the 2022 NFL Draft is being held Thursday through Saturday and every New York Giants draft pick will be analyzed here.
The draft will be held in Las Vegas on the strip in the area adjacent to Caesars Forum two years after it was initially scheduled. The 2020 NFL draft was turned into a virtual event because of COVID-19.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each New York player has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 5 overall: Kayvon ThibodeauxDE, Oregon
My take: Whoa! Didn’t expect that at pick No. 5. But the way the draft unfolded, it made sense for the Giants to grab an edge rusher with the top three offensive tackles still on the board. Thibodeaux is a big personality, but the Giants and most teams I spoke with weren’t concerned about his motivation for him. In fact, general manager Joe Schoen mentioned the Giants were especially impressed with Thibodeaux coming back from a pretty serious ankle injury late in the season. That provided something to the Giants, who did extensive research on the polarizing prospect and even had a FaceTime conversation with him this week.
Take a look at Kayvon Thibodeaux’s most aggressive plays at DE and see why he could be the best player to come out of the draft.
Finally a pass rush: Thibodeaux and his first step opposite Azeez Ojulari finally gives the Giants a serious pair of edge rushers to threaten opposing quarterbacks. Ojulari had eight sacks as a rookie after being selected in the second round last year. Thibodeaux was one of the most productive pass-rushers in FBS last season when he was on the field. He averaged 4.2 pressures per game, seventh among all college players. It has been a while since the Giants had a pair of young and dangerous pass-rushers. You can go back to their Super Bowl teams more than a decade ago. They might finally have one again with Thibodeaux and Ojulari.
The Strahan connection: Thibodeaux mentioned his connection to Giants legend Michael Strahan. He views Strahan as “one of my mentors” and noted they’ve been in constant contact throughout this process. This provides Thibodeaux a sounding board who knows and understands what he’s going through. It should help with the two now in proximity. Strahan might even pop in to the building more with Thibodaux there to watch. He was at Giants minicamp last week. Now if only Thibodeaux can have a career even close to Strahan, who had 141.5 career sacks and is in the Hall of Fame.
Round 1, No. 7 overall: Evan NealOT, Alabama
My take: This was a home run. The Giants got the player many consider the draft’s the top-rated tackle with their second first-round pick. It was all made possible by the way the first four picks played out, with none of the three top tackles selected. Neal has played right tackle before, is strong as a run-blocker and pass-blocker, and has the quick feet to thrive in coach Brian Daboll’s offense. There really is nothing not to like about this pick.
Take a look at Evan Neal’s résumé as an offensive lineman at Alabama and what he can bring to the NFL.
Sorting the top tackles: Schoen all but admitted it was between Neal and Ikem Ekwonu as the Giants’ top-rated tackle. They were “side by side” in their rankings, he said. Mississippi State’s charles cross was behind them. So the Giants allowed Carolina to grab the first tackle — the Panthers went with Ekwonu at No. 6 — and New York was more than content grabbing Neal. He was ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s fifth-ranked player overall, and the Giants got him at No. 7. Good value. Filled a massive need. Check, check.
Neal’s long-term health: The Giants’ doctors didn’t have a problem with what some teams, according to Schoen, viewed as a red flag regarding Neal’s health — specifically a hip and/or knee problem. It was something Schoen and Daboll said wasn’t a concern for them. “His play history from him backs that up,” Schoen said of Neal’s clean bill of health from the Giants. He missed only one game at Alabama, and that was because of COVID-19. Neal said the talk about his health was sort of frustrating, even if it did not affect his draft status. But Schoen did say teams share medical information and 8% of the teams viewed it as a potential long-term problem.
What’s next: The Giants got their tackle and edge rusher. That leaves cornerback and the secondary as Day 2 targets. Interior defensive line, linebacker (watch out for Georgia’s Nakobe Dean), tight end and even running back could also be on the agenda. And let’s not forget the inside of the offensive line. That also could use reinforcements. The Giants still have a lot of needs and options with Day 2 picks (No. 36 overall and two third-rounders at No. 67 and No. 81) remaining.