It’s NFL Draft week! All the speculation and smoke screens shall be exposed as we learn the true fate of Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll’s direction for the New York Giants in the 2022 NFL Draft. Using the Pro Football Focus draft simulator, I simulated my final seven-round mock draft of the cycle.
I made one trade in the draft, and the board fell interestingly at pick No. 5 for the Giants. Surprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (CB, Cincinnati) at one, which allowed the Lions to choose Aidan Hutchinson (EDGE, Michigan) at two.
As much as I love Sauce Gardner, it’s a great start for the Giants because all three tackles remain on the board for the Texans at three, who ultimately select Travon Walker (EDGE/DL, Georgia). The Jets then select Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE, Oregon) at four, leaving the Giants with all three tackle options at three.
In most cases, I’m sitting tight at five and taking Evan Neal - my top-ranked tackle on the board. However, I perused the trade backs, and like Don Vito Corleone, Trent Baalke (Jaguars general manager) made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Round 1 (No. 5) — TRADE!
With all three tackles still on the board - Evan Neal (Alabama), Ikem Ekwonu (North Carolina State), and Charles Cross (Mississippi State) - I felt comfortable trading out of No. 5 while still holding the seventh pick. I will certainly have the chance at one of my top three tackles. I felt even more content with this trade because Gardner and Thibodeaux were off the board. I did consider LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., but Jacksonville’s offer was too enriching.
Giants trade: No. 5
Giants receive: Picks 33, 65, 70, 106 in 2022 and the Jaguars’ first-round selection in 2023.
Let’s be honest; that first-round pick in 2023 could be the first overall selection. Combine that with a second, two threes, and a fourth, and I could not pass up that value while still landing one of the top tackles at seven.
Round 1 (No. 7) — Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
The Jaguars traded the farm to select Evan Neal, and then the Panthers selected Stingley Jr. I had my choice between Charles Cross - a player I like - and Ekwonu. Cross is more developed and much smoother in pass protection, whereas Ekwonu has a ton of upside.
Ekwonu’s run blocking is elite. It’s one of the most fun traits I’ve watched from a prospect all draft season. He is, however, raw with framing his blocks as a pass protector. He gives pass rushers two-way goes too often, is a bit undisciplined with his hips, and his hand usage/reactive quickness needs work when he’s not going forward and attacking.
I love the upside he provides and all the excellent reported intangibles he brings to a locker room - not many players have scholarship offers to Harvard and Yale. I will be happy with this selection on draft day, and he has the highest upside of any tackle in this class. His floor is also high; at worst, he gets kicked inside, and he could be a dominant player at guard.
Round 2 (No. 33) -- Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota
I’m a big fan of Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie, who went No. 30 to the Kansas City Chiefs, but I can’t complain about Mafe at 33. He’s an elite-level athlete who isn’t a complete player quite yet.
Mafe recorded 42 pressures in 257 pass-rushing plays in 2021. He had seven sacks but only played 480 snaps in 13 games. He was substituted quite a bit and isn’t a polished run defender despite his quality size. Mafe can play EDGE and even SAM in Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme. He might need some development, but he’s a value at 33 with a lot of athletic upside.
Round 2 (No. 36) — Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
Missing out on man coverage cornerbacks like Sauce Gardner and Stingley Jr. hurt, but adding a versatile safety who can execute a multitude of coverages and assignments enhances the secondaries’ ability. I was honestly hoping that either Florida CB Kaiir Elam or Michigan safety Daxton Hill were around, but I like the Brisker selection.
He’ll be a 23-year-old rookie, which isn’t great, but he’s a good athlete with solid size who can play the post, deep-half, apex, and does a good job as an alley defender. His man coverage skills are functional over big-slots and tight ends, and he’d be an interchangeable piece to pair with Xavier McKinney.
Round 3 (No. 65) — Dylan Parham, C-G, Memphis
The Giants added several veteran interior offensive linemen during the free-agent cycle. I applaud the investment; it was essential. However, the long-term solution for the Giants’ offensive line has yet to be determined, and I think Parham is a solid value early in the third round.
