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Addressing the offensive line in this way-too-early 2022 3-round mock draft

What could the Giants do with their two first-round picks?

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NCAA Football: Purdue at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Back on Thursday I broke down Dane Brugler’s first list of the Top-50 prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. I looked at some of the players who could be in play for the New York Giants in the first round.

I also said that while it was time to start talking about the draft, we weren’t going to be talking about any way-too-early mock drafts.

“Yet...”

Well, to quote Sheldon Cooper: “Mwah-ha-ha”

Devious scamp that I am, I planned to subject you all to a mock draft the whole time. And since the Giants currently have five picks in the first three rounds, I decided to set The Draft Network’s draft machine to three rounds.

Personally, I’m happy with the haul I got, so let’s take a look and don’t forget to let me know what you think of my selections.

Full top 10

Giants’ picks

Round 1

No. 8 overall: Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa)
Get familiar with Linderbaum’s name Giants’ fans, because you’re going to be hearing it a lot over the coming months.

The Giants need to overhaul their offensive line (again), starting with the interior. That starts right here with the selection of Linderbaum. Even though he’s only a recent convert to center (he played defensive tackle when he started his college career), he is already technically proficient and has a sky-high football IQ.

Linderbaum is a fantastic athlete who can match up with modern 1-gap penetrating defensive tackles in pass protection, as well as function as a puller in power schemes or flow laterally in zone blocking schemes. He also has a background as a wrestler (he pinned fellow Hawkeye Tristan Wirfs in high school), and his instinctive understanding of leverage and angles more than makes up for his 290-pound frame when dealing with bigger defenders.

Picking Linderbaum is an instant upgrade at center, and could allow Nick Gates to start at left or right guard (assuming he is able to fully recover from his injury), addressing two potential problems

No. 11 overall: Kenyon Green (iOL, Texas A&M)
Spending both the eghth and 11th picks on interior offensive lineman is definitely rich, but the need is that great.

It’s not often that you find interior linemen that are legitimately fun to watch, but Green really is. He’s big, (relatively) athletic, incredibly powerful, and a straight up mauler. Once Green latches on to a defender, that’s the end of the play for him.

Green also has the kind of versatility that appeals as I look to (finally) finish off the Giants’ offensive line. Originally committed to LSU, Green transferred to TAMU and has started every game since making the jump. So far he’s started 13 games at right guard (2019), 10 games at left guard (2020), and nine games at left tackle (2021). While he’s probably best on the interior, Green could probably slide out to a tackle spot if necessary, giving the Giants more depth and options.

Round 2

39th overall: Jordan Battle (S, Alabama)
I was really hoping that Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton would fall to the Giants at No. 8 overall in the first round, but that didn’t happen — though I do think it’s possible.

This pick came down to a pair of Alabama players (because of course), withBattle and wide receiver John Metchie III both in the running. I do think the Giants should consider a receiving weapon in the first three rounds to help their depth and give them the ability to dictate the game to opposing defenses.

However, Jabrill Peppers suffered a torn ACL (and is a free agent), while Logan Ryan isn’t getting any younger. Not only is Battle in the running for the All-Name team, but he is a natural free safety with range, ball, and coverage skills. He also has the size at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds to rotate down into the box as a strong safety. Battle isn’t as freaky as Hamilton, but he and Xavier McKinney would give Patrick Graham plenty of versatility for designing blitz packages and coverage schemes.

Round 3

No. 67 overall: Brandon Smith (LB, Penn State)
This one wasn’t even a question for me.

Smith’s profile has fallen off since the start of the season along with Penn State’s profile as a whole. However, he is an athletic freak of a linebacker (reportedly running in the 4.3’s at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds) who could finally allow the Giants to effectively cover the middle of the field. Penn State even asks him to cover slot receivers and he does a good job of it.

Smith is still a bit raw, but he has range, coverage ability, and the ability to fire into the backfield as a blitzer. So far he has 8.5 tackles for a loss, 2.0 sacks, 4 passes defensed, and 1 forced fumble.

The Giants have waited more than long enough to draft an impact linebacker highly.

No. 72 overall: Brenton Cox (EDGE, Florida)
The Giants are the team that originated the phrase “You can never have enough pass rushers.”

Frankly, they have gotten away from that old chestnut for far too long. I’m as excited as anyone to see how Azeez Ojulari, Elerson Smith, and Quincy Roche develop. But I also don’t see a reason to not draft a speedy edge rusher if one is available — especially since the Giants still have to rely on their coverage or blitz schemes to disrupt quarterbacks. The ability to go four deep or send waves of pass rushers after quarterbacks is something the Giants have lacked for years now, and it shows.

Cox has a versatile frame at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, a great first step, and is completely comfortable rushing or playing the run from a 2-point stance. He needs to develop a dependable counter to his long-arm move, but the tools are there to develop into a key depth player (if not a starter).

The Chris and Joe Show

Rather than spotlight another prospect, Joe and I decided to take a look at how things could shake out for the Giants at the top of the first round.

Other mock drafts

CBS Sports

Full mock draft

No. 8: Nakobe Dean (LB, Georgia) - Dean is a big-time athlete who can run, hit, and cover like some of the best linebacker prospects we’ve seen over the past three or four draft classes.

No. 9: Ikem Ekwonu (OL Mississipi State) - How about more protection for Daniel Jones up front? Ekwonu can play tackle in the NFL despite his shorter arms because of his outstanding balance and power.

Pro Football Network

Full mock draft

No. 8: Aiden Hutchinson (EDGE/DL, Michigan) - Aidan Hutchinson is the next edge rusher off the board, heading to the Giants with their first of two picks in the top 11 selections. Hutchinson has had a tremendous year at Michigan in 2021, routinely pushing the pocket and affecting the opposing offense in more ways than one. He has terrific strength and power to push tackles back, and what has been most surprising in 2021 is the speed at which he can assert his dominance.

No. 9: Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa) - The Giants’ second pick in the top nine selections sees them address one of the most underrated positions in football — center. Tyler Linderbaum is a generational talent in an era of the term being tossed around too freely. He possesses everything a player needs to anchor his future NFL offensive line for the next decade. Linderbaum immediately improves New York’s front five.

Pro Football Focus

Full mock draft

No. 7: Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa) - Linderbaum is an upgrade over Billy Price, at the very least. He was the highest-graded center in college football last year and has taken it to another level in 2021. He’ll enter the 2021 NFL Draft as the best center prospect PFF has seen since the beginning of college football grading in 2014.

No. 11: Drake Jackson (EDGE, USC) - The Giants need pass-rushing help any way they can get it. Jackson is the kind of versatile body type that they’ve coveted, and he’s made a massive leap this season from a 66.6 pass-rushing grade in 2020 to an 85.2 mark so far in 2021.

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