On Thursday at 7:00 PM Eastern, the New York Football Giants will have the opportunity to pick twice in the first round of the National Football League (NFL) Draft for the first time in franchise history.
The upcoming 2022 NFL draft will mark the beginning of a new era for Giants football. After winning four games last season, Big Blue owner John Mara fired the head coach and his staff. Missing the playoffs for the second straight year did not fall squarely on the coaching staff since the players did the playing and they have not competed as hard as Giants teams of yesteryear have during the last two seasons.
However, the last two seasons, the Giants have been undergoing serious changes. They brought in a head coach with no prior experience in Joe Judge and replaced Super-Bowl winning quarterback, Eli Manning after the 2019 season. Following the departure of the second Giants quarterback to bring home two Lombardi trophies, Big Blue has turned its lonely eyes to an unknown college product named Daniel Jones. Jones has delivered three seasons of inconsistency that included the young, daring signal-caller missing the last six games of last year.
There are many reporters and broadcasters who cover the New York Football Giants, but few can match the enthusiasm of beat reporter, Paul Dottino. The New Jersey-based reporter and broadcast host graduated from Fordham University in the 1980s. Dots' began covering the Giants in '83 just three years before the Big Blue teams coached by Hall-of-Fame head coach, Bill Parcells won Super Bowl XXI (first in team history).
This year's NFL Draft will not be laden with Quarterbacks as there were in 2018. Back then, three quarterbacks were picked in the top ten (Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold) but this year's draft will feature more defensive and offensive linemen. Dottino described the opportunity that the G-men have in selecting two players in the draft's top ten for the first time since the Mara family purchased the franchise in 1925.
If I said the Giants could get two game wreckers at five and seven and trust me Ekwonu can bulldoze opponents and can be an anti-game breaker. You can have Ekwonu at five and another top prospect at seven would you do that? I want [to keep] those two picks because the Giants are void of those type of players. - Paul Dottino
One of the biggest issues the Giants need to address at this draft is the position of right tackle. Kareem McKenzie who was part of the 2007 and 2011 super bowl-winning teams and David Diehl were two of the best tackles they had in recent history. Then there is in Rich Seubert, an undrafted free agent who the Giants signed in 2001 and he ended up becoming a starter on those super bowl winning teams.
It has been a decade since Big Blue won a Super Bowl and for this hungry fan base, that has been too long. With that in mind let us take a look at the three offensive lineman who reporters from here to Oregon are predicting to shake the commissioner's hand first at Thursday's Draft.
Evan Neal, Alabama
- Position: Right Guard, L/R Tackle
- HT/WT: 6'7", 350 pounds
- 2021 Awards: First Team All-American (NCAA D-1)
There's no surprise that one of the University of Alabama's captains from last season could go first as the largest offensive lineman available. At 6'7 and 350 lbs. he is bigger than the other top offensive tackles who are slated to go early at the draft, North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu and Mississippi State's (yes!) Charles Cross.
Because he has the biggest frame of the three, he can get away with mistakes. He can make a mistake and it will still take a defensive lineman three days and a lunar eclipse to get around him. - Paul Dottino
Does that mean that the Alabama man would be better for the Giants than Ekwonu or Cross? No, because Evan Neal played 15 games last season at left tackle and that is not their position of need. Andrew Thomas has not made any pro bowls during his first two seasons in the NFL, but the Giants do not have to hastily replace him for being part of bad teams. The Giants offensive line gave up the fourth-most sacks (49) in the NFL in 2020 but more than halved that to 22 in 2021.
— John Schmeelk (@Schmeelk) April 26, 2022
The right tackle has to be a physically strong player who can keep the opposing defensive end at bay. However, what is also evident is that size is not the only thing that matters. Paul Dottino believes the next right tackle needs to have character and size, a fusion that is hard to acquire but absolutely necessary as past Giant tackles like McKenzie and Diehl prove to the fanbase.
There’s value because he’s played both sides [at tackle], he’s played guard. See Ekwonu played the left side, so he has to switch to the right side and so does Cross... There are tiny things that [the Giants] have to smooth out but for me, I'm always going to want the warrior and that's Ekwonu.
Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
- Position: Left Tackle
- HT/WT: 6'4", 337 lbs.
