Mel Kiper believes the Giants address two glaring needs in the opening round.
The Giants have various roster needs they weren’t able to fill in free agency due to limited cap space.
That’s where their nine picks in the 2022 NFL Draft will come into play — more notably, the two first-rounders they own.
5. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Kiper’s Take: “The Giants, the other team with two top-10 picks, haven’t been as active in free agency as new general manager Joe Schoen gets the team back into decent salary-cap shape. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs, though, particularly at edge rusher and offensive tackle. With the way the board has fallen in this projection, they can get Day 1 starters at both spots.
Neal is a massive tackle who can overpower defenders in the run game and move his feet as a pass-protector. Andrew Thomas, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft, looked much better in Year 2 and could stay at left tackle, pushing Neal to the right side. Neal also played some guard at Alabama, and he could be great there too. This is a big season for quarterback Daniel Jones, so the Giants have to keep him upright.”
Our Take: If NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu is off the board by the fifth pick (which is what Kiper is projecting in this mock), Alabama’s Evan Neal figures to be the top offensive tackle available for the Giants.
Therefore, I would like this pick significantly.
The Giants absolutely need another bookend tackle to complement Andrew Thomas if they plan to roll the dice with Daniel Jones. Thomas is looking as if he’s the long-term answer on the quarterback’s blindside and the Giants just picked up interior linemen Mark Glowinski (Colts) and Jon Feliciano (Bills) in free agency. The right tackle spot plays host to a crucial vacancy right now — Neal (if available) would thus be the perfect choice at No. 5.
The Giants could always target a receiver in the third round to provide Jones another weapon. But in the opening round, the need for a tackle carries much more weight.
7. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Kiper’s Take: “This pick is logical for the team and for the prospect. The Giants’ top pass-rusher last season was rookie Azeez Ojulari, who led the team with eight sacks, and they have to improve on the edge. This is their best chance to add a young, talented defensive end. They can afford to use this pick on Thibodeaux, who has a high ceiling but was inconsistent in 2021.
If Thibodeaux puts it all together, you’re talking about All-Pro-level talent. But if he doesn’t build out secondary moves and can’t improve his all-around game, he could struggle. He has the type of physical traits NFL teams love, but taking that guy in the top 10 is risky. If New York passes on Thibodeaux, keep an eye on cornerback or linebacker with this pick.”
Our Take: We said the offensive line and pass rush were two huge areas the Giants needed to address during the draft.
After Kiper has Big Blue taking Evan Neal at No. 5, he has the team making another tremendous move at No. 7.
If Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is available here after the Giants chose a tackle at No. 5, he should absolutely be the pick. I would completely fall off the Joe Schoen bandwagon if Thibodeaux was there for the taking and the new GM passed on him.
Lorenzo Carter departed for Atlanta in free agency and Oshane Ximines is essentially a lost cause after inconsistent production through his first three NFL seasons. The Giants, simply speaking, need another pass rusher to complement Azeez Ojulari and Leonard Williams.
With Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Georgia’s Travon Walker already off the board in this mock, Thibodeaux would be the top edge rusher available and an incredible choice at No. 7.
Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY