Ex-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi traded down and knew it was a risk

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Dave Gettleman hears the same questions every year around draft time:

Uh, Dave, you’ve never ever traded down, not with the Panthers, not with the Giants, eight drafts, 55 players picked — you trading down from 11 this year?

“I’ve tried in the past … honest,” Gettleman said. “I’ve tried to trade back. But it’s got to be value, I’m not getting fleeced. I refuse to do it. If somebody wants to make a bad trade back, God bless them. … Sometimes you have a trade and the guy that the team is trading up for gets picked in front of you. We’ve had that happen to us.

“It’s as almost becoming urban myth. I’ve tried, I really have,” he said with a laugh.

The Giants haven’t traded down in the NFL draft since Ernie Accorsi, in his final season as general manager in 2006 before passing the baton to Jerry Reese, traded the 25th pick to the Steelers for the 32nd pick and third- and fourth-round picks. The Steelers selected receiver Santonio Holmes. The Giants selected defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. Then linebacker Gerris Wilkinson in the third round and offensive lineman Guy Whimper in the fourth.

“Even though we had [Michael] Strahan, [Justin] Tuck and Osi [Umenyiora], I got a little criticism for Kiwanuka because they said, ‘You have other needs, you have defensive linemen’ — I said, ‘Hey, I’m picking pass rushers til the cows come home,” Accorsi told The Post by phone.

“So if you have your eye on somebody, it used to make me very nervous. So if there’s one guy, you have this fear you’re not gonna get him. If you feel, well, there’s nobody here that we’re that excited about, and there are two or three guys you’d be happy with, then you could trade down. But we really wanted him. I used to always have as many players as there were spots before we picked, so if I was gonna trade down, say five spots, I wanted to make sure I had five players up there that our scouts and everybody had a conviction on. I didn’t want to get to the point where ‘Oh my God, we only had four and they’re all gone.’ ”

As luck would have it, Kiwanuka was the one Accorsi craved.

“If we wouldn’t have traded down, I think we would have taken him at 25, yes,” Accorsi said.

The cows came home.

“It was a risky thing to do, it really was,” Accorsi said. “You don’t get pass rushers that far down. He wasn’t a secret. We must have had other players that we could have lived with, I just don’t remember.”

Therein lies the risk in trading down. You can trade yourself out of a good player.

“There’s no question about it,” Accorsi said. “And where I think back on it now, trading yourself out of a pass rusher, because they’re so difficult to find. And you’re rarely gonna get one at 32, that’s for sure. But that’s the risk on it.”

This was Accorsi 15 years ago: “You never have enough pass rushers. And like home run hitters and pitchers, you just never have enough of them, because we have other needs, too. But when you put pressure on the passer, everybody else’s job is easier.”

Gettleman, who was director of pro personnel back then, has six picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.

“I never traded down much,” Accorsi said. “We were all in the same organization, I think we kind of all had the same basic philosophy — don’t trade yourself out of top players.”

But when there was a player he had to have — Eli Manning, Jeremy Shockey — Accorsi wasn’t afraid to move up. (Gettleman has traded up seven times.)

Accorsi recalled being on the clock prior to the Manning trade with the Chargers, who owned the first-overall pick, in 2004.

“I was offered a second-round pick to swap with Cleveland,” said Accorsi, who owned the fourth pick; the Browns had the sixth pick. “I felt confident we could get [Ben] Roethlisberger wherever they picked, and as it turned out, we could have, ’cause he went 11th [to the Steelers]. But when the chips were down, I wouldn’t do it. You hear a million rumors — and one rumor was they were trying to get to 4 so they could trade up for Eli. So I had two worries: that I was gonna help them get Eli instead of me. And No. 2, that we were gonna lose Roethlisberger. I came close, but I didn’t do it.”

There was a report that trading down has been discussed internally behind the Big Blue walls. It always is — except in 2018, when Gettleman owned the second-overall pick and was already fitting Saquon Barkley with a gold jacket.

Asked what advice he would have for Gettleman, Accorsi said with a laugh: “Let me tell you one thing: from my couch, 13 years after I retired, I don’t give advice to anybody.”

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