If the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New York Giants added three players who, at one time or another, were mocked to the Giants at pick No. 25. GM Joe Schoen did trade up twice, costing him three of the seven Day 3 picks that the Giants had going into the draft. New York does not pick again until the 172nd overall pick in Round 5. Here are Nick Falato and Chris Pflum’s top-five targets available for the Giants.
Adetomiwa Adebawore (EDGE, Northwestern)
It’s doubtful that Adebawore lasts until pick No. 172, but he’s an incredible value at this point of the draft. His versatility fits well with the positionless defense that defensive coordinator Wink Martindale employs.
Here’s my synopsis of Adebawore:
Adebawore is a phenomenal athlete who fires off the snap with excellent explosiveness while maintaining a low center of gravity and leveraging his arm length. He played all across the defensive front at Northwestern, where the coaching staff frequently had him penetrate/slant to utilize his lateral agility, natural leverage, and upfield burst to disrupt offensive intentions. Adebarwore may not have the most refined pass-rushing plan, but he possesses many moves, can convert speed to power, and is relentlessly violent when separating from blockers.
He’s best suited as a three-technique who is tasked to penetrate, but I can see a world where he plays the Jihad Ward role for a defense like Wink Martindale’s unit. Questions about Adebawore anchoring against IOL consistently are fair, but he was not bullied much on tape at Northwestern. He plays with a good center of gravity and has solid functional strength. The drumbeat keeps getting louder for Adebawore, and - although he may not be for everyone - he’ll work well in a system that leverages his athleticism. He’s more than just an athletic player, but he still has developmental aspects to his profile.
Charlie Jones (WR, Purdue)
The Giants traded up in Round 3 to select Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt. Charlie Jones and Hyatt play the same position but are vastly different as receivers. Jones transferred twice in college; he started his career at Buffalo, transferred to Iowa, and then landed at Purdue in 2022.
He caught 110 passes on 154 receptions (71.4% catch rate) with 12 touchdowns for the Boilermakers. His 1,361 yards was a school record. Jones aligned out wide 88.4% of the time in 2022 and was an All-American in 2022. Jones bet on himself, and he cashed in. Even know the Giants have a crowded wide receiver room, I’m confident Jones would find a way onto the field in some capacity. Here’s my synopsis:
Charlie Jones played for three colleges and was able to have an elite season for Purdue in 2022. He’s a good athlete with strong hands who understands how to create separation vs. man and zone coverage. Even when the separation he created was minimal, he was able to secure the catch in tight situations.
His floor in the NFL is a reliable kick-returner who will make a 53-man roster for that ability. His ceiling is a starting wide receiver who would likely be a quarterback’s best friend in high-leverage situations. He’s not the biggest, and he’s older for a normal prospect, but he’s smart, tough, and dependable, with an extensive history as an impressive kick & punt returner.
Ivan Pace Jr. ( LB, Cincinnati)
The undersized linebacker was a nightmare for quarterbacks in 2022. Pace recorded 55 pressures in 2022 when he was a Unanimous First Team All-American and a Butkus Award Finalist, Chuck Bednarik Award Finalist, and Pro Football Focus’ Second-Highest rated Defensive Player in college football; he also had the highest pass-rushing grade of all draft-eligible prospects. Pace’s senior season also earned him the AAC Defensive Player of the Year. He attended the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he became a darling of the draft. Here’s my synopsis:
Ivan Pace Jr. became the first player in the history of Cincinnati’s program to earn Unanimous All-American honors. Pace Jr. is surprisingly strong with an elite ability to pressure the quarterback due to his burst, ability to slip past blocks, his active hands, and his understanding of pass-rushing moves. His overall fit at the next level would be an undersized situational pass-rusher who may struggle to find the field on early downs.
Pace Jr.’s size works to his advantage with his best traits - being a difficult target to block on the blitz, but it also is a disadvantage when executing most other linebacking assignments. He’s feisty, quick, fun, and violent. A team could fall in love with him. The Giants selected Micah McFadden last year on day three out of Indiana; Pace Jr. is a better version of McFadden, but he could have similar limitations in coverage.
Emil Ekiyor (IOL, Alabama)
The Giants added Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz in the second round, but they should still address the guard positions. Ekiyor was a rock for the Crimson Tide offensive line since 2020. He only allowed one sack his entire time at Alabama. PFF only credited 31 total pressures in 1,277 pass-blocking snaps throughout his college career; he only allowed 6 pressures this past season.
He earned First Team All-SEC because of his dominant senior season. Ekiyor earned a trip down to the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he had an impressive week of practice. Ekiyor could be available later in the draft, and he would be a great developmental piece for Bobby Johnson. Here’s my synopsis:
Emil Ekiyor Jr. gets the job done as a run and pass blocker; he has sufficient athleticism to play in the NFL, and his play strength is solid, but his technique disallows him from reaching his potential. He gets too high, and his hand usage is inconsistent.
Despite the technical errors, Ekiyor seems to find ways to win as a blocker. He did well in space as the pulling IOL for Alabama, and he was able to stifle opposing pass rushers with an excellent anchor. He’s not perfect, but he can be a year-one starter at guard in the NFL.
Roschon Johnson (RB, Texas)
The Giants may be in the market for Saquon Barkley’s replacement. Johnson is 6’0, 219 pounds who operated as the physical second back for the Texas Longhorns behind Bijan Robinson. Johnson averaged 4.28 yards after contact with 46 missed tackles forced in 2022. He was effective on both zone and power/gap rushing plays. Johnson may not be the flashiest, but he has a three-down skill-set that is valuable.
Johnson finished his college career with 2,190 yards and 23 touchdowns. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry; in his freshman season - when Robinson was not on campus - Robinson posted seven touchdowns and 649 yards on just 123 carries. He also had 56 career receptions for 420 yards and three receiving touchdowns. It’s reasonable to surmise that Johnson’s fresh, and has more left in the tank as he transitions into the NFL.
This is the phase of the draft where teams either like to grab lottery tickets, or lock down players they have as their highest priority undrafted free agents. We don’t have nearly enough data points to say into which camp Joe Schoen falls. He could want to use his late round picks on high-upside guys, or on high-floor players they don’t want to risk being recruited by another team after the draft. Or maybe it’s a mix of both and the board will decide.
So I tried to focus on players who could still be on the board when the Giants pick at 172, and could either be sky-high upside players, or dependable depth guys.
Ventrell Miller (LB, Florida)
Miller has been flying under the radar some, but he was a key contributor and leader for the Florida defense. Miller is undersized at 5-foot-11, 232 pounds and he’s recovering from a Jones fracture, so he hasn’t been able to take part in much of the on-field portion of the Draft Process.
Even when healthy, Miller isn’t the most athletic linebacker – he reportedly runs in the 4.6’s. But he has a good reputation as a smart, instinctive, and experienced linebacker. He’s a solid run defender between the tackles, and his instincts allow him to be disruptive in shallow coverage zones.
But the Giants have shown interest in Miller, and their “brass” reportedly had a virtual meeting with him. Like Princton WR Andrei Iosivas, the Giants’ interest in an under-the-radar player with upside certainly bears watching in this phase of the draft.
Evan Hull (RB, Northwestern)
Sometimes it pays to be extra, and that’s certainly how I’d describe Evan Hull’s combine performance. Hull is an athletic-enough runner at 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, running a 4.47 40 with a 37-inch vertical and 6.9 second 3-cone drill. But that isn’t what grabbed attention with Hull. No, he made his mark on the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine by scoring a touchdown on every drill.
Every. Single. Time. that Hull touched a football in the on-field drills, he ran the length of the field and didn’t stop until he was in the end zone. The combine week is grueling, and Hull put an exclamation point on his by running about four times further than anyone else.
The Giants don’t currently have long-term depth at running back, and Hull is a well-rounded runner (and receiver). I’d be surprised if his toughness and competitiveness didn’t catch the eye of coaches around the league.
Daniel Scott (S, UCLA)
Wink Martindale was certainly excited to land Deonte Banks in the first. Banks is an incredible athlete who can play any coverage scheme you want to call. Well, the Giants could also use some depth at the safety position, and Scott stood out during draft prep as a player who fit the Giants’ defense by doing a bit of everything. Scott has good size and elite speed, explosiveness, and agility for a safety. He can play deep coverage zones with sideline-to-sideline range or near the line of scrimmage as an aggressive run defender. Helping Scott’s case, he also has extensive experience on special teams.
Scott is older for a prospect, having spent six years at UCLA. However, he’s well regarded as a mature team leader and was a captain as well.
Zack Kuntz (TE, Old Dominion)
If I’m being honest, I’d be a bit surprised if Kuntz lasted to the 172nd pick in the draft. Humans who are 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, who run 4.5-second 40’s, with 40-inch vertical leaps, and 6.87-second 3-cone drills don’t come along every… ever, really.
Kuntz is about as raw as they come as a tight end, but his otherworldly athleticism demands notice. Brian Daboll used to be the New England tight ends coach, and if the Giants want to add an explosively athletic mismatch, Daboll is a good guy to have coach him up.
Assuming he falls out of the fourth round. Given the late run on tight ends on the second day, Kuntz might not last long at all.
Yasir Abdullah (LB/EDGE, Louisville)
Abdullah was a highly productive edge defender for Louisville, but he’s also very undersized from the NFL’s perspective at 6-foot-1, 237 pounds. He had 42.0 tackles for a loss, 23.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 8 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions in his four years as a regular player for the Cardinals.
There’s speculation that the NFL might not quite know what to make of Abdullah and he might be viewed as a “tweener” who doesn’t fit naturally as an edge or an off-ball linebacker. But while that could confuse some teams, it could also make him a solid fit in Wink Martindale’s positionless defense. The Giants still need to add depth to their pass rush, and Abdullah’s explosive first step (he had an absurd 1.48 second 10-yard split) could give the Giants added speed off the edge.