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Ed’s mock draft 1.0: Ickey, Sauce to Giants in Round 1

Ed goes offensive line-cornerback to start his first three-round Giants mock draft

NFL Combine
Ickey Ekwonu
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Now that yours truly is back from the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where I got to talk with several of the NFL Draft prospects, it’s time for me to start my weekly New York Giants mock drafts leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft.

A reminder: Until the last couple of drafts I will be presenting scenarios. Sometimes, these will be exactly what I would do. Sometimes, they will simply be to present options and ways things could happen. Another reminder: I’m using simulators to do the other picks, and there will always be some weirdness. In this mock, George Karlaftis of Purdue went No. 2 to the Detroit Lions. I don’t see a world in which that really happens, but it did here and I just rolled with it.

In this draft, I could have executed trades on every pick. I decided to do a baseline, three-round mock draft with no trades. I will move around the board in subsequent mocks. Let’s get started.

Round 1, No. 5 — Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

A slam dunk. If you read my post on Ekwonu’s Combine press conference, you know I think this young man is perfect for the Giants, both because of his talent and his personality. Ekwonu’s athletic testing was outstanding.

Need and value align here in a best-case scenario pick for the Giants at No. 5.

Others considered: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon; Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia; Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Round 1, No. 7 — Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Thibodeaux is an incredibly difficult pass for me here. If Ekwonu and Evan Neal are both off the board at No. 5, I would be happy to see the Giants take him there. I know he is a brand, and that bothers some people. When I listened to Thibodeaux speak the other day, though, I was impressed by his intelligence and his desire to learn the nuances of pass rushing.

What this pick comes down to is my belief, shared by others more knowledgeable than I am about these things, that Wink Martindale’s defense needs big-time press-man cornerbacks more than it needs individually dominant edge defenders. Right here, I’m looking at the opportunity to get the best press-man cornerback in this draft at a spot where I would consider him appropriate value, and I can’t pass it up.

In its draft guide, PFF says:

Built in a lab to play press with ton of experience — 851 press-coverage snaps in career ... Gardner wins with his unique frame, physical play-style and oftentimes flawless technique. His 2021 season was teaching tape on how to impose your will on opposing receivers without committing penalties ... If you want to play press coverage with any regularity, this is your guy.

Gardner was also incredibly impressive during his media session, and when I think “smart, tough, dependable,” — characteristics GM Joe Schoen wants — Gardner fits the description perfectly.

Others considered: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Travon Walker

Round 2, No. 36 — Zion Johnson, G, Boston College

Everybody loves this kid. That’s the problem for the Giants. He’s a plug-and-play left guard and he impressed in his testing with 32 bench-press reps. He would be a terrific pick here. You wonder, though, if he lasts this long.

Others considered: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington; Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, South Carolina; Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State

Round 3, No. 67 — Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota

I will be honest. When I watched a few of Mafe’s games on tape, I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be. I have been reading about the kid, though, and listening to people who know more about assessing than I do. They love the kid’s upside. The way he tested at the Combine was off the charts.

I will take the flier here on the kid’s potential, and put my faith in analysts who spend more time studying these kids than I do.

Others considered: Drake Jackson, Edge, USC; Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame; George Pickens, WR, Georgia; Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA; Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

Round 3, No. 81 — George Pickens, WR, Georgia

This is a kid who might have been in consideration for Round 1 had he not missed most of 2021 with a torn ACL. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Pickens is healthy now. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and recorded a 10-foot-5 broad jump. Both were excellent, even if they didn’t stand out in a crazy fast, crazy athletic wide receiver class.

Pickens said at the Combine that “I still have a first-round mentality.”

Draft Network said this after Pickens’ tested in Indianapolis:

Several wide receivers are going to fly off the board within the first three rounds and Pickens certainly deserves to reign supreme amongst that group. Pickens’ film study indicates an excellent athlete that possesses the consistent and haunting ability to win vertically and track the ball appropriately on deep-developing routes. Pickens makes for an incredibly difficult assignment in man coverage. He’s capable of eating up grass in a moment’s notice while attacking leverage, a trait that allows him to quickly eliminate the cushion shown by opposing defensive backs. Pickens is a natural and smooth hands-catcher that routinely secures the ball away from his body while contorting his imposing frame mid-air when necessary.

PFF says:

Carves kids up at the catch point and has been doing it ever since he was a freshman.

Pickens seems like the kind of receiver Kenny Golladay is supposed to be. Daniel Jones can use the help, and I’m happy to give it to him here.

Others considered: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State; Quay Walker, LB, Georgia; Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA, Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State; Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan