The 2022 NFL Draft is almost here, which means it’s time for one last round of mock drafts.
The New York Giants currently hold the fifth and seventh overall picks, and five total picks in the first three rounds. That draft capital gives the Giants a lot of options for adding some much-needed talent to their roster.
The Giants could add offensive linemen, defensive backs, wide receivers, or pass rushers with those picks, and all would be welcome additions.
We’ve spilt a lot of (digital) ink going over all the various permutations the Giants’ draft could take. The only sure thing about the NFL Draft is that it absolutely will be throwing us curveballs and won’t work out the way anyone envisions.
But here at BBV we decided to put out “final” mock drafts for the sake of discussion. Here’s my entry:
No. 5 overall - Trade!
I went into this mock with the intention of trading the fifth overall pick. For the full reasoning, I invite everyone to go give my latest “Philosoraptor’s Corner” a read. The quick and dirty of it all is that quarterback is the only position to really offer good (let alone great) value in the top 5. Since I didn’t intend to draft a quarterback, I’m trading down to get the most potential value out of the pick. I went with the Steelers as a trade partner for a couple reasons.
The first being that they can reasonably be expected to be interested in a quarterback. The second is that I was able to turn No. 5 overall into a future first- and second-round pick. By trading from fifth overall to 20th overall, I was able to shave about $3.7 million off the cost of the Giants’ rookie class. By getting future consideration, I’m also setting the team up with assets to trade if they need to move up for a quarterback in 2023.
For those who will undoubtedly be asking, offensive Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu were both off the board here. I am not nearly as high on Charles Cross as many people are and I don’t think there is much difference between him and the next tier of tackles — certainly not enough to pass on picking up future value.
No. 7 overall - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
I was faced with a choice here: Kyle Hamilton or Ahmad Gardner? I opted with Hamilton for two very important reasons. The first is that the Giants have exactly two safeties on their roster (one of whom is going into the final year of his rookie contract) with just a few days to go until the draft. They need to address the position or they could find themselves needing QB Brian Lewerke to play safety during an actual game, not just April drills. While the Giants’ depth at cornerback isn’t great, it isn’t THAT bad, at least not yet.
Second, I believe there’s greater separation between Hamilton and the the rest of his position group than there is between Gardner and the rest of the cornerbacks. There are plenty of people (including Mark Schofield) stating straight out that Hamilton is the best player in this draft. And while I won’t say that definitively, he’s absolutely in that conversation. The Giants passed on the best player in the 2021 draft only to watch him earn Defensive Player of The Year considerations for a division rival. I’m not keen on repeating that mistake.
Hamilton has the football IQ, mental processing, and athleticism to be a true centerfielder for Cover 1 shells, is a fantastic run defender, can cover tight ends and running backs out of the slot, and has the upside to be an effective blitzer. I’ve long said that while safety in general might not be a “premium” position, a truly great safety can fundamentally change how a defense is able to play.
No. 20 overall - Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Full disclosure here: I love watching Linderbaum play. He is my second-highest graded offensive lineman in the whole draft, trailing only Evan Neal.
Linderbaum has elite short-area quickness, great play strength, and is a former wrestler. As such, he has fantastic balance as well as a great understanding of leverage, angles, and positioning. He already plays with good technique and great competitive toughness. What really sold me on Linderbaum is the instinctual situational awareness with which he plays. It’s the trait that — more than anything else — leapt out to me about Quinton Nelson back in 2018. There are instances where he is able to pick up a late pressure without disengaging from, or taking his attention off of, his primary responsibility.
Yes, Linderbaum is lighter than typical and his has short arms. However, those concerns don’t really manifest on tape. He still has good hand usage, a good anchor against true nose tackles, and is a people-mover in the run game.
I believe Linderbaum could be a fixture in the middle of the Giants’ offensive line for a long time to come.
No. 36 overall - Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
McCreary was the player on my mind when I passed on Sauce Gardner. He lacks great measurables for the position with bad length and only decent long speed. But what McCreary does have is some of the best feet and hips of any cornerback in this draft class.
He might lack the length to jam receivers at the NFL level (though he was effective at it in the SEC), but he is still a sticky man coverage corner. McCreary is great at getting — and staying — in phase with receivers through their routes and does a very good job of using the sideline to his advantage. He often traveled with the opponents’ best receiver and has experience in a wide variety of zone coverages. He was a big part of a very tough Auburn defense, facing some of the best offenses in the country.
Going another way
I could see the Giants going wide receiver with this pick. They need all the help they can get on the offensive side of the ball, and this is a deep receiver class. George Pickens, John Metchie III, and Christian Watson were all on the board at this point, and any would have been a good pick.
In particular, I think any of the Alabama or Ohio State receivers would be an intriguing fit — if the Giants are considering the possibility of targeting Bryce Young (QB, Alabama) or C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) in 2023, having a receiver with whom they already have great chemistry already on the roster would be a great advantage. We’ve seen multiple teams draft offensive weapons who have a history with their quarterback and its paid dividends.
