NFC East 2022 draft grades: New York Giants edition


After four years of Dave Gettleman’s incompetence, the New York Giants hired Joe Schoen away from the Buffalo Bills to lead their front office. Schoen’s first draft was kind of a big one, considering they had two top-seven picks.

On Tuesday we looked at the Cowboys’ draft. Today we’ll evaluate what the Giants did.

Round 1, pick 5: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon: Thibodeaux was the No. 1 recruit in the nation coming out of high school (via ESPN recruiting) and he was an immediate stud as a freshman in 2019, as he led the Ducks with 9 sacks. In 2020, in a shortened season (7 games) his tackles were up (42) but his sack numbers were down a bit (3). 

Heading into 2021, there were some who believed that Thibodeaux was the best player in the country. However, he had a somewhat disappointing season, at least for a blue chip prospect, with 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in 10 games. There were also reports that some teams were concerned with his non-football interests, which, if true, seems a little silly.

There’s zero question that Thibodeaux is extraordinarily talented. If you watch his highlight reel, it’s just pure explosiveness.

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU95nB9KlGQ(/embed)

Thibodeaux will win at the NFL level simply on lightning fast first step, his speed around the edge, and his inside counter moves when opposing tackles overset. If he can develop a deadly speed-to-power rush, he’s going to be an absolute beast. Good pick.

Round 1, pick 7: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama: With the second of their two top-10 picks, the Giants addressed the line on the other side of the ball, landing Neal, a left/right-versatile offensive tackle.

He came in at No. 1 on Bruce Feldman’s “freaks” list this year.

Coaches and scouts rave about Neal’s flexibility and power. That flexibility is evident in his jaw-dropping split-leg box jump he tweeted last month. But coaches say that rare flexibility for such an enormous man is also evident in his ability to not only strike a defender and move him off the line but to get under much shorter guys and lift them off the ground.

“At his size, he is the most impressive lower body power athlete we have ever seen,” Alabama director of sports science Matt Rhea said. “His jumping power is in the top 1 percent we have ever measured. At 350 pounds, he routinely hits box jumps at 48 inches.”

Here’s the split-leg box jump Feldman referenced:

I mean, I pulled hamstring just watching that. That guy is 6’7, 337! 

But can he play? Yes, he can. Here he is against Notre Dame in 2020:

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aliTdPAupxs(/embed)

Neal played LG in 2019, RT in 2020, and LT in 2021. He’ll likely be the Giants’ RT in 2022, allowing Andrew Thomas to stay at LT. Once again, a nice pick by the Giants.

Trades: The Giants started Day 2 at Pick 36. They made two trades before eventually selecting a player at Pick 43.

  1. They traded Pick 36 to the Jets for Picks 38 and 146.
  2. They traded Pick 38 for Picks 43 and 114.

Round 2, pick 43: Wan’dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky: Robinson is a short (5’8), shifty slot receiver with some YAC ability. He has super short 27 5/8″ arms, which is in the 0 percentile.

Robinson had a highly productive 2021 season, making 104 catches for 1334 yards and 7 TDs. He also has 141 career carries, mostly with Nebraska before he transferred to Kentucky. He’s a fun player to watch. A look: 

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SN7ZMYiJ08(/embed)

Many took this selection to mean that the Giants would intensify their efforts to trade 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney. We’ll see.

I like Robinson, but I liked a bunch of players that went in between picks 36 and 43 a lot more. Those players would include the following:

  1. Pick 36: Jets: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
  2. Pick 37: Texans: Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
  3. Pick 38: Falcons: Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
  4. Pick 39: Bears: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
  5. Pick 40: Seahawks: Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
  6. Pick 41: Seahawks: Kenneth Walker, RB, Michigan State
  7. Pick 42: Vikings: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

To be determined if the Giants will regret not just taking one of those guys instead of trading back.

Round 3, pick 67: Joshua Ezeudu, OG, North Carolina: The Giants’ offensive line has been an unmitigated disaster for, like, a decade now, so it makes sense that the new regime’s focus has been on fixing that. They signed Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano in free agency and then in the draft, they added OT Evan Neal with the seventh overall pick and Ezeudu at the top of Round 3.

I’d be lying if I said I knew anything about Ezeudu, so we’ll let Lance Zierlein of NFL Network do the heavy lifting here

A guard prospect with technical kinks in need of being worked out, Ezeudu possesses the traits and athleticism to find an NFL home. Despite his impressive frame, he doesn’t play with cohesive hands and hips, which limits his power zone and could prevent him from neutralizing NFL power. He’s a more talented blocker on the move and could see a bump in consistency if an offensive line coach can get him playing with more disciplined hands. His length and tackle experience are plusses, but he’s going to allow occasional rush leakage due to soft edges. He has low-end starter potential with emergency tackle versatility.

