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Ed’s mock draft 7.0: Exploring a trade down with the New Orleans Saints

Let’s see what might happen if the Giants swap No. 5 for picks 16 and 19

Clemson v South Carolina
Andrew Booth of Clemson
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

One 2022 NFL Draft scenario that is being widely discussed is the New Orleans Saints using picks 16 and 19 in Round 1 to trade up to No. 5 with the New York Giants, who are said to want out of that selection.

Yours truly has said many times that while I would be fine with the Giants moving back with one of their selections at No. 5 and No. 7, my preference would be for the Giants to get a 2023 first-round pick in return.

What, though, if this scenario appeals to Giants GM Joe Schoen? It would give the first-year GM three picks in the draft’s top 20, a chance to quickly add three players who could become centerpieces of the team’s future.

This trade also works in terms of the salary cap. The No. 5 pick carries a 2022 cap hit of $6,582,955. The combination of the 16th and 19th picks is $5,998,374. That is a cap saving of $584,581. That isn’t much, but given the Giants’ cap situation it is not inconsequential.

Let’s play out the scenario and see how it might unfold for the Giants.

Round 1 (No. 5) — Trade!

I used the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator. I like it for a couple of reasons. It uses a consensus big board from all of the mock drafts and big boards it collects. It also weights trades and shows you which team has the upper hand, not allowing the trade until the point values are close enough. No, I’m not sure which trade chart the simulator is using.

Anyway, to make this trade down with the Saints for picks 16 and 19 the simulator forced me to add pick No. 81 in Round 3. I am not thrilled with that, but I am committed to seeing this Round 1 scenario through. So, let’s get to it.

For the record, had I stayed here the easy pick was Ikem Ekwonu.

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

Here is the stupid thing about simulators. They do not do what human beings would do in situations like this. From where I sit, there is no way the Saints make this move up the board if they aren’t taking Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. The simulator gave them NC State offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu.

The simulator then passed on quarterback for the Carolina Panthers at No. 6, giving them Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.

For the record, the top 6 went like this.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars — Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
  2. Detroit Lions — Kaybon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
  3. Houston Texans — Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
  4. New York Jets — Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
  5. New Orleans Saints — Ickey Ekwonu, OT, NC State
  6. Carolina Panthers — Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

It kills me to bypass Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner in this spot. Anyone who has been following our draft coverage understands that I believe he is the perfect cornerback for Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, and would become a tremendous cornerstone piece for Schoen and coach Brian Daboll to build with.

That said, I am thrilled to land Cross. I have said before, if the Giants actually do draft Cross I would be very surprised if they put him at left tackle and moved Andrew Thomas to the right side. Whatever, I would be happy to add him to an offensive line that needs the pass protection skills he offers.

I don’t want to hear about Cross never having played right tackle. He is 21 years old. With reps, he can and will adjust. I know he hasn’t done a ton of run blocking, but I have seen enough to believe that he certainly can. Per Sports Info Solutions, Cross was No. 3 in the country among offensive tackles last season in Total Points Per Run Blocking Attempt:

SIS rates Cross as the No. 4 overall prospect in the draft and the No. 2 tackle, behind only Neal. SIS says:

Cross has the ideal athleticism and frame to be a high-caliber starting left tackle at the next level on Day 1. Even though Cross lacks some experience in terms of years played and scheme versatility, his availability and consistent quality of play against top competition speaks to his development and potential to get even better in the NFL. Stepping in as an already very strong pass protector gives him a great floor to build off of, and his youth and athletic traits give him elite developmental potential.

Other players considered: Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Round 1 (No. 16) — Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

This was not an easy pick to make. There were a ton of viable options here that I would have been happy with. For the record Tyler Linderbaum fans, the Iowa center was one of them. I went another direction, though, because I think this Giants’ regime has a ton of respect for Jon Feliciano and would truly like to give him the opportunity to be the team’s starting center. I could have easily gone cornerback, linebacker or even wide receiver here.

In Green, I grab a player who slides in immediately at left guard. Cross, Green and Andrew Thomas is a nice young offensive line trio to build around.

