The Giants are squarely in evaluation mode, first for NFL free agency and even more so for the upcoming NFL Draft, the annual three-day event that begins April 27 this year. They have a total of nine draft picks — one in the first round (25th overall), one in the second round, two in the third round, one apiece in rounds 4-6 and two in the seventh round. They could gain two additional selections after the supplemental draft pick formula is finalized.
Before we move ahead, it is constructive to look back and review Joe Schoen’s first draft class as Giants general manager. He added 11 players in the 2022 NFL Draft. Some hit, some missed and several went down with injuries before anyone gained much of a sense for what they could do.
Here is a breakdown of the 2022 rookie class.
OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux
First round, No. 5 overall
The first and most noticeable player in this draft class in many ways came as advertised. Thibodeaux’s athletic ability is legit. His burst off the snap is legit. His range, sideline to sideline, is legit. His personality is outsized, and his engagements with the media were entertaining, sometimes enlightening and also at times self-absorbed, which is not so uncommon for a 22-year-old who has been in the spotlight for so long. In 14 games, Thibodeaux had 49 tackles (33 solo), six tackles for loss, four sacks, 13 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and one touchdown return. It was a promising but certainly not dominating NFL debut. He needs to get stronger and diversify his pass-rush moves to become a double-digit sack guy, which certainly is not out of his reach.
Schoen: “He got injured in that Cincinnati game in the preseason and then kind of got healthy throughout the season and hit his stride.’’
OT Evan Neal
First round, No. 7 overall
Welcome to the league, kid. Neal came in well-schooled from his time at Alabama, but he learned the NFL is not the SEC and that even the highest level of college ball was not the same as the professional ranks. In Week 3, in his first “Monday Night Football’’ experience, Neal allowed three sacks to savvy veteran DeMarcus Lawrence in a loss to the Cowboys. Neal missed four games due to a sprained knee and never quite looked 100% after his return, though he did at times play more efficiently. He graded out as the 80th-best tackle in the league according to Pro Football Focus, allowing seven sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 39 total pressures. He has a massive yet functional body. He is a diligent and hard worker, and the Giants are convinced Neal will learn from his rookie indoctrination and develop into a fine player.
Schoen: “Had some ups and downs and battled through injury.’’
WR Wan’Dale Robinson
Second round, No. 43 overall
The question with Robinson was always going to be his durability, considering he is 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. Sure enough, he sprained a knee in the first half of his first NFL game and missed the next four games. He made it through the next five games before he went down in Week 11 with a torn ACL that ended his rookie year. In that Nov. 20 game against the Lions, Robinson had nine receptions for 100 yards, putting on display the elusiveness and awareness as a slot target that attracted him to head coach Brian Daboll. Robinson finished with 23 catches for 227 yards and one touchdown. Following reconstructive knee surgery in mid-December, his availability for the start of the 2023 season is uncertain.
Schoen: “He was really coming along. He had over 100 yards through three quarters in the Detroit game, so he would’ve been a big-time contributor, especially down the stretch, if he would’ve stayed healthy.’’
OL Joshua Ezeudu
Third round, No. 67 overall
It should not surprise anyone if Ezeudu is a starting guard in 2023. The coaching staff likes him, and he is very much in the team’s plans. He started two games at left guard and played 79% of the snaps on offense in a third game — and the Giants went 2-1 in those games. He needs work on his pass blocking, but looks to be a rugged run-blocker. He lost what would have been valuable growth opportunities when he was shut down after Week 11 due to a neck issue that is not considered to be career-threatening.
Schoen: “Started some games and then got injured. When these guys get healthy next year, I think that’s going to provide depth. And some of those guys are going to compete for starting spots.’’
CB Cor’Dale Flott
Third round, No. 81 overall
A calf injury and a concussion cost Flott six games in the middle of the season, impeding his development. He played in 11 games with two starts, and flashed late in the season, showing strong instincts and a sense for how to deal with receivers in the slot. If his blanket coverage of K.J. Osborn late in the playoff victory over the Vikings was a sign of things to come, the Giants will be thrilled. He needs to add some bulk and muscle to his skinny frame.
Schoen: “Has a high ceiling. We’re excited about him.’’
