The 2023 NFL Draft is here! The New York Giants are primed and ready to reshape their roster as they look to build upon their 9-7-1 record last season. I have yet to publicly do a predictive mock draft on what Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll may do this weekend. They could trade up, trade down, or stay at pick No. 25 and select their top-ranked player.
The Giants have wined-and-dined several top wide receivers at their respective pro days and had several projected first-round selections in for top-30 visits. Schoen recently stated in his pre-draft interview that the Giants are “pretty confident” a player they’ll like will be available at pick No. 25.
There are many scenarios that could materialize, but Schoen and his brand-new draft room should be ready to tackle any situation. At the start of the draft, the Giants have 10 selections, seven on Day 3. This mock draft was my first iteration, and I rolled with the punches. It didn’t exactly turn out advantageously, in my opinion, but I welcome the tougher decisions.
Using Pro Football Focus’ draft simulator, the Giants' first-round options were respectable. The top-four cornerbacks (Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Deonte Banks, Joey Porter Jr.) were off the board. Quentin Johnston and Jaxon Smith-Njigba were the only two receivers selected. Brian Branch was selected by the Steelers at pick No.17.
Four tackles, four quarterbacks, two tight ends, and Texas running back Bijan Robinson were all off the board, so the Giants are set up well at pick No. 25, with several comfortable options in this predictive mock draft.
Round 1 (No. 25) — Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
I wouldn’t be shocked if the Giants trade out of pick No. 25 on Thursday night, but I don’t envision that happening with this specific scenario. The Giants expressed significant interest in the wide receiver group. Wide receivers Zay Flowers (Boston College), Jordan Addison (USC/Pitt), and Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee) were all available, and the Giants hosted each player for a top-30 visit.
Other players that the Giants hosted for top-30 visits that are projected around pick No. 25 were Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes, defensive linemen Bryan Bresee (Clemson) Keion White (Georgia Tech), Iowa State edge defender Will McDonald IV, Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders, and center John Michael-Schmitz.
I don’t believe the Giants will go linebacker or center in the first round. They’ll also consider players they did not host like Pittsburgh DL Calijah Kancey, EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE/DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, and guard O’Cyrus Torrence.
New York had several viable options, but they ultimately chose to go the wide receiver route with Boston College’s Zay Flowers. I could easily see them going Jordan Addison, who I believe may have a better chance of being available, but they were both unselected in this mock draft.
New York’s critical vulnerability on offense was a lack of explosive plays. They ranked last in the NFL throughout the 2022 season. Their biggest issue on defense was stopping the run. Schoen focused on rectifying the issue by adding Bobby Okereke, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and A’Shawn Robinson.
Adding Darren Waller certainly assists the Giants' offense with explosiveness, but the wide receiver position remains a question mark going forward. Only Wan’Dale Robinson and Darius Slayton are under contract beyond 2023. I like the addition of Parris Campbell, but health has plagued the former Buckeye throughout his career.
New York’s interest in early-round wide receivers isn’t by accident. They want to add playmakers around their now $40-million-a-year quarterback. Flowers and Addison are both good football players who fit the offense. In this situation with both available, Schoen is selecting Zay Flowers.
My selection: I’m fine with Flowers or Addison at this spot, but I’m a big fan of Emmanuel Forbes. I get it, he’s 166 pounds. However, he didn’t play to that size, and I believe his tape is arguably top-15 in this class.
Round 2 (No. 57) — Jartavius “Quan” Martin, DB, Illinois
There wasn’t much interest in trading down and several possible targets came off the board. Adebawore, Sanders, and John Michael-Schmitz were no longer available, and Kansas State CB Julius Brents was selected at pick No. 54. Miami CB Tyrique Stevenson was selected at pick No. 64, and the top corners on the board were Utah’s Clark Phillips III, South Carolina’s Darius Rush, and the undersized Tre’Vius Hodges Tomlinson out of TCU.
Before making this selection, I didn’t love this situation as a proponent advocating for cornerback early in the draft. However, I think the NFL - including the Giants - are higher on Martin than draftniks. There are few players in the NFL with Martin’s freak athletic testing, versatility, and sure tackling ability.
New York had him in for a top-30 visit, and with the cornerback position depleting rapidly, Big Blue decided to grab a player who can handle any backend responsibility, while upgrading the slot and overall run defense. When it’s all said and done, I think Martin goes before pick No. 57.
