New York Giants Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Evan Neal, OT, Alabama – Round 1
The offensive line has been a problem for the Giants over the past few seasons, and the franchise looks to have added a plug-and-play difference in Neal. With 2020 first-rounder Andrew Thomas rounding into form as a left tackle, Neal can slide in at right tackle to give the Giants a bookend of large, strong and athletic offensive linemen.

The 6-foot-7, 360-pound Neal is a load in the ground game, where he can knock defenders off the ball and ride them out of their gaps. He engulfs edge defenders and keeps them from flowing to the ball. With his ability to generate movement, Neal is an asset in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Fewer offensive linemen play with a mean streak anymore, but that lesson was lost on Neal, who will becomes very physical and violent with defenders. Utilizing heavy hands, Neal shocks defenders, and he can manhandle defensive linemen at that point of attack. Neal looks to pancake them and is a bully on the field who really beats up opponents. He moves well for his size, but his size gives him some limitations to hit blocks on smaller defenders in space. Hence, he could be better in a power man-blocking scheme in the NFL.

As a pass blocker, Neal is a real challenge for defenders to beat. His mass and length make it hard to get around him. He also has enough athleticism to get depth in his drop and is not slow out of his stance. Neal’ heavy hands really jump out with how their power can shock defenders. When he latches on, defenders are in real trouble because he does an excellent job of sustaining blocks. Defenders rarely shed Neal’s blocks, and he is a real asset to eliminate second efforts and maintain his block for long periods of time.

While Neal was a good pass protector overall in 2020 and 2021, he can have some problems with speed rushers. Sometimes, his feet can be a problem for him to get moving, and that allows fast edge rushers to get the corner on him. As is common with some massive offensive linemen, Neal has change-of-direction issues and redirecting. Working on his feet and ability to wall off speed rushers to the outside and inside are the big points of improvement for him in the NFL. He has some balance issues, so that is another area to get better at and avoid falling to the turf.

As a pro, Neal’s issues in pass protection will be less of an issue at right tackle. With his skill set, experience, and upside, Neal should be a solid starter early in his NFL career.

2021: Aaron Robinson, CB
2020: Xavier McKinney, S
2019: DeAndre Baker, CB
2018: Will Hernandez, G
2017: Dalvin Tomlinson, DT
2016: Sterling Shepard, WR
2015: Owa Odighizuwa, DE
2014: Weston Richburg, C
2013: Justin Pugh, G

Most Likely To Bust

Joshua Ezeudu, G, North Carolina – Round 3
Third-round picks are expected to start out their careers as backups and develop into starters. I’m not sure Ezeudu will be able to become a starter, and he could top out as a backup. Ezeudu has quality size to him, but he lacks power and is prone to holding defenders at the point of attack as a way to compensate for the lack of power. I could see Ezeudu struggling to develop into a starter because of those issues. Of the Giants’ early-round picks, Ezeudu looks like the most likely to be a bust and not work out.

2021: Azeez Ojulari, DE
2020: Darnay Holmes, CB
2019: Oshane Ximines, LB
2018: Lorenzo Carter, LB
2017: Davis Webb, QB
2016: Darian Thompson, S
2015: Landon Collins, S
2014: Jay Bromley, DT
2013: Damontre Moore, DE

Potential Boom Pick

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon – Round 1
The Giants entered the 2022 NFL Draft needing one more edge rusher to finish off their front four. Landing Thibodeaux with the fifth-overall pick filled that void, and he could be a star for New York, provided he is focused on football.

While Thibodeaux is not a large end like Joey Bosa or Jadeveon Clowney, Thibodeaux is extremely strong and has has some serious power packed into his size. There is no doubt that he has functional strength to bull rush offensive tackles and roll them backward in the pocket. With some functional power to fight off blockers, Thibodeaux is not just a speed rusher thanks to possessing some versatility in his skill set. Thibodeaux has active hands and an ability to redirect. With good athleticism, he shows agility and is not an overly stiff defender on the edge. Thibodeaux regularly uses his quickness to get upfield and then shows an ability to sink his hips to dip under offensive tackles with the power to swipe their hands away. Thibodeaux has serious speed-to-power, and that could only get more deadly as he ages in a pro strength program. When Thibodeaux gets home, he shows some physicality with his tackling and how he puts quarterbacks into the turf.

Thibodeaux has quality vision that leads to him having nice read-and-react skills. While moving upfield, Thibodeaux keeps his eyes on the play, and that leads to him being able to redirect to get to the ball.

Against the run, Thibodeaux can hold his ground and keep offensive tackles from driving him off the ball. While Thibodeaux is not an overwhelming force as a run defender, he is solid to hold his gap and not get blown off the ball. On many plays, Thibodeaux can fight off his blocker and pursues to the ball. There are also flashes where he fires into the backfield or cuts around the line to get a tackle in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage.

