The new regime at Met Life Stadium will get an immediate opportunity to re-make the fledgling New York Giants franchise by picking 5th and 7th in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
So general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll will be busy men this weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, assessing the top players on their board and identifying the two impact players they expect to change the fortunes of the team for the rest of the 20s.
The Giants need help in many areas, but will likely focus on offensive line and edge rusher for the pair of top-10 picks. Here are the players the Giants should be focusing on at the Combine:
Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive lineman, N.C. State
The Giants will almost certainly take an offensive lineman with one of these two picks at Nos. 5 and 7. Who will still be on the board at No. 5 is a bit of a mystery. Alabama’s Evan Neal is getting a lot of mock draft love as Jacksonville’s pick at No. 1, and that might explain his absence from the Combine if he already knows he’s going No. 1.
Ekwonu is considered right there with Neal as the top tackle on the board, and if he sneaks through picks 2-4, the Giants will certainly grab Ekwonu at No. 5, unless they have some assurance that the Carolina Panthers will not use the sixth pick on an offensive lineman. Then the Giants might look instead to a defensive stud at No. 5.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE/LB, Oregon
If Neal is the consensus top offensive lineman, than Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is the consensus top edge rusher, and he is expected to go No. 2 to the Detroit Lions. So as Ekwonu is the second-best offensive line prospect, the consolation prize at edge is Thibodeaux, who had 15 sacks in his career with the Ducks and has the size and speed to be an elite pass rusher at the NFL level.
Thibodeaux was voted top defensive lineman in the Pac-12 this past season and can play inside and outside on the line, as well as outside linebacker. But perhaps the most impressive part of Thibodeaux’s game is the belief that he has only scratched the surface of his immense talent and potential.
Charles Cross, Offensive lineman, Mississippi State
If Neal and Ekwonu are gone in the first four picks, Cross could end up as the consolation prize at left tackle, and Daniel Jones should do a happy dance. Cross is considered the best pass protector in the entire draft, and only rates below Neal and Ekwonu because of his run-blocking skills, which lag behind the other two top prospects.
That probably won’t be an issue for the Giants, who seem determined to protect Jones at all costs and turn him into the passer the team believed he would be when they drafted him four years ago. Giving him the confidence to know his blind side is locked down by Cross would be an enormous step in the right direction.
Devin Lloyd, Linebacker, Utah (trade down)
Things could happen very fast for the Giants if, as could well happen, two of Neal, Ekwonu and Thibodeaux are gone in the first four picks and the Giants can only get the remaining player at No. 5. That might compel the Giants to consider trading out of the No. slot if they deem any of their remaining top targets not worth that high a pick.
Would the Giants consider trading down to the low teens in order to accumulate more picks in later rounds? If they did, a player like Lloyd, one of the top linebacker prospects on the board, might be a suitable consolation prize if it comes with a haul of extra draft picks.
Arnold Ebiketie, Defensive lineman, Penn State
What’s one edge rusher when you can drive a twin set? Ebiketie really came on as a fifth-year senior at Penn State, collecting 9.5 sacks in 12 games in 2021, making 62 tackles, including 18 for a loss. He also recovered two fumbles.
Putting Ebiketie on the same defensive line with Thibodeaux would be a nightmare for the rest of the NFC East and could cover up a lot of the current mess the team has at the linebacker position. Some believe that Ebiketie has played himself into the first round, but he only has to slide a few spots into the second for the Giants to have a shot at him.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference