The 2022 NFL Draft class, the first under new General Manager Joe Schoen, brought in 11 new players, included two slight trade backs, and did not take anything away from the future. Six defensive players, five on offense. Six skill position players, five linemen. This draft, overall, had a balanced and “safe” feel to it but most importantly, it appeared nobody in the media knew what was going to happen. Schoen and staff flew under the radar, but we did see a trend with all off the 11 picks that is worth remembering; NYG had well-documented time with all of them pre-draft. Whether it was a Top 30 visit, a Pro Day visit by the GM with a private meeting included, or a documented meeting at the Senior Bowl away from practice. A New General Manager is challenged with a unique set of obstacles and pressure in their inaugural draft. Starting off on the right foot in a league where jobs change fast was essential.
Here is my break down of the 2022 NYG Draft Class along with what I would have done differently, a tradition where I make my own picks in real time to store them for future comparison. I will include NFL Comparisons, the summary from my scouting report, and extra thoughts on the fit along with likely usage.
ROUND 1 (#5 Overall)
Kayvon Thibodeaux – EDGE/Oregon – 6’4/254
NFL COMPARISON: Harold Landry / TEN
Summary: Junior entry from South Central Los Angeles. Three-year starter that came out of school as a topflight, 5-star recruit and delivered. Earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors all three years, won the 2020 Morris Trophy, and landed on both the 2020 and 2021 All American squads. Thibodeaux has a long, explosive frame that can bend in and out of small creases with tremendous power and strength. His lockout game combined with a strong initial burst consistently gives him initial positional advantages on blockers. Sometimes, that alone is good enough as he can work through the shoulder of a blocker with consistent ease whether he is rushing the passer or defending the run. He is equally productive against both. Where Thibodeaux struggles, however, is when he is matched up against pro-caliber size and power when it comes to secondary rush moves. He needs to show more technique refinement and continue to try and strengthen his base, which plays small and gets too narrow at times. His lack of body control will cause issues as well when it comes to reaction-based action. His tool set is top shelf, but he is far from a finished product and will need to fix a lot prior to being labeled a dependable player.
*Out of the 1,500+ players that get a grade on my master sheet, Thibodeaux was the third ranked edge defender (the top two went 1-2 overall) and the 12th overall player. You may hear me echo this several times, apologies in advance. I am not going to use the term “reach”, especially at such an important position to the game in general, and even more specifically on the current NYG roster. I, like everyone, am intrigued by what this kid can bring to the defense. It was an aggressive swing for the fence and if it connects, NYG has their best pure pass rusher since the glory days. There was a lot of pre-draft talk around this kid and here is what I think:
Thibodeaux has the kind of get off that can change a defense. His burst up the edge is, right now, a weapon for the new defense that can make several other players better. It can change a scheme; it can change the way the entire defense plays. We all know, however, it will take a lot more than that to reach the level of a high-end pass rusher in this league. Thibodeaux needs to get more consistent with rush moves and I would love to see him add more power to his lower half. That is a physical shortcoming of his that may not change much. That is the glaring difference I see between him and other guys with a similar height/weight/reach profile like Khalil Mack and DeMarcus Ware. Thibodeaux is not a very big guy. He also measures in like players such as Chase Winovich and Landry (my comparison for him). He does have a physical, powerful upper body though. He can set the edge with a quality lockout game. But when it comes to that lateral adjustment, twitchy left to right pass rush, there are holes that could prevent him from being a top shelf edge rusher. These are correctable issues, but they will require full blown devotion to his craft between the lines. I won’t speak of the off-field stuff here, I want to keep it to football. I am all about players wanting to enhance their brand (Strahan did it) but it will unequivocally need to come completely after putting everything he has into performing well, and then even better, on the field. This will be a fascinating story to follow.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Evan Neal – OT/Alabama – 6’7/337
NFL Comparison: Kareem McKenzie – NYG
Summary and analysis are below – as NYG picked him at #7.
ROUND 1 (#7 Overall)
Evan Neal – OT/Alabama – 6’7/337
NFL Comparison: Kareem McKenzie / NYG
Summary: Junior entry from Okeechobee, Florida. Three-year starter at three different positions (LG, RT, LT). A 2019 Freshman All American that ended his career as a 2nd Team All American and 1st Team All SEC honoree. Neal, a team captain, is lauded by both the on-field coaches and support staff inside the walls. His attention to detail, intelligence, and work ethic have helped him deliver on his 5-star recruit profile out of high school. The fact he started right away as a true freshman for Nick Saban along the offensive line, a rarity, and progressed each season of his 3-year career while playing 3 different positions speaks volumes about his mental game. The obvious with Neal is the elite physical tools. His size is second to none, his power comes easy and natural, and the explosion within his blocking can put him in a rare tier of offensive line prospects. He did struggle with consistency throughout his career, as he showed low body awareness in several situations. He often oversets, leading to balance and control issues. Defenders were able to shake him off too many times. Neal’s upside is as high as it gets but the constant new-position he dealt with every year may have thrown off some important development. That versatility may help his outlook to some teams but once he is drafted, his true value will come when he settles in to a position. Neal can eventually be one of the best linemen in the game.
*With all three of the tackles (Neal, Ekwonu, and Cross) available when NYG was on the clock at 5, NYG was an interesting situation. They were in the ideal position of choosing whichever tackle they wanted, their true OT1. It was the biggest hole on this team and there were multiple players at the position capable of coming in right away to start, likely providing the top right tackle-play since the aforementioned McKenzie. However, it was guaranteed that at least two of them would still be available at #7 overall, with only Carolina sandwiched between the two NYG selections. I talked to Paul Schwartz from the NY Post prior to the draft, and I brought this scenario up. All the hours and hours of scouting and debate, would NYG really say “we will take whatever is leftover”. This is called picking into the strength of the draft. Yes, just like I had Neal and Ekwonu, I believe NYG had the two graded the same and would have been equally happy with either at #7. Thus, they did not want to risk Carolina (or another team trading up) taking Thibodeaux at #6. In a process that is more art than science, that is how I think NYG saw the process at tackle.
