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Assessing the Giants’ 2022 draft class: The good, and the bad, of Joe Schoen’s first draft

There was some excellence, some flashes, some struggles and far too many injuries

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Kayvon Thibodeaux
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants’ 2022 draft class is one that is hard to quantify. No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux was excellent, even if he didn’t have the huge numbers to show it. No. 7 pick Evan Neal was up and down. There were flashes of promise from several players. There were far too many injuries — to the point where it will almost feel like the Giants enter the 2023 season with two rookie classes.

Let’s go player-by-player through the nine selections made by GM Joe Schoen in his first draft.

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Selected: Round 1 (No. 5)
Position: Edge
2022 stats: Games played (14) | Defensive snaps (740) | Sacks (4.0) | QB hits (13) | Passes defensed (5) | Forced fumbles (2) | Tackles (49, 33 solo, 6 for loss)
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (72.5) | Run defense (71.8) | Pass rush (67.3) | Pass rush win percentage (11.9)

Last summer Thibodeaux said his goal was to “get that one sack or five to 10 tackles a game.”

As Thibodeaux learned, that expectation was a bit — maybe a lot — too ambitious. That, though, is not to say Thibodeaux did not have an excellent rookie season. He did. He just did not compile the gaudy statistics that perhaps he, and some others, were hoping for.

Is that because Thibodeaux still has things to learn about dealing with NFL blockers? Perhaps. Is it because of how Wink Martindale used Thibodeaux? Perhaps. Martindale at one time referred to Thibodeaux as the “can opener” who was the key to some of the pressure schemes he employed, even if it wasn’t Thibodeaux ultimately pressuring the quarterback.

Thibodeaux plays with force. He absolutely answered the pre-draft questions about his effort.

Thibodeaux absolutely showed that he can be a game-changing player.

Thibodeaux certainly looks like a cornerstone piece for the Giants and a player who will justify that No. 5 overall selection.

Evan Neal

Selected: Round 1 (No. 7)
Position: Right tackle
2022 stats: Games played (13) | Offensive snaps (737)
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (41.7) | Pass blocking (42.3) | Pass blocking efficiency: 94.0 | Run blocking (47.8)

This was undeniably not the rookie season anyone hoped Neal would have. He missed four games due to injury and had some truly awful performances during the season. He ended up surrendering eight sacks and allowing 52 overall pressures. Among 57 qualifying tackles, Neal allowed the most pressures and had the worst overall Pro Football Focus grade.

Rookie tackle Ickey Ekwonu, who was selected No. 6 by the Carolina Panthers, finished 39th among tackles graded by PFF. Charles Cross, who went No. 9 to the Seattle Seahawks, was 42nd. Neal clearly had the worst season of any of the Big Three tackles in the 2022 draft class.

Schoen said Neal “had some ups and downs and battled through injury.”

Can Neal make an Andrew Thomas-like leap in his second year as an NFL player? That is to be determined. It is not, though, time to give up on a player the Giants selected in the top 10 of last year’s draft.

New York Giants v Jacksonville Jaguars
Wan’Dale Robinson
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Wan’ Dale Robinson

Selected: Round 2 (No. 43)
Position: Wide receiver
2022 stats: Games played (6) | Offensive snaps (229) | Receptions (23) | Receiving yards (227, 9.9 yards per catch) | Touchdowns (1) | Passer rating when targeted (105.2)
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (72.0) | Receiving (70.9)

Robinson missed time early in the season with a knee injury and then suffered a season-ending torn ACL at the end of his Week 11 breakout game against the Detroit Lions, a game that saw him catch nine passes in 13 targets for 100 yards.

“He would’ve been a big-time contributor, especially down the stretch, if he would’ve stayed healthy,” Schoen said.

Robinson was a surprise selection by the Giants at No. 43, but they insisted from the beginning that they knew exactly how the 5-foot-8, 185-pound wide receiver fit into the offense they wanted to run. Unfortunately, his 2022 injuries meant we never got to see that plan come fully to fruition.

There were enough hints, though, that Robinson should have a bright future if he can overcome his rookie season injury issues.

Joshua Ezeudu

Selected: Round 3 (No. 67)
Position: Guard
2022 stats: Games played (10) | Offensive snaps (290)
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (46.0) | Pass blocking (45.9) | Pass blocking efficiency (93.7) | Run blocking (53.1)

Ezeudu struggled early in the season and quickly fell out of a left guard rotation with Ben Bredeson.

When Bredeson was injured midseason, Ezeudu played better but suffered a neck injury that eventually pushed him to injured reserve.

Ezeudu could be part of the team’s long-term future at either guard spot. If he does not emerge as a starter, he possesses enough positional flexibility to possibly fill in everywhere except center.

Cor’Dale Flott

Selected: Round 3 (No. 81)
Position: Cornerback
2022 stats: Games played (11) | Defensive snaps (335) | Tackles (26, 15 solo) | Passes defensed (2)
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (67.8) | Run (43.0) | Coverage (73.0)

Flott showed promise as a cover corner, indicated by his 73.0 PFF grade. He gave up 16 completions in 24 targets during the regular season and had a 102.4 passer rating against when targeted.

There is a lot to like about Flott. The biggest issue he has at times is that listed at just 175 pounds he can occasionally be bullied, which is part of why his run defense suffers and he had a 13.4 percent missed tackle rate.

If Flott could get to maybe 190 pounds without losing any of the short-area quickness he possesses the Giants might have themselves a quality player.

Schoen said that Flott “has a high ceiling; we’re excited about him.”

Daniel Bellinger

Selected: Round 4 (No. 112)
Position: Tight end
2022 stats: Games played (12) | Offensive snaps (574) | Receptions (30) | Receiving yards (268, 8.9 yards per catch) | Touchdowns: 2 | Passer rating when targeted: 117.6
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (60.2) | Receiving (57.1) | Run blocking: 63.3

Right from the beginning of spring practices it was obvious that Bellinger was a reliable target and would grow into a significant offensive role. He ended up catching 30 passes on 35 targets with only a single dropped pass.

Bellinger’s run blocking and his ability to play inline (445 snaps), in the slot (126 snaps), out wide (80 snaps) and in the backfield (21 snaps) were also useful to the Giants.

Bellinger may never be a dynamic downfield threat as a receiver, but he could be a solid player for the Giants for the next several seasons.

Houston Texans v New York Giants
Dane Belton
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Dane Belton

Selected: Round 4 (No. 114)
Position: Safety
2022 stats: Games played (15) | Defensive snaps (390) | Tackles (31, 24 solo, 1 for loss) | Interceptions (2) | Passes defensed (3)
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (32.8) | Run (28.9) | Coverage (42.3)

Belton missed most of training camp after suffering a collarbone injury. He had a regular role on defense throughout the first half of the season and played double-digit defensive snaps in each of the first 10 games, with a high of 64 Week 10 vs. the Houston Texans.

Over the final six regular-season games and the two playoff games, though, Belton rarely saw the field defensively. He played zero snaps three times, one snap against the Minnesota Vikings Week 16 and only saw significant playing time Week 18 against the Philadelphia Eagles when starters did not play.

As the season wore on, the Giants clearly preferred the play of Jason Pinnock and perhaps even Nick McCloud at the back end of the defense.

The Giants clearly like Belton’s skillset — otherwise he would not have had such a big role early in the season. Let’s see if he can develop into a more consistent contributor in 2023.

Micah McFadden

Selected: Round 5 (No. 146)
Position: Linebacker
2022 stats: Games played (17) | Defensive snaps (435) | Tackles (59, 23 solo, 2 for loss) | Sacks — 2.0
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (38.7) | Run (51.4) | Pass rush (66.3) | Coverage (30)

McFadden earned the distinction of being the only member of the rookie class not to miss a game due to injury. He played a limited defensive role the first half of the season, emerged as a starter and base run defender the second half of the season, then found himself inactive for the Giants’ two playoff games as they decided to insert veteran Jarrad Davis into the lineup.

McFadden showed potential as a run defender. His pass coverage, though, left much to be desired. He surrendered 22 completions in 27 targets and had a passer rating against of 120.5. He was generally replaced by an extra defensive back on expected passing downs.

McFadden figures to at least be depth and a core special teamer going forward. There is always the possibility of improvement, but I’m not certain he is a starting-caliber linebacker.

D.J. Davidson

Selected: Round 5 (No. 147)
Position: Defensive tackle
2022 stats: Games played (5) | Defensive snaps (43) | Tackles (4)
Pro Football Focus grades: Overall (39.8) | Run (48.8) | Pass rush (52.4)

The 6-foot-5, 325-pound rookie from Arizona State was playing a small role as a rotational defensive lineman before tearing his ACL Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers. The most snaps he had played in a game was 12. Still, the Giants struggled to find capable backup interior defensive linemen throughout the season, and it is possible that Davidson could have been part of the solution.

The Giants need to improve their depth behind Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. We will see if the Giants think Davidson can play a part in that.

Marcus McKethan

Selected: Round 5 (No. 173)
Position: Guard

McKethan, a 6-foot-7, 335-pound guard, was lost for the season when he suffered a torn ACL during the team’s Blue and White scrimmage at MetLife Stadium during training camp.

“McKethan was having a really good camp for us before tearing his ACL,” Schoen said.

McKethan played right guard at North Carolina. If he can remain healthy in 2023, perhaps he could emerge as an option to eventually replace Mark Glowinski at right guard. Glowinski could be cut after the 2023 season with $5.7 million in salary cap savings and just $1.5 million in dead money.

Darrian Beavers

Selected: Round 6 (No. 182)
Position: Linebacker

Beavers missed the entire season due to a torn ACL suffered against the Cincinnati Bengals in the Giants’ second preseason game.

The way the Giants churned through off-ball linebackers this season, and as well as Beavers had been playing in training camp and the early part of preseason, it isn’t hard to imagine Beavers having emerged as a starter had he remained healthy.

“He was competing to start at MIKE,” Schoen said. “Excited to see him when he comes back.”

Here is something Chris wrote when Beavers was injured:

“The Giants’ sixth-round draft pick had been having a very good summer, flashing in both training camp and in the first two preseason games. Beavers played well against the run, which was expected based on his college tape, and surprisingly well in space. The rookie had been rising up the Giants’ depth chart and has been a reliable option in the middle as Blake Martinez works his way back from his own torn ACL.”

The Giants figure to be re-making their linebacker room this offseason. Beavers could be part of the plan.