When it comes to the 2022 NFL draft, every team has a drastically different draft big board. The differences in team scouts, player evaluations, positions of need, and the whole interview process impact how a team ranks a prospect in the class.
The NY Giants have a long list of needs, with the most important being the offensive line, pass rush, and cornerback. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the G-men, these are all considered premium positions and so relevant prospects will feature at the top of the draft – right where the Giants are picking.
So what might the Giants’ draft board look like with under a week to go until the draft? Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure but taking a few clues from the early months of the Joe Schoen era, as well as the prospect profiles from a variety of people in the industry, let’s take a look at those who will feature in the top ten. We’ll also include the respective ranking according to PFF’s draft board, to show how these may differ from other teams.
PFF Big Board: #1
Okay, I won’t spend too long on Hutchinson because it would take something crazy for him to be available for the Giants at pick 5. He is the best player in the draft, at one of the most coveted positions in football – very likely to be the number one overall pick.
He had a monster 14 sacks, and 51 hurries in 2021 and was a major reason the Michigan Wolverines made the college football playoffs. He has all the tools you want in a pass rusher and manages to win in a variety of ways.
He would be an excellent fit for the Giants, not only on the field, but fitting the hard-working culture Joe Schoen is trying to bring to East Rutherford. I’d like to say “Weirder things have happened” and give you some optimism he’ll be available at 5. Quite frankly I don’t think they have – it would be a miracle.
PFF Big Board: #6
Now that we’re past Hutchinson, we’re into the players who are a genuine chance to be New York Giants when it’s all said and done on Thursday night. Neal measured in at over 6”7’ and 337 lbs at the NFL combine.
An incredible physical specimen, he is the most well-rounded tackle prospect in this class. In the past two seasons, he played at both left and right tackle, giving up a combined four sacks for Alabama in the most difficult conference in college football.
For a man of his size, he has incredible athleticism and has developed all the skills to be a top-of-the-league tackle in both pass protection and run support. Explosive, fluid, great hand placement – all buzz phrases you’re looking for in a top tackle. If you watch any tape on him, you’d be hard-pressed not to agree.
The Giants’ are trying to build a culture of players who want to play football, love the game, and love the team. Neal certainly seems to fit that profile if Nick Saban is to be believed (per ESPN)
"“He loves football,” Saban said of Neal. “He pays attention to detail; he prepares well; and, you know, his size and athletic ability has put him in a position where I think he has a very bright future."
At his Pro Day, he was quoted as saying “You can pretty much plug me in anywhere other than center and I’ll be able to come in and make an impact”. He certainly has the walk to back up his talk. He started three years at Alabama. One at left guard, one at left tackle, and one at right tackle. He has all the tools to succeed at both positions, on either side of the line. It’s most likely he would step in opposite Andrew Thomas to form the best tackle pairing New York has seen in some time.
PFF Big Board: #3
The second SEC offensive tackle on this list, Charles Cross is the best pass protector in the 2022 class according to many, including Todd McShay of ESPN. Cross is consistent, particularly in pass protection – something which stands out when you consider how many pass protection reps he had in college.
In an incredible 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021, he gave up only 14 hurries and 2 sacks. He played in Mike Leach’s air raid offense at Mississippi state, with his lack of run blocking experience representing the biggest knock on his game.
Both head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka were part of teams that finished in the top 5 for pass attempts this past season. If this combination is any indication for the future of the Giants, they could project as an “air raid” offense too- perfect for Cross to fit in to.
In terms of how the team feels about Cross, they are apparently very keen on the prospect. They had a strong presence at his pro-day and have consistently been linked with the Bulldog in mock drafts and media rumors.
Cross himself has stated he has heard the most from the Giants and Jets during the draft process. Whether or not he’s your top-ranked tackle, it certainly appears Schoen and the Giants are big fans – the reason he features above the likes of Ikem Ekwonu on this board.