Neal has been my top OT since summer. I was expecting him to end in the hard-to-reach 90+ tier reserved for projected All-Pros. He did not take that step up and this is where, in scouting, one must check the ego at the door and prevent preconceived notions from undermining the process. Neal’s tape in 2022 had mostly great, but too-often poor, stretches. The tools are all there and he is mature beyond his years. The fact he played three positions in three years is a testament to his coachability, team-first attitude, and versatile skill set. Nick Saban rarely puts true freshmen into the starting lineup along offensive line, Neal was the exception. However, I feel his progression may have been impeded by the constant change in position. The balance problems had more to do with slight issues within his footwork, not an athleticism shortcoming. That is why I feel plenty of optimism around his long-term potential. Neal will be the starting right tackle week 1 barring injury and may have some rookie growing pains (don’t expect a rookie Pro Bowler), but NYG has a realistic shot at having a top 5 OT pair league-wide very soon.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Garrett Wilson – WR/Ohio State – 6’0/183
NFL Comparison: Stefon Diggs / BUF
Summary: Junior entry from Austin, Texas. A former 5-star recruit that also had Division I offers out of high school for basketball. Two-year starter, two-time 1st Team All Big 10 honoree and a 2021 2nd Team All American. Wilson is the kind of dynamic and explosive playmaker that is a threat to score each time he steps on the field. The size and speed are, respectively, both good enough but neither are stand out traits. What makes him different is the elite body control and space-awareness. He can twist and turn late in ways that most others simply cannot. The game slows down for him when defenders are near and the second he makes his move, those defenders are often found wondering what just happened. Wilson can project to both the outside and the slot depending on the offense that brings him in. No matter what, expect him to make plays right away and ascend to one of the more dangerous threats in the league at the position.
*Wilson ended up going to the Jets at pick #10. For the record, if Carolina passed on Ekwonu I would have double dipped on the offensive line and picked him up. Wilson was the fall-back option with considerations given to EDGE Jermaine Johnson, OG Zion Johnson, and S Kyle Hamilton. I felt the need for wide receiver was just under the team’s needs for a pass rusher and offensive linemen. As I said prior to the draft, I’m not so sure that ANYONE from the current WR group will be here a year from now other than Toney (even he I’m not positive about).
Wilson, a mix of Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders (ironically both played for BUF in 2021), would give NYG a fresh pair of legs that fits like a glove into what Daboll wants from the position. He performs equally well when he lines up in the slot or the outside. His straight-line speed, body control, and ability to make big plays across multiple spectrums is what this offense is begging for. The receiver market is getting out of control right now and with the supply of talent that comes into the league at that spot year after year, it is wise to put draft resources into it. The one negative here, I will admit, is that there are VERY few receivers under 190 pounds that succeed in the league. My counterpoint in relation to Wilson, however, is his frame. He has a 76.5” wingspan which is abnormally wide for a player that is just under 6 feet tall. Jameson Williams? 6’1 / 75.8”. Chris Olave? 6’0 / 73.1”. Jahan Dotson? 5’11 / 74”. Skyy Moore? 5’10 / 73.5”. I will be curious to see if Wilson can add some bulk on that wide frame of his to get closer to Diggs 195 pound-mark.
ROUND 2 (#43 Overall)
Wan’Dale Robinson – WR/Kentucky – 5’8/178
NFL Comparison: Isaiah McKenzie / BUF
Junior entry from Frankfort, KY. Spent two seasons at Nebraska before transferring to Kentucky for the 2021 season. Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in both 2019 and 2020, second team All-SEC in 2021. Robinson has been a hybrid receiver/running back from the start of his career and will give an NFL offense the opportunity to create a big-time playmaker out of him. He has the well-balanced athletic ability and overall skill set to do multiple things, align from different spots, and create on his own. He is much more than an undersized, underneath threat that can occasionally take a jet sweep. He has had a lot of success in the deep passing game and plays with the kind of competitive fire that can at least somewhat make up for the lack of ideal size. Because he has lined up all over the offense, Robinson is a little rough around the edges when it comes release and route nuances, but all can be corrected in time. He is a big play threat every time he gets on the field no matter where he lines up.
*Schoen traded back two times prior to making this pick. He clearly wanted more day three draft capital to build up the depth on this roster. My first question? Did anyone get taken between their initial draft slot (#36) and where they ended up drafting (#43). Two corners I think they may have been high on, Andrew Booth and Kyler Gordon, were taken in that window. Safety Jalen Pitre was drafted in that window. I think that’s about it. I don’t know the answer, but it is something to reflect on. Schoen and Daboll agreed with my notion that there needed to be a wide receiver talent added to the team early on. Robinson truly is a fun and exciting player to watch. I was asked on the Scouts Honor Podcast to list 5 of my favorite players in this draft class (not the 5 best). Robinson was on the list. I had him as an early day three target. While I was surprised to see the name come across that early, I respect the value the NYG brass had on him. They clearly have a plan here.
