Credit: Bill Moore photo

The 85th NFL Draft is only one week away. Next Thursday on the Las Vegas Strip, with considerably much less pomp and circumstance than is customary as fans will be excluded due to the coronavirus, one of the league’s signature events will take center stage on the American sports landscape. The determination to prohibit attendance by fans of the NFL’s Draft events was made last month by league officials.

“This decision reflects our foremost priority—the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the [Las Vegas] Raiders, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL Draft as well as evaluating opportunities for other major NFL events in Las Vegas in the future, including the Super Bowl.”

The local teams will continue their rebuilding process, hoping to land players that can greatly alter the trajectory of their playoff aspirations. The Giants, who were 4-12 last season, hold the No. 4 pick in the first round, and the Jets, who finished 7-9, have the 11th overall pick. In the previous two drafts, the Giants landed cornerstone offensive players, selecting running back and Bronx native Saquon Barkley with the second pick in 2018 and quarterback Daniel Jones last April at No. 6. This time around it is uncertain if the Giants will use their top pick to improve a deficient defensive unit or fortify their suspect offensive line.

Barkley was Giants general manager Dave Gettleman’s first draft pick after taking over the job from fired former GM Jerry Reese in December 2017. There was a divide among Giants fans as some wanted Gettleman to draft a quarterback, many calling for him to take Sam Darnold at No. 2. But prior to the draft Gettleman raved about Barkley and essentially showed his hand. Indeed he snatched up Barkley who justified Gettleman’s assessment that the Penn State product possessed Hall of Fame talent.

Barkley went on to have one of the greatest seasons for a rookie running back in NFL history, rushing for 1,307 yards, catching 91 passes, and setting multiple franchise and NFL records in earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Darnold went one pick later at No. 3 to the Jets and has displayed the requisite skills to have a bright future.

A year ago, Gettleman shocked the football world by drafting Jones high in the first round. It was an unpopular pick among most Giants fans and when Jones’ name was announced by Goodell, those in attendance in Nashville, Tennessee, where the draft was held, loudly booed the relatively unknown Jones who played collegiately at Duke, a school famous for its powerhouse basketball program but whose football team is an afterthought.

Jones and Gettleman proved doubters wrong as the rookie, who replaced two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning as the team’s starter in Week 3, demonstrated abilities that translate into him potentially being a steady and capable long-term leader of the offense.

Gettleman and new head coach Joe Judge, the 38-year-old former special teams’ coordinator for the New England Patriots, who was hired this past January following the Giants’ firing of Pat Shurmur after he went 9-23 in two seasons, have a lot of holes to fill. What they do post-first round, as the Giants currently own nine additional picks, including No. 36 (2nd round) and No. 99 (3rd round), will be the definitive assessment of how well they selected.