The New York Giants need a young quarterback, and a young quarterback named Dwayne Haskins needs them. Haskins is a Jersey-born kid who grew up dreaming of playing in the old wind tunnel that was Giants Stadium. He still wants to play for Eli Manning's team, for Plaxico Burress' team, for Tiki Barber's team.
His old man wants him to play for Phil Simms' team, too.
"I know if Dwayne is chosen to play for the Giants," Dwayne Sr. said last week, "he'd be an ambassador. ... With his persona and professionalism, I do see him one day playing for the Giants. He reminds me so much of Phil Simms with his leadership, determination, poise, and with his great decisions."
But this isn't about what a family of longtime Giants fans wants. Haskins would make all the sense in the world as the sixth overall pick in Thursday night's NFL draft, even if he had been born in Dallas and raised to adore the Cowboys. As a one-year starter at Ohio State who went 13-1 last season, Haskins completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for a Big Ten-record 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns, or eight more touchdowns than the combined total Tom Brady and Drew Brees threw for in their final Big Ten seasons.
At 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, Haskins is a big pocket passer with an explosive arm who lives in the film room and who has an advanced pre-snap ability to read defenses and adjust protection. He comes from an extended family of police officers and pastors, and from a home governed by a mother, Tamara, a financial adviser, and father, an entrepreneur promoting Christian and gospel music, who stressed religion, education and discipline. After a family move to the Washington, D.C., area inspired by a search for the highest level of competition, Haskins did not ultimately select a high school based on its football program; he picked Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, so he could eventually spend one year on the same campus with his sister Tamia, an aspiring actress who was drawn to the school's theater program.
On so many levels, Haskins is a Giants quarterback out of central casting.
"Once you decide to be the quarterback at Ohio State," said new Buckeyes coach Ryan Day, "you're signing up to be the shortstop of the New York Yankees.
"You're expected to be in the Heisman race. Dwayne took it all in stride and it never went to his head. He has a really good disposition, and in a market like New York he'd be fine. ... He's a grounded young man. He's been raised the right way. His foundation is solid. I don't think a couple of bad articles or a couple of losses or getting booed by the crowd will affect him like it would others. I think he'd do great there."
It's fitting that Day compares Haskins' job to the one once held down by Derek Jeter, another Jersey-born kid who dreamed of playing for the iconic New York team in his chosen sport. Like Haskins, Jeter's best friend was his younger sister and only sibling, whose interests and ambitions were never treated by anyone in the home as a secondary concern. Like Haskins, Jeter's parents insisted on completed homework, consistently high grades, and a commitment to a code of conduct and honor that took priority over sports. Like Haskins, Jeter entered his draft (1992) hoping, even praying, that he would be selected by a struggling New York franchise holding the sixth overall pick.
"Dwayne's ceiling is as high as I've been around. I still think he's just scratching the surface." Ohio State's Ryan Day, who coached Haskins for three years.
Of course, none of this means Haskins is destined to have Jeter's first-ballot Hall of Fame career. But since Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said of potential franchise quarterbacks, "You really have to vet out the background of these guys," that vetting should enhance Haskins' cause. The quarterback's team-centric views on life, family and football suggest he is an ideal replacement for the 38-year-old Manning, who said he modeled his approach after, you guessed it, Derek Jeter.
"I feel like it would be a perfect marriage," Dwayne Jr. said of a potential partnership with the Giants, who are committed to Manning for one more season.
Haskins wouldn't mind sitting and learning behind Manning, who sat and learned some behind Kurt Warner in 2004. Everyone employed by the Giants, including Manning, understands the urgent need to get Eli's successor in the building. Assuming Kyler Murray goes to Arizona at No. 1, and Oakland goes defense at No. 4, Haskins will be the best available quarterback at No. 6.
No, this isn't a unanimous opinion around the league, or even inside the Giants' facility. Haskins is said to have dropped on some teams' draft boards over concerns about his mobility and athleticism, and to have possibly fallen below Duke's Daniel Jones on Gettleman's board. The Giants like a lot about Haskins, but, according to a league source, they have some concerns about his feet and body type. It should be remembered that Manning managed to become a two-time Super Bowl MVP without great feet or a great body type.
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Shawn Springs, the retired 13-year NFL veteran and longtime Haskins family friend and mentor, first saw Dwayne Jr. as a seventh-grader throwing 50-yard passes in a New Jersey football camp. Springs was amazed at his arm strength and accuracy, and he correctly predicted that Haskins would someday grow into a Heisman Trophy finalist. Now the founder and CEO of Windpact, an impact technology company, Springs started telling people before Haskins enrolled at Ohio State that Warren Moon and Tom Brady were the only quarterbacks he ever played with who were better than Dwayne Jr.
