The 2022 NFL Draft is more than three months away. We can’t bring you mock drafts every day, but we do want to occasionally discuss mock drafts done by some of the big-name analysts. Dane Brugler of The Athletic is one of those, and on Wednesday Brugler came out with version 2.0 of his 2022 mock draft, this one a two-rounder.
What Brugler did here for the New York Giants is absolutely worth discussing.
No. 5 — Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Slowly but surely, Andrew Thomas is progressing at left tackle, but the right tackle spot was a glaring weak spot for the Giants this past season. Nate Solder has likely played his last snap with the franchise, and Matt Peart hasn’t done enough to keep the Giants from finding an upgrade this offseason.
Neal has functional experience at guard and both tackle spots and would be an immediate improvement on the Giants’ offensive line depth chart. His balance will fade as the play progresses, but he has a rare mix of size, athleticism and flexibility to make plays in pass protection and the run game.
No. 7 — Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Safety isn’t the most glaring need on the Giants’ depth chart, but with a new general manager and head coach, they will be looking to draft impact players, above everything else, in the top 10. And Hamilton might be the most talented player in the draft, regardless of position.
At 6-3 and 218 pounds, Hamilton is a super-sized safety with the range and length to be a matchup weapon in the NFL. Though his physical traits stand out, it is his football IQ that is most impressive, sensing what is about to happen and being disruptive.
First, let’s talk about the selection of Neal. The Giants absolutely need to use one of their two first-round picks on an offensive lineman, and for me a guy who could become a fixture at right tackle is absolutely the right call.
Thing is, I like Neal but he’s not my favorite offensive lineman in this class. I have watched at least three games of all of the top offensive lineman in this class and my favorite is Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State.
It is more than noteworthy, it is in fact jarring, that Brugler has leap-frogged Ekwonu all the way to the No. 1 overall pick in his mock, giving him to the Jacksonville Jaguars ahead of pass rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson.
After numerous conversations with NFL scouts and league execs in preparation for this mock, there were two key takeaways that led me to Ekwonu here. First, there are several evaluators around the league who have Ekwonu ranked higher than Alabama’s Evan Neal and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross. Second, several evaluators agreed that in a draft class missing a no-brainer top prospect, they prefer the tackles over the pass rushers. I have no clue how the Jaguars feel, but Ekwonu at least belongs in this conversation.
I haven’t talked to those NFL scouts and league execs, but Brugler’s choice — and his words — make me feel good about my own evaluation of Ekwonu.
Now, let’s talk about the selection of Hamilton at No. 7.
BBV’s Chris Pflum chose Hamilton at No. 5 in the mock draft he posted on Tuesday. Chris wrote:
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.
There was some criticism of the Hamilton pick in the comments. There was a healthy amount of it coming across the Big Blue View Twitter feed.
I am going to disagree. I don’t care what position Hamilton plays, what the Giants need on defense more than anything are game-changing players and I don’t feel about safety the way I feel about selecting a running back this early. I have not fully studied him, to be honest, but by all reports Hamilton is one of them. My inclination right now is to believe that if the Giants have an opportunity to select him and pass there will be Micah Parsons-like regret over that decision.
Besides, if you really look at the safety position the Giants are not as well-stocked there as you might think. They have Xavier McKinney, sure, but long-term what else do they have? Jabrill Peppers is headed to free agency and probably not coming back. Logan Ryan could be heading into his final season with the Giants. Julian Love is a nice player to have, but has never been a full-time starter. Who else to the Giants have that a new coaching staff and GM will feel is part of the future? Maybe no one.
So, safety wouldn’t be the luxury pick you might want to think it might be.
No. 36 — Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Brugler does not offer any commentary on Round 2 selections. Here, though, is a scouting report summary from Draft Buzz.
Riddder is a boom-bust prospect with similarities to Josh Allen. He’ll likely need time to be accustomed to the NFL game and develop his ability as a progression-style passer, but the foundation for him to become a dynamic dual-threat quarterback in the NFL is there if he can work on his accuracy issues.
Overall he’s a very raw quarterback who has a chance to make the first round in the 2022 NFL Draft, although we regard him as more of a second-round prospect who could be featured early by a team that uses the RPO game.
I don’t know if Ridder is the right choice among quarterbacks who could be available at this spot. I truly haven’t studied Ridder, Malik Willis, Carson Strong or any of the other quarterbacks who could be available in this spot.
The thing is, with two top 10 first-round picks to bulk up the roster, I love the idea of taking a swing at a potential long-term Daniel Jones replacement here. The Giants have two third-round picks and one at the top of the fourth. This seems like the sweet spot to take that chance.