Giants' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 27, 2022

Giants' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll could not have asked for a better situation when it comes to building his roster.

    The first-year head coach and his staff have the fifth and seventh overall picks to work with in Thursday's first round.

    Daboll and new general manager Joe Schoen will almost certainly try to find protection for quarterback Daniel Jones with one of those selections.

    New York could have its pick of the top offensive tackles if the first four picks go in its favor. The ideal scenario features the ability to choose between Ikem Ekwonu, Charles Cross and Evan Neal.

    The Giants could upgrade their defense as well with the No. 7 pick. Defensive end Jermaine Johnson II is one of the players the NFC East side could have its sights set on.

    Kayvon Thibodeaux falling to No. 7 might be too much to pass up, but there is a chance that he and two other top defensive linemen are no longer on the board at that point because of the needs across the league.

Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    There is a scenario in play in which the Giants could have all three of the possible top-10 picks at offensive tackle available to them.

    They need the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions to go with defensive linemen at Nos. 1 and 2. That is very likely, with Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson projected to go in that order in most mock drafts.

    New York then needs the Houston Texans to show some unpredictability at No. 3, which is possible given the abundance of holes on their roster.

    The New York Jets' biggest need is edge-rusher, so that may lead to Thibodeaux landing at No. 4.

    If that comes to fruition, NC State's Ekwonu could fall to the Giants at No. 5. He would be viewed as a partner to Andrew Thomas at offensive tackle to protect Daniel Jones.

    ESPN's Jordan Reid and Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle are among the prognosticators who paired up the Giants and Ekwonu.

    Ekwonu's selection would be a welcome sight to Jones, who was sacked 22 times in 11 games in 2021. The fourth-year quarterback was also taken down on 45 occasions in 2021.

    The offensive line has been New York's biggest offensive weakness for a while, and the team should use the No. 5 pick on Ekwonu or the best available offensive lineman.

Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    It must be nice for the Giants that the backup plan at No. 5 is an intimidating player out of Alabama.

    Neal could be the selection if Ekwonu goes off the board with one of the first four picks—a distinct possibility if the Texans or Jets make an unpredictable move or a team trades up above the Giants.

    One of the most important pieces on the Alabama offense over the past few years, Neal established himself as one of the best offensive linemen in college football.

    Daboll, who was on Nick Saban's staff for a year in 2017 before taking a job with the Buffalo Billsmost likely exhausted his connections at Alabama to get a detailed scouting report on Neal.

    The head coach's connection to Alabama makes Neal a strong second option behind Ekwonu if the NC State player does not drop to the Giants.

    New York needs some sort of help for Jones, and if it comes away from No. 5 without an offensive tackle, it could be viewed as a major disappointment.

Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State

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    Phil Sears/Associated Press

    Positional need may outweigh the best-player-available strategy at No. 7.

    The Giants must add help on the defensive line, and Johnson could be the answer to that problem.

    The Florida State edge-rusher was predicted to go seventh by ESPN's Todd McShay in his recent three-round mock draft with Mel Kiper Jr. McShay described Johnson as "worthy of a top-10 pick."

    He is not a flashy name like Hutchinson, Walker or Thibodeaux, but he could be as effective on the defensive line.

    Johnson, who transferred from Georgia to Florida State, jumped on to the draft radar with an 11.5-sack season for the Seminoles.

    His ability to get to the quarterback has to intrigue the Giants as they look for someone to pair with Leonard Williams.

    Safety Kyle Hamilton and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. are potential picks at No. 7 as well, but the Giants would be wise to address their interior needs off the bat.

    New York has two third-round picks and a pair of fifth-round choices that could be used to trade back into the first round if a talented defensive back falls toward the end of Thursday's opening round.