PFF Big Board: #5
An absolute mauler in the run game, Ikem Ekwonu may have the highest upside of the three top tackles. Even before you look at his tape you can see he is an athlete. 6″4′, 310 lbs, and ran a 4.93 40-yard dash at the combine.
When you watch the film, he uses every bit of that athleticism. He is regularly seen making it to the second level and targeting anyone unfortunate enough to be in his way. He finishes every block with physicality and plays with the kind of edge you really can’t teach.
Not only does that sound like something the Giants could use on the field, but he also seems to be a match with the culture they are looking to build off. “A gentleman in class and killer on the grass” is how his NFL.com profile written by Lance Zierlein begins. “Excellent locker-room guy with culture-building personality.” appearing in his strengths – sounds like a Joe Schoen guy to me.
He is versatile, having played both tackle and guard in his collegiate career, something the Giants could certainly use. According to Daniel Jeremiah “Worst-case scenario, he slides inside and becomes a Pro Bowl-caliber guard.”
A “worst-case” the Giants would certainly be happy with. His upside comes with the risk that he is not quite the finished prospect Neal appears to be, hence the fourth-place ranking. All in all, I can’t imagine the Giants would complain about coming out of day one with any of these offensive tackles.
PFF Big Board: #7
At one stage Kayvon Thibodeaux was in a battle with Hutchinson to be the consensus number one prospect. Now, however, many have him outside the top ten. When you consider the Giants would only take one of the tackles in the first round, Thibodeaux likely becomes the highest-ranked player for pick seven – if he is even available.
His talent is undeniable – at his best, there weren’t many offensive linemen in college that could stop the two-time first-team all-PAC-12 defensive end. His combination of speed and power is perfect for the position, and his highlights include an abundance of plays where he is in the opposition backfield within the blink of an eye.
He had 27 hurries each of the last two seasons in Oregon, with this past year resulting in 9 sacks. He regularly overpowered college players with strength, but he doesn’t necessarily have the pass rush moves in his tool bag to dominate at the professional level …yet.
Unfortunately, the issues teams (including the Giants) seemingly have with Thibodeaux are more off the field. As reported by Paul Schwartz, the Giants have concerns about the Oregon prospect being more interested in “building his brand”.
Joe Schoen has made it clear the kind of environment he is trying to build in New York, with all the players on the roster needing to buy in and put the team first. He will no doubt have looked to iron these potential flags out during the interview process, and the “building on his brand” label may not be a significant issue. After all, with the increase in social media and college football now allowing NIL deals, players are always working on their brand – most just don’t make it as obvious as Thibodeaux has.
PFF Big Board: #4
With the current state of the Giants’ salary cap, it is almost a certainty that they will move on from James Bradberry ahead of the 2022 season. That of course opens up a massive hole in the secondary – fit for the taking by Ahmad Gardner
Gardner has one of the most impressive college resumes you will ever see. In over 2,000 defensive snaps in his collegiate career, he didn’t give up a single touchdown. He is exactly what this defense needs, particularly if Bradberry leaves East Rutherford.
In fact, according to PFF his best fit is the Giants;
"Gardner is too good in press coverage to not be used in press in the NFL, and either of the two New York teams would be a perfect fit for the Cincinnati corner.The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has played over 100 more snaps in press coverage than anyone else in the FBS since 2019, and he leads the entire group in coverage grade on those reps. He has big-time arm length at 33.5-inches and brings the alpha mentality during one-on-one reps."
In single coverage, he allowed a passer rating of under 30 in each of his three seasons at Cincinnati, including a 0 rating this past year according to PFF. Incredible stats from an incredible talent who the Giants can put opposite Adoree Jackson and feel comfortable for a long time to come.
PFF Big Board: #12
Honestly, he could be significantly higher or lower than this on the Giants’ big board, it’s difficult to say. Travon Walker is the most difficult player to place in a mock draft or big board ranking. Experts have had him ranging anywhere between first overall and landing in the 20s over the past month. The reason for such discrepancies is that his physical attributes don’t match his college production.
