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7 for 7, final version: Giants and Joe Schoen have their top 7 players, and here are mine

Schoen wants to have 7 players he is comfortable selecting in the top seven picks

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Joe Schoen
Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants have the fifth and seventh overall picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Back at the NFL Scouting Combine, GM Joe Schoen said that he wants to enter Round 1 on Thursday night comfortable that the organization has seven players it would be happy to select in those first seven picks.

“Find seven players you like in the draft and I can sleep good at night because two of those guys will be there, one at five, one at seven,” Schoen said. “If we come up with seven that we like, I’m happy staying [at five and seven].”

Last week, Schoen said the organization was “close” to identifying that seven-player list.

“There’s a few players where we’re going to shut the door, lock it, have knock-down, drag-outs. When we come out, we’re going to make the best decision for the Giants,” Schoen said.

“There’s not a lot of players where there’s a big separation in terms of how we see them.”

In early March, Chris Pflum, Nick Falato and yours truly did our own ‘7 for 7’ lists.

As we prep for the draft, updating my ‘7 for 7’ list has been on the to-do list. Well, the following reader question has finally spurred me to get that done.

Joel Story asks: I’m paraphrasing, but Joe Schoen has said he needs to identify seven players he “feels good about” at the top of this year’s draft. As I recall, he’s also said that he’s willing to take players with big question marks off the Giants’ draft board and let other teams draft them. Given that, it sounds like his top seven players may not necessarily be the seven best players in the draft. For example, I’m wondering if he takes Kayvon Thibodeaux off the board (concerns about personality, on-field effort and lack of commitment to football), Derek Stingley (temperament, injuries and sub-optimal performance the last two seasons) and Travon Walker (stellar athleticism but not-so-stellar on-field production)?

I’ve read all your articles and mock drafts over the last several months, so I think I know part— but not all — of the answer to my question, which is: If you were the Giants GM, who would be the seven players at the top of the draft that you would “feel good about” going into Thursday night?

So, here is my list. These are not in order of preference. They’re just in whatever random order I chose to type them. As we did when Nick, Chris and I did our first list, I am leaving Michigan edge Aidan Hutchinson off the list. He likely isn’t lasting past the Detroit Lions at No. 2, so he isn’t a realistic consideration for the Giants.

Ickey Ekwonu, OT, NC State

This one can’t be a surprise. His physicality would absolutely we welcome in East Rutherford, his upside is tops in the class among the offensive tackles, and his personality will make him a star on the New York stage.

Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

When push comes to shove, I think I disagree with our consensus big board. No, actually I know I do. Cross is OT2 for me. I love the pass protection ability, and while he may never be a mauling run blocker I believe he will develop just fine in that regard. The only thing he does not have that both Ekwonu and Evan Neal offer is the flexibility to move inside and play guard.

Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Just because I have Cross as OT2 doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like it if the Giants picked Neal. I would. He is a plug and play right tackle who should be very good for several years if he remains healthy.

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

As many times as I have pounded the table and written about how good a player I believe Hamilton is, you can’t be surprised to find him on my list. I think defensive coordinator Wink Martindale would love coaching this kid, and would find a lot of interesting ways to use him.

Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

I have said a gazillion times already that the Round 1 home run scenario for me is offensive tackle and Gardner if the Giants keep the fifth and seventh overall picks. I think Gardner is perfect for a Wink Martindale defense, and I would be surprised if the Giants pass on him for an edge rusher.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

The film says Thibodeaux is a top five player in this draft class. Does that mean he’s J.J. Watt? Probably not. Could he be what Jason Pierre-Paul was for the Giants, or maybe a bit better? I think that’s realistic.

The question with Thibodeaux is his personality. He’s smart, and he’ll tell you that. He has interests outside the game, and he’ll tell you that, too. Does he really want to be a great player, and will he do what it takes to make that happen? Or, does he just love what football can do to set him up for the rest of his life?

Those are questions I can’t answer. NFL teams have far more access to, and information about, players than I do. All I know is the talent says he could be the best pass rusher the Giants have had since JPP.

Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia

I know the Jacksonville Jaguars might make Walker the No. 1 overall pick, but that is something I just couldn’t do. Walker is too much of a traits over production projection for me at No. 1.

If he falls to No. 5 or No. 7? I could do that, and I can see the Giants doing that. The consensus with Walker is that he has rare traits and will be a more productive pro than college player because of the way he was utilized at Georgia.

In his draft guide, Dane Brugler of The Athletic writes:

Walker has rare movement skills for a 275-pounder, including an explosive first step to shoot through gaps, cross the face of blockers or chase down plays. He wasn’t asked to be a consistent outside rusher in the Bulldogs’ scheme, but that helped him develop into a strong run defender, disengaging and leveraging blocks. Overall, Walker is still developing his sequencing plan as a pass rusher, but he has freaky athletic traits for his size and offers the natural power and length to consistently win his match-ups. He projects as a scheme-diverse front-seven player with the potential to be one of the best NFL defenders from this draft class.

Just missed

Derek Stingley Jr., LSU [Prospect profile]
Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida State [Prospect profile]
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama [Prospect profile]

There is more and more buzz about Stingley, and more and more insiders who think the Giants might select him in the right scenario. Might happen, and I would understand. He’s just a big risk for me.

Maybe the Giants like Johnson more than Thibodeaux. That is something you read in draft circles. I just don’t see him as a better player on tape.

Jameson Williams? Wide receiver is a sneaky need, though I don’t think the Giants would go that route in the top 10. I like Drake London of USC, as well.