Kayvon Thibodeaux
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Could the Giants land one of the top edge rushers in the upcoming NFL Draft?

The Giants need to enhance their pass rush. Azeez Ojulari and Leonard Williams aren’t enough, Lorenzo Carter may be on his way out, and Oshane Ximines is an absolute lost cause who might not even make the 2022 final roster.

Thankfully, they have the No. 5 overall draft pick — how convenient! Putting a bad product on the field somehow pays off (just during this annual event though).

Kayvon Thibodeaux, a defensive end out of Oregon, will be a big name in the upcoming draft. He was potentially supposed to be the top overall pick, but draft stocks are more fluid than water, and Thibodeaux’s has dropped.

Thus, there’s a chance he could be there for the Giants at No. 5. And according to Colin Cowherd, even the pass rusher himself thinks he’ll land in East Rutherford.

“He thinks he’s going to the New York Giants…he would fit in New York, he’s got a big personality…he would go to New York and feel like New York,” Cowherd said on “The Colin Cowherd Podcast” last week. “He wouldn’t be lost in Cincinnati. He feels like somebody that should play in LA or New York or Chicago.”

It would make sense for the Giants to make this kind of move at No. 5…if they didn’t have such crucial issues on the offensive line.

So let’s look at this from a broader perspective, shall we?

Factoring in the o-line problems, Carolina’s needs

I know what you’re going to say…

“Ryan, how could you possibly even question this? How could you possibly say the Giants should even go back and forth on taking Thibodeaux at No. 5 when they clearly need a premier pass rusher?”

Um…maybe because if the Giants are going to improve at all in an offensive- and pass-driven league (which they haven’t in the last few years), they’re going to need to shore up the offensive line.

You saw the number of offensive weapons they acquired last offseason, right? How did that work out for them during the 2021 season? Their ranking of 31st in both total yards and points partly had to do with the struggles in and around the line. Injuries and Jason Garrett’s prehistoric scheme were factors, don’t get me wrong. But the struggles up front were certainly legitimate and reasons for the offense’s lingering inefficiencies.

All I’m saying is this — if the Giants are going to draft Thibodeaux at No. 5 (if he’s available), they must ensure the top offensive tackle they could’ve taken with the fifth pick will still be available at No. 7.

And that’s where it gets tricky. Because at the moment, Carolina has the No. 6 pick, and if the Panthers roll the dice with Sam Darnold in 2022, they could be using that selection on an offensive tackle to assist Sam and their various weapons (Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall).

If the Giants wait until the seventh pick to take a tackle, they could miss out on the better of the available options due to the Panthers’ potential selection of an OT at No. 6.

Now, let me flip-flop it for you

Say the Giants don’t take Thibodeaux at No. 5, and instead, take the top available offensive tackle (whether that be Alabama’s Evan Neal, NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu, or Mississippi State’s Charles Cross). Then, I think there’s a legitimate chance they could still land Kayvon at No. 7.

The Panthers are not as desperate for a premier pass rusher as the Giants are. In 2021, Carolina finished second in the NFL with a 51% team pass rush win rate (ESPN‘s metric for “how often a pass-rusher is able to beat his block within 2.5 seconds”). Big Blue, on the other hand, finished 30th with a 34% mark in that category.

It’d be tougher for the Giants to ultimately pass on a guy like Thibodeaux than it would be for the Panthers. This is why I believe Carolina could still opt to take a tackle at No. 6 even if the Oregon star was available.

Recap

If the Giants aren’t drafting a quarterback in the first round, the top two positions of need will be offensive tackle and edge rusher.

Landing the top available guy at either position can be done at No. 5 and 7. But acquiring a tackle with the fifth pick before taking Thibodeaux with the seventh may need to be the exact maneuver that’s carried out, due to the Panthers’ current placement in the opening round and the probability they address the offensive line at No. 6.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

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Ryan Honey is a senior NFL analyst, betting writer, and podcaster for Elite Sports NY. He hosts the Wide Right Podcast, which serves as both a New York Giants podcast and sports betting show.