A series of much more recognizable names got selected in the 10 picks thereafter:

  1. Pick 68: Browns: Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State
  2. Pick 69: Titans: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
  3. Pick 70: Jaguars: Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
  4. Pick 71: Bears: Velus Jones, WR, Tennessee
  5. Pick 72: Seahawks: Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State
  6. Pick 73: Colts: Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
  7. Pick 74: Falcons: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
  8. Pick 75: Texans: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
  9. Pick 76: Ravens: Travis Jones, DT, UConn
  10. Pick 77: Colts: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan

“More recognizable” doesn’t mean “better,” but I’d probably want one of those other guys instead of Ezeudu if I were a Giants fan.

Round 3, pick 81: Cordale Flott, CB, LSU: Flott is a player that most draft experts had projected as likely to be drafted on Day 3. Zierlein had him rated as a fifth-rounder, while Dane Brugler had him as a fifth- or sixth-rounder. He was 122nd on Daniel Jeremiah’s big board.

Again, we’ll let Zierlein tell you about him.

Developmental cornerback with good speed and excellent length; he also needs to start hitting stacks of weights and pancakes. Getting Flott to fill out and grow into his frame should be the top priority for teams taking a chance on him. He plays the game fast and hard, but he hasn’t been able to find a functional level of control and recognition in his coverage. He has inside/outside experience, but the length and speed make him a likely perimeter cornerback once he gets fully acclimated outside. The athletic upside is great, but it will be asking a lot of Flott to take on big targets, which could limit his overall ceiling.

And once again, the picks made immediately thereafter included some big names:

  1. Pick 82: Falcons: DeAngelo Malone, SAM, Western Kentucky
  2. Pick 83: Eagles: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
  3. Pick 84: Steelers: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
  4. Pick 85: Patriots: Marcus Jones, CB, Houston
  5. Pick 86: Titans: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Schoen was even asked specifically about passing on Dean. His response:

It would have been pretty easy for Schoen to just say that Dean is a great player and a great kid, and leave it at that, but he chose to add in that “there’s a reason he’s dropping.” That has the potential to bite him in the ass down the road if Dean becomes a good player and Flott does not. 

Round 4, pick 112: Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State: Heading into the draft, the Giants’ top tight end was probably… Ricky Seals-Jones? Soooo, yeah, that was a need. In Bellinger the Giants find a good blocking tight end with decent size and good athleticism, but with only 68 career catches for 771 yards and 5 TDs at SDSU, not a lot of production.

Round 4, pick 114: Dane Belton, S, Iowa: Belton had an impressive final season at Iowa, picking off 5 passes. He will drop the hammer on occasion when the opportunity is there.

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LLtmJNzQWs(/embed)

The draft community didn’t love Belton. Brugler projected him as a fifth- or sixth-round pick, while Zierlein had him rated as a sixth-round pick.

Belton’s interception total and overall ball production from Iowa’s hybrid “Cash” spot certainly grab your attention, but they might not be indicative of his NFL projection. Belton has average size, can line up over tight ends and excels in short-zone coverages, where his ball skills and anticipation bring him to the action. He lacks the suddenness to stay with route breaks underneath and will be exploited if asked to cover on the back end. Belton has the physical ability for run support, but defensive coordinators are sure to be concerned about his trouble reading keys and locating the football on the collegiate level.

Belton could initially play a role in sub-packages.

• Round 5, pick 146: Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana: McFadden is a throwback linebacker who is at his best when he’s attacking downhill against the run or as a blitzer. Over the last two seasons, he had 136 tackles (26 for loss) and 12.5 sacks. However, he is a liability in coverage. He projects as an early down linebacker and special teams guy.

• Round 5, pick 147: D.J. Davidson, DT, Arizona State: 6’3, 327-pound run stuffer. Brugler and Zierlein both had him as a seventh-round pick.

• Round 5, pick 175: Marcus McKethan, OG, North Carolina: 6’7, 340-pound mauler who played RG in UNC’s power rushing offense. How he handles quickness on the interior will be the concern going forward, but at his size, McKethan is worth a late fifth-round flier. 

• Round 6, pick 182: Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati: Beavers racked up 98 tackles (11 for loss), 4 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in Cincinnati’s excellent defense in 2021. Like McFadden above, he’s sort of a throwback linebacker who is at his best when he is attacking downhill.

Overall

The Giants’ draft has been widely praised by pundits, and I’m not totally sure why. They landed two potential studs in the first round, but, I mean, they had two top-seven picks. It would have pretty hard to mess those up. I guess when the previous general manager routinely messed up high picks, it’s not much of a bar to clear for drafting competency, at least comparatively speaking.

Otherwise, as documented above, my belief is that the Giants passed on better prospects with their second-round pick and both of their third-round picks. If there’s one thing new GM Joe Schoen has shown in his first draft, it’s that he’s not afraid to make non-consensus choices. Maybe he’ll prove in time that he deserves the benefit of the doubt, but for now I’m not sure why he’s afforded that leeway.

Grade: B-.


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