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A guide to nail-biting during the first round of the NFL Draft

It won’t be easy for Giants fans watching so many prospects come off the board

NFL: NFL Draft
Giants fans react during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft
Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long time since fans of the New York Giants had to come to terms with waiting several hours on the first day of the NFL Draft for their team to make a selection. 2017, to be precise. That year the Giants were looking to beef up an anemic offense after making the playoffs on the backs of a very good defense.

The top of the 2017 draft was not great for offense unless you were looking for a quarterback and you were not the Chicago Bears. So Jerry Reese’s choice of Evan Engram at No. 23 actually wasn’t that terrible other than the fact that drafting tight ends in the first round is not wise. Engram turned out to be the best of the three tight ends taken in Round 1 that year. Other than Christian McCaffrey, no other elite non-quarterback offensive players were gone by the time Reese made his pick. Fans lament Reese passing on Ryan Ramczyk, but in fairness he had major injury concerns coming out of college.

This year the Giants have needs at several high-value positions, most notably cornerback and wide receiver. There are many options at both positions, but fans will have to wait while 24 other teams get their chance first. It will be nerve-wracking. Here is the consensus big board from NFL Mock Draft Database:

Courtesy of NFL Mock Draft Database

Four cornerbacks (Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Joey Porter Jr., and Deonte Banks) and four wide receivers (Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, and Zay Flowers) have first round potential. In particular, Banks and Flowers have often been mocked to the Giants. Do they, or any of the others, actually have a chance to be there when the Giants pick at No. 25?

The Giants’ chances in Round 1 as seen by a mock draft simulator

Draft big boards are fluid things, with specific players moving up and down over time as the community learns more about them, as Combine and Pro Day results are compiled, as draft experts release their rankings, as teams sign free agents and make trades, and as teams begin to host the 30 players they are allowed to have for visits. So consider what follows to be a snapshot in advance of the draft.

I did 10 automated mock drafts of Round 1 through pick No. 24, using the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator. No simulator is perfect. Each one tries to account for player quality, positional value, and team needs, while including some randomness to mimic the unknown extent to which teams value those things and their varying skill in evaluation when they are on the clock. The drafts below do not include any trades, and there are usually several in the first round that shake things up. Finally, there are always a couple of teams that make head-scratching, “What were they thinking?” picks that fall outside any attempt to characterize them with a randomness component.

The purpose of the chart below is to guide Giants fans through the first round by asking the following: When should you begin to get nervous? Can anything happen that will make you relax a bit while you wait for the draft to get to No. 25? What would realistic expectations be?

Each column below represents one mock draft. The chart has cornerback picks highlighted in pink and wide receiver picks highlighted in light green. The two columns at the far right indicate how many times (out of 10) each position was selected at each point in the first round.

Data from the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator

Mock drafts can be ridiculous

First, let’s acknowledge that some stupid things can happen in automated mock drafts despite the attempts of the designers to simulate reality. Here are a few you might notice above:

  • The Carolina Panthers, after trading a huge amount of draft capital plus D.J. Moore to move up to No. 1, and in bad need of a quarterback, draft edge defender Will Anderson Jr. three times out of 10. Anderson may be the best player in the draft, but that ain’t happening.
  • The Houston Texans, also in need of a quarterback, also pass on one three times. The Texans do also have the No. 12 pick and in one draft they use it on Anthony Richardson, but still... That having been said, it may not be all that crazy that Houston declines the chance to get one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft.
  • The Indianapolis Colts, who have floundered at quarterback ever since Andrew Luck retired, getting multiple head coaches fired, also decide not to choose a quarterback three times. Twice this happened with three of the top four quarterback prospects still available.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars, having used the No. 1 pick on Trevor Lawrence two years ago and seen him emerge as a likely franchise quarterback after leading them to the playoffs in year two, nonetheless select Anthony Richardson three times when he drops to No. 24 (itself seemingly a ridiculous outcome given how Richardson’s stock has risen lately).

But more often than not, the selections play out in ways that make sense, and this has some ramifications for the Giants and their fans, sitting and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Can the Giants get a top cornerback?

The Mock Draft Database says no. All four top cornerbacks go before the Giants draft in all 10 mocks. The bubble will likely burst early. Gonzalez and Witherspoon are the first two cornerbacks selected in every mock draft. In 19 out of 20 cases (2 players x 10 drafts), both are gone by pick No. 8, the only exception being Witherspooon dropping to New England at No. 14 in one case.