Parham has 1,861 collegiate snaps at left guard, 881 at right guard, and 849 at right tackle. He’s a fluid offensive lineman with heavy hands that possess excellent grip strength. He played balanced, with great hip mobility and solid overall power.
I liked what I saw on his tape and at the Senior Bowl. Parham wouldn’t have to start as a rookie, but he realistically could defeat Max Garcia, Shane Lemieux, and/or Ben Bredeson for the starting left guard spot. Long-term, there is a belief his best position could be center. The Giants need to fix this offensive line once and for all, and Day 2 and Day 3 investments can help achieve that goal.
Round 3 (No. 67) — Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
Andersen may be the most interesting prospect in the draft. He is a unique athlete with exceptional size and athletic ability:
Andersen was a record-breaking quarterback and running back at Montana State. He transitioned to linebacker in 2019, and his 2020 season was shut down due to COVID-19.
In 2021, he recorded 111 tackles, 66 stops, with 14 pressures and two sacks. He was much bigger and more athletic than his competition, but he proved his worth at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. He has true coverage upside.
Andersen isn’t a complete player yet. His ability to quickly decipher offensive rushing attacks isn’t polished. He could work on his tackling ability in the box, specifically when fighting through traffic and shedding offensive linemen. He is a high upside nickel linebacker who can develop into a true three-down linebacker with coverage upside. Big athletes like Andersen are coveted in a world where speed is more and more valuable at the second level.
Round 3 (No. 70) — James Cook, RB, Georgia
The brother of Minnesota Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook is an exciting receiving weapon with real third-down upside. He was in a timeshare at Georgia and only had double-digit carries four times in 2021. He rushed for 728 yards on 113 carries (6.4 yards per carry) with seven rushing touchdowns.
Cook does most of his damage in passing situations. He’s an adequate pass protector who doesn’t have a lot of size and could do a better job framing his blocks, but he is dynamic with the football in his hands. He caught 27 of 30 targets for 274 yards and four touchdowns. In 2020, he had a long touchdown from the wide receiver position against Alabama on a sluggo (slant and go) route.
Cook possesses great vision and patience with excellent burst, which was on display at the Combine - he ran a 4.42 40-yard-dash with a 1.55 second 10-yard-split. Cook would be an ideal complement to Saquon Barkley and a receiving threat who can align all over the formation for Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka.
Round 3 (No. 81) — Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins were signed to inexpensive one-year deals that act as perfect buffers for young tight ends to develop. I like the potential of Ruckert, and the play we’ve seen isn’t terrible.
IDK what offense the #Giants will run in 2022, but I would love to see Ohio State TE Jeremy Ruckert as a sniffer in GH-counter and split-zone, something Garrett's playbook featured a solid amount— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 13, 2022
Love the dog in these blocking attempts...just planting dudes pic.twitter.com/dhMGO1JJAo
He has some explosive blocks as an H-Back in split-flow action - he possesses the dog mentality as a blocker. When aligned as a Y tight end, he loses slowly enough to allow rushing plays to develop. His hands are among the best in the class, despite the lack of usage in college. He played on an offense with two wide receivers (Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave) who are possible first-round picks in this draft class and a future first-rounder in Jaxon Smith Njigba.
There’s upside with Ruckert, and I’m comfortable selecting a tight end at this area of the draft. Trey McBride out of Colorado State is my No. 1 TE, with Ruckert not too far behind. I also really like players like Charlie Kolar (Iowa State) and Jake Ferguson (Wisconsin) later in the draft.
Round 4 (No. 106) — Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama
I go back to the secondary with a 6’0, 197-pound outside cornerback with 31-inch arms. It’s odd to see an Alabama defender who is relatively unknown and underrated, but Armour-Davis isn’t discussed much in draft circles.
He’s a good athlete with a lot of press-man in his background. He only has one year as a full-time starter in 2021, where he had three passes defended and three interceptions. Armour-Davis can mirror-match well, flip his hips and carry WRs vertically with ease, and he’s disciplined at the line of scrimmage.
A knee injury forced him to redshirt in 2018 after initially attending Alabama as the second overall recruit from the state. His ability to find the football at the catch point was suspect and needs to be developed, but he has the movement skills and athletic ability to be a starter in the NFL eventually.