Why did I go day three on Robinson? It had more to do with profile than anything else. Robinson is small. When I say small, I mean he could end up being one of the five smallest receivers in the NFL when the 53 man rosters are complete prior to week 1. His 27 5/8” arms and 67 5/8” wingspan on his 5’8” frame will give a reach radius is all-time small. Rondale Moore was the smallest receiver in last year’s group but was overall bigger than Robinson. I don’t want to obsess over it too much, but context is important. When it comes to his play on the field, Robinson is electric and tough. I watched a lot of Buffalo Bills offense after the Daboll hire and I thought he would want another Isaiah McKenzie; a gadget player that can carry the ball, go deep, be a weapon in the screen game, and impact special teams. He also could project to the slot where Cole Beasley, another similar body, thrived. They will engineer touches for him a variety of ways. My one question (beyond the size), doesn’t he fit into the role Kadarius Toney was supposed to fill? A different staff and regime drafted Toney, but he is more “athlete” than “receiver” in my eyes. Is there room for two of these guys on an offense? It is possible but my first reaction to this pick was, “Does this selection end up moving Toney away from NY?” We’ll see.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Nakobe Dean – LB/Georgia – 5’11/229
NFL Comparison: Jonathan Vilma – LB/Georgia
Summary: Junior entry from Horn Lake, Mississippi. Two-year starter (2020 and 2021) that was also a key contributor to the 2019 defense that was loaded with NFL talent, earning the team’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award. Capped his career off earning 1st Team All SEC and 1st Team All American honors. Dean, a third-year graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, has the make-up and production of a key difference maker in the middle of the defense. He was the leader of the pack at Georgia, a defense (a linebacker unit in particular) packed with pro talent on a National Champion squad. His speed and range, against both the run and pass, will be an immediate weapon at the next level. He brings instant energy and pop to the defense. The size is a credible concern and remember, the talent around him was unlike anything we have seen in recent years in college football. He fits into a space-friendly role, ideally on the weak side, where he can roam and allow his legs to make a difference. The size can be schemed around, and his speed/power combination will make an immediate difference.
*The fall of Nakobe Dean was one of the biggest stories of draft weekend. This will be another fascinating player to follow over the course of his career. Widely projected as a first rounder, and top 45 at worst, he ended up going at #83 overall (19th pick of the 3rd round). NYG passed on him not only in this slot, but two more times in round 3. The medicals scared off many teams, and understandably so. About six weeks prior to the draft, I made a note about how this size profile rarely gets chosen high in the draft at linebacker. The last two that have, Devin Bush and Patrick Queen, have given average-at-best returns so far. This came out of nowhere and I’ll tell you why. When there are huge issues with medicals that the league knows about, but the media does not, the player would expect a draft weekend fall like this. But Dean was one of the 17 players in attendance at the Draft in Las Vegas. If he had any clue this would happen, he would have not gone.
In my final report, I did not see Dean as the ideal fit for this Martindale scheme. That was regarding Round 1 talk. I felt much better about Dean going to NYG in round 2 when it came to value. Again, his profile is similar to the both previously mentioned Queen and Vilma. Both have played in this kind of scheme and Martindale himself says he can change things up based on personnel. Dean is a guy you tweak things for. The instincts, closing speed, and leadership he provides can change a defense. The soft tissue concerns are real, the pec strain is real, and knee tendonitis is real. I feel good about taking one risk in the draft every year as long as it is calculated and protected with a personnel hedge. This would have been the risk and from what I have heard, these medical concerns are not in the same tier as someone coming off a tendon/ligament injury. It may be hard watching this kid play on the Eagles in the future even if he has to miss some of 2022. This one may hurt, a lot.
ROUND 3 (#67 Overall)
Joshua Ezeudu – OG/North Carolina – 6’4/308
NFL COMPARISON: Dalton Risner / DEN
Summary: Fourth-year junior entry from Lawrenceville, GA. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors in 2021, second team in 2020. Because of injuries and inconsistent play throughout the entire line, Ezeudu was moved around often. Throughout his career he played every spot along the line with some of his best tape coming from his snaps at left tackle. His top position will be inside at guard, but that kind of versatility can boost his stock a bit. Ezeudu excels with his hands and displays quick feet, always a good place to start. The natural top-end athletic ability is limited, however, and it shows up when he needs to adjust laterally. His knee bend is inconsistent and there is a recoil in his reaction-times because of it. If he can improve some lower body techniques, there are some quality traits to work with.
*We discussed the idea of NYG doubling up on the offensive line in this draft. The conversation started with the extreme of them using #5 and #7 but pretty much everyone agreed multiple guys needed to be brought in. The final decision makers agreed, using 2 of the first 4 picks on the line. I also brought up the concept of college tackles being converted to guard in Buffalo. Five of their interior players played tackle in college. Ezeudu played the majority of his snaps at left guard, but also over 600 combined snaps at both tackle spots.
If I had to grade the technique alone of every lineman in the class, Ezeudu is top 5 without question. That was enough to put him in a round 3-4 tier. The way he uses his hands and feet complete cohesion, the way his rolls his hips into the defender, and the way his swings his rear into the hole is going to make offensive line coaches happy in a hurry. I think he is going to earn the baseline trust of the staff in a hurry. The question will come down to his speed when sudden reactions are needed. Late stunts, twists, and blitzes will be a challenge for him. I do believe the ability is there but there are several instances in college where things moved a bit too fast for him. That will not fly against the speed of the league. I see Ezeudu battling out the backup OG spot against Shane Lemieux in the short term and either starting at LG in 2023 or being the valuable number six guy that backs up both guard and tackle. He certainly has most of the traits to be a quality starter.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Travis Jones – DT/Connecticut – 6’4/325
NFL COMPARISON: Dontari Poe / DAL (FA)
Fourth year junior entry from New Haven, CT. Three-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season because of Covid-19. Jones has the ideal body and build for teams looking to beef up their interior presence along the defensive line. He carries 325+ pounds with ease while also showing excellent first step quickness up the field. The most attractive trait in his game comes immediately post-snap where his cinderblock-hands strike the blocker and immediately gets the action moving into the backfield. He creates a new line of scrimmage on a consistent basis when he has his pad level low enough. Jones does not show a lot of variety as a pass rusher, nor does he adjust well if initially beat. He needs to gain a better feel for the game and match his skill set with his impressive set of tools when it comes to lateral movement and adjustments. If that does happen, he can be one of the top forces at the position in the league. His basement will still be a very solid run defender and bull rusher. Safe player with enormous upside.