Porter always goes between picks No. 10 and No. 16. That leaves only Banks. Giants fans who want him will sweat through the next eight picks, but between Detroit at No. 18 and Tampa Bay at No. 19, Banks is gone in eight of 10 drafts.

Looking at why this occurs, we can make the following observations:

  • Forget about Gonzalez and Witherspoon. They are out of reach. It doesn’t matter which team took them in the mocks above, somebody will way before the Giants pick.
  • Porter is gone because he is taken by the Eagles (4 times), the Commanders (5 times), and the Patriots (once). I find it unlikely that Philadelphia goes that route. I see them trying to replenish their aging defensive line, which they do with their other six picks. Washington seems like a place Porter is likely to wind up.
  • Banks is gone mostly because the Buccaneers grab him (seven times). But Tampa Bay just re-signed Jamel Dean to a multi-year contract, and they have Carlton Davis manning the other side. I see them as much more likely to take edge defender Myles Murphy, their choice in the other three mocks. The other three times, Banks is taken by Detroit, Baltimore, and Minnesota. Detroit seems an unlikely destination after they signed three cornerbacks in free agency. Baltimore makes more sense, but one wonders whether with all of their top receivers coming off injuries they might go that route in Round 1 instead. Minnesota, trying to re-build their poor defense, makes the most sense to snatch Banks from the Giants’ grasp.

You’re telling me there’s a chance for a top wide receiver?

A small one, yes. This year’s wide receiver crop is not considered to be the equal of last year’s (six taken in the top 18 picks, and four in the top 12) or that of 2021 (3 taken in the top 10). That may give Giants fans a false sense of security. This year, not a single receiver is drafted in the top ten in the ten mocks above. But then a mini-run on receivers (two of them) begins at picks 11-15:

  • Seven of 10 times Jaxon Smith-Njigba goes to the Titans, who found out in 2022 that life without A.J, Brown wasn’t great. I’ll be very surprised if he’s available and this does not happen.
  • Quentin Johnston is a tough call. He’s the only X-receiver type with a first round grade, but evaluations of him are all over the place because he doesn’t play like a big receiver, he’s a body-catcher, and he has a problem with drops. There’s no consistency in the 10 mocks about where he goes, and if he drops to No. 25 that’s a conundrum for the Giants.

Nothing happens in any of these drafts between picks 16-19, again stirring the hopes of fans that a wideout will drop to them. Mostly, those hopes are dashed. Picks No. 20-23 are brutal for the Giants, with 20 of the 40 possible (4 receivers x 10 drafts) wide receiver selections occurring:

  • Jordan Addison goes off the board six times at No. 20 to the Seahawks, who need a slot receiver to add to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the outside. But they need front seven defensive help too, so this is no sure thing and something to keep an eye on. Two other times Addison goes to the Chargers, who also need a slot receiver to complement outside bigs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. And one time he goes to the Ravens, for the reasons mentioned above as to why they might not draft a cornerback.
  • Zay Flowers goes four times to the Ravens, once to the Chargers (see previous bullet), and three times to the Vikings. I consider Minnesota to be a longshot. They need to replace Adam Thielen, but their defensive weaknesses will more likely take precedence in Round 1.

This is the minefield that Giants fans have to steel themselves for - so close to getting a potential WR1 or WR2, yet so far, just like in 2021. But in two of the drafts Flowers is still available at No. 25, and in one Addison is still there. Hope springs eternal.

Looking for a black swan (or two)

In some sense, it doesn’t matter to the Giants which specific teams select a cornerback or a wide receiver in these mocks. It’s just a numbers game. Still, though, if teams that seem likely to take a cornerback or a wide receiver do otherwise, that increases the chance that one of them drops to the Giants. One way to watch the draft as a Giants fan, then, is to note surprises of these kinds.

According to Pro Football Focus, the teams with the worst pass coverage grade in 2022 that pick before the Giants do are Detroit, Las Vegas, Carolina, Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago. In our ten mocks, Detroit (which has signed three free agent cornerbacks) and Las Vegas select cornerbacks only once, and Houston, Carolina, and Chicago never do. So if any of them go cornerback in Round 1, that’s bad news for the Giants. Atlanta on the other hand drafts a cornerback four times, so if they go in a different direction in the real draft that’s a hopeful sign for the Giants.

