I’m going for broke in this week’s edition of our New York Giants mock draft. I will make all nine picks this week, going thru all six rounds. I’m using the ‘Fanspeak’ simulator and going into this one having decided there will be no trades.
I am going to do the best I can to stay within the top 15-20 players presented on the big board being offered. Let’s get started.
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Round 1 (No. 5) — Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The first four picks went Kayvon Thibodeaux (Jacksonville Jaguars), Kyle Hamilton (Detroit Lions), Aidan Hutchinson (Houston Texans), Ikem Ekwonu (New York Jets). Whatever you think of that, those are the players who were off the board.
Neal is a plug and play starter at right tackle, and along with Ekwonu one of the two offensive linemen you would really hope the Giants would have a chance to select in this draft.
Dane Brugler’s draft analysis:
A smooth athlete for a massive blocker, Neal bends well in pass protection and continues to rework his feet into position, using controlled hand exchange to keep rushers contained. In the run game, he has strong hands and does well at initial contact as a drive blocker, but his balance and sustain skills start to fade as the play progresses. Overall, Neal lacks elite lateral agility and needs to clean up his leaning, but he is an effective blocker thanks to his rare mix of size, athleticism and flexibility. He projects as an immediate NFL starter with Pro Bowl potential and multi-position versatility.
Other players considered: Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, CB, Cincinnati; Travon Walker, edge, Georgia
Round 1 (No. 7) — Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
This completes, at least for me, the home run scenario for the Giants in the first seven selections. Gardner is the premier press-man cornerback in the 2022 draft class, a tremendous fit for Wink Martindale’s defense and a player with a work ethic and personality that should be perfect for what GM Joe Schoen is hoping to build in New York.
Gardner is a long-bodied, athletic cover man who does a great job staying on top of routes to force quarterbacks to look elsewhere (saw only 11.0 percent of the defensive targets in 2021). He shows better poise at the line of scrimmage than downfield, but he plays fearlessly and has the disruptive skills to make plays on the ball when challenged (zero touchdown passes allowed in 1,103 career coverage snaps in college). Overall, Gardner needs to continue developing his play strength, but he is a sticky bump-and-run corner with the athletic instincts to stay in phase and smother receivers. Cincinnati hasn’t produced an NFL first-round pick since 1971, but that will soon change with Gardner.
Other players considered: Travon Walker; Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida State; Derek Stingley, BC, LSU; Drake London, WR, USC
Round 2 (No. 36) — Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Dean was the top-ranked player left on the board, and he happens to be a personal favorite. I thought it as too early for Trey McBride, and I wasn’t going to take another cornerback.
Dean doesn’t have great size at a shade under both 6-foot and 230 pounds. He is, though the type of athletic, rangy, three-down linebacker the Giants have not had in the middle of their defense in a looooong time.
An athletic pursuit player, Dean has perimeter speed to chase down plays, and his instincts also show in coverage and as a blitzer. Although his frame looks maxed out physically, he is a strong open-field tackler, and his intelligence and intangibles will win over a coaching staff. Overall, Dean’s size is working against him, but he has the key/read/flow skills and play range vs. both the run and the pass to impact the game in different ways. He projects as an NFL starter in the Jonathan Vilma mold.
Other players considered: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson; Kaiir Elam, BC, Florida; Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State; Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Round 3 (No. 67) — Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
I figured that somewhere along the way a running back would be the right value. I wasn’t sure I would have a chance at Hall, one of the top two back (with Kenneth Walker) in this class. With the choices I had here, I wasn’t letting Hall get by. Hall has the skills to complement Saquon Barkley in 2022, and the potential to be an every-down replacement if the Giants move on from Barkley at some point.
Hall, who is Iowa State’s all-time leading scorer, has a strong understanding of his strengths as a player and is a disciplined athlete by nature. He posted outstanding testing numbers, but there are times on tape you wish he showed more of an escape gear. Overall, Hall has room to improve as a blocker and pass catcher and he doesn’t consistently play up to his testing numbers, but he runs with outstanding patience, vision and athletic footwork to be a starting-caliber back in the NFL. He projects best in a zone-based scheme (inside or outside).
Other players considered: Cameron Thomas, edge, San Diego State; Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State; Cade Otton, TE. Washington; Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA; Nik Bonitto, Edge, Oklahoma
Round 3 (No. 81) — Cade Otton, TE, Washington
Another selection of the player who was the top-ranked one on the board I was presented with. Everybody who pays attention to the Giants knows that with Ricky Seals-Jones at the top of the team’s tight end depth chart, it is a position of need entering the draft.
Otton probably isn’t a big-play threat down the field, but he should be a solid receiving option, a guy who can handle blocking duties and be used in a variety of ways. This felt like the right time to grab a tight end.
Otton is stout and athletic in the passing game as both a route-runner and blocker and he is physical to the football with the hand strength to sustain catches through contact. He is comfortable doing the dirty work, but too often he clutches with his hands while his stagnant feet attempt to catch up. Overall, Otto lacks dynamic traits before or after the catch, but he is a catch-point finisher, nuanced route-runner, and he takes his blocking responsibilities seriously. He projects as a prototypical Y tight end in the NFL.
Other players considered: Bonitto, Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State; Troy Anderson, LB, Montana State
Round 4 (No. 112) — George Pickens, WR, Georgia
My mid-round wide receiver man crush. Even the great Matt Waldman, who isn’t as high on Pickens as I am, can’t convince me that Pickens isn’t tremendous value this deep into the draft. As I told Waldman this week, I watch Pickens and I see the receiver Kenny Golladay is/was supposed to be for the Giants.
Pickens is a balanced athlete, with fluidity at the stem and the wheels to win vertically, skillfully tracking the deep ball. While his competitiveness is a plus, he lacks discipline in several areas of the position and lost a year of on-field development because of his injury. Overall, Pickens has a discount sticker on him after missing most of the 2021 season, but he is a graceful athlete with outstanding ball-tracking and 50-50 finishing skills. He has WR1 traits and potential if he returns to pre-injury form and continues to refine his routes.
Other players considered: Nick Cross, S, Maryland
Round 5 (No. 147) — Khalil Shakir, WR, Baylor
No way was I intending to take receivers back to back, but when Shakir’s name popped up on the board I kept remembering how high Waldman, a pre-eminent skill position analyst, is on him.
Here is part of what Waldman wrote in his Rookie Scouting Portfolio Draft Guide:
Shakir is a smart pick for an NFL team, if the organization investing in him believes he’ll work on his craft to unlock his full potential. And if he does, Shakir could become one of the 3-5 most productive receivers from this class.
While he isn’t a true burner, Shakir skillfully uses gear control to set up defenders and create pockets of separation with his short-area quickness. He has terrific body control, which is evident in his routes, at the catch point and as a ball carrier. Overall, Shakir has average triangle numbers, but he is a crafty route runner with excellent hand-eye coordination and adjustment skills. He projects best in the slot and can handle return responsibilities.
Other players considered: Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma; Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska
Round 5 (No. 173) — Dylan Parham, CG, Memphis
This is the first pick where I ignored the Big Board I was working with. Given the choices I was presented with, a developmental center made sense and Kentucky’s Luke Fortner was ranked higher. Still, Parham is a player I like for his versatility, athleticism and attitude.
Brugler has a Round 3 grade on Parham, who is his third-ranked center in this class. He says:
A tight end and linebacker in high school, he moved to the offensive line in 2018 and started all 51 games (split between left guard, right guard and right tackle) the past four years, blocking for future NFL backs like Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard and Kenneth Gainwell. Parham is extremely quick off the ball with the mobility to get out in space and the core strength to latch and drive opponents at the line of scrimmage. He lacks ideal length and can be overpowered at times, but he strikes with a flexible coil and developed nasty streak. Overall, Parham can play too fast at times and loses his bearings, but he has excellent movement skills and understands how to outleverage defenders and sustain the point of attack. He has the talent level to provide immediate interior depth for an NFL team and compete for a starting job, projecting best at center.
Other players considered: Luke Fortner, CG, Kentucky
Round 6 (No. 182) — Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State
Yes, a punter. We saw with the inconsistencies of Riley Dixon in 2021 how important a punter is, and I am not convinced that the Giants are willing to go with former Cleveland Browns punter Jamie Gillan this season.
LSU guard Ed Ingram was on the board here, but I’m not a big fan. I think he blocks when he wants to block and gives up some plays too soon. I am a fan of Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson, I just chose to go in a different direction here.
Brugler does not offer a scouting report on Araiza, but does have a Round 3 grade on him.
Nicknamed “Punt God,” Araiza possesses elite power and field-flipping ability that could make him the highest-drafted punter since Todd Sauerbrun went 56th overall in 1995. Punts explode off his instep at a low launch angle with tremendous velocity and force. He has less regard for hang-time and coverage considerations than NFL special teams coaches will so he may be asked to dial back the long-ball mentality and dial in with more control from all field positions. Araiza has rare power and should continue to fine-tune his craft with more coaching and experience. If he learns to kick with more consistent control, the sky’s the limit.
Other players considered: Skylar Thompson, QB, Kansas State; Ed Ingram, G, LSU
[Here is the full draft for your perusal.]