Mel Kiper of ESPN came out Wednesday with a two-round mock draft. With just 15 days remaining until the draft there is significance to this one, because Kiper admitted it was influenced by what he is hearing from sources inside the league. Let’s see what Kiper did with his three selections for the New York Giants.
Round 1 (No. 5) — Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
If the board shakes out this way, the Giants would have to be thrilled to get their pick of the top two offensive tackles. I have Ekwonu just slightly over Evan Neal, but it’s tough to go wrong with either — they are my Nos. 2 and 3 prospects in this class. Ekwonu answered every question about his pass-protection ability last season. If left tackle Andrew Thomas keeps improving, these two could form one of the NFL’s best bookend pairings.
Valentine’s View: By now, how I feel about this pick should be no surprise. This is a home run for the Giants. Interestingly, Kiper chose Ekwonu over Evan Neal of Alabama. I’m fine either way, but I suspect Ekwonu over Neal might be the order of preference in NFL circles based on Ekwonu’s physicality and upside.
Kiper’s top four picks:
- Jacksonville Jaguars — Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
- Detroit Lions — Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (I’m really surprised by this one)
- Houston Texans — Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
- Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon (Kiper says he isn’t buying a Thibodeaux slide)
Round 1 (No. 7) — Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida State
The Giants can get their tackle at No. 5 and then focus on their defense, which allowed 4.7 yards per play last season (31st in the NFL). Johnson had 12 sacks last season and was one of the most impressive prospects at the Senior Bowl in January. He already has a few veteran pass-rush moves and can be an instant starter. He also played a lot of outside linebacker for the Seminoles, so he has some versatility in Wink Martindale’s defense. And if you’re keeping track, this makes four edge rushers in the top seven picks.
Valentine’s View: Kiper gave the Giants their tackle at No. 5. With Gardner, Thibodeaux and Walker off the board at No. 7, this would be an excellent trade down spot for Giants GM Joe Schoen. Kiper played it straight, though, and made the pick.
I would be sorely tempted to take Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton here. I don’t care about Hamilton’s 40 time — this is a guy with the instincts and reactions to play faster than he times. He would be an outstanding addition to the Giants’ defense.
That said, I much prefer the selection of Johnson to the idea of selecting LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. here. I see Stingley’s talent, there’s just too much risk for me since he is coming off a Lisfranc injury and his best tape is from 2019. I am not sure how good a pass rusher Johnson will become, but he should be a really good player in the NFL for a long time. He would provide a nice complement to Leonard Williams.
Round 2 (No. 36) — Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
This makes five safeties off the board in the top 36 picks. Pitre was stellar against the run last season; he had 20 run stops, according to ESPN Stats & Info, which were the most by any FBS defensive back. He impressed teams at the Senior Bowl. The Giants could target a wide receiver here, depending on how the board falls. The 6-foot-3 George Pickens (Georgia) could make sense.
Valentine’s View: I understand the selection of Pitre here, but if it is one the Giants make they need to have a specific role in mind. Pitre is listed as a safety, but that’s not really what he is — or at least was at Baylor. He was a slot cornerback. Chris issued this warning about Pitre in his prospect profile, and it makes me a little squeamish about choosing Pitre:
“ ... for all his versatility, he probably shouldn’t be used as a centerfielder or asked to play in too much man coverage against athletic receiving options.”
That sort of makes me think Pitre is Jabrill Peppers. Even with Xavier McKinney on the roster, those seem like two roles Wink Martindale would at least occasionally need Pitre to play.
Kiper mentions Georgia wide receiver George Pickens as a possibility here. That might be a little early for the Giants to go wide receiver, but wide receiver is a long-term need area for the Giants and I am high on Pickens.
Kiper leaves cornerbacks Kyler Gordon of Washington and Roger McCreary of Auburn on the board here. Having missed out on Gardner in Round 1 I would have to think about them here.
A few other highlights
Here are some other things to note from Kiper’s mock:
- Only two quarterbacks (Malik Willis of Liberty at No 6 to the Carolina Panthers, Kenny Pickett of Pitt No. 20 to the Pittsburgh Steelers) went in Round 1.
- Michigan edge defender David Ojabo went No. 34 to the Detroit Lions.
- Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean (No. 18, Philadelphia Eagles) was chosen before Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd (No. 21, New England Patriots).
- Montana State linebacker Troy Anderson went No. 58 to the Atlanta Falcons. Neither of the other two inside linebacker crushes at BBV (Leo Chenal of Wisconsin, Chad Muma of Wyoming) were selected in Round 2.