My selection: In this situation, I would put serious consideration into a few players. Martin is at the top of that list. He is a perfect fit for how Martindale diversifies coverage; again, he should have more buzz than what we are currently hearing. A few offensive linemen are on my radar as well. It was difficult to pass on Wisconsin center Joe Tippmann and North Dakota State OL Cody Mauch, who played tackle in college but projects to the inside at the next level. I was also close to selecting Washington State LB Daiyan Henley or Clemson LB Trenton Simpson.
Round 3 (No. 89) — TRADE!
Giants receive picks No. 91 and 137
Bills receive picks No. 89, 243, and 254
Is Vasily Zaitsev in this mock draft; maybe Chris Kyle - because I’m getting sniped! Simpson, Tippmann, and Ohio State center Luke Wypler, along with Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims all went in the last 15 selections. Best to trade back and pick up the second pick in the fifth round.
Round 3 (No. 91) — Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
The Bills selected BYU OT Blake Freeland with the trade-up, and Dallas went with South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft. The RB group is deep in this class, so I was hesitant to select one in the top 100, but Spears was the last left of my second running back tier. I like Spears a lot, and the fit makes sense for the Giants with, or without, Saquon Barkley.
Spears would be an elite change of pace back behind Barkley and could be the RB No. 1 in a committee if Barkley is not retained after the season. Even if Barkley returns, lessening the workload with a capable competent back who offers a different skill-set, and can be effective as a receiver, is a solid overall investment.
My selection: I didn’t want to go running back this early, but the draft was not kind in this scenario. I want to invest in the interior offensive line, for there are no proven starters beyond the 2023 season - hopefully, Josh Ezeudu will solidify himself in that role. Still, I was okay with selecting the last running back in my second tier of RBs.
Round 4 (No. 128) — Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford
The Giants add more competition opposite Adoree’ Jackson by selecting the 21-year-old Stanford Cardinal. Kelly is a long corner who started 35 of 38 games. He was one of the first evaluations I did this season. Here’s my synopsis:
Kyu Blu Kelly has the traits to be a starting CB in the NFL. His length, size, and movement skills will interest defensive back coaches around the league. Can play in a man coverage scheme and does well operating within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. I would like to see him execute more efficiently while locating the football down the field. Can also play zone due to his ability to break on routes underneath him; he had some zone mishaps in 2022, but he also displayed positive processing ability throughout his tape.
Kelly also made impactful plays in key moments, showing excellent mental toughness (2022: fourth-and-3 Q2, 12:57 vs CAL, third-and-9 Q2, 7:18; 2021: fourth-and-5 Q4, 3:18 vs. WASH). He’s not fully polished yet, but there’s upside with Blu Kelly. Although he’s played in the slot and outside, his best NFL fit is outside. The 2023 NFL Draft is rife with CB talent, and Kyu Blu Kelly is in the back-end day two conversation. He’ll be at the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he can showcase his talent in front of the NFL world in Mobile, Alabama.
Kelly was solid at the Senior Bowl and adequate at the combine, with a less-than-ideal forty:
My selection: After not adding a true outside cornerback, I would be fine with the selection of Blu Kelly or Maryland’s Jakorian Bennett here. The other player I considered was CB Rejzohn Wright out of Oregon State who did not test in the off-season. Flott and Blu Kelly can compete for starting snaps opposite Jackson. I feel comfortable going with Blu Kelly since there’s solid interior offensive line depth available for pick No. 137.
Round 5 (No. 128) — Juice Scruggs, OC, Penn State
The Giants have expressed interest in Scruggs, who is a trim 301 pounds with long arms and big hands. New York wants to add offensive linemen with versatility. Scruggs started nine games at right guard and seventeen at center, including all of his appearances in 2022. Scruggs won’t be forced to start in 2022. I believe the Giants do like their group of players competing at center, and Scruggs would join that group. Ideally, he would win the starting job.
My selection: If I was going to select an IOL, I would select UCLA’s Jon Gaines III who is very light on his feet and had a fantastic combine. Gaines III is very versatile, starting 25 games at right guard, three at center, one at left guard, and one at right tackle. He needs to get a bit stronger and use his hands more efficiently, but he has a higher ceiling than Scruggs. I also wanted to add another front-seven player to the defense. Players I considered were Lousiville’s Yasir Abdullah (LB/EDGE), LSU’s Jaquelin Roy (IDL), Oklahoma’s Jalen Redmond (IDL), Cincinnati’s Ivan Pace Jr. (LB), and Auburn’s Owen Pappoe (LB).
