Mock drafts are both a blessing, and a curse.
On one hand, they are rarely accurate — especially this far removed from the draft and prior to free agency — yet they also provide a service. Beyond clicks and website views, they can illustrate different pathways teams can employ to improve themselves over three days in the spring. NFL teams themselves work through mock drafts, gaming out potential scenarios to prepare for what could unfold during the draft itself.
To that end, today’s exercise has us working through those such scenarios. How can the New York Giants approach the three days of the draft, how could the draft unfold depending on the path they pick, and who are some players to watch in each scenario.
New York Giants’ Selections: Pick No. 5 overall, Pick No. 7 overall
If you are reading this, you know by now that the Giants have two of the top-ten selections in the draft. Coupled with their second-round selection at 36 overall, New York has draft capital at its disposal to add three blue-chip prospects early in the draft.
A great resource, not only this time of year but frankly year-round, is the website NFL Mock Draft Database. That tracks mock drafts not just by prospects — to see who is rising and who is falling — but also by teams.
For example, you can see that for the Giants, a trend that continues is that Schoen adds help up front for the offense with the first of those two selections. Ikem Ekwonu, the N.C. State tackle, is the most popular selection right now, appearing in 22.4 perent of mock drafts for the Giants. Evan Neal is also a popular selection, appearing in 12.9 percent of such mocks.
There is certainly reason to believe offensive tackle could be the selection. However, there is something to consider, something I discussed with our fearless leader, Ed Valentine, before the offensive linemen took to the podiums two weeks ago in Indianapolis.
That is the fact that the best offensive lineman on the board when the Giants pick at five could be OT3 on their board.
After all, looking at the teams who pick above them, offensive tackle could be in play for any of them. Sure, Jacksonville just placed the franchise tag on Cam Robinson, but they have to make sure they are putting Trevor Lawrence in the best position to succeed, and that includes putting the best potential offensive line in front of him. Jacksonville also drafted Walker Little in the second round a year ago, but Doug Pederson won a Super Bowl thanks in part to a great offensive line, and if he is not convinced they have their best five come draft time, OT could be in play here.
As for the New York Jets, one might expect them to address offensive line in free agency, and they did draft Mekhi Becton in the first round two years ago. But if Joe Douglas feels they still need help up front, you could see them address OT. To that point, a handful of mock drafts recently have seen the Jets use that selection at four to add a tackle, whether Neal or Ekwonu.
Now, as someone who has advocated for the Giants to double-dip at offensive line with the picks at five and seven, I still believe OT is the move at five, because even OT3 presents an upgrade for the Giants up front. But if they are forced to zig because the league is zagging, then another option is to wait on OT and address another position.
Probably the pass rush.
A trendy pick for the Giants right now is Travon Walker, the Georgia EDGE who is making a move up the board thanks to a tremendous Combine performance. But consider this: If the Giants are looking at pass rushers because offensive tackles are coming off the board before their pick at five, they could have players like Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux staring at them in the face.
(From where I sit, I’m drafting Thibodeaux in that scenario for the record).
Then there is the pick at seven. Whether they go EDGE or OT at five, I think there is one name staring us in the face at seven: Cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Long, fluid and athletic, Gardner is one of my favorite players in this entire draft class. With the reports that Schoen is looking to move James Bradberry, Gardner offers plug-and-play ability in the secondary.
Beyond Gardner at cornerback, other names to consider are Andrew Booth Jr. and Derek Stingley Jr. Stingley’s stock has taken a bit of a hit due to his Lisfranc injury and his underwhelming film the past two seasons, but turn on his 2019 tape and you see elite cornerback play. Booth is a solid player as well, who demonstrates the ability to play both in press alignment and also in off coverage, reading the QB and driving on routes.
There is also another option available to the Giants with this selection.
Of course, any time you consider trading down, you have to remember that trades need two parties. Is New York guaranteed to find a willing trading partner to come up in this draft? Perhaps not. Typically, we see trades when a team is looking to come up for a quarterback. There are exceptions, but usually QBs move the needle.
If you are wondering how the league at-large feels about this quarterback class, just look at what the Washington Commanders did last week. Sitting with the 11th overall selection, the Commanders could have had their choice of any available QB in this draft.
They traded for Carson Wentz.
In my mind, this is an indication that the league feels this QB class might be a year away, and if you are looking for someone who can produce right now, you are better served addressing quarterback via free agency.
If that is indeed the case, it might be tough to find someone willing to come up to seven — getting ahead of the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, teams that could draft a quarterback — meaning New York has to sit tight and make a selection.
However, if they could find a willing trade partner, sliding back a bit and adding future draft capital, that might be a wise move.
Because it could give them extra draft capital in 2023, as a hedge against Daniel Jones in 2022.
There is every expectation that the Giants are going to try and make things work with Jones this season. After all, Brian Daboll’s work with Josh Allen was a huge reason he became a head coaching candidate to begin with, and the Giants would love nothing more than to get Jones playing at a high level.
But some forward-thinking might be necessary. If the Giants have the opportunity to accumulate extra draft capital via a trade down, adding a first-rounder for 2023 — or even a second — that puts them in position to be aggressive next year, getting to the top of the board if necessary to add a quarterback.
And, in a best-case world where Jones takes a big step forward, now you can still address other needs with the extra draft capital.
Before closing this down, let us look at two potential hypothetical trades, and how that might impact what the Giants could do later in the first round.
One such trade involves the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are in need of solidifying the quarterback position — as indicated by recent reporting from Ian Rapoport that the organization has made an offer for Deshaun Watson — and if New Orleans enters the draft still needing to address quarterback, perhaps they could move up.
Another such trade could involve the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, something tells me that the Steelers are going down the veteran quarterback pathway. Head coach Mike Tomlin has on multiple occasions talked about wanting to play with a veteran in 2022. But there has also been reporting that the Steelers and Tomlin are intrigued by what they have seen from Malik Willis, and if he is on the board at seven, could the Steelers make a move?
If the Giants slide back to 18 or 20, there are a few different names to consider. If they have yet to address offensive line, sliding back brings them into Zion Johnson territory. The Boston College product played both tackle and guard in college, and also saw time at center during the Senior Bowl. If they addressed EDGE or CB earlier and slide back to 18, he could be an option for them here.
If they addressed the offense, then David Ojabo could be an option for them at this point. Ojabo might not have the full kit of pass-rushing skills yet, but his athleticism and explosiveness are certainly appealing:
David Ojabo is a DE prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored an unofficial 9.19 RAS at the Combine out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 114 out of 1389 DE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/RSFRZE6EZc #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/lqM1C0WV1a— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 6, 2022
If cornerback is the position to address having slid back to this area of the draft, two names to consider are Trent McDuffie from Washington and Kaiir Elam from Florida. McDuffie is another player who is a fun study. Just watch him mirror a shallow route, pick his way through traffic and somehow drive on the completion and hold it to a short gain, barely allowing a single yard after the catch. Elam is another player who certainly helped himself during the Combine with a 4.39 40-yard dash.
So, there are some scenarios and names to know for the first night of the draft. Coming up next? How the second night of the draft could unfold depending on the scenarios we have discussed in this piece.