While the on-field workouts won’t start until Thursday, the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine gets started on Tuesday.
As usual, the Scouting Combine will almost certainly reshuffle draft boards. Some players will check boxes and confirm their tape, while others will send scouts back to the tape — either with impressive performances, or disappointing ones.
Former scout and NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah has released the second iteration of his Top-50 big board, just in time to give us another data point to see how players might change their draft stock at the Combine.
Not only are Jeremiah’s evaluations usually notable, but he also has a plethora of contacts in front offices around the league. He almost certainly incorporates what he hears regarding various players into his boards and mock drafts.
Obviously, we don’t know what the New York Giants draft strategy, or overarching off-season strategy, will be this year. We know they need to rebuild, but we don’t know how they will value the various positions or what their vision of the team even looks like.
But we can, at least, see how Jeremiah values some of the players most commonly linked to the Giants.
Could the Giants be out of luck on the offensive line?
We pretty much have to start on the offensive line, and the news might not be great for the Giants. Fans have been adamant that the team has to spend at least one of their two first round picks on an offensive lineman. However, it’s possible that both NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu and Alabama’s Evan Neal could be off the board by the fifth overall pick.
Jeremiah currently ranks Ekwonu as his second-overall prospect, while Neal is fifth on the big board. Given the needs of the teams drafting ahead of the Giants, it’s possible that both tackles could be off the board in the first four picks.
There’s a big gap between those two and the next group of linemen on Jeremiah’s board. Kenyon Green (G, TAMU), Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa), Trevor Penning (OT, Northern Iowa), and Charles Cross (OT, Mississippi State), are in a clump from 21st to 24th on the big board — in that order.
If the gap between Neal and Penning or Cross on Jeremiah’s board is similar to the Giants’ big board, the value just won’t be there to select an offensive lineman in the first round if the top two tackles are off the board.
If we look ahead just a bit to what I like to call the “fringe first” range (from roughly 28 to 42), there might be some intriguing players available for the Giants’ second round pick.
Jeremiah has Tulsa OT Tyler Smith as his 30th ranked player, Central Michigan OT Bernhard Raimann is his 36th ranked player, and Boston College guard (or possibly center) Zion Johnson is ranked 41st.
If the Ekwonu and Neal are drafted in the first four picks, the Giants could find value with a trade down and could potentially get another good lineman at the top of the second round.
What about the defense?
Most of the mock drafts for the Giants have split the difference between offense and defense with a lineman and an EDGE.
That could change just a bit after the team hired Don Martindale to be their defensive coordinator. Martindale runs an aggressive blitzing defense that relies on man coverage schemes.
That could put Ahmad Gardner (aka: Sauce Gardner) squarely in the Giants’ sights. Sauce has rocketed all the way up to fourth on Jeremiah’s board after a fantastic junior season. Gardner is a big, long (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), and athletic press-man corner with great movement skills and plenty of confidence. Jeremiah compares him to Antonio Cromartie, but he could also profile similarly to Jimmy Smith (of the Ravens) or perhaps even Jalen Ramsey.
Notre Dame “safety” Kyle Hamilton is third on Jeremiah’s board. Hamilton’s draft stock could be tricky to pin down. On one hand, his traits are so rare that one of the first four teams might not not be able to draft him — particularly the Jets, who have multiple first round picks.
However, it’s common to discount safeties as being less valuable than some other positions. That can cause them to drop on draft day, and it’s possible that he could fall right into the Giants’ lap.
Jeremiah also has Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux ranked seventh on his board, which could put him in play for either of the Giants’ first round picks. Martindale prizes press-man coverage over an edge rush, but we don’t know how Thibodeaux will fall on the Giants’ draft board in comparison to the coverage players.
Are there any wild cards?
There are a couple potential wild cards in the first and second rounds for the Giants.
Just behind Thibodeaux at 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th on the board are linebackers Nakobe Dean (Georgia) and Devin Lloyd (Utah), Jeremiah’s draft crush, Travon Walker (DL, Georgia), and EDGE Jermaine Johnson II (FSU).
It’s possible that the Giants could look to add a hyper-athletic, instinctive, and productive linebacker like Dean or Lloyd at the top of the first round. Joe Schoen has professed an appreciation for positional value, but it’s also possible that either Lloyd or Dean could be far enough ahead of the rest of the linebackers on the Giants’ board (or fit Martindale’s defense well enough) that they don’t want to pass them up.
It’s also possible that Walker does perform incredibly well at the Combine and winds up forcing a team’s hand. The question is whether or not the Giants would draft a player who likely profiles as a 5-technique that highly.
Johnson could be in play as well, particularly if the last game the Giants watched was his 2021 tape against Clemson.
Then there’s Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who ranks sixth on Jeremiah’s board.
Wilson is an athletic and competitive receiver who Jeremiah openly compared to Stefon Diggs. Given that Schoen and Brian Daboll saw what an upgrade at receiver was able to do for an offense, it’s possible that a wide-out could be higher on the Giants’ list of priorities than fans may suspect.
In the second round, it’s possible that a quarterback could be in play.
Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) is Jeremiah’s top-rated passer, but only lands at 28th on the board. Malik Willis (Liberty) is next at 32nd, and Matt Corral (Ole Miss) ranks 34th on the board.
I would be absolutely stunned if we get through the first round without a quarterback selection. In fact, it would be a surprise if any of these players were still available when the Giants pick at 36th overall. But if one happens to slip, could the Giants seize the opportunity and draft him?
Or could the Giants pull a “Baltimore” and trade back into the bottom of the first round if Pickett, Willis, or Corral is sitting there? Joe Schoen has said that he’s open to moving up in the draft as well as back, and the possibility of moving up for a quarterback would certainly make things interesting in Giants land.