He had 5 sacks, 9 QB hits, and 20 hurries in the 15-game season for the national champion Georgia Bulldogs. His production is less than both Thibodeaux and Jermaine Johnson II (still to come) produced in 2021. The argument for Walker is that he played on one of the most talented defenses college football has ever seen. With so many great players, he never had to take over the game as Johnson II and Thibodeaux did.
The downside, of course, is that you would be drafting a top 10 pick based purely on projections. However, it is easy to see the attraction some teams may have. At 6”5’, 272 lbs he is the heaviest of the edge prospects listed on this list. Incredibly – he is also the fastest. He finished in the top 4 of all defensive ends at the combine in the 40-yard dash, 3 cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle.
There is no doubt he is an incredible athlete, but an incredible risk as well. With Thibodeaux higher on this big board, and a very good chance Walker goes in the top two overall, I would expect he is not a New York Giant in 2022. However, this is a situation I am comfortable saying – weirder things have happened.
PFF Big Board: #32
If you’re wondering how the 32nd ranked player per PFF is here, it’s a combination of two factors. The Giants desperately need help getting to the quarterback, and PFF is dramatically lower on Johnson than most. In fact, Daniel Jeremiah has Johnson ranked at #9, one spot above Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Regardless of ranking, he is a serious presence off the edge. He transferred from Georgia to Florida state ahead of the 2021 season and had a monster 14 sacks as a Seminole – the same amount as Aidan Hutchinson. He also recorded 25 hurries and 7 QB hits, a productive season that ended in him being awarded ACC defensive player of the year.
He continued his impressive 2021 with a dominant performance at the senior bowl, even featuring in Daniel Jeremiah’s top performers from the week in Alabama. Since he left Georgia he has been trending in the right direction, something which could certainly have him as one of, if not the top edge rusher when we look back on this class in a couple of years.
PFF Big Board: #2
The second cornerback on this big board, Stingley is the #2 ranked player in the draft according to PFF. He has been a big mover in recent weeks up draft boards, with people seeming to focus on his rookie season at LSU.
It’s easy to see why. In 2019 he gave up 34 receptions on 94 targets, reeling in 6 interceptions along the way. The productive season came with the highest ever coverage grade by a rookie cornerback. Since then he has had two seasons interrupted by injury, meaning we haven’t seen the best of Stingley Jr. since 2019.
One big issue teams have with Stingley Jr. is his inconsistency over the past two seasons, as suggested by NFL Media analyst Charles Davis. The LSU defense as a whole has been poor since their 2019 national championship, something which no doubt impacted his production.
Schoen and Daboll have been very vocal about the culture they are trying to build in New York – if there is a chance Stingley Jr. has been uninterested on a losing team in college, he may not fit the vision of the Giants. Of course, if his struggles were simply due to injury, you then have the argument of not drafting an injury-prone prospect this high.
Regardless, if a team gets the kind of play he showed in 2019, he could end up being the best pick in the whole of the 2022 draft. Whether or not the Giants can look past his last two seasons will likely depend on the discussions they have had with Stingley Jr. during the draft process.
PFF Big Board: #8
Kyle Hamilton is the only player here that doesn’t play a position listed at the top of the article. The Giants do need reinforcements at safety, it’s just usually a position you wouldn’t use a top 10 pick on. Hamilton, however, isn’t just any regular safety.
Ranked by some as the top prospect in the whole draft, he is an incredible athlete. His combination of size, speed, and football IQ means he can slot in almost anywhere – he’s more than just a great safety, he’s an incredible football player.
At 6”4’ he has the length to compete with tight ends and wide receivers in coverage. What is rare is the speed and vision he has to complement that length. Watch any Notre Dame game he’s in and you’ll see Hamilton covering tight ends, flying sideline to sideline to break up passes, and even coming on blitzes.
There might not be a better prospect in the 2022 draft to fit what he is looking for. His incredible combination of attributes results in highlight-worthy interceptions, critical pass deflections, and important tackles in the run game. He is an incredible secondary weapon, something the Giants could use with the departure of Jabrill Peppers and (likely) James Bradberry.