A certain faction of New York Giants fans were quick to voice their displeasure on Thursday night, as their demands of a quarterback were not met in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
It took two days, but their request was eventually fulfilled.
For the second consecutive year, the Giants selected a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft, selecting Richmond standout Kyle Lauletta with their fourth-round pick, 108th overall, joining a quarterback room that already features Eli Manning and last year’s third-round draft pick Davis Webb.
“He was just too good of a value to pass up there. He’s got all the stuff. He’s tough, he’s not shy in the pocket, he’s got pocket presence, patience and feel. Those are instinctive things that you can’t teach,” general manager Dave Gettleman said after the selection.
“He was just too good of a value there for us. We’re really thrilled to get him there. I really expected him to be long gone.”
Despite playing in relative anonymity with Richmond of Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA), Lauletta made a name for himself in a class dominated by big-name talent.
Taking over as the Spiders’ quarterback in his sophomore year, he burst onto the scene with 3,598 passing yards, helping the team earn and FCS playoff berth.
He was one pace to break those numbers a year later, throwing for 3,022 yards and 24 touchdowns, while reducing his interception tally from 15 to 8. However, a torn ACL injury, suffered in the regular season finale against William & Mary, caused him to miss an ensuing playoff run.
No one knew how Lauletta would respond in his senior year.
“It’s kind of been the story for me my whole career, being doubted and kind of being the underdog,” Lauletta said in a conference call.
“In high school I didn’t have all those big time offers that some of the other guys had and even coming out of college after my senior season, the scouts had me rated lower than I ended up getting picked, but I don’t worry about that. I’ve always been a firm believer in just honestly controlling what you can control.”
One thing he could indeed control was his play on the field. Returning from injury, Lauletta responded with new career highs, throwing for 3,737 yards and 28 touchdowns, completing 64.9 percent of his passes.
Though Richmond missed out on the playoffs, Lauletta still shined in the postseason, as he was invited to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Going up against elite competition from across the nation, Lauletta went 8-for-12 for 198 and three touchdowns, earning game MVP honors in an exhibition that also featured top overall pick Baker Mayfield and seventh overall selection Josh Allen.
“This is a guy that’s a winner,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s got moxie, he’s very competitive and so we’re glad to add him to the group and he’s one of those guys that’s going to come in and compete and be as good as he can be.”
This marks the first time in nearly decade that the Giants have used the draft to select quarterbacks in back-to-back years, picking Andre Woodson in 2008’s sixth round, and Rhett Bomar in the fifth the year after. Neither of those quarterbacks, chosen with the notoriously durable Manning in his prime, threw a regular season pass with the Giants, but this time things are different.
With Manning, 37, signed on for two more seasons, planning has begun for the future. Though quarterbacks had been drafted in the Manning era before, including Woodson, Bomar, and 2013’s fourth rounder Ryan Nassib, Webb was likely the first quarterback added to the Giants roster with an heir apparent in mind.
Webb dressed for only one game in 2017 and took no regular season snaps, but the Giants got a chance to analyze a Webb future this week, as he took most of the snaps in this week’s voluntary veteran minicamp.
While Gettleman made it clear in his pre-draft press conference that Webb’s minicamp performance would not affect the Giants’ draft board, Thursday’s passing on a polarizing throwers’ class seemed to solidify his future status.
But when Lauletta was there for the taking in the fourth round, Gettleman, who revealed an opposing general manager nearly took him in the second round, couldn’t resist.
“Where we had him on the board, we couldn’t pass up the value,” Gettleman said. “At the end of the day, like Pat said, you want a good quarterback culture in the room and I think it’s going to be really healthy. This kid is driven just like Davis is driven and just like Eli is driven and you can’t put a price tag on that.”
It was a perfect match for Lauletta, whose first NFL visit was with the Giants. He immediately developed a connection with offensive assistant coach Ryan Roeder, a fellow former FCS quarterback, representing the University of Albany.
“Roeder and I, I just feel like I hit it off with him and we connected really well and I was thrilled,” Laulaetta said, recalling the moment he got the call from the Giants. “Just the mix of emotions, getting that call, I’ve been dreaming about that for a long long time and just to have my whole family here, it was a dream come true.”
Much like how Webb handled the awkwardness of last season with class and professionalism, Lauletta displayed the same sense of humbleness in his first New York statements, not letting a competition for the Manning throne get in the way of NFL learning and development.
“(The Giants) only have two guys, so they needed a third guy one way or another, and I don’t really look at it like that,” Lauletta said.
“Obviously in the NFL, you’re always going to bring guys in and you’re always trying to improve your team and that’s what training camp is for. I’m not really thinking about any of that right now. First and foremost, you’ve just got to get to know the guys and work hard and gain the respect of your teammates, and I’m looking forward to meeting Davis and Eli and I’ve heard a lot of great things.”
Lauletta will take his first unofficial snaps with the Giants on May 11, when the team opens its rookie minicamp.
(Top photo courtesy of Richmon Univeristy Athletics)