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A way-too-early look at players to watch in 2022 NFL Draft class

We offer five top players who would seem to fit well with the Giants

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 26 Quick Lane Bowl - Minnesota v Georgia Tech Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It seems like yesterday that the 2021 NFL Draft concluded. We at Big Blue View were all eager to dive into the newest New York Giants to see what they can offer in the upcoming season, and how this coaching staff can best implement their specific skill sets. New York addressed the deficiencies at EDGE, while also upgrading their secondary, and adding a versatile playmaker in Kadarius Toney on the offensive side of the football.

The roster isn’t fully set yet, but the Giants have their 90 men as they continue into training camp in late July. For now, the draft is behind us, but it won’t be long until we start elaborating on players we want to see donning blue next season; it won’t be long because I’m doing it in this article.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated compiled a list of the top college football players who have at least four years of college experience, so true juniors like Kayvon Thibodeaux are not considered. Here’s the list of the 20 players Breer discusses:

  1. Adam Anderson, OLB, Georgia
  2. Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
  3. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
  4. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
  5. Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State
  6. Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
  7. Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
  8. Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
  9. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
  10. Ali Gaye, DE, LSU
  11. Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama.
  12. Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
  13. Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State.
  14. D’Vonte Price, RB, Florida International.
  15. Akayleb Evans, CB, Tulsa.
  16. Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State.
  17. R.J. Roderick, S, South Carolina.
  18. Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State.
  19. Alontae Taylor, DB, Tennessee.
  20. Perrion Winfrey, DL Oklahoma.

The Giants are set to have 10 draft picks in 2021. They currently hold the Bears’ first-round pick and fourth-round selection, while also having the Dolphins’ third-round pick. General manager Dave Gettleman changed his spots and traded back multiple times to accrue the extra assets.

In a glass half full world, these assets will allow the Giants to build around Daniel Jones as he enters his fourth season after tasting the playoffs for the first time. In a glass half empty world, the Giants can use these draft assets to trade up for a Matt Corral, Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), or a Sam Howell (North Carolina). Either scenario, one being much less desirable, is strengthened by the capital.

I want to touch on five guys from Breer’s list of 20 that would mesh well with the current Giants coaching staff and team. These are names to possibly pay attention to if the Giants do use both of those first-round selections on players that aren’t cornerbacks. On paper, the Giants have a really good roster, so let’s see some players who we may want to pay attention to next season.

Adam Anderson, OLB, Georgia

An outside linebacker from Georgia - the Giants would never! Anderson is a 6-foot-5, 230- pound, rusher who is explosive and long. Gettleman has selected both presumed starting OLBs from this program, Lorenzo Carter in 2018 and Azeez Ojulari this past season, and I don’t think it would be unwise to go back to the well.

Carter’s opportunity to shine was robbed last season in Week 5 when he tore his Achilles tendon. He’s now entering a contract year and I still believe there’s so much potential with Carter. Ojulari is a neophyte, but my hopes are high for the aggressive long-armed, yet shorter, EDGE. Anderson reminds me a bit of a Jerry Reese, and Dave Gettleman for that matter, favorite in former Georgia Bulldog Leonard Floyd who has similar dimensions but was a bit heavier.

Reese famously wanted to select Floyd or Jack Conklin and the Giants were jumped by both the Bears and Titans in the 2016 draft, which forced the Giants to take Eli Apple. Gettleman reportedly attempted to sign Floyd this offseason, so there was interest for the long-armed EDGE. Anderson fits the mold of a Giant and he comes from a defense with similar terminology, which is important.

Anderson broke out in Georgia’s bowl 24-21 win over Cincinnati in 2020 with 8 pressures, a sack, and 5 hurries. On the season, Anderson had 23 pressures and 5 sacks. He can drop into coverage and his long arms close throwing windows. He’s also solid against the run. He’s certainly a player to monitor this season and a nice consolation prize for an EDGE needy team that did not receive the opportunity to draft Thibodeaux.

Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

One of the bigger storylines about a Giants offense that has been often discussed is the state of the offensive line. The Giants released Kevin Zeitler as a cap casualty early in the offseason and the only real additions they made were OG Zach Fulton and OC Jonotthan Harrison. Nate Solder has also returned to the team, but the right tackle position is more than likely going to be Matt Peart’s to lose.

Solder isn’t a long-term fixture with the Giants and, after his pay reduction, he’ll be a valuable swing tackle behind Peart - hopefully. Peart had some really solid tape in the middle of the season, specifically against the Washington Football Team in Week 6. He later contracted COVID-19 and didn’t look as sharp while struggling down the stretch of the season.