Round 4 (No. 112) — Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
I doubled up at the CB position with Sauce Gardner’s teammate and the 2021 Jim Thorpe Award winner for the best defensive back in the nation. The Gardner hype is warranted, but it appears that Bryant isn’t receiving much buzz during the pre-draft process - a 4.54 40-yard-dash will do that to a player.
Bryant isn’t the player that Gardner is, but that fact forced opposing offenses to target Bryant and he didn’t disappoint. Bryant had 11 passes defended, three interceptions, and a catch rate of 44 percent.
He’s got solid size at 6-1⅜ with 30+ inch arms. His click and close downhill in zone coverage was excellent. He did a great job playing violently through catch points which was on display multiple times against Notre Dame. At pick 112, this is a good value.
Round 5 (No. 147) — Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor
I’m not quite sure why Tyquan Thornton is a late Day 3 player on many draft boards. He ran the fastest 40-yard-dash at the Combine, but he’s much more than just a fast guy:
The weight is problematic, and the small hands aren’t ideal, but he only had three drops in 2021 and nine total drops on 229 targets through four years of play. He finished his 2021 season with 62 catches on 98 targets for 941 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Thornton actually has a good release package - watch his red-zone touchdowns against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. He pairs concentration and the ability to maximize his 33¼-inch arm length to make impressive catches away from his frame. Speed is the key in the modern NFL, and Thornton has a lot of that, plus some other receiving traits that make him more than just a one-trick pony.
Round 5 (No. 173) — Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
Ferguson might be the best blocking tight end in the draft. Turn on his film, and you’ll see him embody the Wisconsin identity of physicality. He consistently kept his feet moving through defenders while collecting pancakes like he’s at IHOP.
Ferguson has Y potential, and he could have more receiving ability than we witnessed in college. Wisconsin’s passing attack was erratic at best throughout Ferguson’s time in Madison. He had 450 yards on 46 catches for three touchdowns in 2021. He’s not going to threaten any teams with his speed, but he is a reliable blanket underneath who can make good contested catches. I love the thought of getting Ferguson in this area of the draft.
Round 6 (No. 182) — D’Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian State
He’s slightly older at 23, but he figures to be a quality rotational linebacker for Martindale with special teams upside. He’s an explosive undersized linebacker who does a solid job processing the game in the box with great penetration skills and pop-on contact.
He struggled to keep himself clean and was washed away from his run fit too often by climbing OL. I appreciate his quick trigger coming downhill, his range to cover space, and his pursuit/hustle.
I am not one for comparisons because they typically do both players a disservice, but if I were to use a comparison, Jackson is a slightly less effective version of Nakobe Dean. If a team loves Dean and misses him on Day 1 or early on Day 2, Jackson could be a target for them on Day 3. I think he’d fit well into Martindale’s scheme because of his ability to drop in coverage and the traits he shows when pressuring the quarterback. He will likely be a situational sub-package linebacker to start his career with the upside of becoming a solid WILL.
Pro Football Focus gave this draft an A-. I love landing Ekwonu and Jacksonville’s 2023 first-round pick - sign me up for that any day! Mafe and Brisker are great assets for Martindale, albeit I would have preferred Ebiketie. I wanted to shore up the interior offensive line with Parham, and I was eyeing Kentucky’s Luke Fortner at pick 106, but he went 105, so I doubled up on cornerbacks, which I also felt was necessary.
I also hoped that Georgia linebacker Channing Tindall fell to 106, but he was selected at 97. There are a lot of solid starters in the group and I took an upside swing on LB Troy Andersen at pick 67. Was that too rich? Maybe, but he could be a true difference-maker in the right environment.
I could have addressed wide receiver more in the draft and maybe another EDGE, but the value for the latter wasn’t there after selecting Mafe at 33. I think the Giants will probably select a defensive lineman at some point in the draft. That’s a position I could have addressed instead of doubling up at other spots.
The real draft is approaching quickly; please let us know what you want to see on draft day in the comments, and let me know what you thought of this exercise.