We are sitting at the halfway point of the 2021 NFL season and the New York Giants are currently on their bye week.
And while the Giants have their best record through nine games since 2016, the fact remains that they are currently 3-6 and would once again be drafting in the top 10 if the season ended today.
On the plus side, the Giants also hold the Chicago Bears’ first-round pick, which gives them two selections in the first 10 picks.
We don’t have any absurdly early mock drafts (yet...) but this is still a good chance to pull away from the NFL and take a look at the college game. We are going into Week 11 of 15, which means college football is entering its home stretch before Bowl Season and the College Football Playoffs. This also means that chances for prospects to put great play on tape for NFL evaluators are running out.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler just released his Top 50 prospects list (subscription required). So let’s compare that list with the current top of the draft order and see what some of the Giants’ options could be.
Top 10 draft order
- Detroit Lions
- Houston Texans
- Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins)
- New York Jets
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Washington Football Team
- Philadelphia Eagles
- New York Giants
- New York Giants (via Chicago Bears)
- Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers)
- Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE, Oregon)
- Kyle Hamilton (S, Notre Dame)
- Derek Stingley Jr. (CB, LSU)
- Evan Neal (OT, Alabama)
- Ikem Ekwonu (OT, NC State)
- Aiden Hutchinson (EDGE, Michigan)
- Charles Cross (OT, Mississippi State) *red-shirt sophomore
- Trevor Penning (OT, Iowa State)
- Travon Walker (DT, Georgia)
- Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa)
What does that mean for the Giants?
As I noted above, right now the Giants hold the eighth and ninth overall picks in April’s draft. Assuming that holds true for the final draft order, that should give the Giants some seriously valuable resources for solving long-term problems.
There should be some pretty intriguing options available for the Giants at Nos. 8 and 9.
The most notable thing about Brugler’s complete list is that you have to go all the way down to 16th to get the first quarterback (Matt Corral, Ole Miss). Brugler’s next highest rated quarterback is Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) at 27th. But, if you look at the current draft order, the teams with the first and second picks absolutely need quarterbacks. We could also see the Eagles or Washington Football Team look at the QB position.
(Note: Philly also currently has the 14th overall pick, and if they do feel a 2022 QB is an improvement over Jalen Hurts, they could wait until then to draft one.)
With almost certainly two and potentially four quarterbacks going in the top 7 — a remarkable result considering how weak this class is — we could see some of the true Blue Chip prospects in this draft class sliding to the Giants.
First, we can cross off the prospects who almost certainly won’t fall:
- Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE, Oregon)
- Derek Stingley (CB, LSU)
- Evan Neal (OT, Alabama)
We can reasonably expect teams like the Jets and Jaguars to look long and hard at Neal and Thibedeaux to help protect their own young quarterbacks. Meanwhile, I would be stunned if the cornerback-needy Eagles don’t invest in their secondary.
The wildcard in the top 10 might be Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
While a great safety can be absolutely transformative for a defense, the position has a tendency to slide down draft boards. Likewise, teams might have a hard time figuring out just what role Hamilton will play in the NFL. He’s used all over the Notre Dame defense, but teams could look at the 6-foot-4, 220-pound player as a box safety or off-ball linebacker — two other positions that teams tend to pass on early.
That said, Hamilton is a true defensive weapon and there’s a good argument for making him a Giant if he’s available when the Giants pick. First off, Logan Ryan isn’t getting any younger and Jabrill Peppers is an (injured) free agent. Hamilton would allow the Giants to replace both players while giving Patrick Graham even more versatility to deal with offensive mismatches.
The other players in (or around) the top 10 that stand out to me for the Giants are Ikem Ekwonu, Tyler Linderbaum, and Kenyon Green (OG, Texas A&M).
Calling for the Giants to invest in their offensive line is something of a low-effort analysis, but that’s because the need is so great. The Giants were predicted to have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL even before it was ravaged by injuries. Since then we’ve seen the Giants struggle with depth, and their blocking has helped to limit their passing and rushing offense.
Let’s see what Brugler has to say about these three prospects:
5. *Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State (6-4, 322)
No, this isn’t too high for a player with Ekwonu’s explosive power. We knew he was an outstanding run blocker, but I have been blown away by his improvements in pass protection this season (see the Mississippi State tape). With his nimble feet and balanced movements, Ekwonu has not only boosted his draft stock, but he has also proven that he can play tackle and won’t have to move inside. No offensive lineman in this draft class has more upside than “Ickey.” Rank in August: 32
10. *Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa (6-3, 292)
This is pretty high for an undersized center who might not be an ideal fit for every offense. But Linderbaum is incredibly talented and should be an NFL starter from day one. He flies out of his stance with exceptional quickness to consistently leverage his blocks. Linderbaum is also innately competitive who will block past the whistle on every play. Rank in August: 20
12. *Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M (6-4, 325)
The only returning starter on the Aggies’ offensive line, Green has been asked to play multiple positions this season, which has shown off his versatility. Here are his logged snaps at four different positions: left guard (241), right tackle (142), right guard (106), left tackle (81). Despite his experience, I like Green much more inside at guard where he is a brawler, but a brawler with balance and body control. Rank in August: 7
Of the three, I would be rooting the hardest for the Giants to select Linderbaum. He is absolutely a plug-and-play starter with the athleticism to match up against modern 1-gap defensive linemen, the leverage to hold up against 2-gapping nose tackles (he’s a former wrester), sky-high football IQ, and excellent technique considering he was a defensive tackle when he came to Iowa.
That said, the Giants have questions at every position except left tackle, and the versatility of Ekwonu and Green could both be incredibly valuable.
There could also be an argument to be made to look at the wide receiver position. While the Giants invested heavily in receivers last year, we don’t know what the future holds for players like Sterling Shepard or Evan Engram. The ability to field more dynamic receivers than the opposing defense has coverage players can be a massive advantage — it worked for the Giants in 2011. The Giants have struggled mightily to score touchdowns, and gaining the ability to do so would be a pretty big relief for a defense that pretty much has to pitch a shutout every week.
It might seem early to start seriously thinking about the 2022 draft, but teams have been thinking about the next draft since the last draft.
Granted, team needs today likely won’t be team needs in six months, and the draft order will almost certainly change over the next two months. That said, it’s also useful to simply keep an eye on prospects throughout the process. Seeing how prospects develop over the course of their final college season can give us some idea of what kind of development we can see early in their NFL career.
Also, the draft is just plain fun. We don’t get as much time to concentrate on the draft during the NFL season, and this is a good chance to take a deeper look. This is also a good chance to get an idea of which players we might want to concentrate on as the college season goes into its home stretch.