*Jones went 9 picks later to Baltimore. The gray area surrounding Dexter Lawrence in this defense still exists for me. Is he a true 3-4 nose tackle? Do they keep him in more of a 3-4 defensive end role? The team picked up his option right before the draft, so they will have him through 2023. It easy to see how valuable the position is to this scheme that Martindale is implementing. The one-year rental of Justin Ellis did not factor into this decision. From my perspective, looking at what Baltimore did along the interior of their line, another true nose is needed. Jones was the top guy in the class at that position.
When you are trying to keep the linebackers clean (remember, I drafted Dean), you need multiple guys up front that can two-gap at a high level. Jones, along with Lawrence, can co-exist on the field at the same time. But consider the fact Lawrence is a guy that generally plays under 65% of the snaps to begin with, it makes even more sense to invest another asset to this kind of role. Beyond the run defense, I think Jones actually has a similar upside as a puss rusher to what we see out of Lawrence. So powerful enough that, when he is lined up against one blocker, he will shrink the pocket. I loved having Jones available at this point of the draft and it screamed value in more ways than one when looking at what this roster will look like at this time next year and in 2024.
ROUND 3 (#81 Overall)
Cordale Flott – CB/LSU – 6’0/175
NFL COMPARISON: Taron Johnson / BUF
Summary: Junior entry from Saraland, AL. Two-year starter that saw time outside and at nickel. Cousin to fellow draft prospect Velus Jones, a wide receiver from Tennessee. Flott is a smooth mover that gets in and out of his breaks with no wasted motion. He plays faster than he times because of it. He lacks a physical presence on contact and there is not much of a frame to build on. Because of that, Flott will need to be near-flawless when it comes to route anticipation and reaction. He will likely project as a backup nickel that can see the field in deeper sub packages. He has some safety type traits against the pass only as well. He may be a guy without a true position and I’m not sure I see a ton of special teams upside.
*There was a real chance NYG was looking at a cornerback with one of their two first round picks. Wirth Stingley (#3 to HOU) and Gardner (#4 to NYJ) gone, there was no value that matched up that high. Thus, they waited, and it allowed them to find perhaps a better situational fit. James Bradberry has been involved in trade discussions with multiple teams around the league. Schoen did not bite on any offers for two reasons. One, they were not happy with what anyone put on the table, plain and simple. Two, they wanted to see what the draft presented regarding the cornerback position. Teams have roles within this position group, the outside spot and nickel. One could easily argue they are two different positions now and it is possible NYG has them graded/stacked out that way. After seeing the outside corner value had not been there quite yet, they went for a nickel in round 3.
Personally, I had Flott graded as an early day three pick. He was drafted toward the back end of day two. Do I label this a reach? Nope, not at all. NYG has a plan for this kid, and I can tell you at least part of where that is come from. One of the most important players on the Buffalo defense, a top 10 unit every season since 2018, has been their nickel Taron Johnson. Prior to the draft, Johnson was the label I put next to Flott. The Buffalo front office and coaching staff both take advantage of every opportunity they get to praise this kid, a 2018 4th rounder from Weber State. Flott is likely viewed in the same light. A featherweight with elite quickness and short area burst, he will play sticky in coverage, and he shows nice ball skills. All the LSU corners always do. Johnson has put on 12 pounds since his draft day, and I think Flott will need to follow that same path. I see him being a dime back in year one and should be able to be a quality nickel as soon as 2023 if he can tighten up his techniques and enhance his physical strength.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED:
Jeremy Ruckert – TE/Ohio State – 6’5/252
NFL COMPARISON: Dalton Schultz / DAL
Senior entry from Lindenhurst, NY. Two-plus year starter that earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors in 2021. After being the number two overall tight end recruit from the 2018 class, Ruckert never quite matched the hype because of an overly crowded and talented wide receiver room at Ohio State. His looks in the passing game just weren’t frequent enough to showcase his talent. He saw just 71 targets over the three seasons he was a big part of the offense. He did, however, display his ability to block both in-line and up the field. Ruckert’s hands, physical nature, and high on-field IQ made him a weapon on plays he was not thrown to. His impact will be felt there right away, and he could end up showing more as a receiver at the next level than he did in college. This is a guy that dropped just one pass over his career and scored 12 touchdowns on those 71 targets. He can be a weapon and an asset, one that sneaks up on the league in a classic “Y” tight end role.
*If I took position value out of the discussion, the tight end group was the biggest hole on this roster entering day two. With the strength of this group in the 2022 draft class, I was adamant that NYG had to bring in one of the top seven guys. Trey McBride went #55 overall to Arizona (round 2). Jelani Woods went #73 to Indianapolis (round 3). Greg Dulcich went the pick before, #80 to Denver (round 3). I pondered whether or not to wait until round 4 to see what was left over, as it was likely one of the 7 guys would be there. I did not want to risk it because of how important I view this position, thus I scooped up the guy that was graded as second-best at the position. He went 20 picks later to the Jets.
Ruckert is pro-ready across every element of the postion. He is big, physical, and strong. He has soft hands that are big, and play big. He is a hungry blocker that will be effective right away. He made the most of his limited looks in the passing game that was a result of the star-studded receiver group (two 2022 first rounders AND a 2023 first rounder) and the top freshman running back in the nation (TreVeyon Henderson, just trust me). Ruckert had to pull out of the Senior Bowl because of plantar fasciitis which could have led to his slight fall although round 3 is where I projected him regardless. With where I expect this offense to be in 2023, getting Ruckert in here now would have been a brilliant move at this point. We will be watching this guy for years play in the same stadium for a different team.
