NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said during a Friday conference call that tackle Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State is a “slam dunk” for the offensive line-needy New York Giants if one is available with the team’s pick at No. 5 in the 2022 NFL Draft.
“They’re going to value physicality. Joe’s [new GM Joe Schoen] big on that. Joe’s really big on character and makeup, competitive, toughness,” Jeremiah said. “I think Ekwonu would be a slam dunk if he got to them. I don’t know that he’s gonna get there but if he did I think that would be one they’d probably just turn in the card.”
Jeremiah, though, said the Giants would “be in a tough spot” if Ekwonu and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal are off the board before the Giants pick at No. 5. Implied in that is that Jeremiah does not see tackles Charles Cross of Mississippi State or Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa as top 10 value.
“They have other areas they need to address with their team,” Jeremiah said. “It’s easy to say they need an offensive lineman, they’re taking an offensive lineman. But if it doesn’t fall that way I don’t know that they’re necessarily going to force it.”
Jeremiah pointed out that the Buffalo Bills, where Schoen worked the past few seasons, built a “serviceable” offensive line in front of quarterback Josh Allen without using any first-round picks.
Jeremiah said that “your offensive line is as good as your worst player.”
“You don’t need five Tony Boselli’s, you just can’t have any tomato cans out there,” Jeremiah said. “And you can build that in the middle rounds. You can find really good offensive linemen in the second and third round.”
Jeremiah said that of the 25 starting offensive linemen on the last five Super Bowl-winning teams only three of those were home grown first-round selections.
“You can build an offensive line without using all your first-round picks to do it,” Jeremiah said. “That’s why I think the Giants are in an interesting spot if those top two guys are gone.”
So, who are some of the Day 2 players Jeremiah thinks the Giants could rebuild their line with?
Jeremiah named Central Michigan offensive tackle Bernard Raimann, calling him “a fun player to study” who has “tremendous strength and power.” Jeremiah indicated Raimann could be off the board by the end of Round 1.
Jeremiah called Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith of Tulsa “my crush right now” and said “maybe there’s a chance” he would still be available for the Giants at No. 36.
“He’s one of the nastiest offensive linemen you’ll see,” Jeremiah said. “Big-time explosive, he can bend and recover. He can just uproot guys in the run game. He just plays pissed off.”
Jeremiah also mentioned Sean Rhyan of UCLA, Max Mitchell of Louisiana among tackles.
The first interior players he talked about was Boston College guard Zion Johnson, who he called “really, really smart, really tough.”
Jeremiah also mentioned Kentucky center Luke Fortner and Joshua Ezuada of North Carolina.
“I think all those guys are going to be able to come in and play real early,” Jeremiah said.
Jeremiah said he believes Fortner will be “a long-term starter” in the NFL.