SIS has Green as its 10th-ranked prospect:

Green projects as a high-quality starting guard at the next level, best fitting in a scheme which favors zone concepts to man. Green should be in a situation where he can use his combination of strength and athleticism to knock off defenders on chips and climb to the second level. Green best fits at either guard position, but his most natural spot is at left guard. Green has the potential to kick out and play tackle but projects more as a lower-end starter there due to pass protection issues against edges, and because he’s naturally more comfortable inside.

Other players considered: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa; Drake London, WR, USC; Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah; Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia; Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson; Zion Johnson, G, Boston College

Round 1 (No. 19) — Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

I end up picking from the same sub-set of players three picks later. Selecting Linderbaum would have been, in my mind, offensive line overkill. Having traded out of an opportunity to select Sauce Gardner, I grab another quality cornerback who fits what Martindale wants from his cornerbacks.

SIS says:

Booth projects as a solid starting corner at the next level with the flexibility to travel across the field and play both inside and out. He best fits in a scheme where man coverage is heavily utilized and which also allows him to play at the line of scrimmage where he can let his athleticism shine. Booth fits on most special teams units because of his speed and toughness, but he could really fit best as a gunner on punt to help limit return opportunities.

Other players considered: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa; Drake London, WR, USC; Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah; Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

Round 2 (No. 36) — Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State

Edge defender makes sense here. I considered David Ojabo, but I will opt for a high-upside player who will be available right from the start in Ebiketie.

SIS isn’t in love with Ebiketie:

Ebiketie projects as a depth stand-up edge defender at the next level. He doesn’t have the play strength to excel with his hand in the dirt and struggles to anchor head-up, but he can set a sufficient edge from the perimeter and has even flashed natural movement skills and comfortability in coverage in limited reps. His early-down abilities are more in question than on passing downs, but even still, refining his rush repertoire and becoming more explosive off the snap will be crucial to seeing consistent time. His fluidity and athleticism should make for a good special teams contributor.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic is more optimistic:

Ebiketie explodes off the edge and stresses blockers with his arc acceleration, active hands and relentless play personality (registered at least one tackle for loss in 11 of 12 games in 2021). While he uses his length well as a pass rusher, he struggles to consistently anchor, lock out and free himself to contain the run. Overall, Ebiketie needs to improve his refinement as a rusher and reliability vs. the run, but he is a long, twitched-up athlete with the motor and mentality to develop into a starting NFL pass rusher.

Other players considered: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan; Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State; Logan Hall, DL, Houston; Travis Jones, DT, UConn; Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

Round 3 (No. 67) — Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati

This is a wide receiver I only recently took a close look at, and I liked what I saw. He has size, leaping ability, strong hands, and shows some route running and ability to beat the jam at the line of scrimmage.

I considered tight end Trey McBride and running back Isaiah Spiller here, but I believe there will be value at those positions later in the draft.

In his Rookie Scouting Portfolio Draft Guide, Matt Waldman writes:

There’s some Justin Jefferson to Pierce’s game. Both players are better athletes than many who don’t study the tape might have expected. Both are skilled vertical weapons due to their hands, speed, and timing, and toughness at the catch point. Pierce is maybe a half of a step slower with his top gear, but he’s quicker, taller, bigger, and he jumps 3.5 inches higher. Jefferson is better after the catch and a better overall route runner from release work to his breaks.

Still, Pierce’s upside should not be taken lightly. He has the skills to develop into an NFL starter with big-play ability—even if he’s considered a 1-A/1-B or even the No.2 option in the offense to an established primary weapon. If Pierce can become as good at the line of scrimmage as he’s shown as a ball winner in the air against tight coverage, he will earn a starting opportunity that could translate to a long and productive career in the NFL.

Other players considered: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M; Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota; Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State; Leo Chanel, LB, Wisconsin; Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming; Troy Anderson, LB, Montana State; Dylan Parham, C-G, Memphis

Round 4 (No. 112) — Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State

As I suspected, at pick No. 112 there were a plethora of tight end options high on the board. I will take Ruckert. He won’t be a dynamic downfield threat, but he should be a reliable target, a good blocker, and a player capable being used in a variety of ways.

