants and Washington linebacker LaVar Arrington — will sound convincing. For others, it might not. How should the Giants see Parsons? Maybe like two other blasts from the past.
“There’s some [concern] because he comes off like Odell Beckham with high-maintenance stuff — like a quarterback playing linebacker,” one NFL scout said. “But I’m not worried about Parsons like I was worried about Baker.
“He’s going to be a rock star, like an LT. He’s going to play early, he’s going to have success, he’s going to be sitting court-side. Nothing is going to stand in the way of football for Micah. The red flags aren’t enough to deter you from drafting him.”
Letting past mistakes impact the future — rather than looking at cases individually — could create a worst-case scenario. No shortage of teams regret passing on Tyrann Mathieu, who slipped to the third round in 2013 after repeat drug test failures led to his dismissal from LSU. Mathieu is one the NFL’s top safeties and most-respected leaders for the Chiefs.
“If I’m the Giants and I’ve had a recent track record of some misses with key assets,” one league source said, “I’m probably going to be a little more risk-averse with that first pick and lean a little more towards the higher floor than getting too carried with the higher ceiling.”
The Giants haven’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984.
Parsons, who opted out of the Big Ten’s initially canceled, then rescheduled, 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, offers a rare blend of size (6-foot-3, 246 pounds), speed (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and athleticism (34-inch vertical leap). He fills two needs that could take the Giants’ defense from good to great: covering tight ends and rushing the passer (6.5 career sacks, six forced fumbles in two seasons).
Flowers and Apple were picked by former general manager Jerry Reese for former coaches Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo, respectively. General manager Dave Gettleman picked Baker — whose felony charges were dismissed before he signed with the Chiefs in November to restart his career — in the same first round in which the Giants were wise to red flags surrounding quarterback bust Dwayne Haskins.
There will be voices in the war room who were around for all the recent misses, but Joe Judge and his coaching staff had no say in any of those picks. Judge is direct about building a no-nonsense, high-character culture.
“They’re coming out younger and younger, so there is that piece,” Gettleman said of draft prospects. “They’ve been taken care of and they’ve been covered, and they haven’t had to be as accountable as maybe they need to have been, so when they get to us they have two things that are very dangerous: time and money. Some handle it better than others.”
Arrington was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft and finished his seven-year career with the Giants. He did not respond to multiple messages for this story, but he fired back against the “inappropriate and inaccurate framing” of Parsons’ character in January.
“I trust him mentoring my son,” Arrington wrote on Facebook. “I’d never allow a poor-character dude around my family. I had people attack my character when I was entering the draft and I had no advocates out there dispelling horrible rumors about my character. Micah watches my home, and I learn a ton from him. Anyone would be lucky and blessed to have him play for their team.”
Former Penn State player Isaiah Humphries filed a lawsuit in January 2020 alleging teammates Parsons, Yetur Gross-Matos and Jesse Luketa regularly pinned younger teammates to the floor and simulated “a humping action while on top” or placed their “genitals on the face of the lower classmen.” Parsons was named as a party — not a defendant — in the suit.
Penn State asked a court to dismiss the suit and criminal charges were not filed. Gross-Matos was picked No. 38 overall in the 2020 draft, indicating the allegations did not hurt his stock. Whether it will be the same for Parsons is unknown.
“I haven’t found a team that told me to move him down, which I put a lot of stock in,” ESPN analyst Matt Miller, who runs nfldraftscout.com, said last month. “But every team views it differently. Some teams might say, ‘No worries. He might need some tough love, but we think he’s going to be just fine.’ Or maybe you’ve dealt with Eli Apple’s immaturity and say, ‘We don’t need another headache.’ It’s something that has to be vetted.”
The NFL’s COVID-19 restrictions made it more difficult for coaches and executives to feel comfortable taking a risk. All pre-draft contact has been conducted virtually — making it even more challenging than in 2020, when NFL Combine interviews were face-to-face.
Giants owner John Mara expressed confidence in the team’s background evaluations after “we got some really quality people” in 2020.
Recruiters at multiple schools expressed concerns at the time about Parsons’ coachability coming out of high school. Penn State’s James Franklin described Parsons’ recruitment — including a decommitment from and a self-reported recruiting violation by Ohio State — as a “roller coaster.” Parsons said his high school transfer was due to a family move.
Giants defensive line coach Sean Spencer is one of a handful of former Penn State assistants in the NFL exposed to those practice traits and the “behavioral issue” that caused Parsons to miss a game in 2019. Parsons considers Spencer to be “like a father and a friend.”
“Concerns are real, but the latest narrative teams are getting out of Penn State is the character concerns are false and he’s grown up,” one NFL coach said. “Character is about making the right choices. Immaturity is about handling your business without help. Two different things. The question is: Is he too talented to pass up if you are picking outside the top 10? He probably is.”
One way or another, Parsons has the feel of a franchise-altering pick for the Giants. Or a rival.
“You interview the players and you ask them the question: ‘What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge?’ ” Gettleman said. “And they turn around and say, ‘Well, I shouldn’t have any problems.’ And I’m saying to myself, ‘Well, how much does he know? How self-aware is he?’ The maturity piece is really important and you work on it. At the end of the day, sometimes you’re not right.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Ryan Dunleavy