Thibodeaux slid in the 2022 NFL Draft because teams did not like his make-up, “me first” attitude, his focus on “his brand”, and not being a good teammate. However, Thibodeaux wants to be a star. With Azeez Ojulari on the other side, and Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence on the inside, Thibodeaux should see single-block opportunities. Thibodeaux definitely has the physical talent and the playing situation to be a boom pick for the Giants.

2021: Kadarius Toney, WR
2020: Andrew Thomas, OT
2019: Dexter Lawrence, DT
2018: Saquon Barkley, RB
2017: Evan Engram, TE
2016: Eli Apple, CB
2015: Ereck Flowers, OT
2014: Odell Beckham Jr., WR
2013: Johnathan Hankins, DT

Future Depth Player

Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State – Round 4
The Giants had a need at tight end after Evan Engram left in free agency. Ricky Seals-Jones has some functional receiving ability, but is limited, while Jordan Akins was a Bill O’Brien bust for the Texans. Hence, Bellinger faces a depth chart that is wide open. Bellinger has some limitations of his own though, and that makes him more of a backup tight end in the NFL. He could be a decent No. 2 or 3 tight end to help in double-tight end situations. While he may not become a difference maker as a starter, Bellinger could provide solid depth for the Giants.

2021: Elerson Smith, DE
2020: Shane Lemieux, G
2019: Darius Slayton, WR
2018: Kyle Lauletta, QB
2017: Wayne Gallman, RB
2016: Paul Perkins, RB
2015: Bobby Hart, G
2014: Andre Williams, RB
2013: Ryan Nassib, QB

Walt’s 2022 NFL Draft Grades:

5. Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon – B+ Grade
Kayvon Thibodeaux, in a 15-minute combine interview, mentioned his brand five times to one team. Some wondered if Thibodeaux loved football fame more than football itself, and it’s a legitimate concern. However, Thibodeaux is arguably the most talented player in this class, and he fills a huge need at edge rusher. The Giants need a tackle more, but they’re fans of two tackles and can get one at No. 7.

7. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama – B- Grade
It’s no surprise that the Giants are addressing offensive line with one of their two selections in the top 10. They must give Daniel Jones better protection in what could be his final chance to prove himself. Evan Neal fills a huge need, but his downside can’t be ignored. Neal is 350 pounds, so he could be a major health risk. Many huge offensive linemen have had issues staying healthy, from Mekhi Becton, to Marcus Cannon, to Trent Brown. This is not always the case, but there’s a dubious history with monstrously sized blockers.

43. Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky – B Grade
So, does this mean the Giants are trading Kadarius Toney? Wan’Dale Robinson is a small, but explosive receiver. The position was not really a need unless the Giants were going to jettison Toney, but New York is getting a talented player with upside with this pick, so it’s a solid move.

67. Josh Ezeudu, G, North Carolina – D Grade
Another offensive lineman makes sense for the Giants, but this is a reach, as Ezeudu was an early third-day prospect. Furthermore, the Giants had a golden opportunity to select a quarterback, but they passed on all options.

81. Cordale Flott, CB, LSU – D Grade
The Giants needed a cornerback to replace the soon-to-be-traded James Bradberry, but they could have done much better than this. Cordale Flott is a fifth-round prospect at the very best, so this is definitely a reach. There were many better players available.

112. Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State – B- Grade
I’ve had Daniel Bellinger around this area or a bit later, so I don’t think this is much of a reach. The Giants needed to address tight end with Evan Engram gone. I think there are some better tight ends available, but I don’t dislike this selection.

114. Dane Belton, S, Iowa – C+ Grade
This pick is identical to the one the Redskins just made of Percy Butler. The Giants are reaching a bit for safety because the third-day value sucks at the position. This isn’t a huge reach, like the Butler pick, but I’m not a fan of it.

146. Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana – C Grade
The Giants are taking a late-round/UDFA prospect in the fifth round, which isn’t ideal. However, it is Round 5, so reaches mean much less at this juncture. Linebacker is a need, so perhaps McFadden will beat expectations.

147. D.J. Davidson, NT, Arizona State – C- Grade
Speaking of late-round/UDFA players, D.J. Davidson was never on my radar as someone to put in my mock draft. He declared early, and he’s a big run-stuffer, but I’m not sure he’ll be in the NFL in a couple of years.

173. Marcus McKethan, G, North Carolina – B Grade
I’m a big fan of the Giants adding offensive help because C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young will sorely need it in 2023. Marcus McKethan never made it into any of my mock drafts, but he was always on the cusp.

182. Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati – A Grade
Of the two NFC East teams that picked linebackers in the sixth round, the Giants made the better choice. Not only did they not trade up for Darrian Beavers; they obtained the superior prospect, as I had Beavers in the fourth round.

2022 NFL Draft Team Grade: C-. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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