PFF’s worst pass receiving teams that pick before the Giants are Chicago, Arizona, Indianapolis, and Carolina. None of these teams ever selects a pass receiver in our 10 mocks, whether because they beefed up in free agency (e.g., Chicago) or because they all draft very high and value doesn’t meet need with this year’s receiver group. If any of them do take a receiver that’s bad news for the Giants.

What we really want is teams who surprise everyone by drafting players that fall outside the top 24 on the big board. The more of those that occur, the better the odds that a top cornerback or wide receiver is still there at No. 25. There are several ways this might happen:

  • Running back Bijan Robinson is No. 12 on the big board and is universally considered the best back in the draft. A decade ago he would have been a top 10 pick. Now it’s considered toxic to draft a running back higher than late in the first round. If anyone does, advantage Giants. For what it’s worth, in the SB Nation Community Mock Draft, Kevin Knight of The Falcoholic chooses Robinson for Atlanta at No. 8. Given head coach Arthur Smith’s love for the run, that’s not all that far-fetched.
  • Safety, linebacker, and tight end are also considered to be of low positional value in today’s NFL. In our third and seventh mocks, tight ends Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid are off the board before the Giants pick. These are two of the three mocks in which Zay Flowers or Jordan Addison falls to the Giants. In our sixth draft, Mayer is chosen before No. 25, allowing the Giants to select Flowers if they wish. Branch is only chosen once, and no linebackers are ever taken, but if either of these occurs the Giants may benefit.
  • Tight end Darnell Washington is No. 30 on the big board, defensive tackle Mazi Smith is No. 31, and edge defender Will McDonald IV is No. 32. None are ever selected in the top 24 (the Smith in the chart above is edge defender Nolan Smith). So if any or all of them do walk to the podium by the early 20s, advantage Giants.
  • When all else fails, count on the Las Vegas Raiders for help. In 2015 the Raiders’ first round draft pick was Amari Cooper. Since then, these are the players they have drafted in Round 1 higher than No. 25: Karl Joseph, Gareon Conley, Kolton Miller, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, Henry Ruggs III, Damon Arnette, and Alex Leatherwood. Jacobs is one of the best running backs in the NFL and Miller is a good offensive tackle. The rest were reaches who have not panned out. Always expect, and hope for, the unexpected from the Raiders.

What if all the top cornerbacks and receivers are gone?

Here are the next 10 players n the Mock Draft Database consensus big board:

Data from NFL Mock Draft Database

Three cornerbacks sit at Nos. 36-38: Emmanuel Forbes, Cam Smith, and Kelee Ringo. They are probably at the limit of what would not be considered a reach at No. 25. Forbes’ stock has been rising in recent months, while Smith’s and Ringo’s have been dropping:

Data from NFL Mock Draft Database
Data from NFL Mock Draft Database
Data from NFL Mock Draft Database

Forbes is sometimes mocked to the Giants, and Cam Smith only rarely, probably because Smith has gone from a player beyond the Giants’ reach to one not worth the reach in the space of a couple of months. Smith, however, is one of the Giants’ 30 prospect visits. Ringo is almost never mentioned as a Giants target.

The only wide receiver anywhere close to the top of Round 2 is Jalin Hyatt, who was considered a viable Round 1 selection in February but is now seen as likely Round 2. Hyatt is also one of the Giants’ 30 prospect visits.

Instead you might see the Giants go the route of defensive line help. They did sign Rakeem Nunez-Roches in free agency, but he is a run stuffer primarily. Forget about flavor-of-the-month Calijah Kancey - he is gone in all 10 mock drafts well before the Giants select. Brian Bresee is gone six times in 10 drafts, each time to the Minnesota Vikings. Bresee is on the Giants’ list of 30 prospect visits, as is edge defender Will McDonald IV. Mazi Smith is another possibility.

Taking a center at No. 25 would be an extreme reach - the highest ranked center is John Michael Schmitz at No. 47. Neither Schmitz nor any other center is selected before the Giants pick in any of the 10 mock drafts. A more likely possibility is that Joe Schoen attempts to trade down to the end of the first round or start of the second round instead if he wants Schmitz.