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Mel Kiper mock draft: Charles Cross, Jermaine Johnson to New York Giants

How would you feel if the draft actually turns out that way?

NFL: Scouting Combine
Charles Cross
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

We couldn’t get to the 2022 NFL Draft without one final Mel Kiper mock draft. So, here it is. Let’s see what Kiper, using intel he has gleaned from around the league as well as his own insights into draft prospects, does for the New York Giants.

Round 1 (No. 5) — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Kiper says:

With two of the next three picks, the Giants have to come away with a starting right tackle. They should go ahead and take one here. Cross didn’t get many chances to show off his run blocking because of the pass-heavy Mississippi State offense, but I love his potential. And he could play right tackle on the other side of Andrew Thomas.

Valentine’s View: There is a lot of chatter that the Giants prefer cross, the silky-smooth pass protector, to Evan Neal. Kiper buys that talk here as he passes on Neal (who went No. 6 to the Carolina Panthers) to take Cross. Honestly, there has been enough smoke around the Giants and their interest in Cross that you have to think there is something to it. I would be fine with either Cross or Neal, but I do love Cross’s upside and could understand this choice.

BBV’s Chris Pflum isn’t quite as high on Cross as many analysts. Here is part of Chris’s prospect profile on Cross:

“Mississippi State’s Charles Cross has many of the athletic traits necessary to become a starting tackle at the NFL level.

“He has enough size, good length, and great movement skills. Cross is a fluid, easy mover with enough play strength to at least blunt power rushes, and the athleticism to match up with most speed rushers.

“All of that makes it easy to fall in love with the player Cross could become. However, he’s a relatively inexperienced tackle and he has some definite warts to his game. ...

“Charles Cross has the tools and potential to be a good offensive tackle in the NFL, but teams will need to understand who he is now and have a clear plan for his development. Cross has tremendous upside, but real concerns as well.”

For the record, Kiper’s first four picks went like this:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars — Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
  2. Detroit Lions — Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
  3. Houston Texans — Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
  4. New York Jets — Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Round 1 (No. 7) — Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State

Kiper says:

I have Kayvon Thibodeaux ranked higher than Johnson, but it’s close. Johnson had 12 sacks last season, showing great bend off the edge. He’d be a great fit in Don Martindale’s defense.

Valentine’s View: What Kiper is saying here is that he prefers Thibodeaux, but he believes the Giants prefer Johnson. Our consensus big board rates both as top 10 prospects. Me? Like Kiper, I have Thibodeaux slightly ahead of Johnson.

This is another pick I could understand. I have concerns about Johnson’s ceiling as a pass rusher, but I also know that Thibodeaux’s big personality and interests outside football are turnoffs for some.

In his Johnson prospect profile, Chris writes:

“Jermaine Johnson II projects as an eventual starting EDGE with scheme versatility at the NFL level. Johnson might be forced to start his career as a pass rush specialist, but he has all the tools to grow into a good starter at the NFL level.

“Johnson has a versatile frame and experience as both a down lineman and as a stand-up rusher, and that should allow him to find a home on teams that run any type of front.

“Johnson might need a year – or even just part of a year – as a pure pass rusher while coaches work with him to fully unlock his considerable toolbox. Johnson still needs work as a technician, both polishing his hand usage and helping him to develop a cogent plan of attack as a rusher. He also plays noticeably slower when the full offensive playbook is open. Johnson has the ability to be all but unblockable when he is able to just pin his ears back and concentrate on rushing the passer. ...

“Johnson showed great development over the course of his season at Florida State, and his ceiling is sky-high if he can continue that development at the NFL level.”

Also noteworthy is that Kiper passed on LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., who has been increasingly connected to the Giants, with this pick. Stingley went No. 9 to the Seattle Seahawks.