With the 20th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected wide receiver Kadarius Toney (University of Florida). The Giants traded away the 11th overall pick in the first round to the Chicago Bears, dropping nine spots. In return, the Giants received Chicago 5th-round pick in 2021 and their 1st- and 4th-round picks in 2022.
Scouting Report: Toney is an average-sized receiver who plays bigger than his size (6’0”, 193 pounds), with decent speed and outstanding balance and quickness. Versatile, Toney was used outside, in the slot, and even out of the backfield at Florida. He has tremendous acceleration and change-of-direction skills, which makes him very dangerous after the catch. He creates separation and makes defenders miss. Toney needs work on reading defenses, route running, and overall technique. Toney also has experience rushing and returning the football. He has a strong arm and can even throw the ball. Tough, Toney will play hurt but has been somewhat injury prone. He has had some off-the-field issues.
Sy’56’s Take: Senior entry from Mobile, Alabama. One-year starter that was a key part of the offense all four years. 1st Team All SEC in 2020. Toney saved his best for last as a senior. He broke out in a big way and finally translated potential into real production. He did more in 2020 than his three previous seasons combined, partially because of the amount of talent the Gators had ahead of him on depth chart before this past fall. Toney has joystick quickness and change of direction whether he is running routes or carrying the ball. He is the kind of guy that can miss contact in the phone booth and will always fight for more yards. Toney plays bigger and tougher than his frame suggests. It will be hard to find a more competitive spark plug than him. There are concerns around character and durability and he needs a specific role. The right offensive mind can make him a dangerous weapon though, one that can really elevate an offense as a whole.
There are some teams that have Toney in the top 5 according to one of the very few media resources I trust and speak with. That really surprises me. I won’t give details here but there are a few serious red flags with character, and I just don’t see Toney having a high ceiling. He is as tough as they come, and I love his stop-go quickness. He will make plays with the ball in his hands. But there is a cap to his speed, he doesn’t play very big, and there are a lot of shortcomings I see when it comes to routes/ball skills/awareness etc. Really intrigued to see where he goes.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman (Video):
Opening Statement: We made a trade back. Obviously it was too good an opportunity. It added too much value, and we felt very comfortable with where our board was and we felt comfortable with who would be there, who would be available in that slot. So we made it. We did it. So we added a 1 and a 4 next year. Another pick for this year and another pick for next year. We were very pleased we were able to make the play.
As far as Kadarius is concerned, one of the off-season goals was to add weapons on offense and Kadarius, certainly he’s a good-size kid. He’s strong. He can run. He catches the ball well and he’s a very tough kid and he’s got return skills. So we were thrilled that he was there for us at that spot. So that’s where we’re at.
Q. How surprised are you by the Eagles making a trade with the Cowboys to get ahead of you? I know you mentioned division teams don’t really trade. The way they got Smith, how much did that influence your decision to move back?
A: That was part of it. Howie (Roseman) is not afraid to trade with anybody. I had a conversation with him earlier in the week and he said, ‘Dave, do you have any problems trading with me?’
I said, ‘No, if it works for both of us, it works for both of us.’ They made the trade and we decided to trade back.
Q. How much stronger do you guys view next year’s class compared to this one and how important was it for you to get that additional first-round pick next year?
A: It was very important. It was very important to get the first round pick next year. As I told you guys at my pre-draft presser, there’s a lot of unknowns here with this group and plus a lot of kids went back and took advantage of the NCAA giving them an additional year of eligibility. That obviously played into our thinking.
Q. Can you explain how things worked with Chicago? How did it work when you guys were actually on the clock?
A: What happened was we had called around and you do that calling and I had spoken to Ryan Pace, and I had heard he was interested in moving up, so I called him. When I spoke to him, he said, ‘Yes, we’re very interested.’ And then the conversations begin.
I spoke to Ryan today before the Draft and I spoke to him again. He called me again somewhere around the 7th pick, somewhere in there, and then we got on the clock and from there, Kevin Abrams took over and finished off the trade.
Q. How close was your group at 20? Was it an obvious choice? Were there three or four guys?
A: No, he was the next guy up for us. He was the next guy.
