joe schoen brian daboll
Syndication: The Record

With the NFL Scouting Combine nearing, let’s take a look at the Giants’ potential moves during the first three draft rounds.

The NFL Scouting Combine is arriving.

After a year off due to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, draft prospecs along with NFL coaches and executives will be back in Indianapolis this week ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft, set to take place from April 28-30.

The more well-run organizations will possess late-round picks on Day 1 of the draft while teams coming off poor seasons will pick early (unless any sort of trade is involved). The Giants, unfortunately, find themselves in the latter category and possess a top-10 pick for the fourth time in five years (they actually own two, thanks to a 2021 draft-day trade with Chicago).

With those two opening-round picks, along with three other selections in the first three rounds, general manager Joe Schoen and his staff will have various crucial decisions to make.

With the draft two months away and the combine commencing, which positions should the organization target in these early rounds? Which players should it consider and thus keep a close eye on at the combine?

Positions of need & prospects to consider

First, let’s start off by listing the picks the Giants currently own on Days 1 and 2 of the draft (remember: the draft order is fluid thanks to trades).

  • Round 1, Pick 5
  • Round 1, Pick 7 (via Chicago)
  • Round 2, Pick 36
  • Round 3, Pick 67
  • Round 3, Pick 81 (via Miami)

Offensive tackle

The Giants must use one of their first-round selections on an offensive tackle — that’s a given. Now that they seem to have finally gotten the left tackle spot right, they need to lock down the other bookend if Daniel Jones is remaining under center.

If it’s at No. 5 or 7 overall, the Giants could acquire one of Evan Neal (Alabama), Ikem Ekwonu (NC State), or Charles Cross (Mississippi State). However, at least one of those guys could be off the board by No. 5 and only one may be left at the seventh pick, so the Giants likely won’t have all of the possible options.

Edge rusher

Edge rusher seems to very much be in play during the first round. If the Giants don’t go tackle at No. 5 overall, they could likely bulk up the pass rush for new coordinator Wink Martindale. Or, if the Giants do in fact acquire a tackle with the fifth pick, they could target an edge rusher at No. 7.

Don’t be surprised if Big Blue waits until the second round to find a pass rusher, however. There’s the possibility Joe Schoen goes all in on the offensive line in the first round by selecting an OT at No. 5 and then trading back to the early- or mid-teens of the draft order and acquiring an interior lineman.

Potential first-round targets could include Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (who could slide to the Giants at No. 5 or possibly at No. 7). Purdue’s George Karlaftis and Michigan’s David Ojabo are additional options, but taking the latter that early could be deemed a reach.

If the Giants were to wait to address the pass rush, USC’s Drake Jackson and Houston’s Logan Hall could still be on the board at No. 36 overall.

Guard/center

The futures of Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, and Will Hernandez are unclear (Lemieux and Gates are coming off lost seasons due to injury while Hernandez’s contract is expiring). Thus, the Giants could target a talented interior lineman to protect Jones and grow alongside the other line counterparts.

I wouldn’t draft a guard/center at No. 5 though. An interior lineman should be the second or third position the Giants target, not the first.

Thus, the team could trade back from the No. 7 pick, earn extra draft capital, and take a guard around the middle of the first round (as we said earlier). Or, New York could wait and draft one in the second round after addressing the tackle and edge rusher spots in the first.

Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum figures to be the best interior offensive lineman in this draft, but Boston College’s Zion Johnson might be off the board in the opening round as well.

Inside linebacker

Blake Martinez should absolutely be a cap casualty given the amount of money the Giants would be saving by releasing him ($8.525 million in cap space). Moving forward with Tae Crowder and a potential rotation at the other inside linebacker spot would be beneficial for the organization.

Having said that, linebacker could be a position to target in the third round. Don’t be surprised if the Giants use two of their picks on this position (one in the third, one later on) — depth here is important, especially given the number of guys Wink Martindale could utilize in blitz packages.

An interesting name to consider is Channing Tindall, a 2021 second-team All-SEC linebacker from Georgia who has experience playing alongside Crowder (the two played with one another for the Bulldogs from 2018-19).

Cornerback

Even though the Giants signed James Bradberry ahead of the 2020 season and subsequently inked Adoree’ Jackson to a three-year deal last offseason (and also drafted two cornerbacks last year in Aaron Robinson and Rodarius Williams), depth at this position is highly crucial.

Plus, the futures of Bradberry and Jackson are in question — the former may be a cap casualty while the latter could be a trade piece.

With that said, the third round (at No. 67 or 81 overall) could be a spot to land a young cornerback to at least be an option for the nickelback role.

UTSA corner Tariq Woolen sports tremendous size at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds. However, Mykael Wright out of Oregon provides versatility, being that he can additionally produce in the return game (he averaged 27.7 yards per kick return for the Ducks this past year).

Defensive lineman

Dexter Lawrence could be a trade piece prior to the 2022 season and Austin Johnson is slated to become a free agent.

But I can’t see the Giants selecting a defensive lineman in the first two rounds due to superior needs.

That makes the defensive line, just like the linebacker and cornerback units, an area to address in the third round (either at No. 67 or 81 overall, but preferably the latter due to, again, superior needs).

Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis, UConn’s Travis Jones, and Ohio State’s Haskell Garrett could be available when the Giants are on the clock (barring any sort of trade).

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

Listen to ESNY’s Wide Right Podcast on Apple here or on Spotify here.

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.