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SB Nation mock draft: Giants select EDGE George Karlaftis, QB Kenny Pickett

Could the Giants really draft a quarterback in the top 10?

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NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Pittsburgh vs Eastern Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It is well and truly Draft Season, and you will be sure to see plenty of mock drafts around the intergoogle. And considering the New York Giants have two picks in the Top 8 and five picks in the first three rounds, Big Blue will figure heavily in all the upcoming draft discussion.

Our own SB Nation released their first mock draft of the year Tuesday morning, so we just had to take note. The picks, I think, would certainly prove controversial on draft night.

Those picks are:

5. George Karlaftis (EDGE, Purdue)

7. Kenny Pickett (QB, Pittsburgh)

Raptor’s Thoughts:

Okay, after the events of Monday and Tuesday, there’s a lot to say, so I’m going to take these in order.

Karlaftis is an easy player to fall in love with. He just tickles the “old school” fancy of anyone who likes defensive football, and he’s an undeniably effective player. Leaving the truncated 2020 season aside, Karlaftis had 93 tackles, 27.0 tackles for a loss, 12.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries (1 TD), and 6 passes defensed in his freshman and junior campaigns combined.

He is a big (6-foot-4, 275 pounds) defensive end with a non-stop motor, good power, good technique, and a knack for squeezing through the smallest of gaps and into the backfield.

That said, I don’t like him for the Giants’ defense as its currently constructed and schemed. Of course, in light of the Giants’ hard reset on their franchise over the first two days of the 2022 offseason, we just don’t know if the defense will be schemed the same way in February as it was in December.

Karlaftis would be a wrecking ball for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense in Kansas City or a great fit for Dan Quinn’s take on the Hybrid front, but he’d be another one-gap defensive lineman for the Giants. And between Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence II, Elerson Smith, Raymond Johnson III, and David Moa, they’re pretty well stocked there.

In this mock, I absolutely would have gone with Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, who went 8th overall to the Carolina Panthers. I would go with Thibodeaux even if the Giants wind up making a shift in defensive philosophy.

Okay. On to the seventh overall pick and Kenny Pickett.

The most obvious thing about this choice is that Pickett isn’t an offensive lineman. And let me say this up front: I would have taken Ikem Ekwonu (OT, NC State) with the seventh overall pick here. Selecting Ekwonu and Thibodeaux is a dream scenario for the Giants.

As my recent mock draft showed, passing on an offensive lineman in the first round is a risk. The Giants certainly need help in that area with question marks at right tackle, center, and both guard positions.

The next GM has to look long and hard at addressing the offensive tackle position with one of those premium picks. More so than center or guard, offensive tackle has a certain athletic premium on the position which makes using higher picks on them necessary.

However, the reason why I didn’t double down on offensive linemen in the first round of either of my mocks is that this draft is DEEP in linemen. There should be starting caliber offensive tackles available into the late second or even third round, and interior linemen into the fourth. The Giants have three picks on Day 2, which improves their chances of being able to land starting caliber offensive linemen in the second and third rounds. They could have even more if they decide to trade Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.

That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t draft a lineman in the first, but they should have good opportunities to add talented linemen after the first round.

There’s also the argument to be made that the Giants’ quarterback play has made their offensive line look worse than it was.

Mark Schofield has often made the argument that sacks are a quarterback stat, and there’s a lot of truth to that. Part of quarterbacking is identifying pressure, checking into the right play, getting the ball out on time, and flowing within the pocket to help out your linemen.

Not identifying pressure and adjusting protections or the play, holding the ball, and a lack of pocket presence all combine to lay the blame for sacks squarely at the feet of the quarterback.

Having a great offensive line is, obviously, great. And nobody is saying the Giants shouldn’t do everything in their power to improve that glaring weakness.

But we also can’t hold the offensive line up as the avatar of everything that went wrong for the Giants and ignore the fact that the real reasons why the offense collapsed were larger and more complex than just “the offensive line”.

The Giants, and their fans, need to ask themselves why the Giants’ offense was utterly dysfunctional in 2020 and 2021, yet other offenses with similarly poor offensive lines have been effective enough to win.

  • The AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals had the 30th Pass Block Win Rate (ESPN), 31st Adjusted Sack Rate (Football Outsiders), and gave up two fewer pressures with a higher pressure rate than the Giants.
  • The No.1 seed Tennessee Titans had the 24th PBWR, the 26th Adjusted Sack Rate, and had two more QB hits and a higher pressure rate than the Giants.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers had the 31st PBWR, but needed an average release time of 2.37 seconds to keep sacks and pressures down.
  • The Miami Dolphins finished with the 32nd PBWR, 5 more total pressures than the Giants, and an identical pressure rate.

As I said before, I am NOT saying that the Giants shouldn’t do everything reasonable to improve their offensive line. They absolutely should, and drafting offensive linemen with a good chance of being contributors right away is a big part of that. Given the way this draft shook out, I would almost certainly make Ekwonu the seventh overall pick.

But the actual reasons for the Giants’ offense floundering are a lot more nuanced than some narratives suggest.

Solving other problems around the offense could well allow the Giants’ offensive linemen (whoever they may be in 2022) to play up to their true potential.

Now, on to the pick of Pickett and the quarterback position going forward.

Daniel Jones’ status as the Giants’ starting quarterback in 2022 is a hell of a lot less sure now than it was on Monday. He was drafted by the previous general manager and the former head coach’s predecessor — and he just hasn’t done enough when he’s been on the field.

But does that mean the Giants should spend a first round draft pick on a quarterback to replace him? If the new guys believe that one of these quarterbacks is, or can be, “The Guy”, then they pretty much have to draft him.

I’ve watched each of the top QB prospects this year, but I can’t say that I have studied Pickett (or any of them) enough to say that they definitively are, or aren’t, a potential Franchise QB.

So I’m just going to my brief (and rough) notes on Pickett here, as well as the conversation Joe DeLeone and I had with Mark Schofield on the upcoming QB class.

Kenny Pickett (RS Senior, Pittsburgh)

  • 6020, 225
  • Quick, compact release
  • Solid arm talent
  • Good accuracy & anticipation
  • Good eye discipline
  • Knows when to cut bait
  • Can throw on the move
  • Sneaky-good athlete
  • Seems “streaky” - At times looks excellent, other times sloppy

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