ROUND 4 (#112 Overall)
Daniel Bellinger – TE/San Diego State – 6’5/253
NFL COMPARISON: Zach Ertz / ARI
Summary: Senior entry from Las Vegas, NV. Three-year starter than earned Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors in 2020. Bellinger has the tool set and ability to play the traditional Y tight end spot. While his skill set is more receiver-friendly, he does show enough upside and ability to create impact as a blocker. He plays a twitchy, sudden game and understands his role well. Bellinger may not have the man-strength quite yet to have a big role, but he should fill the back end of a depth chart early on. He is a plus-athlete with some sneaky upside to him when it comes to getting open and making things happen after the catch.
*My thoughts on the tight end situation here is discussed above under my summary on Jeremy Ruckert, my round 3 target for NYG. There was no denying how important it was to get one of these tight ends into the room. The question is, did NYG wait too long? Could they have had Flott in round43 and taken Ruckert in round 3? No way of ever knowing, but that thought crossed my mind going into day 3.
For the record, NFL Comparisons are more about physical profile and play style, not always level of play. Bellinger has the body of a traditional Y tight end, one that lines up with his hand in the ground the majority of the time. I do not always see the receiver-type ball skills that landed Ertz on 3 Pro Bowl teams, but that was developed over his first couple of years. Bellinger is nowhere near topped out in terms of ceiling, not even close. There is a lot to his game that, if refined, could morph into quality pro traits. With the way this roster looks, I see Bellinger as the starter in 2023 and it is possible we see him for some snaps in the second half of the year. He will need to prove he can handle the rigors of blocking pro linemen.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED:
Jalyn Armour-Davis – CB/Alabama – 6’1/197
NFL COMPARISON: Dontae Johnson / SF
Fourth year junior entry from Mobile, AL. One-year starter that earned second team All-SEC honors in that lone season. A former special teamer, Armour-Davis’ career got off to a rough start, tearing his ACL in pregame warmups as a true freshman. He did not see a lot of time at cornerback until 2021 but did make some noise as a gunner on special teams. Once he earned that starting spot on defense, however, Armour-Davis shined. His speed and size can make a difference if he develops a more consistent skill set. The tools are there but he simply does not have the experience under his belt. He is very much a projection on the next level, but one with a high enough ceiling to warrant a potential starter label.
*My ideal plan at the top of the draft would have been one of the tackles and one of the corners. Unfortunately, Stingley and Gardner came off the board in the two slots leading up to #5 overall. I went into day 2 thinking if Logan Hall was not there (he wasn’t, went #33 overall to TB) that Andrew Booth or Kyler Gordon could fill the hole. They both came off the board before they made their pick. Thus, I waited until day three to bring in the outside corner. Not ideal but once again, you can’t plan for ideal in the draft. How you react and respond to that is one of the differences between teams that do the draft well, and teams that do not.
Round 4 was an appropriate slot for Armour-Davis. After all, he was just a one-year starter at a position where progression feeds off repetition even more so than every other position than quarterback. We can view that as a negative or we can view it as this kid is still very early on his own progression scale. In addition, not playing early on at corner on the Alabama defense should never be looked down upon harshly. Lastly, I think this kid is going to be a stud special teamer. His impact can be strong there in year one and it provides NYG more options with the Bradberry situation whether it be right now or in-season when a team needs a corner in the trade market. Armour-Davis was light years ahead late in the year compared to where he started. He ended up going 7 picks later to Baltimore.
ROUND 4 (#114 Overall)
Dane Belton – S/Iowa – 6’1/205
NFL COMPARISON: Andrew Sendejo / IND
Summary: Junior entry from Tampa, FL. Two-year starter that earned All Big-10 honors in both 2020 and 2021, first team in 2021. Belton played a hybrid safety/linebacker role that saw him involved in the box often. He has a sturdy, strong frame with plus power and straight line speed. He factors well in pursuit sideline to sideline and had a high success rate as a tackler. Belton started to turn a corner as a junior in coverage. He showed quality ball skills and plus-body control out of his breaks. He shows minimal wasted motion once he made up his mind. He can get into trouble when trying to forecast routes and throws, as he seems a step behind mentally and shows tightness in his hips laterally. He projects as a nickel or dime safety that can creep up toward the line and he will be a weapon on special teams.
While the starting safety pair (McKinney and Love) does not look bad on paper, the position group could also make a case for being the worst on the team. We are not sure how Julian Love will respond to a starting role and even though I think he will be just fine, it is a roll of the dice. If NYG makes another low-key free agent signing this offseason, I could see it being here or James Bradberry could end up playing Logan Ryan’s role from last year (different scheme, though).
Belton is a box defender. He played the hybrid safety/outside linebacker role at Iowa where his physical nature and ability to quickly pounce once his mind was made up looked impactful. After zero interceptions over his first 16 games, Belton finished with 5 over his last 14 games. While you want to see that kind of ball production spread out over multiple years, it was a strong bullet point on his grading sheet under the ball skills portion. I struggle to see how he will fare against pro receivers, however. I think the team will need to do everything they can to keep him away from being on an island against pro receivers. Is he big enough to make a difference against tight ends? I’m not sure I see that either. Belton, like Sendejo who I mentioned as his comparison, can be a monster on special teams and should thrive as a run defender. He will be situationally specific early on while he hammers away at his coverage skill set.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED:
Isaiah Spiller – RB/Texas A&M – 6’0/217
NFL COMPARISON: Alexander Mattison / MIN
Summary: Junior entry from Spring, TX. Three-year starter that earned All-SEC honors in both 2021 and 2020, first team in 2020. Spiller is a jack of all trades, master of none type back. He can be a fit in any role out of the backfield with his blend of size and athleticism. He proved over his three-year career in the SEC that his blend of tools and knack for coming up with the big play in big moments will create a skill set that a team can work with. While there is a limit to his upside, Spiller feels safe and secure when projecting his floor. He would be an ideal number two back.
