The 2023 NFL Draft is still nearly six months away, but we’re only about two months away from Draft Season.
For the first time in a long time, the Giants are playing meaningful football in December and not looking ahead to the draft. But we can still look ahead to the upcoming draft, both as a way to analyze the Giants’ roster and because it’s fun.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic released his first mock draft in advance of the 2023 Draft, so let’s take a look and see what he has to say.
24. New York Giants
Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
The NFL feedback on Drew Sanders lands anywhere between the first round and third round, so it will be interesting to see where he falls on draft weekend. A former five-star recruit at Alabama, Sanders transferred to Arkansas and is in the midst of a career year. He leads the Hogs in tackles (103), tackles for loss (13.5), sacks (9.5) and forced fumbles (3). Sanders is a long, athletic defender with experience all over the front seven.
Beezer Brigade rejoice!
I haven’t had the chance to really study Sanders yet. He has an interesting blend of physical traits at 6-foot-5, 232 pounds, with a background as an edge defender. He looks more like a big safety on the field than a linebacker, but his athleticism is evident — at least in a straight line. He seems to struggle a bit stacking and shedding blockers, though he appears to play with better leverage when rushing off of the edge.
Sanders’ (potential) versatility would be a boon in Wink Martindale’s defense, and the Giants do desperately need an upgrade at linebacker. That said, Sanders might be more of a developmental player who fits a “Day 2” or even a high “Day 3” grade.
Considering the state of the Giants’ offense, a wide receiver could be much more appropriate. Brugler has Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba goes 29th overall to the Minnesota Vikings. And while Smith-Njigba has missed much of the season to a hamstring injury he suffered in the season opener, he’s still one of the best receivers in the draft. He doesn’t have the size of a true “X” receiver, but he’s versatile, has reliable hands, and is a savvy route runner. Those traits should allow him to produce immediately in the NFL.
LSU’s Kayshon Boutte and SMU’s Rashee Rice are also still on the board at this point and could appeal as well.
The quarterback question
It’s somewhat interesting that Brugler only has three quarterbacks going in the first round. Bryce Young goes first overall, C.J. Stroud goes fifth overall, and Will Levis goes 14th overall.
Mel Kiper Jr. has previously posited that as many as seven (7!) quarterbacks could go in the first round. However many of those would be based on traits and potential, and many of the “boom or bust” quarterbacks have disappointed. For example, Anthony Richardson and Tyler Van Dyke didn’t live up to their early-season hype, while Hendon Hooker suffered a late-season ACL injury.
The quarterback position will have a big impact on the draft board as a whole. More passers going in the first round will push more blue chip prospects at other positions down the draft board.
There’s also the question of what the Giants themselves do at the quarterback position.
As we know, Daniel Jones is a free agent after the season, at which point Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll will need to make a decision. They could decide to stick with Jones and continue to build the rest of the roster. On the other hand, they could decide they want to get “Their Guy”. If so, they’ll then need to decide whether they want to trade up for a top tier prospect or if they like the potential of one of the second tier quarterbacks.
A trade up would be expensive given the Giants current draft slot, but Schoen, Daboll, Kafka, and Martindale have all been involved in big trades for franchise quarterbacks. However, players like Anthony Richardson (assuming he declares) or KJ Jefferson have intriguing upside in the hands of a coaching staff capable of developing them.
Defense leads the way
It’s still early, but we can comfortably say that the top of the 2023 draft board will almost certainly be dominated by defenders. Edge defenders Will Anderson (Alabama), Myles Murphy (Clemson), and Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech), as well as iDL Jalen Carter (Georgia) and Bryan Breese (Clemson) could all go in the top 10. This also looks to be a good year for cornerbacks, and the Top-20 will be mostly defenders with a smattering of offensive players.
Brugler doesn’t list all 32 first round picks, but has 20 defenders being teams’ first picks.
2022 has been a terrible year for offensive football league-wide (by some measures it has been the worst year for offense since at least 2010). 2023 could follow suit with all the talented defensive rookies who could be coming into the NFL.
Elsewhere in the NFC East