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Dane Brugler NFL mock draft: Giants get Sauce Gardner, Charles Cross in Round 1

Brugler’s two-round mock reflects how things have changed after the Combine

NFL: Scouting Combine
Charles Cross
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Fantastic draft analyst Dane Brugler of The Athletic is out with his post-NFL Scouting Combine mock draft. This one is a two-round version that is interesting on a ton of levels. Let’s start, of course, with Brugler’s selections for the New York Giants.

Round 1, No. 5 — Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

I have been wondering if Gardner could go at No. 5, or even No. 4 to the New York Jets in the right scenario. Here, with offensive tackles Ikem Ekwonu (No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars) and Evan Neal (No. 4 to the Jets), Brugler goes right to giving the top cornerback in the draft to the Giants.

I’m fine with this. In my Sunday mock draft, I took Gardner at No. 7 and left Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux on the board. As much as I love edge defenders and Giants history is filled with defenses built on top-quality pass rushers with adequate secondaries behind them, this is a new time.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale loves to scheme pressure with five or six rusher or simulate it by sending four rushers from unique or unexpected angles. A potentially premier pass rusher would be nice, but it’s not a must.

What Martindale has to have are top-tier cornerbacks who can play press-man and be trusted man-to-man on an island. That’s Gardner.

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.

Round 1, No. 7 — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

The No. 7 spot, and this pick in particular, is so interesting for the Giants. Brugler writes:

With a pair of top-seven draft picks in his first year running the front office, Schoen will be looking to draft players that help establish the new culture. Cross lacks brute power, but his athletic movement patterns and outstanding hand exchange skills are why he is one of the best pass-blockers in the draft.

The first interesting thing here is that Brugler has Cross as the fourth offensive tackle off the board. In addition to Ekwonu and Neal, he has Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa going No. 6 to the Carolina Panthers. That’s not surprising given how well Penning tested at the Combine.

It is also interesting because of the split of opinion regarding Cross. Is he really worth a top 10 pick? Is taking OT4 what Joe Schoen really wants to do with the seventh overall pick in the draft?

I’m not sure I could pass on Thibodeaux (No. 9 to the Denver Broncos), as Brugler did here. One of the ‘Big Blue View Rules for Draft Success’ is when in doubt, select a lineman — offensive or defensive.

Because of the Giants’ need on the offensive line, and the diminishing return of offensive tackles the later you get into the draft, I could understand this pick. I’m just not sure I could make it.

Round 2, No. 36 — Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota

In my Sunday mock draft, I took Boye for the Giants at No. 67 in Round 3. Maybe the Giants will bring free-agent-to-be Lorenzo Carter back. If not, I couldn’t complain about this pick.

Other interesting things

  • As mentioned above, Georgia edge Travon Walker went No. 3 overall to the Texans. The league seems to love the kid’s versatility and upside. He would absolutely be in play for the Giants if he is still there.
  • The first quarterback off the board in Brugler’s mock was Pitt’s Kenny Pickett. He went No. 11 to the Washington Commanders. Liberty’s Malik Willis (No. 18 to the New Orleans Saints) and Cincinnati’s Desmond ridder (No. 32 to the Detroit Lions) were the other first-round quarterbacks.
  • Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum slid all the way to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 31, with Brugler writing “No player has a wider variance of where he could be drafted than Linderbaum.”