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Ed’s New York Giants mock draft: Playing the board for players I wanted

Wheeling and dealing leads to an interesting draft

NFL: Combine
Brian Branch
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have 10 selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. We learned last season that general manager Joe Schoen is perfectly willing to manipulate the board to get what he seeks. I expect him to do that again this year and will be surprised if he makes all 10 selections.

With that in mind, I decided to try my hand at a mock draft this week where I moved around at least a bit to see what I could create. I may have gotten just a bit carried away with my maneuvering, but read on to find out what happened in this week’s four-round mock draft.

For the record, this was conducted with the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator and I do not know which trade chart they are using to determine acceptable trades. I suspect, though, that it might be the traditional Jimmy Johnson chart.

Round 1 (No. 25) — TRADE!!!

The top four wide receivers — Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison and Zay Flowers — are gone. The cornerbacks are picked over, too, and I might be able to get a player the Giants have shown interest in a few picks later. Or, snag a center. So, I move down two picks here and get a fourth-round pick (No. 130 overall) from the Buffalo Bills in the process.

Round 1 (No. 27) — Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

Well, that sorta backfired. I had my eye on South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith, a player the Giants have dined with and will host on a Top 30 visit. I didn’t expect it, but the Dallas Cowboys swooped in and took Smith at No. 26.

I’m bummed, but you never make a trade down without accepting some risk and having multiple players on the board you would be happy to select. That is the case for me here.

Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders and centers John Michael Schmitz of Minnesota and Joe Tippmann of Wisconsin all have some appeal here.

I kept coming back to Branch, though, and it is largely because of the multiple ways he can be utilized in the secondary. I wrote about Branch in the mock draft tracker on Saturday. Here is more from Sports Info Solutions:

Branch best projects as a high-end, starting free safety at the next level. Although he has the ability to play anywhere on the field, he is best utilized as a slot corner who can play in space or in the box if needed. On 3rd down, he is best utilized in the slot, but can play in the box in obvious run situations. Because of his speed, athleticism, and physicality, Branch projects as a core special teamer that can play on all units.

Given the players who were already off the board here — and the reality of picking 25th is that you can’t target players the way you can when you pick in the top 10 — I felt like Branch was the way I wanted to go here.

I should also mention that Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, who has tremendous instincts and ball skills, is still on the board here. Forbes has the height at a shade over 6-foot and the wingspan (92nd percentile) that Wink Martindale craves. I just can’t bring myself to draft a 166-pound cornerback this early.

Forbes has everything you could want physically, except that he is a beanpole.

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Round 2 (No. 43) — John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota

Yes, pick No. 43. I used some of my draft collateral to move up in a deal with the Atlanta Falcons. I flipped the fourth-round pick (No. 130) that I got from the Bills and a 2024 fourth-rounder (I did not want to surrender that, but it was how the simulator would make the deal work) for the player considered the consensus best center in the draft.

I don’t know how the Giants will rank the centers on their board, because Schmitz, Joe Tippmann, Luke Wypler and Olusegun Oluwatimi are different players. Personally, I love Tippmann’s athleticism. For the purpose of this exercise, though, I’m trading up for the consensus top guy.

Round 3 (No. 80) — Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati

Another deal!

I flipped pick 89 and 172 (Round 5) to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 80th overall pick and a 2024 fifth-rounder. I have no issue giving up the fifth-round pick since it is my second of the round.

Since I passed on wide receiver earlier I have been keeping my eye on Scott. I am thrilled to get this player at this point. I am also pleased to add the 2024 pick after shipping a 2024 fourth-rounder to the Falcons in my move for Schmitz.

Scott is 33rd Team’s 54th-ranked prospect and 10th-ranked wide receiver.

Writing for 33rd Team, Greg Cosell says:

There is no question about Scott’s vertical speed and explosiveness as you transition and project him to the next level, but there is more to his evaluation that must be discussed. Scott’s speed showed up on video as he consistently ran by corners-secondary at Cincinnati, with excellent ball tracking skills and late hands when needed. He can be deployed as a weapon in the tunnel-bubble screen game and on jet sweeps to take advantage of his pure speed and ability to accelerate in space and outrun angles and pursuit.

The questions with Scott will start with his size and thin frame, and whether that will limit his deployment at the next level. He did the majority of his work at Cincinnati outside the numbers, which of course included vertical routes where his pure speed consistently showed up, especially with all the free access he had off the LOS. NFL teams will discuss whether Scott can be a factor with a more advanced route tree, particularly working between the numbers catching the ball on the move, where his accelerating speed can result in big plays.

Overall, Scott will likely be a Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft because there are not many receivers with his speed and vertical ability, and that always has a place in NFL passing games. With the continuing expansion of offensive concepts, Scott’s value will be enhanced with deployment on jet sweeps and orbit reverses, and in the RPO game where he can take quick slants and turn them into chunk plays or home runs.

Those of you looking for a linebacker will be unhappy to note that Washington State’s Daiyan Henley is also available at No. 80.

Round 4 (No. 119) — Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina

Yes, another deal! Why not?

I moved the fourth-round pick at No. 128, a sixth-round pick (No. 209) and one of the Giants three seventh-round picks (No. 254, their last one) to get Rush, a 6-foot-2, 198-pound cornerback. I couldn’t get Smith in Round 1, but I’m happy to snag his talented teammate in Round 4.

33rd Team says:

Darius Rush has the ideal size and length for the position, but his lateral movement, short-area quickness and closing burst are less than ideal. He will have to use his length and strength more consistently to have a substantial career in the NFL.

Rush is the 90th-ranked prospect on the NFL Mock Draft Database Big Board.

Below, a look at Rush during an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl:

Here is how the simulator graded my picks:

What do you think of my wheeling and dealing, Giants fans?