No. 67 overall - Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
Andersen has been one of my favorite prospects throughout the draft process. He’s a small school guy, but a small school guy who was always the best player on the field — and who showed he could hang with the powerhouse products at the 2022 Senior Bowl.
Andersen has a truly elite combination of height, weight, and speed at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, with a 4.42-second 40, and a 6.77-second 3-cone drill. He’s been an All-American as a quarterback, an outside linebacker, and an inside linebacker, and was a finalist for the William V. Campbell trophy (considered to be the “Academic Heisman”).
Andersen would add yet more speed and versatility to the Giants’ defense, as well as give them the long-term answer at MIKE they’ve been looking for since Antonio Pierce retired.
I mentioned before that the Giants need all the help they can get on the offensive side of the ball. I was sorely tempted to go wide receiver here with Calvin Austin III, Khalil Shakir, and Romeo Doubs all on the board.
However, I like Dulcich a bit more than those guys, so that’s where I went.
Brian Daboll didn’t use the tight end position much at Buffalo, and was actually one of the most frequent users of 10-personnel (4 receiver) sets. However, Daboll’s “scheme” is based in the Erhardt-Perkins concepts, which are really more about flexibility as a philosophy, as opposed to concrete concepts like an Air Coryell or West Coast offense. Likewise, Daboll hired Mike Kafka who had been with the Kansas City Chiefs since 2017, and has seen the impact of TE Travis Kelce as a receiver.
In this case I’m leaning into the idea that the Giants could use the tight end position as a passing weapon with 12-personnel packages. Dulcich isn’t much of a blocker at this point (though he has potential there), but he is a legitimate weapon as a receiver. 12-personnel packages typically force defenses into bigger, heavier packages, which creates opportunities for offenses in the passing game. This is part of why Kyle Shanahan’s offense is so dangerous: His 21-personnel packages force defenses into base packages, opening up the pass.
No. 112 overall - Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana
This is something like what I had in mind when I passed on Charles Cross. I had been envisioning picking one of Travis Penning, Abraham Lucas, Bernhard Raimann, or Max Mitchell later in the draft.
Personally, I am very high on Mitchell and think he is actually the best pass protecting tackle in the draft. I was particularly impressed with his ability to play both left and right tackle at a high level. In fact, he was able to flip positions mid-game and execute at both left and right tackle without missing a beat. Mitchell hasn’t gotten much buzz, but he’s a fluid tackle with adequate size, great feet, natural lower-body flexibility, and the competitive toughness to recover or block defenders 10 yards downfield.
I’d like to see Mitchell be more aggressive with his punch and improve his play on man-gap runs. That said, his play in pass protection, zone runs, and on screen plays is good enough to make me feel good about nabbing him and Linderbaum.
Even if Mitchell winds up not being a long-term solution at right tackle, he should be a very good swing tackle, and those players are important, too.
No. 147 overall - Pierre Strong Jr, RB, South Dakota State
The Giants have been showing a lot of interest in running backs over the course of the draft process, though it has usually been in the the top runners.
Personally, I’m believe that good running backs can be found anywhere. So it doesn’t make much sense to me to use a high pick on them. Strong jumped off the field on tape and like Andersen he absolutely dominated at the FCS level. He averaged more than 7.0 yards per carry with 22 rushing touchdowns as a senior, then had a great week at the Shrine Game practices.
Strong doesn’t have the same name recognition as Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker III, or Isaiah Spiller. He does, however, have a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, solid size, good play strength, and great vision and contact balance.
No. 173 overall - Kalon Barnes, CB, Baylor
This is a flier, pure as that, but Barnes has the athletic traits that are worth trying to develop. He will be one of the fastest players in the NFL the instant he steps on a football field, and teams are always willing to work with speed.
Barnes has traits as a cover cornerback that could be developed as a depth player. He is a willing run defender who appears more comfortable in zone coverage, which could lead to a transition to more of a “nickel” role or perhaps even safety. At the very least, Barnes’ raw athleticism could make him an explosive returner or special teams piece.
No. 6 overall - Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE/H-Back, Maryland
Chig Okonkwo is an intriguing player who was a big-play threat for the Terps. He’s undersized for a tight end, but has a stout build at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds. What makes Okonkwo interesting is his rare 4.52 speed and lower-body explosiveness. Granted, he isn’t much of a blocker at this point, but the Giants need receiving threats.
Okonkwo, in addition to Ricky Seals-Jones or Greg Dulcich, could give the Giants the option of shifting from a 21 to 12 personnel look, while retaining the explosiveness of an 11 or 10-personnel package. Okonkwo could also make for an intriguing option in a screen game, where his play strength and explosiveness could play havoc on linebackers or defensive backs. That could make the Giants very difficult for an average NFL defense to counter.
At the very least, his size and speed could also make him a good option for special teams.