It’s starting to look a lot like Draftmas, everywhere you go ...
Well, that’s at least true for the New York Giants. And while another lost season is painful for Giants fans, getting a jump on draft prep is a nice consolation for those of us who love the draft process.
That means it’s also that time of year when ESPN dusts off Mel Kiper and Todd McShay for some draft analysis. ESPN asked them 30 questions in a wide-ranging interview (Insider content), and several of their responses hit upon the Giants directly.
The Giants project to have two top-10 picks and five picks in the top-80. Those two top-10 picks make them a major player on the draft board, and it also gives them a chance to inject some much-needed talent into their roster.
McShay: They still need edge-rushing help, but the offensive line also has to improve and the linebacking group could use another playmaker. It depends on where they fall in the order, and ESPN’s Football Power Index projects that they’ll have picks No. 5 and 6. Hutchinson and Thibodeaux will likely not be available, so Neal makes sense if he’s still on the board.
LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. could also be a smart move, and landing either him or Neal with their first pick would be a win. And then getting Dean or Karlaftis with the second pick makes April 28 a good day for New York.
When McShay says “Dean”, he’s referring to Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, who has rocketed up draft boards over the course of Georgia’s fantastic 2021 season. McShay is a big fan of his game.
McShay: Nakobe Dean. He embodies the modern off-ball linebacker with sideline-to-sideline range, and he can make plays on the ball in coverage. His motor is relentless, and he fills the stat sheet. In 2021, Dean has 61 tackles, 5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 5 passes broken up, a forced fumble and 2 interceptions — including a pick-six. I think he’s one of the top 10 prospects in the class, and teams might be able to get him at value in the middle of the first round.
McShay also mentions LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. Stingley is widely regarded as the top cornerback in the upcoming draft, with great coverage and ball skills. However, his injury red flags could (should) be significant for a team like the Giants.
But injury concerns aside, Stingley has the potential to be one of the elite DBs to come out of this draft.
McShay: Stingley Jr. is a top-tier versatile cornerback out of LSU who has great instincts, a smoothness to how he moves and soft hands when making a play on the ball. He’s No. 4 in my rankings. At No. 5 is Hamilton, a ball-hawking safety who can play all over the field. He has 6-foot-4 size to match up with tight ends and the speed to cover running backs out of the backfield. But pre-draft medicals will be important for both: Stingley has played just three games after a procedure on an injured left foot, and Hamilton has been out since October with a knee injury.
Kiper expanded on Kyle Hamilton, and believes he could slip out of the Top-5, which could potentially put him in the Giants’ range.
Kiper: I don’t think he will be picked in the top three, just because teams don’t usually value safeties that high. The last safety who went in the top five was Eric Berry in 2010. The last one who went in the top three was Eric Turner, all the way back in 1991. So while Hamilton will likely be in the top five in my rankings, he might not go in the top five, depending on team needs when the order shakes out. He is a perfect modern-day safety with the versatility to play the pass and run.
Kiper was also asked about the potential for the Giants to make a quarterback one of their first two selections. Kiper isn’t too fond of picking a replacement for Daniel Jones out of this crop of quarterbacks.
Kiper: I know, I know, I’ve been high on Daniel Jones for a while, and here are two reasons I just don’t see the Giants taking a QB in the first round:
As we mentioned, there just aren’t QBs worthy of going in the top 10, which is where their picks will be. Are we sure that one of these guys will be better than Jones? They have bigger needs.
They can get help for Jones in the top 10. Don’t forget: His top receivers haven’t been able to stay on the field, and his offensive line has been a disaster. They can use these picks to improve the talent around him and make 2022 his final evaluation year.
That’s a common sentiment among Giants’ fans, with most wanting them to invest in the offensive line with at least two of their first five picks. And while this isn’t a great year to need a quarterback, Kiper does think this a very strong year to add an offensive tackle.
Kiper: We could see four or five in the first round and as many as 11 in the first two rounds. I’ve already mentioned Neal (Alabama), and Charles Cross (Mississippi State), Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa) and Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) all could go in the top 15 picks. Nicholas Petit-Frere (Ohio State) is really good. If your favorite team needs a starting tackle, this is the year to draft one.
Of course, everyone looks forward to the NFL Scouting Combine. While it’s often derided as the “Underwear Olympics”, the Combine’s on-field workouts often give us some incredible performances. It’s just fun watching ridiculously athletic people do ridiculously athletic things. McShay believes Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson could lay down a “Watt” like workout. It’s too bad he’s probably played himself out of the Giants’ range, he’d look good in a Giants’ uniform.
McShay: A lot of the top guys will star in Indianapolis in March. Hutchinson reportedly ran a 4.68 40-yard dash during the preseason and is a workout warrior in the weight room. Hamilton has a rare size, length and speed combination, and word is he could be around 41 inches in the vertical jump and 10-foot-8 in the broad jump. I’m also told Stingley has been in the 4.3s in the 40 and around 42 inches in the vertical during LSU testing, while Karlaftis impressed during Purdue’s workouts, hitting 10 feet in the broad jump at 270 pounds.
Finally, while the Giants might not be selecting a wide receiver early — though it could be a Day 2 consideration, considering the health of the position and their depth is a question if they part ways with Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton — receivers do help set the draft board.
McShay believes that while this year doesn’t quite have the top-level talent that recent years have boaste, it is still a good class.
McShay: Chase, Smith and Waddle all had grades of 93 or better from me last spring, and none of the ‘22 receivers hit that mark. But I have three at 92 this year and another at 91. Here’s how I would stack the guys earning at least a 90 grade across both classes:
Ja’Marr Chase, LSU (2021, 94)
DeVonta Smith, Alabama (2021, 93)
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama (2021, 93)
Jameson Williams, Alabama (2022, 92)
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (2022, 92)
Drake London, USC (2022, 92)
Chris Olave, Ohio State (2022, 91)
Elijah Moore, Ole Miss (2021, 90)
Jahan Dotson, Penn State (2022, 90)
WIlliams is a burner with ridiculous numbers, Wilson has elite body control and London was probably the top receiver in the country before a fractured right ankle ended his season. Olave is a smooth route runner, and Dotson has great ball skills. All five are in my top 20.