Joe Schoen
The Record

The Charles Cross buzz could be strategic subterfuge by the Giants. It could be accurate pre-draft intel. Or perhaps it falls somewhere in the middle, as these things often do.

Whatever the truth is, it figures to have an outsized role in defining general manager Joe Schoen’s first NFL draft.

If Schoen is truly enamored with Cross, he will waste no time jumping into the fire with a gutsy pick. If it’s only, say, half-bloom love, it gives the Giants valuable flexibility. And if it’s a complete misdirection, Schoen may end up manipulating the board to his advantage in a way his predecessors never could.

If the Giants truly love Cross … The team’s time-honored tradition of leaking who they want to draft continues. That said, the odds of a draft night debacle on par with Leonard Floyd in 2016 or DeVonta Smith last year seem slim.

The only way the Giants would get boxed out would seem to be if the other top tackles – N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu and Alabama’s Evan Neal – went in the top-3. That would prompt someone to trade up with the Jets and steal Cross at No. 4. Not impossible, but not probable either. And even then, the Giants would then figure to be guaranteed two of these three: Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Georgia’s Travon Walker. That’s not a bad consolation prize.

The more likely outcome if the Giants are sold on Cross is that Schoen takes him at No. 5 with several of the sexier names still on the board. And hey, scared money does not make money. Schoen is going to have to be firm in his convictions and pick the players he feels will return the Giants to prominence. If that starts with Cross, so be it. It’s his show now.

If the Giants just like Cross … Schoen can address another pressing need first, assuming there is at least one other tackle on the board when it’s time for the fifth pick. The Panthers could take a tackle at No. 6 or trade the pick to a team that wants one. But if it’s not Cross-or-bust for the Giants, they can go with a pass rusher or defensive back and get whoever is still around at No. 7. Or trade out of the spot.

Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning is also expected to be a first-round pick. There will also be available tackles in the other six rounds. It’s not like the Giants are a right tackle away from the Super Bowl. The pass rush is arguably a greater area of need. And every decision on a pick in this draft needs to weigh the likelihood of a quarterback push in 2023. It makes no sense to sell out for a lineman when it could keep you from adequately replacing Daniel Jones.

If this is all a smokescreen … Schoen either wants someone to unnecessarily jump him to get Cross and allow Ekwonu or Neal to fall to No. 5. Or more likely, he has his sights on a defender (Gardner?) and hopes trade-up candidates will fall asleep at the wheel and keep their gunpowder dry.

This draft is tough to figure for two big reasons: The perceived weakness of the quarterback crop and the fact the Jaguars inexplicably still employ Trent Baalke. It’s anyone’s guess what the teams that need a quarterback actually think about the quarterbacks, and no one seems to have any certainty about what Jacksonville will do. That means more creativity is required to create angles. And that may be what Schoen did with Cross. We’ll find out soon.



James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.