Q. If there were other people at 11, you would not have made the trade. Did the fact that there were only three quarterbacks taken kind of force your hand here a little bit and is it a little bit disarming when you see two cornerbacks come off the board, two Alabama receivers come off the board and you’re thinking, I’m going to get this guy, I’m going to get this guy and you realize, I’m not getting any of them, we have to pivot to Plan B here.
A: We had really talked this through, me, Joe, Chris Mara, Tim McDonnell, Kevin Abrams and Mark Koncz, we had all discussed thoroughly, really looked at our board. We had a lengthy meeting on Monday and we followed it up with another meeting on Wednesday and so we really — we knew what we wanted. We knew where we wanted to go and we knew at which point we would consider a trade back and that’s where you get the other piece of it where we’re calling teams behind us.
So we had thoroughly — and then we met again at 6 o’clock tonight to just constantly review and talk it through and it was a great group effort and we all felt very — we all felt very together on the decision. And we made it.
Q. Do you think Toney is a step down from that cluster of Alabama receivers? Is he close?
A: We’re thrilled to have him. We’re thrilled to have Kadarius Toney, okay. He is a big kid. He’s a good-sized kid who can fly. He’s got really good hands. He’s got great run-after-catch skills. We’re thrilled to have him.
Q. When a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers is pressuring his team to trade him, do you call over to a team and say, what’s going on, just due diligence?
A: No, it’s none of my business. Very frankly, we’ve told you guys over and over and over again, we believe in Daniel. It would have cost — it’s going to cost a motherload for anybody to get him — even though he’s 37 years old.
Q. Were you surprised by the Eagles moving up ahead of you, but not only moving up ahead of you, but with the Cowboys? Seems like it’s rare in-division like that and going for a receiver and taking one right there.
A: I think I said it earlier. Howie is not afraid to trade with people in the division. Howie called me and I told him, I said, ‘Yeah, I got no problem trading with you.’ It’s a business deal. That’s what it is. It’s a business deal. And one hand washes the other, so obviously Dallas was happy with their return. So they made the trade with Philly. It’s not a big deal.
Media Q&A with Head Coach Joe Judge (Video):
Q. With Kadarius (Toney), do you see him as a finished product or is this a receiver that you can bring in your building and go from where he was last year to reach a ceiling that maybe you guys are projecting going forward?
A: Look, every pick in this draft is a projection. There’s not a single player who is NFL ready. Let’s not make that mistake. Everybody here needs development and part of the evaluation is identifying how high their ceiling is. We’re excited about adding him to our team. There’s a lot of things he can do and has a lot of versatility, but like every rookie coming in here, they’ve got to earn what they get and we’re going to work them multiple positions to find their strengths. We can’t assume what we saw on college tape is the best fit for them.
Q. Joe, can you speak to the roller coaster of emotions as the first round was unfolding, and I know Dave just addressed the fact that you guys addressed the possibilities, and the fact that it was Philadelphia, as you know as well as anybody are not very well liked in these parts that made that trade a jump ahead of you, that dynamic, can you speak to that?
A: Yeah, just first on the trade, trades happen a lot. Normally doesn’t happen within the division but hey, look, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They made a move that worked for them and that was a good business move. That being said, in terms of the roller coaster of emotions, you just let the round play out. Evaluate all these players for a reason. You never know how it’s going to shake out. You know where you want to take certain guys. You know what you’re looking to fill in terms of best player available and some positions of need. We are very happy how it turned out but we added great value.
Let’s not mistake that these picks, they are people, so let’s not forget about that. You’re adding people to your team. You know, you talk about the value of having good, young developmental players to work with, and we just went through a season of free agency, okay, where we invested a lot in a team by adding veterans to our team and this is an opportunity to get more picks to add good young developmental players to our team, whether it’s this year or next.
Q. Curious if you had a point where you wouldn’t have felt comfortable going back, was 20 as far as you would go and did you expect that Toney would be there or were you not sure when you made the move?
