One week to go before the NFL Draft begins and the picture of the top of the board is becoming a lot clearer. There’s still some mystery about what the Giants will do and when, and some unanswered questions about what will happen before their first selection. But it’s all getting a little easier to predict.
So here is my penultimate look at how all seven rounds of the Giants ’draft will work out. And this time, no trades:
First round (5th overall) – Mississippi State OT Charles Cross
Get the obvious out of the way first: The Giants need a starting right tackle and they have to be at least a little concerned that the Carolina Panthers will take a tackle at No. 6, so… yeah, they’re taking a tackle here. But which one?
Interestingly, the top 3 on the board – the 6-5, 310-pound Cross, NC State’s Ik Ekwonu (6-4, 320), and Alabama’s Evan Neal (6-7 350) – could all be available here. Really. If the top two picks are edge rushers, then it’s up to the Houston Texans (at No. 3) and the Jets (at No. 4), and they both might take defensive players. Unlikely? Maybe. But it could happen. And if so, whom do the Giants like best?
I’ve heard they really like Cross, who might be the most athletic of the three. One scout compared him to Tampa’s Tristan Wirfsa player many in the Giants organization loved two years ago when GM Dave Gettleman opted for Andrew Thomas instead. Do they like him better than Ekwonu and Neal? Maybe.
Some scouts put him right up there with both of them. At least one told me it wouldn’t be a shock if Cross was the first tackle off the board. And the Giants probably can’t wait or trade down to get him lower, because the Panthers (6) and Seattle Seahawks (No. 9) seem to like him, too.
First round (7th overall) – Cincinnati CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
Here’s an interesting thought: If the above scenario holds true – where four defensive players go in the first four picks – and Ekwonu slips through, would the Giants double up and take Ekwonu here and move him to guard? I wouldn’t rule that out at all.
That would surely rebuild their line in a hurry and really, after the last decade of Giants offensive line issues, who would argue? That’s probably too much to ask, though. Also, the odds are still high that CB James Bradberry will eventually be traded or cut, which makes the corner a must-have position.
The 6-3, 200-pound Gardner is probably the safest and best bet. But now that LSU CB Derek Stingley, Jr. has proven his foot is healthy, a lot of scouts are revisiting why they think he has the highest ceiling. His best tape is from 2019 and he’s had injury issues, though. Would the Giants take that risk after all their injury problems the last few years? It’s hard to imagine they’d do it this high in the draft. Maybe if they were to trade down.
Second round (36th overall) – Baylor S Jalen Pitre
Gone from last year’s starting defensive backfield are Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan. And while they love Xavier McKinney and have faith in Julian Love … Well, those are the only safeties on the roster, so clearly they need more. The fourth pick of the second round has always felt like the spot for them to fill this need.
There should be several strong players here, including this versatile 6-foot, 197-pounder. He played the “star” position at Baylor, which was a cross between a slot corner, strong safety, and linebacker. He’s got decent speed, a nose for the ball, and he never shied away from contact (though he may not have the size to be a big hitter in the pros). The many ways he can be used makes him attractive as a third safety in the Giants defense for now, and perhaps more in the future.
Third round (67th overall) – Alabama DT Phidarian Mathis
There isn’t the same emergency on the defensive line that there is on the Giants’ offensive line, but it still needs an overhaul. They might not pick up Dexter Lawrence‘s fifth-year option, and veteran Justin Ellis is really a one-year stopgap, so they’re going to need some young bodies for the future.
The 6-4, 312-pound Mathis is a big one and he could immediately become a strong part of the Giants’ rushing defense. There are some scouts who believe he has more pass rushing ability than he showed for the Crimson Tide, too. The Giants obviously need pass rushing help and they know it doesn’t just have to come from edge rushers.
Third round (81st overall) – Georgia RB James Cook
They have nosed around just about every running back expected to go in the first four rounds of this draft and brought in several for the top 30 visits. Sure, it could be a smokescreen, but that’s a lot of wasted time if it is. More likely, they’re looking for another running back to help ease the load on Saquon Barkley and a potential replacement as the lead back in what will likely be a committee in 2023.
Of all the ones they’ve brought in, the one sources said they appear to like best is Cook, the speedy, younger and younger brother of Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook. The 5-11, 190-pound James Cook doesn’t have his brother’s size, but he seems to have his breakaway ability and versatility. With Barkley’s future very uncertain beyond this year, the Giants have to draft a running back at some point, and Cook could be a good one.
Fourth round (112th overall) – Memphis C Dylan Parham
Taking a lineman at No. 5 is only the beginning of the Giants’ rebuilding of this disastrous unit. They have mostly stopgap veterans in the interior and no depth behind the 30-year-old Jon Feliciano at center, since no one seems to know for sure when, or if, Nick Gates will be healthy enough to play again.
Parham played right tackle and guard for the Tigers, but he’s undersized for those spots in the NFL (6-3, 311), so he’s projected as a center. He’s a strong enough blocker that he could be good up in the middle, too. He’ll need some time to develop, but he’ll get that behind Feliciano. And in the meantime he has the flexibility to be a capable backup at any spot along the line.
Fifth round (147th overall) – North Carolina G / T Josh Ezeudu
What, you thought they were done taking offensive linemen? Put the over / under at three for this draft, and I still might bet the over. They especially need help inside, and that’s where these 6-4, 308-pounder figures to play, though he has experience at both tackle spots, too.
As always, the Giants like their linemen with that type of versatility and they’ve had their eye on him since they sent a big contingent to the Tar Heels Pro Day. One scout said he needs some work on his technique, but the potential is there for a good offensive line coach to turn him into a starter.
Fifth round (173rd overall) – Maryland TE Chigoziem Okonkwo
This is such a big and underrated need for the Giants that I am not entirely certain they’ll be willing to wait this long to fill it. They got rid of all of their tight ends from last year and replaced them with only Ricky Seals-Jones. When new GM Joe Schoen was with the Buffalo Bills and they needed a tight end in 2019, they got Dawson Knox in the third round, and that’s where the tight end run this year should be.
But if they wait, this 6-2, 238-pounder could be an intriguing option. He ran a 4.52 at the combine, which was the fastest among tight ends. He’s a little smaller than NFL teams would like at tight end, but it could work if he’s used mostly as a receiver. Overall he’s raw, but the Giants were intrigued enough to send their tight ends coach to his Pro Day and to have some meetings and talks with him along the way.
Sixth round (182nd overall) – Rutgers WR Bo Melton
A Day 3 receiver is another thing that feels like a lock for the Giants. It was basically a staple for the Bills when Schoen was there. Plus, with Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton in the last year of their contracts and Kenny Golladay‘s long-term future uncertain, there is a need to develop a depth chart for the future.
The 5-11, 189-pound Melton has some potential as a future slot receiver. He’s also got some gadget potential as a runner out of the backfield and as a kick returner and gunner on punt teams. He’s fast – his 4.34 in the 40’s at the combine was among the best – but a coach is going to have to figure out how best to use that speed.