First off, it would be criminal of me to not mention that fact I was one of the guys pounding the table FOR Saquon Barkley in 2018. Besides his rookie season, it has not panned out the way I envisioned. I can see why many are anti-running back early in drafts and with each year that passes, the notion is strengthened. I do not like clear, objective “rules” when drafting, however. Running backs DO have value but I can see that many are found later in the draft and/or their success is completely dependent on the line and rest of the offense. I felt it was time to prepare for life after Barkley. The running backs were slow to come off the board over the course of draft weekend (just 2 taken in top 62). This had a spillover into day three that presented opportunity for NYG.
Spiller is slightly overlooked. He ended up going 9 picks later to the Chargers. He does not stand out with speed or size, but he is fast and big enough. He did not have standout production, but he did rush for 1,000+ yards in the SEC two straight years (and caught 20+ passes all three years). Spiller went under the radar because he is good at everything, but not great at anything. I understand the thought but if I were creating a backfield with a committee approach, this is the kind of guy I start with. I then find the specialists (pass catcher, thumper…etc) afterward. Having a guy like Spiller at the top of the depth chart makes you less predictable. Lastly, Spiller is one of the youngest kids in the draft. He turns 21 during training camp.
ROUND 5 (#146 Overall)
Micah McFadden – LB/Indiana – 6’1/240
NFL COMPARISON: Cody Barton / SEA
Summary: Senior entry from Tampa, FL. Three-year starter that earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors in 2019, first team in 2020, second team in 2021. Also a third team All-American in 2019. McFadden is a well-put together, quick and sudden linebacker that flies all over the field and brings a high success rate as a tackler. He can defend the inside run with stout power and will get to the sideline against the outside running game. He excels in pursuit. McFadden does have the occasional lapse in concentration and will over-pursue his intentions, leaving him vulnerable and top heavy. He does not factor well in man coverage, as his hip tightness and eager mentality can be easy to toy with. He projects as a solid special teamer that could develop into a rotational inside linebacker in a 3-4 front.
*Yet another hole on this roster both when it comes to depth on the current roster and starters for next year. We will see how Blake Martinez bounces back. If it does not go well, the team is likely looking at two holes to fill. Remember that NYG had the likes of street free agents Jaylon Smith and Bernardrick McKinney playing along with Reggie Ragland. All three are currently unsigned. Tae Crowder will get another shot at it and while there have been highlights, especially for where he was drafted, the odds are not in his favor. This could very well end up being a significant position of weaknesses.
Does McFadden come in and solve that issue? My gut instinct says no. He is fast enough, and he can be a menace between the tackles. When it comes to the outside-zone running schemes, a popular one, I’m not sure I see the sudden, easy change of direction when adjustments are needed. I also do not trust him in coverage. This was the one pick in the draft where I thought, “Man that’s early”. Again, I will not call it a reach. NYG sees a role for him in this scheme and they are drawn to the triangle numbers (which are impressive) and production. I think his impact will be felt mostly on special teams.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED:
Dominique Robinson – EDGE/Miami (OH) – 6’5/253
NFL COMPARISON: Kemoko Turay / IND
Summary: Fifth year senior from Canton, OH. A former oversized wide receiver that started for one year at outside linebacker. Earned third team All-MAC honors in 2021. Robinson’s journey is one of the most unique paths in the class overall. He was a wide receiver from 2017-2019, finishing as the team’s downfield threat with his 230+ pound frame. He then moved to the defensive side of the ball, put on twenty pounds and counting, and showed an incredibly high ceiling. His frame and newness to the position promotes the concept he should be able to host more bulk within the first year or two in a pro strength program. Robinson has such an easy and natural way of moving at a high rate of speed in a short amount of time. That and his elite coordination and burst will create issues once he can refine and strengthen his rush moves. He may be a bit of a project but there is no denying the upside that rivals some of the best edge defenders in this class. He can fit into a 3-4 scheme as a Buck or Joker in hybrid fronts whereas in the 4-3, a very specific edge role would need to be created for him.
*In my scenario (I know it does not matter much), I rolled the dice by not attacking the pass rush early on. I was hoping for Logan Hall at the top of round 2, he went three slots before NYG’s original second rounder. Arnold Ebiketie and Boye Mafe came off the board before the just a handful of slots before where NYG ended up pocking in the second round. The final dagger came when Drake Jackson was picked at #61 overall to San Francisco, 6 spots before NYG came on the clock in round 3. Because of value and other holes, I waited until this slot to upgrade pass rush.
That said, Robinson is one of my favorite day three values in the entire draft. He ended up going at the end of the round (#174 overall) to Chicago. To think just two years ago he was a 235-pound wide receiver and went on to record at least a TFL in 8 of his 12 games in 2021 where he clearly did not fully understand what he was doing amazes me. He is a two-to-three-year project that has the ceiling of the guys that went in round 2. It will require patience but in the meantime you get to use him on special teams and see if you have anything in Elerson Smith and Quincy Roche.
