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Wild Card Weekend mock draft: A unicorn and a dancing bear for the Giants

More draft slots are decided, so it impacts the Giants

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Mississippi State at Auburn Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first round of the 2021-2022 NFL Playoffs is over and done with, and we now know where seven more teams will be drafting.

While the slotting of the seven playoff teams to lose over the weekend won’t impact the New York Giants first two picks, they could (and probably will) impact the Giants’ picks for the rest of the draft.

So with that in mind, and looking for an excuse to talk about some more prospects on a Tuesday afternoon, I went to The Draft Network and ran another three-round mock draft.

Round 1

5. Kyle Hamilton (S, Notre Dame)

I’ve said a few times that if Kyle Hamilton is available, I’d have a hard time not taking him. I’m typically a staunch advocate of respecting positional value, and that typically isn’t there for safeties. However, I have also said (and believe) that great safety play can be transformative for a defense. Players like Ed Reed, Earl Thomas, Troy Polamalu, or Kenny Philips just change how you are able to play defense and their presence on the field rips pages out of offensive playbooks. Hamilton has the potential to have that kind of impact on a defense.

I’m just going to quote the start to Kyle Crabbs’ scouting report for The Draft Network:

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton might just be the best NFL draft prospect I’ve personally studied since entering into the draft space in 2014. This is a unicorn-caliber player who is physically capable of executing a slew of roles and responsibilities and the Notre Dame program did a terrific job accentuating his versatility and allowing him to shine on all three levels of their defense.

7. Charles Cross (OT, Mississippi State)

There are a lot of assumptions already being made regarding who will or won’t be available for the Giants’ picks. However, if there’s one thing we have learned over the years, its that the draft is fickle and you’re almost always getting tossed a curveball. This time, both Ikem Ekwonu and Evan Neal were off the board for this pick.

My next three options were Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green, Cross, and Tyler Linderbaum. I was very torn between Linderbaum and Cross, as both center and right tackle are pressing positions. In the end, I went with the tackle for three reasons:

  1. It’s a position with a higher athletic premium. I just talked about positional value, and OT is a “cornerstone” position for me, and one you should always be considering in the first two rounds.
  2. The Giants should be able to clear enough cap space to re-sign Billy Price. He isn’t nearly as good as Linderbaum should be, but he’s serviceable. We can’t fix every problem in one off-season, and the Giants are just going to have to make due at some positions.
  3. We haven’t really talked about Cross yet. Simple as that, and a big reason for these mocks is the opportunity to talk about a variety of prospects.

Cross is a good-sized and athletic offensive tackle who excels in pass protection. He rarely gives up sacks despite routinely facing some of the best pass rushers in the country. He already has good movement skills and technique to go with some great competitive toughness. The two big questions regarding Cross are his blocking scheme fit and where he plays.

Cross is a red-shirt sophomore who has only started at left tackle for the Bulldogs. Would the Giants entertain moving Andrew Thomas to right tackle (where he has some collegiate experience), or just teach Cross to play RT and start him there immediately? Also, Mississippi State’s offense uses wide alignments and zone blocking schemes. We don’t know who the Giants’ next head coach will be, so we don’t know what kind of blocking schemes they will run. It’s possible that we could see a need for more athletic linemen, which could bump Cross up the Giants’ board — or vice versa.

Round 2

36. Zion Johnson (G, Boston College)

Johnson has quickly emerged as one of my favorite linemen in this draft. I picked him in my last mock draft, and I do so again here (I’ll probably go elsewhere the next time around).

I won’t belabor the pick too much, suffice it to say that Johnson is versatile, smart, tough, and technically sound. He’s one of those guys who just does his job, and does it well, every single snap. This should lock down one of the Giants’ guard spots with a guy who can start immediately and be a good player for a long time.

Round 3

67. Darrian Beavers (LB, Cincinnati)

I mentioned above that the Giants can clear cap space to try and retain center Billy Price. One of the moves the Giants could make is releasing Blake Martinez. If they do, it’s pretty clear that the Giants would need a new MIKE linebacker.

Beavers is a relative newcomer to the linebacker position, having played receiver and safety in high school. He has a very versatile frame and athletic profile, weighing in at 6-foot-4, 255 (estimated) pounds. Beavers has experience playing both inside and outside linebacker, downhill in run defense, and dropping into coverage against the pass. He started his college career at UConn before transferring to Cincinnati. There, he became one of the top linebackers in the country and was a Butkus Award finalist in 2021.

81. Mario Goodrich (CB, Clemson)

One of the other moves the Giants could make to free up some money under the salary cap is to cut CB James Bradberry. If they do so, the Giants would want to add another young cornerback to start opposite Adoree Jackson — particularly if Patrick Graham is retained as defensive coordinator.

Goodrich isn’t as highly regarded as his teammate, Andrew Booth Jr, but the former 4-star recruit brings a lot to the table himself. Goodrich has prototypical size for an outside corner at 6-foot, 190 pounds with plenty of athleticism to play both man and zone coverages. He had to bide his time on Clemson’s stacked CB depth chart before finally getting his chance in 2021, but he proved worth the wait. Goodrich is a solid cover corner who notched 9 passes defensed and 2 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown) in 2021 and showed off great physicality as a run defender. Goodrich’s run defense and tackling could be a boon for the Giants, as they were routinely gashed on outside runs in 2021.

What else I wanted

There’s no such thing as a perfect draft, and, to quote Mike Tyson, “everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.” This time around, the draft board denied me two of my top priorities.

I went into this draft hoping to add a pass catcher, preferably a wide receiver. I’d be surprised if Sterling Shepard is still a Giant when the 2022 season starts. And I just don’t know that the team can really depend on Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney to shoulder the load.

And while I agree that the offensive line absolutely has to be a high priority for the Giants, I also believe that finding a dependable receiving weapon needs to be a priority as well. Offensive linemen can only block for so long, and their lives are a whole hell of a lot easier when the QB can get rid of the ball on time and consistently pick up positive yardage.

I also wanted to add a (potentially) great EDGE to start opposite Azeez Ojulari. The Giants were outscored an obscene 79-0 in the final 2:00 of the first half, and their inability to consistently generate pressure without blitzing was a big reason why. The Giants’ defense was just too predictable in hurry-up situations, and they couldn’t get off the field when it mattered the most. Coverage players are incredibly important, but so too are pass rushers. League-wide, the best pass rushers are also the best athletes, which typically means you have to spend a high pick to acquire one. This class looks to be very deep at the EDGE position, but that depth just didn’t hold out long enough for me to address the offensive line.

That’s the give and take of focusing heavily on one position.