Round 5 (No. 160) — Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion
This is a value selection for the Giants that would make tight-end coach Andy Bischoff very happy. Kuntz was one of the winners of the combine:
Kuntz has a very wide spider chart, and few players compare to the athletic Penn-State transfer. He recorded 88 catches for 862 yards with seven touchdowns in his career. He suffered an ACL injury early in 2022 as a team captain but purportedly checked out medically at the combine. Kuntz would develop behind Darren Waller and Daniel Bellinger and would operate as the third tight end with a role in red zone packages.
My selection: There hasn’t been much value in this specific mock draft, but Kuntz at pick No. 160 is solid. The Giants could add a tight end in this deep class, but it’s more of a luxury relative to other positional needs. I have yet to address the EDGE spot, which is not something I’m comfortable with.
Round 5 (No. 172) — DJ Johnson, EDGE, Oregon
One reason I was tentative to add Spears - who I love - in the third round, was because of the talent at running back who is available late in the fifth round. East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell, Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda, and Northwestern’s Evan Hull were all still on the board. Still, the Giants finally address the EDGE position with a 6-foot-4, 260-pound edge defender who ran a 4.49 40 with a 1.51 10-yard split.
Johnson’s arms are 33¼ inches with an 80-plus inch wing span. He’s a good overall athlete who dropped into coverage 52 times in 2022. He had 28 pressures as the field-side edge rusher in Oregon’s 3-4 defense. His six sacks led the team.
My selection: I really want the Giants to add an edge rusher; however, I think I would have added Gaines II since he is still around. I would also consider Daniel Scott, the Cal safety, but I already made two investments in the secondary. I like Johnson at this value, but Georgia’s Robert Beal was another player I would have considered. I would have also considered Utah LB Mohamoud Diabate; he needs work as a linebacker and is undersized, but he's very explosive at only 21 years old. He wouldn’t have to start right away, and there’s high upside with that type of athlete at this point of the draft.
Round 6 (No. 209) — Grant DuBose, WR, Charlotte
The Giants have several wide receivers but most project best on the inside. DuBose’s talent is on the boundary where he was one of the few players to catch a touchdown against Deonte Banks in 2022:
DuBose caught 134 passes for 1,788 yards and 16 touchdowns in college. He ran a 1.52 10-yard-split at 6-2, 201 pounds at the combine with a sub-seven-second three-cone. The Giants are a smart team who prepare for the future. DuBose is a value at this point of the draft. New York only has two receivers under contract beyond 2023 (Wan’Dale Robinson and Darius Slayton; also Zay Flowers in this scenario). DuBose could be the tough, physical, smart receiver who lacks difference-making athletic traits.
My selection: At this point of the draft, I like investing in value. I have not picked a defensive lineman yet, nor have I addressed linebacker. Both position groups are in need of investment, but the value of DuBose enticed me to overlook who was still available at other positions of need.
Round 7 (No. 240) — Brandon Hill, SAF, Pitt
I wanted to add a linebacker - thought about Vanderbilt’s Anfrenee Orji - but the Giants expressed interest in Hill, and his style fits Martindale’s philosophy. Hill has quick eyes, good range, and ran a very fast 1.46 10-yard-split with a 4.43 40 at 5-11, 193 pounds. Hill would operate as a positionless defender that can handle slot responsibilities and has the movement skills to rotate coverages at the snap.
My selection: I might have invested in linebacker or defensive line spot at this point of the draft. I think the Giants like Hill, and I understand that, but I was putting thought into Alabama IDL DJ Dale and Duke LB Shaka Heyward with this selection.
I didn’t love this draft, but everyone knew the rules - one try. I figured the Martin pick would be viewed as a reach; I, however, do not view it that way and believe there’s a realistic argument that would suggest it’s a value. I Love Tyjae Spears; but as I discussed, there were RBs available later that I would have pursued.
The Giants had a choice of Flowers and Addison, and I went with Flowers. I like Forbes a lot at pick No. 25, but I think the Giants go wide receiver, which also essentially forced me to pass on receiver value at picks No. 57 and 89. Overall, I’m okay with this draft, but I’ve seen better.