A: Yeah, you know what to be honest with you, you evaluate the players, you’ve got their value to the team. You can never assume anyone is going to be there. There’s a lot of good players in this draft and there’s a lot of teams that want those players for one reason or another. In terms of a point we wouldn’t go back, again, we’re always willing to listen to whatever comes our way. It’s the value of the trade relative to who you’re looking at right there. For us it was a good move. We’re pleased the way it turned out. We got a good player that’s going to be able to come in and compete with our team and we have more assets to use in the future.
Q. Most people thought three quarterbacks, four quarterbacks would go before you picked and obviously only three did. Once you saw that happening, did you get a sense, oh, these two or three guys, we thought one of them would definitely be there was not going to be there?
A: No, we played out every scenario beforehand, as Dave alluded to, we have lengthy meetings and a lot of ‘what ifs’, and that’s the way we operate, as well as the coaching staff throughout the season. It’s our job to talk through the scenarios, so when a situation arises we have a course of action and plan we can go and execute.
Q. Kadarius had some injury issues at Florida and “character” issues, some things that needed to be investigated. You couldn’t get him in your building and really get to know him, how did you figure that out and figure he’s a guy that’s worth a 20th pick?
A: You know, the skill and the person has to add up together. We fully vetted every player on this board. We are very comfortable bringing him to New Jersey. We are very comfortable adding him to our roster to compete with other players on the team. Listen, we use every resource we have, okay, Jeremy Pruitt who is in our building, Jeremy recruited him out of high school. So we have people in this building with established relationships who have known this guy through the course of not only being in college, but going back to when they were in high school developing as a player.We have numerous coaches that spent a long time recruiting, have had this guy in summer camps for multiple days at a time and had extended exposure to him. We had guys at the pro day. We had Zoom meetings that were allotted by the league; we used those, phone calls. We have a great medical staff and we trust them to decisions for by the medical. I’m not a doctor, so I trust Ronnie Barnes and his staff. In terms of anything else off the field, again, look, it’s no secret I’m pretty particular about who I bring into this building, okay. I think sometimes you have to understand the person, and you have to understand the character on a deeper level than what just may be Tweeted out.
Q. Joe, we haven’t spoken to you in a while, can you talk about the offensive overhaul going back to the middle of March?
A: We are looking to improve our team in all three areas, offense, defense, and the kicking game. Working through free agency there were some offensive players that were available we thought could come in here and compete with our team and possibly improve us through competition. We are looking to do the same thing with defense and the kicking game as well. We are not a finished product by any means in any area and we are always looking to improve. If there’s a good player out there, we are looking to add them if they fit what we are looking to build.
Media Q&A with Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit (Video):
Q. A lot of scouting reports about Kadarius [Toney] describe him as a gadget player. How do you describe his skill set?
A: He’s a playmaker. He’s instinctive, he’s tough, makes a lot of plays with the ball in his hands. We feel he has flex inside and out. He also has value as a returner for us. Like I said, this is an instinctive, tough guy with very good athletic ability and speed.
Q. There were some character concerns in the background. Joe said you dug into that, talked to him and people who knew him. What’s that process like when you’re trying to dig into a prospect like that and are you just talking to a lot of people? How does that work exactly?
A: Well, our scouts in the fall talk to everyone they know on campus via Zoom and phone calls, we work them, every player, all fall. We had a chance to meet [Kadarius] down at the Senior Bowl. We spent time with him in person to get to know the person there and that continues. Then our security staff goes through every check that we do on every player.
Listen, if there was a concern with him, he wouldn’t have been on our board. And like Joe [Judge] said, we thoroughly vetted him through Zooms and phone calls throughout this process of the spring.
Q. This kid was a high school quarterback I believe. How is he as a receiver and can he play some gadget plays for you at quarterback?
A: Gadget plays at quarterback? That’s up to Joe and Jason [Garrett] and his staff. But he did; he has excellent athletic ability. He’s versatile. That’s what we like about him but like every player in the draft, he’s raw, every player in the draft and every player has to develop into a pro. So, it will take some time but this guy is a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Q. The natural comp, he went to the same school as Percy Harvin; how similar or different they are?
A: Percy is a little before my time but both fast and playmakers. There’s a comp there, I’m sure.