- Awards: First Team All-ACC, Conference- "Jacobs Blocking Trophy"
Ekwonu was called "the most feared offensive lineman in the ACC" by The Athletic after the season he had in 2021. This is something no other offensive lineman, not Evan Neal who Pete Prisco's CBS Sports mock draft says will go number one, has been called. At 6'4" and over 330 pounds, the man known to his fans and peers as 'Icky' has the weight but is not the biggest man to ever protect a quarterback before. Clearly, Evan Neal's larger, titanic frame proves this, however Ekwonu has been predicted to go in the first round of the NFL draft for one reason-- competitive spirit.
Dottino believes that while Ekwonu can't beat his opponent with size, alone, he is the right man for the Giants to pick because Icky plays to beat whoever lines up on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
I’m one of those guys who wants pit bulls and maulers on their o-line. There are others who will tell you they want athleticism and technicians. Richie [Seubert] didn’t have the measurables that you want, but he had character [and] the willingness to go out and do whatever it took, and it didn’t matter if it was pretty. I want guys who are strong and powerful and will knock the snot out the other guy and that’s Ekwonu.
What about the Seventh Pick?
There is so much anxiety surrounding how the Giants offensive line has played the last two years, but general manager Joe Schoen will draft help. He also signed a center from his old team, the Buffalo Bills in Jon Feliciano as well as Mark Glowinski who spent last year with the over-achieving Indianapolis Colts and free agent Max Garcia. Glowinski and Garcia, the two 'G-men' literally also play the position that starts with their favorite letter, guard which leaves the position of right tackle, open but it's believed that there are several tackles in Neal, Ekwonu and Cross who the Giants can pick at this year's draft.
This leaves the defense, always a big part of Giants teams, and numerous positions there as the other priority. Schoen needs to give his new head coach Brian Daboll players who can help rebuild this Giants defense. The biggest loss that Big Blue has suffered this offseason is Logan Ryan. The former Rutgers Scarlet Knight who led the team with 209 tackles over the last two seasons had his contract terminated in March.
To address their depleted back eleven, the Giants have the seventh overall pick in the draft and have the option to trade this glossy commodity to a team that is looking to improve ahead of next year. Dottino loves to make food analogies to explain football topics because "people can understand them better," and between the Italian writing this article and Mr. Dottino, this analogy tastes great!
The experienced NFL broadcaster and reporter also pointed out you cannot trade an apple for an orange and expect to retain the same value because he likes Apples better. Of course, that is a joke, but it rings true because New York has to take the player, if they are going to use both picks, who will be the best NFL player and for Paul, those players are the most feared offensive tackle who will go in this draft, Ikem Ekwonu and a solid defensive end or rusher in Kayvon Thibodeaux.
For any New York Knicks fans out there, the Oregon Ducks' Thibs is not related to the NBA head coach, Tom Thibodeaux but he has shown he is a competitor like Coach Thibs. Recently, the ex Oregon Duck's has been moved around in mock draft ponds. Initially, it was thought he would go like sixth or even higher but recently Chris Simms predicted the young defensive end, Thibodeaux to fall to the 12th pick in the first round.
He is a versatile pass rusher who can be used in different defensive formations. Thibodeaux's best season was three years ago when he led fifth-ranked Oregon in sacks and tackles for a loss. The draft could have four edge rushers go in the top ten. Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson is picked in Simms and many other mock drafts as going first overall to Jacksonville, but the need for offensive line help for 2021's first round pick, Trevor Lawrence could make the Jags go for Neal or Ekwonu instead.
Overall, to Dottino this decision comes down to one thing; how much do the Giants and specifically head coach Brian Daboll believe in Daniel Jones? Do they believe that using both first round picks to help the team now and in the foreseeable future is the right move, or will trading one of those top picks for a first rounder in 2023 actually be smarter?
There is logic to trading [their seventh overall] pick as well. The logic is do they want to hedge their bets on Daniel Jones because if he has a bad year or gets injured, they give themselves the chance to draft a quarterback next year. - Paul Dottino
It's hard to remember a draft in the last decade that has been more anticipated by fans of Big Blue than this year's big day. The Giants have a chance to add a "headache player" or game breaker both on the offensive line and to their pass rush that could help Coach Daboll turn the Giants into a new and improved team. Daboll already worked wonders with young quarterback Josh Allen, who last year made his first Pro Bowl all while taking Buffalo to the AFC Championship game.
This is a huge draft for the Mara family who have fired three head coaches since 2017 and a chance for the new Big Blue front office of Joe Schoen and company to start rebuilding one of the NFL's original franchises into a team the fans can be proud of, once more.
Anthony graduated from Montclair State University, where he covered a variety of sports for three years. He co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.