Joe Schoen had one main job this offseason: Build a competitive roster — or at least lay the foundation for one.
He took a major step toward that goal with a successful first NFL draft as Giants general manager last weekend.
Let’s break it down:
A little bit of luck. Picking at Nos. 5 and 7 was tricky. Especially when you have needs all throughout the roster. How the board looks ahead of your picks can influence the player you target, the position you focus on and whether you’ll attempt to trade back. And thanks to a little luck, the first four picks worked out perfectly for the Giants.
While defensive ends Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson (picks Nos. 1 and 2) were never expected to be in play, two corners (Derek Stingley Jr. and Sauce Gardner) went back-to-back at Nos. 3 and 4.
This opened the door for the Giants to take Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 5. The Oregon defensive end’s stock was fluid but his talent was top-10 worthy. And Schoen was able to take him with all three top offensive tackles — Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, and Charles Cross — still on the board.
Schoen could’ve taken one of those tackles at No. 5 and possibly landed Thibodeaux at No. 7. But locking Thibodeaux in was the right move. Schoen couldn’t risk the Panthers surprisingly taking Thibodeaux at No. 6 or someone else trading up to draft him at that same spot. Schoen was still going to have his choice of at least two tackles at No. 7.
Between Neal and Cross, Schoen chose the former, who is arguably the most NFL-ready of the bunch. In a make-or-break year, quarterback Daniel Jones needs an upgrade from Matt Peart on the right side of the line. Neal hopes to answer the bell.
The supporting cast. There was thought to the Giants taking a cornerback with their second-round pick (No. 43 after a pair of trades). But addressing the receiver room fairly early was also a sensible idea. Kadarius Toney has his fair share of concerns, Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay are injury-prone, and Darius Slayton doesn’t have a reserved roster spot by any means.
The Giants need to put Jones in the best position possible to fully evaluate whether he’s the franchise’s future. The drafting of Kentucky wideout Wan’Dale Robinson should assist with that task.
Speed kills in the modern NFL. So does elusiveness and the ability to find space with superb vision. Robinson sports each quality and can be a Toney/Tyreek Hill type. That amount of speed and shiftiness over the middle of the field should be dangerous for Brian Daboll and Mika Kafka’s offense. Expect Robinson to assume notable slot reps.
The “need” picks. The two fourth-round picks and the team’s first fifth-round selection caught my eye.
- Round 4, Pick 112: Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State
- Round 4, Pick 114: Dane Belton, S, Iowa
- Round 5, Pick 146: Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana
The Giants could’ve addressed the tight end position as early as the third round (the second round would’ve been a bit of a reach). But taking one in the fourth was acceptable. With Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph both departing this offseason, the Giants need a long-term option for this position. There’s no guarantee free-agent pickups Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins can fit the description. Bellinger could provide Jones with another reliable body in the passing game.
As for the secondary, the Giants absolutely needed a safety after not addressing that position on Day 1 or 2. Prior to the drafting of Belton, Xavier McKinney and Julian Love were the lone safeties on the roster. And it’s not confirmed whether the latter will remain there or serve as a nickelback. Belton can be a depth piece/special teamer before potentially developing into a starter alongside the talented McKinney.
The Giants should’ve targeted a linebacker in the third round due to the great value that was on the board (Leo Chenal, Chad Muma, etc.). So maybe waiting until the fifth was a questionable decision, but they were at least able to find depth. New York needs to consider the post-Blake Martinez era. The veteran tackling machine is entering a contract year and coming off an ACL tear. Maybe McFadden can be his replacement and find reps alongside Tae Crowder in 2023?
Depth. It’s clear the Giants’ final three picks were for depth purposes. That’s almost always the deal at this portion of the draft.
- Round 5, Pick 147: D.J. Davidson, DL, Arizona State
- Round 5, Pick 173: Marcus McKethan, iOL, North Carolina
- Round 6, Pick 182: Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati
Two of these rookies should make the final roster while the other initially finds himself on the team’s practice squad.
My guess is Beavers will be the practice squad addition. The Giants have enough linebacker depth with the addition of McFadden and the employment of Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown.
Davidson could find reps on heavy run downs or in goal line packages. McKethan figures to be a reserve interior lineman behind Shane Lemieux, Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, Nick Gates, and third-round pick (and college teammate) Josh Ezeudu.