Q. Is he a guy that you envisioned when you look at him as being in the backfield or the guy that can do that?
A: Again, that’s up to Jason and Joe and their staffs, what they do with him. He’s instinctive and smart enough to do that but like we said, the best thing about him, we feel he can play inside and out and add another weapon to our offense.
Q. Obviously so much was made about the top three receivers in this class. I’m just curious from your perspective, how do you see Kadarius in that second group or how close is he to the top three guys?
A: He was close enough, we felt like he was the best player available at the time we took him. I don’t know if there was a big separation, if I can say that, but like I said, he’s right up there and he was worthy of a first-round pick, so that shows you what we think of him.
Q. Last week you and Dave [Gettleman] talked about how there’s development but also when you bring in a guy, you want him to contribute. Is Kadarius close enough to being a polished receiver where you think he could come in or is there still developmental stage? I know that is for all rookies, but how close is he to being a part of this offense from the jump?
A: He’s close. He’s played at a high level at Florida. Made a lot of big plays on a big stage, so I think he’s ready mentally. He’s tough. He’ll be ready to go.
Q. I know he was down at Senior Bowl. Did getting in front of him in person, is that an important part of vetting a guy like this and actually looking him in the eyes, especially this year?
A: Absolutely. We actually met with him the first night down there, one of our last interviews and we got to spend a lot of time with him. Really great to meet him and get that face-to-face at that point in the scouting process and then watch him throughout the rest of the spring throughout the Zooms, more and more time, really get to know him and get to know the person and feel really good about him.
Q. Did you take extra time on the Friday or did you have a long meeting?
A: We had a long meeting, it was one of the last ones of the night, like I said, and we got to spend a little extra time than was allotted. So, it was really good.
Q. What do you remember about that meeting? What struck you and did you come out of that meeting saying that this is a guy that we could see on our team?
A: Yeah, it was, we were all tired, that process down there was pretty strenuous of going back-to-back to back of these long interviews which was great. But it was late in the night and we were tired. We were talking through plexiglass and everyone had masks on, and he brought energy at that point. We love that. He brought energy to the room, to the conversation. Was easy to talk to. Was open and honest and we loved everything about that conversation.
Q. That was the first time you got to meet him person-to-person?
A: That’s the only time, actually, person-to-person throughout this process with the rules the league set out.
Q. I would imagine in your evaluation of him, you’re thinking of him as a guy if he’s in the second round, because if there’s no trade you’re not taking him at 11. Two questions; is that true? Do you look at him and say, we love it if he’s in the second round for him?
A: Obviously we had a first-round grade on him. That’s the value. I did not think he would be there in the second round. Any time you get him, it’s a great value for him.
Q. For someone like you who evaluates all the players, when you see the players coming off the board, what is your sense as a guy who is thinking, okay, we are going to get the cornerback, this receiver, and then the trade? Is there a sense of deflation, like, okay, now we have to do this all over again in a half hour?
A: No. No. Because again, you let the board come to you, and I think that trade was an excellent trade to get assets for us for the future. You know, we get another first round player, which is potentially another first round starter. That’s an excellent, excellent opportunity for us. We had to take advantage of that.
Media Q&A with Kadarius Toney (Video):
Q: We were talking to Joe Judge and the front office and they were talking about how you guys spoke for a while at the Senior Bowl. What do you remember about those conversations? What was your impression of the Giants coaches? And what did you think when they picked you?
A: Really, the conversation back then was just trying to figure me out and stuff. It was so early in the process. What I thought about the coaches, I kind of took them as they came. They were very serious, so I made sure on my end that I was up to par, like on point.
Q: Where did you think you were going to go? Obviously, there was a cluster of the Alabama receivers and [Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr] Chase and then there was maybe a group after that. How do you look at them compared to you? Do you think you’re in like the second tier or do you think you’re as good as anybody in this draft? Where did you kind of get a sense of where you fit in?
A: Really, I don’t even like try to compare myself to nobody, I just try to be the best version of myself that I can. Throughout this process, I didn’t really envision myself going anywhere but a place that I was wanted. By them really just taking a chance on me it shows me like who was really in my corner the whole time.
Q: Did you think you were a first round pick the whole way?
A: Yeah, for sure. I feel like ever since I was little this was my dream, so I’ve been striving to be that ever since.
Q: For people who don’t play, what do you bring to the Giants offense?
A: A lot of dynamic versatility.
Q: During the process, how many questions did teams have about some of the off-field stuff you had early in your career at Florida?
A: Right now, everybody’s not really concerned about anything that happened off the field because that was like two, three years ago.
Q: If somebody gives you a call later tonight, a good friend, somebody from the family, what are you going to tell them about this experience tonight and what it’s going to mean to you to be a New York Football Giant?
A: I would say this whole experience was kind of special, kind of eye-opening, too. I really can’t even describe the kind of feeling that I felt once my phone started ringing. Just emotion. It was really a lot to digest.
Q: Do you feel like you’re joining an iconic franchise?
A: It’s kind of crazy. Growing up watching NFL football sometimes, like me just going to a team that – Eli Manning was there, Odell [Beckham Jr.] was there, Tiki Barber, everybody. A lot of people were a part of this franchise and I’m just next in line to do something special.
Q: You have a history of playing quarterback in high school. What has that done for your game? Do you feel that that’s helped you maybe grasp the receiver routes and all the stuff that receivers do a little bit better than if you didn’t have that experience?
A: I really feel like it helped me as far as learning plays, learning the offense, seeing things and defenses, and recognizing coverages on the run and on the move. I think it helped a lot in my game.
Q: Who were some of the players that you sort of modeled your game after that we would know of obviously in the NFL? And how do you envision yourself fitting into an offense that already has a lot of weapons on offense at wide receiver?
A: I’d say my game is kind of like Davante Adams, (Alvin) Kamara, like just quick, dynamic, explosive. Because Kamara, he’s really explosive and really elusive. Really coming into an offense that’s already full or packed, I want to just play my role. Whatever my job is, do it to the best of my ability.
Q: There aren’t a lot of wide receivers who would name a running back as a comparison to themselves.
A: Because I’m versatile. A lot of people can’t play running back.
Q: A lot of people say that you still have room to develop as a route runner and things like that. Where do you feel like you have room to grow as a player?
A: I mean, I’d agree. I’m really just embarking on my journey of really playing receiver – like my third-and-a-half year really just grasping receiver, so I feel like I’ve got a lot to really learn and a lot to grasp. I feel like I’m in the right position, the right system and the right organization to really learn and grasp a lot of things early.
Q: Can you take us through who called you first to let you know they were taking you?
A: I won’t get into names, but I’m just thankful. I won’t get into the names, I don’t want you to know everything.
Q: What was the message from Joe Judge when you spoke to him tonight?
A: It was more of comforting. If he didn’t believe in me he would not have took a risk, took a chance on me, so really thankful for that right now.
Q: Have you spoken to any future teammates? Has anybody reached out to you yet?
A: No, not yet.
Q: What do you know about New York and what do you know about the Giants in general?
A: I know New York is kind of big, it’s crazy, the ‘Big Apple.’ I don’t really know a lot about New York because I’ve never been. I never traveled a lot. But I feel like it’s a lot to learn about the Giants that I don’t know. I feel like I don’t know anything right now. Right now, I’m trying to find the quickest thing I can learn and move forward. Honestly, I’m thinking about the playbook right now, as far as learning right now.
Q: What about living here, coming here, changing your life, uprooting yourself?
A: I’m always on the move regardless anyway. I was never like an at home person, I’m always moving around, so I don’t think it’s really going to be tough for me to adjust. You got to get used to waking up earlier to get wherever I got to go and stuff, but it ain’t no problem.
Q: Were you overshadowed at all in this process by your teammate [Falcons Tight End] Kyle Pitts and obviously how high he was drafted? And with how exciting of a player he is, do you feel like you flew under the radar a little bit here and what was it like seeing him go that high as well?
A: I was really happy for Kyle to go that high. Like I expected him to go high. I expected Kyle Trask to go high, too. Like I expected a lot of people to go high from my team because that’s the kind of players we are. We just work and are dedicated, but I didn’t feel like I was overshadowed or anything. I just feel like I played my part well and did what I had to do when I had to do it.