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2022 NFL Draft: Giants’ commitment to Saquon Barkley central to draft plan

How early will GM Joe Schoen draft a running back?

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants
Saquon Barkley
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The New York Giants are almost certain to select a running back in the 2022 NFL Draft. The questions are how early and what type of back will the opt for? The answers depend almost entirely on what the new regime of GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll really believes about the future of Saquon Barkley with the Giants.

Let’s dive into the running back spot as we continue position by position looks at the Giants leading up to the draft.

The current depth chart

Starter: Saquon Barkley
Backups: Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Antonio Williams, Sandro Platzgummer

The Giants cut Devontae Booker in a salary cap move, and added low-cost veterans Matt Breida and Antonio Williams as depth.

Whatever decision the Giants make in the draft, though, is really all about Barkley. The 2018 No. 2 overall pick is playing the 2022 season on his $7.217 million fifth-year option.

Do Schoen and Daboll see Barkley, who has dealt with leg injuries in three consecutive seasons after an incredible rookie year, as a long-term building block player they would be willing to give a big second contract? A player they would be willing to franchise tag in 2023? A player they simply won’t pay big money because of positional value? A player they would be willing trade before the upcoming draft, or at the trade deadline this fall?

We don’t know the answer. Their approach to the draft, though, might give us a clue. Do they use a premium Day 2 pick on a player viewed as a potential three-down back who could — this year or next — become the team’s featured back? Do they wait until Day 3 to add a complementary back, probably someone with potential to be useful in the passing game?

Let’s look at some of the players who might be under consideration.

2022 draft class

Day 1 possibilities

None

Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) possibilities

Breece Hall, Iowa State [Prospect profile]
Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State [Prospect profile]
Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M [Prospect profile]

If the Giants want one of these three players, generally considered the best backs in this class, they are going to have to use a Day 2 pick. If Hall or Walker is a target, that pick will probably have to come at No. 36 in Round.

Hall is currently the No. 36 overall prospect on the NFL Mock Draft Database. Walker is No. 47 and Spiller No. 60.

Day 3 (Rounds 4-6) possibilities

Brian Robinson, Alabama [Prospect profile]
James Cook, Georgia [Prospect profile]
Rachaad White, Arizona State [Prospect profile]
Dameon Pierce, Florida [Prospect profile]
Kyren Williams, Notre Dame [Prospect profile]
Zamir White, Georgia
Tyler Allgeier, BYU
Jerome Ford, Cincinnati
Tyler Badie, Missouri
Pierre Strong Jr. (South Dakota State) [Prospect profile]

[NOTE: There are others, but these are the top 10 backs after Hall-Walker-Spiller on the NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board.]

Much of the focus in this group has been on Georgia’s James Cook. He makes sense because of his play-making ability as a change of pace runner and a receiving threat. Schoen attended the Georgia Pro Day, with reports circulating that Cook was perhaps the apple of his eye. The Giants also hosted Cook for a private visit.

In his Rookie Scouting Portfolio Draft Guide, Matt Waldman seems to expect Cook to be a player with a limited ceiling:

One of the best, if not the best, in this class at transitioning downhill and avoiding defenders playing the force role, Cook is an elusive back with game-breaking speed. If his acceleration isn’t as good as his top speed, which places a ceiling on his potential between the tackles despite having the tight-crease vision of an every-down back.

Cook’s lack of size, strength, and contact balance limits him to a change of pace role in an offense. Cook graded out higher than Nyheim Hines did for me in 2018, but Hines’ ball security and pass protection weren’t as good as Cook. Otherwise, both share top speed but a slower acceleration process that can get them caught from behind if the runway isn’t large enough. Both catch the ball well and aren’t afraid to work against the big boys when given carries in the box.

Cook might be just good enough to earn an opportunity as a committee back with a significant role in the passing game. If he can be the B-Back like D’Andre Swift is in Detroit, Cook could generate consistent production and fantasy value. He’s an exciting fit-based option who could hit big in the right system but he’s not a player I’d draft with the expectation of it happening. You should see it before you believe it.

Giants 2022 draft picks

Round 1 (No. 5)
Round 1 (No. 7)
Round 2 (No. 36)
Round 3 (No. 67)
Round 3 (No. 81)
Round 4 (No. 112)
Round 5 (No. 147)
Round 5 (No. 173)
Round 6 (No. 182)

Final thoughts

Unless the Giants draft board clearly shows Hall, Walker or Spiller as the best value at picks 36 or 67, my best guess at this point would be that the Giants don’t address running back until at least pick No. 81.