The 99th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft has a lot of unique traits that are very moldable: he’s incredibly long for NFL standards, he has really quick feet, and he’s a better run blocker than many imagined. He also put on good weight in the off-season to improve his anchor and overall power. I’m high on Peart, in a hopeful manner, but he’s no sure thing, so a player like Faalele makes sense if Peart struggles.

Faalele is an Australian-born 6-9, 400-pound lineman who plays right tackle for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. That’s right, 400 pounds! That is going to probably have to be trimmed a bit, but he’s not a total slug. He carries his weight well (for 400 pounds) and is just gigantic. He opted out of the 2020 season but looks to return next season and should be a fun player to watch throughout the year. If Peart can’t be consistent, and the offensive line continues to struggle, a player like Faalele may be a Gettleman type of guy.

Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

McCreary is going to be a well-known name in college football next season. He has 21 passes defended in the last two seasons, along with 4 interceptions. His issue is the big play - he can be a bit aggressive at times. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed 5 touchdowns in 2020 - a total of 8 in his three-year college career.

The 6-foot, 188-pound, cornerback has all the necessary athletic traits to thrive; quick feet, change of direction skills, flexibility, good hips, burst, and short-area quickness. He’s also long-limbed and looks like a modern-day cornerback. Another aspect of his game that I love is his ability in run support - something that Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge look to add to their roster.

McCreary has only missed 8 tackles in his college career and he aligns in many different spots, while also dropping into the box. The Giants added a similar player in this draft - Aaron Robinson - but depth will still be necessary at this position. James Bradberry and Julian Love only have two more years left on their deals.

Adding talented cornerbacks who can execute multiple roles and assignments can allow a great play-caller like Patrick Graham to diversify his coverages. The NFL has been trending towards more sub-packages, so the more capable cornerbacks the better. McCreary should prove to be that and could be a target for the Giants, despite the additions made in the 2021 offseason.

Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State

New York doesn’t have a long-term option at the tight end position. Kyle Rudolph was signed to a two-year contract and he’s coming off of a foot injury, Evan Engram is currently playing on his fifth-year option and the Giants won’t have a lot of money in 2022, and Kaden Smith is a solid second or third tight end, but not a No. 1 as of now.

Kyle Pitts would have been a great addition to the Giants, but that didn’t happen, but the Giants should be in the tight end market in 2022 - Kolar could be an option. The 6-6, 257-pound tight end is a great receiving threat with a large catch radius who is a solid blocking option.

He received 66 targets, catching 44 for 591 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2020. Through his three-year career with Iowa State, he has 106 catches for 1,425 yards, and 17 touchdowns on 161 targets.

Kolar has been a favorite of quarterback Brock Purdy and he aligns a lot in the slot. Fifty-one percent of his career snaps are in the slot and 38 percent are inline; his blocking isn’t horrendous, but he’s certainly more of a receiver as of now. If he can improve his blocking a bit, he could be more of an option for a tough team like the Giants.

Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

The Giants were linked to Smith’s former teammate, Micah Parsons, through the 2021 NFL Draft cycle. Parsons ended up becoming a bitter rival of the Giants when the Cowboys traded back with the Eagles, to jump the Giants, and then selected Parsons at pick 12. Smith was able to thrive in 2020 because of Parsons’ 2020 opt-out.

Smith is a 6-3, 244-pound, linebacker who also flies around the field and makes impressive plays for his defense. He had 20 STOPS in 2020 while starting all 9 games for the Nittany Lions. He’s versatile enough to drop into coverage, to fill his defensive responsibility with his run fits, and to blitz off the EDGE, while also doing a solid job in plug situations.

The Giants will have Blake Martinez under contract for one more season after the 2021 year. The linebackers behind Martinez aren’t anything proven, nor are they anything to write home about just yet. Tae Crowder is the potential starter in base situations with free-agent newcomer Reggie Ragland as someone who can also earn snaps.

T.J. Brunson hasn’t proven much yet. Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin are tweener EDGEs. Devonte Downs isn’t a player that should be seeing defensive snaps on a good football team. As I wrote earlier, the roster is good on paper, but the linebacker position could be one that may need an upgrade after this season.

I like Crowder, but he was Mr. Irrelevant for a reason. Smith showed good true sophomore tape. He has a shot to build upon that to further his draft status in the upcoming season. By the time Smith is eligible for the draft, 2023, Martinez’s contract will be up and the Giants defensive front may look a bit different. The Giants, and the NFL, love versatility and Smith has a lot of it. It’s a bit of a long way out, but he’s still someone to keep on the long-term radar.