ROUND 5 (#147 Overall)
DJ Davidson – DT/Arizona State – 6’3/327
NFL COMPARISON: Tim Settle / BUF
Summary: Fifth year senior from Mesa, AZ. Took an additional year off between high school and college. Three-year starter that earned second team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021. Davidson will best project to a zero-tech in a 3-4 front. There, his natural power and ability to two-gap will be used most effectively. In an even front, he will not offer much as a pass rusher, but he could fit into a situational role as well. Davidson can play with quick feet in addition to a hard-to-move presence against the run. He has a natural sense to feel blocks and flow to the ball. He needs to work on lower body bend and techniques so his pad level can be better. The lack of leverage wins will eat him up at the next level. Davidson needs to fully buy in to fixing his body and skill set for a couple years before he can be trusted.
*As I said earlier, the nose tackle spot had room for a rookie unless someone high up is a believer in David Moa. I doubt that is the case. The Martindale scheme, and anything that resembles a 3-4 front, needs to have a reliable nose tackle. And then, you need to have a backup ready to go. No matter what this front office decides to do with the starting situation in 2023 (free agent / Lawrence), there needs to be a solid depth piece behind.
My comparison of Tim Settle is interesting. Settle was not highly regarded in 2018, he ended up being drafted in the back half of the 5th round. I saw an upside though. I had him graded as a borderline 1st/2nd rounder. He had a breakout year in 2020 with 5 sacks but the crowded DL room in Washington prevented him from getting enough snaps in 2021. He just signed a 2-year deal with Buffalo in free agency. Davidson has a similar body and has similar weaknesses that Settle did, just on a more extreme level. I think if Davidson really applies himself and catches up to where Settle was when it came to pad level and hand usage, we could see him really rise. There are some hard to find, natural traits there.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED:
Darian Beavers – LB/Cincinnati – 6’4/237
*Look for write up below where NYG actually picked him in round 6
ROUND 5 (#173 Overall)
Markus McKethan – OG/North Carolina – 6’6/340
NFL COMPARISON: Ben Cleveland / BAL
Summary: Fifth year senior from Barnwell, SC. Three-year starter that has the body of a tackle but played right guard all three seasons. Two-time Honorable Mention All-ACC. McKethan looks like a tackle prototype with elite girth and length from head to toe. His power and lockout game are enough to stop professional defenders in their tracks right away. The issue with him revolves around reaction time and bend. He does not keep the feet active post-engagement and he will always struggle to win the leverage battle. McKethan is a project that a team will want to develop in undrafted free agency most likely, as the holes in his game are both hard to fix and far away from being pro-ready.
*Offensive lineman number three. When you look at the Giants group, one needs to think that a third rookie will likely be one that is sent to the practice squad. I count 10 guys (tackles, guards, centers) that appear to be heading toward a secure spot on the 53-man roster. I’m not sure McKethan, who I had an undrafted grade on, will take anything away from one of those guys.
I did see that the decision makers saw some guard-tackle versatility here. I did note in my write up that he has that body of a tackle, no question about that. Guys like Tent Brown, Orlando Brown, and David Sharpe come to mind. However, I saw a guy that had a hard time sticking to quickness and speed inside and I only see that getting further exposed in space. I know some will look at the size and think, “yeah but he is so hard to get around”. It is true, but that thought has ended up roasting evaluations of mine in the past. I cannot see him moving well enough to use that size but once again, the new regime deserves benefit of the doubt at this point.
WHO I WOULD HAVE TAKEN:
Chris Paul – OG/Tulsa – 6’4/323
NFL COMPARISON: Tytus Howard / HOU
Summary: Fifth year senior from Houston, TX. Four-year starter that saw two years at guard and two at tackle. Second team all-AAC in 2020, honorable mention in 2021. Paul can project to both tackle and guard at the next level, but the lack of natural speed and fluidity may keep him inside predominantly. He can play a heavy game with his ability to anchor against power and get movement off the ball. Paul plays with disciplined and repeatable techniques with both his hands and feet, promoting a constant sense of control and balance. As he continues to develop his power and confidence with the initial hand strike, Paul can eventually be a starting caliber player. At the very least, he should be able to provide inside-out versatility as a backup. He is mechanically sound and big enough respectively to create a high-floor outlook.
Similar to what the Giants got out of McKethan, Paul is a guy that would come in and struggle to beat out some of the veterans in front of him. Thus, he would likely land on the practice squad although I would be fearful a team would try to scoop him up. Perhaps that is why NYG leaned toward McKethan? It is hard to believe anyone would sign him off a practice squad since the rule is you would have to add him to the 53-man roster. Or perhaps I am overthinking that.
Anyway, Paul went in the 7th round (#230 overall) to Washington. What drew me in about him as a day three prospect was three-fold. One, there were several game tapes where I thought he was at least on the same level as teammate Tyler Smith, a first rounder. Two, I love the fact he actually played both guard and tackle in college. Three, the issues within his techniques are correctable and I’ve seen that to be the case several times in the league. Physically, I think Paul has the goods. He has the pro-tools. He is a brilliant, mature kid that has a lot going for him beyond football when it comes to leadership and work ethic. I think the Tulsa program does a few weird things with how they coach the OL and his likelihood of responding to pro-caliber coaching will go far.
ROUND 6 (#182 Overall)
Darrian Beavers – LB/Cincinnati - 6’4/237
NFL COMPARISON: Kyler Fackrell / LV
Summary: Fifth year senior from Cincinnati, OH. Spent 2017 and 2018 at Connecticut before transferring to Cincinnati. Four-year starter between the two programs. Second team All-AAC in 2020, first team in 2021. Was also a Butkus Award Finalist in his final season. Beavers brings a unique tool set to the table and it was used all over the front seven in college. He primarily lined up off the ball, but he saw over 250 snaps along the edge on-line over his three years at Cincinnati. The heaviness in his hands and overall ability to play both stout and fast should get the attention of versatile defensive schemes. He does not play very sudden and there are too many inconsistencies with his tackling and aggression in space. There won’t be a fit for him in every scheme but at the same time, he can bring versatility to a multiple-front defense that others cannot.
