At the risk of uttering the obvious, the Giants cannot afford to waste these two picks. Big Blue desperately needs players the franchise can build around, especially after only reaching the playoffs once since the start of the 2012 season.
So, who should the Giants draft in the first round? As with our mock drafts, we picked players based on need and team fit. Also, all prospects are ranked alphabetically as opposed to preference or potential. With that said, I will acknowledge who I believe should be selected fifth overall.
Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, we believe the Giants should target the following players with the fifth and seventh overall picks.
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Remember that bit about me noting who I believe the Giants should select fifth overall? Here you go.
Yes, I’m all aboard the Sauce Gardner train, which could prove to be both mine and the Giants’ downfall. Oh, well.
Gardner is a shutdown cornerback who would likely be the best player available at No. 5 overall. The 6-foot-3, 190-pond corner is the reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year and never allowed a touchdown in three years of college football. He’s the type of player a team builds around, especially in a draft with so many questionable first-round prospects.
As a Jets fan, I’d love to see Gang Green add the Cincinnati cornerback with the fourth overall pick. However, I do believe Gardner will be on the board here, and I suggest the Giants take full advantage and select him this early.
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
I’ve raved about Cross throughout the pre-draft process, and it appears the media has finally taken notice. More mock drafts are suggesting the Mississippi State standout will be a top-10 selection after a dominant final college season. The 6-foot-5, 307-pound Cross excelled in pass protection and displayed impressive strength throughout his college career.
If the Giants go defense at No. 5, Cross would be an intriguing selection at No. 7. Assuming, of course, the Carolina Panthers don’t select him with the sixth overall pick.
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Would the Giants really select Stingley this early? Although there is no debating the former LSU standout’s potential, the reality is that Stingley’s injury history could drop him outside of the top-10. I just don’t know if the Giants, who have so many needs to address, should invest an early pick on a cornerback who can’t stay on the field.
However, the Giants have hinted they’d be open to trading down. I’m personally not opposed to the idea of the Giants acquiring more picks and potentially trying to select Stingley slightly later in the first round.
Should the Giants select Stingley with the fifth overall pick? No. As for the seventh overall pick? Maybe. His status as a high-risk, extremely high-reward prospect is enough to land him a spot on this list, even if I am feeling cynical.
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
For transparency, I mocked Neal to the Texans at No. 3 and suggested he should be the pick when I listed who Houston should target in the draft. However, I’m including him here because he could fall to the Giants here; such a premise also applies to North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu, although I genuinely believe he’ll be selected within the first four picks.
The 6-foot-7, 337-pound Neal consistently impressed over the last three years and has experience at both tackle positions. The All-American offensive lineman could begin his NFL career at right tackle, a move that would keep 2020 first-round selection Andrew Thomas on the left side. If Gardner isn’t on the board at No. 5, I believe the four-time Super Bowl champions should absolutely use that selection on Neal.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
No one knows quite where Thibodeaux will be selected, and that only makes the draft process more intriguing. For all we know, the Detroit Lions could select the Oregon standout second overall, or the Houston Texans could add him with the 13th overall pick.
Thibodeaux’s college production (19 sacks, 35.5 tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles) speak for itself, and his 6-foot-4, 254-pound frame should appeal to the Giants. By no means is the 2021 All-American a “safe” pick, but his potential could easily win out here. Don’t be surprised to see the Giants call his name on Thursday night.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
It feels like everyone has an opinion on Hamilton ahead of the draft. Some view him as a unicorn and a potential perennial All-Pro safety. Others see him as an overhyped prospect who is good at many things but not great in any specific areas.
What do I think? I don’t know yet. I’m not a scout nor a self-professed “draft analyst.” All I know is the 6-foot-4, 220-pound safety is a heat-seeking missile who is seemingly always around the ball. Hamilton is truly the only player here who I believe is worth taking at either No. 5 or No. 7.
Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Although Walker has been linked to the No. 1 overall pick, it feels far more likely he’ll be on the board at No. 5. The 6-foot-5, 272-pound Georgia standout excels against the run, but likely won’t be on the field for passing downs. We could theoretically live with such an arrangement if the Giants feel comfortable selecting him seventh overall to be a run-stopper.
But, to be clear, Walker shouldn’t be selected fifth overall under any circumstances. I do not like the idea of a team, especially one with as many problems as the rebuilding Giants, investing such an early pick on a player who won’t be on the field for all three downs.
Then again, does my say really matter?