SIS says:

At the next level, Ruckert has the ability to be a solid starting Y-tight end with very good balance to his all-around game. He would benefit from playing in an offense that utilizes zone run concepts and a good amount of play action in the pass game to highlight his overall skill set. He should see a lot of time in red zone packages as a versatile threat and on third downs given his plus blocking ability and solid catching skills. He has collegiate experience on most units, and given his toughness and competitiveness, he will be able to contribute to multiple special teams groups.

Other players considered: Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA; Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State; Luke Fortner, C, Kentucky

Round 5 (No. 147) — Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati

Again, as I thought would happen, value at the running back position is available here in Round 5. Ford profiles as a pass-catching back who would provide a capable complement to Saquon Barkley.

In the RSP, Waldman writes:

Ford has the athletic ability, movement skills, receiving upside, and willingness to engage in the physical side of the game that’s befitting of a future committee back—even an every-down starter if he shores up some technical shortcomings with pass protection. He’s a patient runner who exhibits confidence with pressing creases before making his cut downhill.

SIS says:

Ford projects as a low-end starting running back at the next level, performing best in a gap scheme. His speed and shiftiness should allow for him to contribute on 1st and 2nd downs. When in on 3rd down, he fits best as a screen or checkdown player coming out of the backfield, or being asked to pass protect on occasion. With his speed and toughness, he could contribute on special teams units, and he even has some traits that suggest he could return kicks if asked.

Other players considered: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State; Pierre Strong, RB, South Dakota State; Isaiah Thomas, Edge, Oklahoma

Round 5 (No. 173) — Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State

I did not go looking to double up on tight ends. It’s just that Kolar’s name kept popping up, and I’m intrigued by his production. He doesn’t excel at anything in particular. The ball just seems to find him, and he appears to be a capable blocker.

Waldman writes:

Kolar is neither sudden nor speedy, but he’s a skilled route runner with reliable hands. His blocking needs work, but there’s enough skill in this part of his game that he could play right away as an H-Back or work his way into a starting position within a year or two as an in-line option. If the team that drafts Kolar uses him in a spread offense where he can find holes in opposing zones, he could become a high-volume contributor

SIS says:

Kolar projects as a starting H-TE who would best be utilized in space. While his receiving ability is his main selling point, he has the tools to become an effective blocker as well. He will see the field on 3rd down very early due to his hands and route savvy. He will be a sufficient contributing member on special teams given his skill set.

Other players considered: Jesse Luketa, LB, Penn State

Round 6 (No. 182) — Jesse Luketa, LB, Penn State

Luketa is a player the Giants have reportedly shown interest in. He should provide special teams acumen and linebacker depth, with the potential to ascend to a bigger role.

SIS says:

Luketa projects as a rotational edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme or Sam linebacker in a 4-3 with the positional flexibility to backup as an off-ball backer in run defense, if needed. His strength against the run will be valuable at the next level, and he can adequately put his hand down outside tackles with his size, but he will need to polish up his pass rushing ability in order to be a more viable option on passing downs. Improving his coverage traits will also allow him to develop into a larger role. He has the mentality, athletic ability, and multiple years of experience on special teams to continue to be a key contributor.

Brugler has a Round 4-5 grade on Luketa. He writes:

A charged-up athlete, Luketa has an aggressive field demeanor with chase speed and finishing instincts. Although he has some tweener traits and frenetic habits, he usually plays assignment sound to fill/spill and create knock-back at contact. Overall, Luketa doesn’t have a great feel as a pass rusher and lacks consistency in coverage, but he is a good-sized athlete and covers ground with his active pursuit motor. He projects as a regular on special teams coverages and a hybrid rush linebacker in sub.

Other players considered: Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State; Skylar Thompson, QB, Kansas State


Final thoughts

I still would prefer getting a 2023 first-round pick in move down. There is, though, merit to making this type of move. The decisions I faced at picks 16 and 19 were not easy. There was a ton of value available — useful players who would make the Giants better. As I wrote, it bugged me to pass on Gardner, but I ended up feeling good about the options I had in the middle of Round 1.

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