I’m breaking in this week’s edition of our New York Giants mock draft. I will make all nine selections this week and review all six rounds. I use the ‘Fanspeak’ simulator and go into this one after deciding that there will be no trades.
I will do the best I can to stay within the 15-20 best players presented on the great board on offer. Let’s get started.
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Round 1 (No. 5) – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The first four picks went to Kayvon Thibodeaux (Jacksonville Jaguars), Kyle Hamilton (Detroit Lions), Aidan Hutchinson (Houston Texans), Ikem Ekwonu (New York Jets). Whatever you think of it, these 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 pick in this draft.
Dane Brugler’s draft analysis:
A slick athlete for a massive block, Neal bends well in passing protection and continues to rework his feet into place using controlled hand exchange to keep rushers inside. In the running game, he has strong hands and does well at the first contact as a driving block, but his balance and sustain abilities begin to fade as the game progresses. In general, the Neal elite lacks lateral agility and needs to clean up its incline, but he is an effective blocker thanks to his rare mix of size, athleticism and flexibility. He projects as an instant NFL starter with Pro Bowl potential and versatility in multiple positions.
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 picks. Gardner is the leading pressman cornerback in the 2022 draft class, a great fit for Wink Martindale’s defense and a player with a work ethic and personality that should be perfect for what GM Joe Schoen hopes to build in New York.
Gardner is a long-body, athletic cover man who does a good job of staying on top of the routes to force quarterbacks to look elsewhere (so only 11.0 percent of defensive goals in 2021). He shows better balance on the court than on the court, but he plays fearlessly and has the disruptive abilities to play on the ball when challenged (zero touchdown passes allowed in 1,103 career-wide snaps in college). Overall, Gardner should continue to develop his playing strength, but he is a sticky bump-and-run corner with the athletic instincts to stay in phase and stifle receivers. Cincinnati has not 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, CB, LSU; Drake London, WR, USC
Round 2 (No. 36) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Dean was the top-ranked player back on the board, and he happens to be a personal favorite. I thought it was too early for Trey McBride and I would not take another cornerback.
Dean does not have large size in a shade under both 6-foot and 230 pounds. He is, even though he is the type of athletic, rangy, linebacker with three down that the Giants have not had in the middle of their defense for a long time.
Dean is an athletic pursuit player and has perimeter speed to chase games, and his instincts also show up in cover and like a blitzer. Although his frame looks maximally physical, he is a strong tackler in the open field and his intelligence and intangible things will win over a coaching staff. Overall, Dean’s size works against him, but he has key / read / flow skills and player range vs. both the race and the passing to influence the game in different ways. He projects as an NFL starter in the Jonathan Vilma form.
Other players considered: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson; Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida; Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State; Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Round 3 (No. 67) – Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
I figured somewhere along the way, a running back would be the right value. I was not sure I would have a chance in Hall, one of the two best backs (with Kenneth Walker) in this class. With the choices I had here, I did not let Hall cope. Hall has the abilities to complement Saquon Barkley in 2022, and the potential to be a replacement if the Giants move on from Barkley at some point.
Hall, who is Iowa State’s leading goal scorer of all time, has a strong understanding of his strengths as a player and is a disciplined athlete by nature. He posted excellent test numbers, but there are times on the tape where you would wish he showed more of an escape kit. Overall, Hall has room to improve as a blocker and pass catcher, and he does not consistently play up to his test numbers, but he runs with unparalleled 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, side, 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 spot on the board, I was presented with. Anyone who is aware of the Giants knows that with Ricky Seals-Jones at the top of the team’s tight-end depth chart, it’s a necessary position that comes into the draft.
Otton is probably not a big threat down the field, but he should be a solid receiving option, a guy who can handle blocking tasks and be used in a variety of ways. This felt like the right time to grab a tight end.
Otton is strong and athletic in the passing game as both route runner and blocker, and he is physically into football with the hand strength to maintain catches through contact. He is comfortable doing the dirty work, but all too often he grabs his hands while his stagnant feet try to catch up. All in all, Otton lacks dynamic features before or after the catch, but he is a catch-point finisher, nuanced route runner, and he takes his blocking responsibility 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 mand crush. Even the great Matt Waldman, who is not as tall on Pickens as I am, can not convince me that Pickens is not so great value so deep inside the draft. As I told Waldman this week, I see Pickens and I can see that the receiver Kenny Golladay is / should be for the Giants.
Pickens is a balanced athlete, with buoyancy at the stem and the reels to win vertically and skillfully track the deep ball. Although his competitiveness is a plus, he lacks discipline in several areas of the position and lost a year of development on the field due to his injury. Overall, Pickens has a discount mark on him after missing most of the 2021 season, but he is a graceful athlete with outstanding ball tracking and 50-50 skills. He has WR1 moves and potential if he returns to form before injury and continues to refine his routes.
Other players considered: Nick Cross, S, Maryland
Round 5 (No. 147) – Khalil Shakir, WR, Baylor
I by no means intended to take recipients back to back, but when Shakir’s name appeared on the board, I kept remembering how high Waldman, a prominent analyst in the position, is on him.
Here’s part of what Waldman wrote in his Rookie Scouting Portfolio Draft Guide:
Shakir is a smart choice for an NFL team if the organization that invests in him believes he will work on his craft to unleash his full potential. And if he does, Shakir could become one of the 3-5 most productive recipients of this class.
Although he is not a true burner, Shakir skillfully uses gear control to set up defenders and create separation pockets with his speed in short space. He has amazing body control, which is evident on his routes, at the catch point and as a ball carrier. Overall, Shakir has average triangular numbers, but he is a cunning route runner with excellent hand-eye coordination and adaptability. He projects best in the field 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 choice where I ignored the big table I was working with. Given the choices I was presented with, a development 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 at Parham, which is his third-ranked center in this class. He says:
As a tight end and linebacker in high school, he moved to the offensive line in 2018, starting all 51 games (split between left guard, right guard and right tackle) for the past four years, blocking future NFL backs like Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard and Kenneth Gainwell. Parham are extremely fast away from the ball with the mobility to get out into space and the core strength to lock and drive opponents at the battle line. He lacks ideal length and can be overpowered at times, but he strikes with a flexible coil and developed ugly streak. Overall, Parham can sometimes play too fast and lose his benchmarks, but he has excellent movement skills and understands how to equalize defenders and maintain the attacking point. He has the talent level to provide instant inner depth to an NFL team and compete for a starting job that projects best in the center.
Other players considered: Luke Fortner, CG, Kentucky
Round 6 (No. 182) – Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State
Yes, a tipper. We saw with Riley Dixon’s disagreements in 2021 how important a player is, and I’m not convinced the Giants are willing to go with former Cleveland Browns player 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 games too soon. I’m 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 has a round 3 grade on him.
Nicknamed “Punt God”, Araiza possesses elite power and field-flipping ability that can make him the highest drafted player since Todd Sauerbrun was number 56 overall in 1995. Stitches explode from his ankle at a low firing angle with tremendous speed and power. He has less regard for hang-time and coverage considerations than NFL specialty team coaches will, so he may be asked to strike back the long-ball mentality and call in with more control from all field positions. Araiza rarely has power and should continue to fine-tune her craft with more coaching and experience. If he learns to kick with more consistent control, the sky is the limit.
Other players considered: Skylar Thompson, QB, Kansas State; Ed Ingram, G, LSU
[Here is the full draft for your perusal.]