2022 NFL Draft Rumors: Giants, Panthers 'Connected' to OT Charles Cross

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 23, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 04: Charles Cross #OL06 of the Mississippi State runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The New York Giants and Carolina Panthers reportedly have both been linked to Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross entering next week's 2022 NFL draft.

ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay reported the news but noted that it should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt since the days leading up to the draft are "lying season."

The Giants have the Nos. 5 and 7 overall picks, while the Panthers have the No. 6 pick.

Cross is set to enter the NFL after starting for two seasons at Mississippi State and earning All-SEC freshman team honors in 2020 and All-SEC first-team honors in 2021.

Based on his play and his performance in the predraft process, Cross has at least put himself in the conversation to be the first offensive tackle off the board along with Alabama's Evan Neal and NC State's Ickey Ekwonu.

Given their need at right tackle with 2020 No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas holding down the left tackle spot, the Giants have been linked to Cross for some time.

ESPN's Matt Miller reported last week that the Giants "love" Cross.

Miller followed that up with another report this week, noting that the Giants met privately with Cross and there is "belief within their front office that he could be the answer at right tackle as a day-one starter."

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah (h/t NFL.com's Nick Shook) commented on the situation as well, saying that there is indeed a "connection" between Cross and the G-Men.

If the Giants badly want Cross, however, they may have to take him fifth overall, which is what McShay suggested.

The Panthers are sandwiched in between the Giants' two picks at No. 6 overall, and they are in desperate need of an offensive line rebuild, as well as a young quarterback.

McShay theorized that if the Giants take Cross at No. 5, the Panthers would take a different offensive lineman like Neal or Ekwonu, or a quarterback at No. 6, which would allow New York to take the best available pass-rusher at No. 7.

New York needs help on the trenches on both sides of the ball, and while both Georgia defensive end Travon Walker and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson figure to be gone by the time they pick, Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson are options for them at No. 5 or 7.

It remains possible the Panthers' reported interest in Cross could be a smokescreen since they know or assume that the Giants like him.

Generating fake interest could influence the Giants to take him fifth, which would perhaps allow the Panthers to take Neal or Ekwonu, both of whom are ranked ahead of Cross by both draft experts.

Whichever team takes Cross will be getting a high-upside tackle, though, and someone who is highly adept at pass blocking thanks to his experience in Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense.