NY Giants will be contenders again after Round 1 picks
By Zak Musso
After selecting two of the best players in the 2022 NFL Draft, the NY Giants are back on the path towards contention. On the first night of the NFL Draft, the Giants selected Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, significantly upgrading their two biggest needs of the last decade, offensive tackle and pass rushers.
After weeks of smokescreens and rumors, Joe Schoen shocked the large majority of the NFL world by drafting Thibodeaux, a star defensive end from Oregon, with the fifth pick in the 2022 NFL draft. After being the consensus number one recruit in 2019, Thibodeaux burst onto the scene in his freshman season at Oregon, producing nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss, similar statistics to number one overall pick Travon Walker’s entire Georgia career.
Thibodeaux instantly forties the pass-rushing group for new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, and pares with Blake Martinez, Azeez Ojulari, Dexter Lawerence, and Leonard Williams to create the best pass-rushing core the Giants have created since the 2012 Super Bowl.
The Giants have long failed to address their pass-rushing woes under previous regimes, as Justin Tuck, who has not played a snap for the franchise since 2013, has the second-most sacks for the Giants in the last 12 seasons.
The NY Giants will be contenders again sooner rather than later
After drafting Thibodeaux, the Giants snagged Neal, who shockingly fell all the way to the seventh pick. Joe Schoen played the draft board perfectly, and took Thibodeaux with the fifth pick, leaving both offensive tackles available for Carolina at six, also ensuring that at least one of Ekonwu or Neal, the two premiere tackles, would be available for the Giants with the seventh pick. That kind of savvy maneuvering is refreshing to see from the new Giants’ front office.
Neal, the only 6’8, 337-pound lineman in the world with a full six-pack of abs, is the perfect fit to fill the Giants’ longtime right tackle void. Neal displayed some beautiful college tape, that showed off his immense versatility, something the Giants have long craved on the offensive line. Neal started one season in college at left guard, one at right guard, and one at left tackle.
Neal will play right tackle for the Giants. He will join Andrew Thomas, as the two bookend tackles for the Giants, giving the team two potential all-pro young franchise tackles. The question after the additions of Thibodeaux and Neal is, where does it leave the Giants? It leaves them back in a position to contend.
This statement comes with a grain of salt, however. If the Giants played in the loaded AFC conference, I would not make this statement. They don’t play in the AFC however, they play in the weaker conference, the NFC. The Giants also play in the worst division in football and made significant headway towards catching at least two of their rivals.
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The Cowboys reached on Tyler Smith an offensive lineman out of Tulsa, on the first night of the draft, and lost Randy Gregory, Cedrick Wilson, and Amari Cooper in the offseason. The Commanders added Carson Wentz, who both the Eagles and Colts were desperate to ship out of their buildings, and then reached on wide receiver Jahan Dotson in Round 1 of this year’s draft.
While the Eagles had a great first night of the NFL Draft, Jalen Hurts is still their quarterback, and he struggles to throw the football, as he ranked 28th in accuracy a season ago, completing just 60 percent of his passes.
The Giants fortified their pass rush and finally have at least an average offensive line. The Giants will finally be able to protect Daniel Jones, giving him time to go through his progressions, and can now create holes for Saquon Barkley, who we all know has home-run speed.
The Giants drafting Neal, as well as adding the coaching of Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka, will help unlock Jones, Barkley, and the entire offense. The addition of Thibodeaux will take pressure off of all three levels of the Giants’ defense, and give the Giants a player with superstar potential.
These two selections on night one of the draft, especially the selection of Neal, will help the Giants see the best version of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. A healthy and effective combination of Jones and Barkley can realistically compete in the NFC East this upcoming season, though the goal of next year is still going to be to develop their young core, in order to be perennial contenders. Thibodeaux and Neal are two of the young building blocks that will help lead the Giants out of this decade of disappointment, into a new era of winning.