The first day of the 2022 NFL Draft went about as well as could be expected for the New York Giants.
First they landed Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was the top recruit in the nation when he went to Oregon and has frequently been at the top of draft boards throughout 2021 and 2022. Then they landed Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, who has widely been considered the top offensive lineman in the draft since the start of the 2021 season.
The Giants might have wanted to grab a cornerback for Wink Martindale’s aggressive coverage schemes, but the team can hardly complain about how good the first round turned out.
So what might an equally ideal Day 2 look like?
Second round - 36th overall
Ideal pick: Andrew Booth Jr. (CB, Clemson)
The Giants have the fourth pick in the second round, and thanks to a head-spinning flurry of trades throughout the first round, the first three picks are held by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, and Tennessee Titans.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the second day of the draft started with yet another trade after Liberty quarterback Malik Willis dropped out of the first round. If Willis is selected, that makes the Vikings and Titans the teams that could mess with the Giants’ draft board the most.
There are three prospects available who likely stand above the rest: Clemson corner Andrew Booth Jr., Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, and Georgia wide receiver George Pickens.
Each of these players has “first round” ability, but likely slipped out of the first different reasons.
- Booth was considered just half a step behind Derek Stingley and Ahmad Gardner throughout the 2021 season. However, he suffered some incredibly ill-timed injuries (grade 2 quad strain, sports hernia) just as the draft process was ramping up.
- George Pickens could have been in contention to be the first receiver off the board. He’s athletic, skilled, and very physical. Unfortunately, he missed almost all of the 2021 season thanks to an ACL injury suffered in March of 2021.
- Nakobe Dean is a frenetic linebacker, but he’s very under-sized at 5-foot-11, 229 pounds. Teams likely wonder if he can have an impact in the NFL without something like the incredibly dominant Georgia defensive line in front of him.
Booth is my pick of the three, considering the flurry of reports about the Giants’ interest in the cornerback position leading up to the draft. Quad strains are painful and take time to heal, but they aren’t uncommon. Likewise, players usually come back from sports hernia surgery well, though Booth would likely have to miss part of the off-season program.
He is an aggressive, physical, and talented corner who thrives in man and press-man, Booth spent 49 percent of his snaps in man or press-man coverage in 2021, allowed just 0.9 yards per coverage snap, and had a -1.8 EPA when targeted (per Sports Info Solutions). He’s also a physical and aggressive run defender.
Booth might not have the raw ceiling of Stingley or Sauce Gardner, but he’s not far off.
Really, it could be tough for the Giants to go wrong with any one of the three players (or perhaps even athletic freak receiver Christian Watson).
Ideal pick: Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
The Giants only have two safeties on the roster right now, and that’s a problem. Not just from a schematic point of view considering Wink Martindale’s love of coverage players and blitzing, but from a pure roster building perspective.
The Giants are one injury away from disaster on the back end of their defense.
Jalen Pitre is one of the more versatile defenders in the draft, and simply looks like he was born to play in a Martindale defense. He started out as a linebacker for Baylor before transitioning to the “STAR” hybrid role for the 2021 season. Pitre is smart, aggressive, and can contribute as a coverage player, run defender, and blitzer from anywhere around the line of scrimmage.
It’s entirely possible that Pitre doesn’t even make it to this pick, but he could be a weapon for Martindale if he lands in the Giants’ lap. If he doesn’t this could be a place to look for a wide receiver or an athletic linebacker like Troy Andersen.
Ideal pick: Cam Jurgens (C, Nebraska)
“Beef Jurgey”, as he’s known around Nebraska is a bit of a developmental talent at center. Jurgens played running back, tight end, and linebacker when he was recruited to Nebraska. He initially transitioned to tight end as a freshman, but practiced at center. Jurgens emerged as a starter at center the next year and has gotten better as he gets more experience.
Jurgens has a versatile build at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds with 33⅜-inch arms and 10-inch hands. He’s got power in his lower body and very good movement skills to execute zone blocks, climb to the second level, or out-position defensive tackles. Jurgens is still learning and developing at the position, but he has the traits to emerge as a starter pretty early in his career. The Giants have Jon Feliciano penciled in at the center for now, but the journeyman lineman is 30 years old. It would behoove the Giants to develop a long-term answer for the center position now that they have their bookend tackles.
The Giants could also consider players like Dylan Parham (Memphis), Luke Fortner (Kentucky), or Jamaree Salyer (Georgia) for the role, but Jurgens might have the best chance of the four to be there at 81st overall.
The Giants could also look to add a tight end or running back here.