I did pretty extensive research on the personnel that Martindale used on his defense. One area that did not have a ton of consistency was inside linebacker. The size profiles were all over the place. Two traits he did value, however, were contact power presence and speed. He always had a group of guys that inflicted harm on ball carriers, guys that played the game angry. Borderline too much that went past the whistle. A room full of alphas. And then yes, they could really move. He liked guys that could blitz well from multiple angles. He gave a little in coverage if it meant the guy could do the above really well. Enter, Beavers.
This was my top value pick of the draft for NYG. Beavers was a 4th-5th rounder for me and to get him in round 6 was a major win. I would have taken him in round 5 to ensure he would end up in blue. He will be a fun player to watch, one that lines up all over the field and plays the physical brand. The tool set is an interesting one. At 6’4/240 with good length, Beavers can bring a credible level of play as a pure edge defender. He uses his hands well and shows easy bend. His workout times were better than expected, thus I think there is some potential athletically to shore up some of the stiffness I see on tape. Down the road I can see Beavers as a starting ILB, the one that comes off the field (or moved to EDGE) on passing downs.
WHO I WOULD HAVE PICKED
Juanyeh Thomas – S/Georgia Tech – 6’1/212
NFL COMPARISON: Rayshawn Jenkins / JAC
Summary: Senior entry from Niceville, FL. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All ACC honors in 2021. Thomas lined up all over the Georgia Tech back seven, seeing time in multiple safety roles. His biggest impact was felt on plays where the action was in front of him while pursuing. He was fast to diagnose and react. He shoots downhill like a missile and will let it be known who made the hit. This kind of presence will be key on special teams and if he develops his footwork in coverage, it will be felt on defense as well. He already has the pro body and speed to power conversion; he just shows a lack of fluidity and instincts in coverage. His skill set is worth trying to develop with the fall back being a quality special teams presence.
When I looked at the lack of depth at safety, I felt there was a need for two spots. They need someone that can creep up to the box and impact the running game. Ideally both guys are capable of doing it, but one should “specialize” there. The other needs to be able to handle deep coverage responsibilities. I always think in a way of, “if the starter goes down, what next?” It is safe to assume injuries will occur at any and all spots throughout a season. That is a key component to building personnel on your roster, practice squad included. The box-safety role is much easier to find and that is a role I feel confident in when it comes to late draft picks. In addition, they add value to special teams. Two birds, one stone. One must do that several times when creating the vision of a complete roster (again, Practice Squad included).
Thomas played in an interesting scheme at Georgia Tech with some interesting talent around him. He and Tariq Carpenter both looked like oversized safeties at times. Thomas went undrafted, Carpenter was picked in the seventh round by GB and I have a feeling he will be moved to linebacker. Thomas signed with Dallas in free agency for the record. I think he is an ideal fit for the position I discussed above. A run defending backup that can at least hold his own in coverage. A quality athlete with the tools to try and develop. At worst, a good special teamer.
1 - Kayvon Thibodeaux – EDGE/Oregon – 6’4/254
1 - Evan Neal – OT/Alabama – 6’7/337
2 - Wan’Dale Robinson – WR/Kentucky – 5’8/178
3 - Joshua Ezeudu – OG/North Carolina – 6’4/308
3 – Cordale Flott – CB/LSU – 6’0/175
4 - Daniel Bellinger – TE/San Diego State – 6’5/253
4 - Dane Belton – S/Iowa – 6’1/205
5 - Micah McFadden – LB/Indiana – 6’1/240
5 - DJ Davidson – DT/Arizona State – 6’3/327
5 - Markus McKethan – OG/North Carolina – 6’6/340
6 - Darrian Beavers – LB/Cincinnati - 6’4/237
1 - Evan Neal – OT/Alabama – 6’7/337
1 - Garrett Wilson – WR/Ohio State
2 - Nakobe Dean – LB/Georgia - 5’11/229
3 - Travis Jones – DT/Connecticut – 6’4/325
3 - Jeremy Ruckert – TE/Ohio State – 6’5/252
4 - Jalyn Armour-Davis – CB/Alabama – 6’1/197
4 - Isaiah Spiller – RB/Texas A&M – 6’0/217
5 - Dominique Robinson – EDGE/Miami (OH) – 6’5/253
5 - Darian Beavers – LB/Cincinnati – 6’4/237
5 - Chris Paul – OG/Tulsa – 6’4/323
6 - Juanyeh Thomas – S/Georgia Tech – 6’1/212
The first pick of the draft was used on a defender before the next three picks were spent on offense, two of which on the line. The ratio ended at 6 defensive players, 5 on offense. This draft had the feel of a new culture, a new way of doing things. And to be blunt, I like it. At the time of this writing, I am seeing the names of the guys that are being let go by the organization. There are two names on the list that I interviewed with in the spring of 2009. Amazing that they are still there. I do not like to see anyone lose their job unless they did something illegal. But it was time. Everyone, including both you and myself, will have a time where we need to be replaced. This is the first real full regime change we have seen in…ever? Anything short of an ownership change would not be this much of an overhaul.
This draft cannot be evaluated for years. I challenge some of you to think of it that way. I know it is hard because everyone and their mom has a “draft grade” that is, all due respect, complete nonsense. Instead, I would rather look at the approach they had from bird’s eye perspective and then analyze what each player can respectively bring to the team and overall vision. They attacked the two biggest needs on the team (offensive line and pass rush) with their premium picks. They added depth pieces to position groups that lack long term stability. They improved the speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball. They brought in a lot of players in an effort to get the ship moving in the direction they wanted. Now, we wait, watch, and observe.
Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of the BBI community. I will be getting to work on the 2023 draft class a month from today.