"Tom Brady is one of those guys who's a machine in how he's always trying to understand the other team," said Springs, who played with the Patriots in 2009. "Dwayne is that type of machine when it comes to understanding the game."
Haskins' coach at Bullis, Pat Cilento, echoed that sentiment, saying Haskins' considerable intellect earned him the right to have full control of the offense; Cilento had not handed that kind of authority to previous quarterbacks. But as much as Haskins impressed with his playcalling, Cilento was struck most by his quarterback's style of leadership on and off the field.
"When a lot of kids were going out at night," Cilento said, "he'd go bowling. ... And he would always include everybody wherever he'd go, on the football field or at one of Tamia's shows. He would want to throw to 10 different receivers, and if a kid was sitting by himself in the cafeteria, he'd go over and sit with him. I think his family has done an unbelievable job of raising him."
Haskins' talent was as obvious as his character. Urban Meyer called his recruit as good a quarterback and fundamental passer as he'd ever seen at that age. Wearing No. 7, Haskins would come off the bench in 2017 -- after an injury to starter J.T. Barrett -- and lead the Buckeyes to a come-from-behind victory over Michigan in Ann Arbor, before shredding the Wolverines with six touchdown passes a year later in a blowout victory in Columbus.
A couple of days after that Michigan game, Gerry DiNardo, a Big Ten Network analyst who coached college football for the better part of three decades, sat with Haskins for more than an hour for a film review. The quarterback did not know in advance what plays would be reviewed or what questions would be asked, and DiNardo said he came away from the session thinking Haskins' grasp of pass-protection concepts was "extraordinary." The analyst also cited Haskins' desire to avoid being sacked even once because he wanted to help his offensive line pitch a shutout against a defensive coordinator as widely respected as Michigan's Don Brown.
"I thought that was the unselfish part of his personality," DiNardo said, "and I don't think he was just saying that. ... One thing I learned in an hour with Dwayne is, intellectually, he knows the game and he can teach the game. I've interviewed coaches in the past and after five minutes I knew I wasn't going to hire them because they took too long to explain a formation, or they weren't comfortable in their own skin in what they were teaching. Dwayne explains things very quickly. He knows what he's talking about."
Day spent two NFL seasons under Chip Kelly with the Eagles (where he worked with current Giants coach Pat Shurmur) and the 49ers, and he said Haskins' personality, intelligence and low-maintenance lifestyle will earn him near-instant credibility in an NFL locker room. Haskins also has upside on his side; he has started only 14 games. "I was lucky enough to be around Matt Ryan at this age," said Day, a former Boston College assistant, "and to be around a natural talent like Sam Bradford and others. And Dwayne's ceiling is as high as I've been around. I still think he's just scratching the surface."
Day thought Haskins came of age in Ohio State's 52-51 overtime victory over Maryland, made possible by the quarterback's decision to keep the ball, lower his shoulder, and barrel into the end zone for his third touchdown run -- answering questions about his ability to will his team to victory and to hurt opponents with his feet, when necessary.
So will the Giants take a prospect who was seemingly born to play for them? They need to understand that it might be a while before they draft this early again in the first round and that, let's face it, Manning is running on fumes. The Giants sent a big contingent to Haskins' pro day to study him and dine with him, and they hosted him at their facilities last week. "It felt like I'd been there my whole life," Haskins told ESPN afterward.
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Though many draft analysts expect the Giants to pass on the quarterback at No. 6 and address their many needs on defense, Haskins said he got a good vibe from management and that he believes the Giants remain "a very strong possibility" for him. Last week, while insisting he wouldn't force the drafting of a quarterback, Gettleman called playing that position in New York "a load. It is a mental load. ... You have to have a mental toughness about you to play the position here in New York."
Haskins has that box, and every other relevant box, checked off. He is a journalism major who is clearly confident in his ability to manage a long-term relationship with the New York media. Oh yeah, and he threw only eight interceptions against those 50 touchdown passes last season (Duke's Jones and Missouri's Drew Lock combined for 50), finishing with a passer rating of 174.1 and a Total QBR of 84.8.
"I feel I've been the best quarterback in this draft for a while," Haskins said.
He also tweeted out a message for any executives or scouts who think he might be a bit heavy and lead-footed to grow into a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. "Don't overthink it," the message said. "Trust me."
The Giants should trust him, and make a loyal fan's dream come true. Dwayne Haskins Jr. is the right man to succeed Eli Manning. Thursday night, Ohio State's No. 7 should be claimed by New York's No. 6.