TE Daniel Bellinger
Fourth round, No. 112 overall
San Diego State
Daboll’s “smart, tough, dependable’’ mantra fits here. In 12 games, Bellinger had 30 receptions for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers should rise with more experience. When the ball came his way, he was a reliable target. A frightening eye injury in Week 7 cost him four games, but he was not hesitant after his return (he wore a protective visor). He needs work in all facets of the game, but there is a belief that he can be a dependable option for years to come.
Schoen: “We thought [he] had a really good season.’’
S Dane Belton
Fourth round, No. 114 overall
It was somewhat of a strange debut season for Belton. He missed the regular-season opener recovering from a broken clavicle and then quickly moved in as a valued contributor on defense. When Xavier McKinney was out because of a hand injury, though, Belton’s playing time regressed. The clavicle issue lingered, and made it difficult for him to put his entire body into his tackling. Belton finished with 31 tackles and two interceptions.
Schoen: “When he was out there, he played well.’’
LB Micah McFadden
Fifth round, No. 146 overall
He showed impressive durability, the only draft pick to avoid injury and appear in all 17 regular-season games. He did not play at all in the two playoff games as the coaching staff looked elsewhere, signing veteran Jaraad Davis in a move that did not pan out. McFadden’s role on special teams also decreased as the season went on. It remains to be seen where he fits in with the inside linebacker position in flux.
DT D.J. Davidson
Fifth round, No. 147 overall
Davidson played in the first five games as part of the defensive line rotation, but he tore his ACL in the Week 5 game against the Packers in London. The depth on the line was an issue all season. Davidson will get a chance to reestablish himself in 2023.
G Marcus McKethan
Fifth round, No. 173 overall
Mammoth interior lineman — he’s 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds — had some moments in the summer when his bulk in the run game looked to be useful. But his summer did not last long. He tore his ACL the first week in August.
Schoen: “He was having a really good camp for us before tearing his ACL.’’
LB Darrian Beavers
Sixth round, No. 182 overall
The way the season transpired, losing Beavers to a torn ACL in the second preseason game was a big blow. The Giants then cut Blake Martinez, leaving the inside linebacker position in a depleted state. Beavers, listed at 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, has the size defensive coordinator Wink Martindale wants for his interior linebackers and he will get another shot at impressing Martindale this spring and summer.
Schoen: “He was competing to start at [inside linebacker]. Excited to see him when he comes back.’’
Wellington Mara, the Giants franchise patriarch who passed away in 2005, famously said, “It’s always nice to see arrogance humbled’’ after his team beat the Cowboys near the end of the 1996 season, referring to Dallas owner Jerry Jones. It is likely many Giants fans thought the same thing watching Nick Sirianni and the Eagles lose Super Bowl LVII in agonizing fashion, blowing a 10-point halftime lead in a 38-35 last-minute loss to the Chiefs.
Sirianni might be a rising star as an NFL head coach, making it to a Super Bowl at age 41 in only his second season running the show. He also showed the ability to irritate opponents with a confident, perhaps cocky style on the sidelines, which plays quite well in Philadelphia.
Late in the first half of the Super Bowl, during a booth replay stoppage to review a pass from Jalen Hurts to DeVonta Smith for a gain of 35 yards, Sirianni — thinking the completion would stand — waved his arm, motioning for the Chiefs to move down the field. Hurts, the 24-year old Eagles quarterback, knocked down Sirianni’s arm, as if to say: “Please stop that.’’
The call was overturned, and instead of the Eagles moving into position for a touchdown that would have given them a 28-14 lead, they settled for a field goal to go into halftime with a 24-14 lead.
The tide turned in the second half as Sirianni was out-coached by Andy Reid.
“After halftime they went right down and scored to cut it to three,’’ Sirianni said. “We talked about what was working for us and what we wanted to continue to do, what we can anticipate them potentially doing. They did a good job of adjusting. And apparently, with them beating us in the second half, we didn’t do as good of a job as they did adjusting. We’ll all look ourselves in the mirror and drag ourselves through the mud in attempts to get better. We just got to do a better job of coaching in the second half, but credit to them.”
Asked and answered
Here are two questions that have come up recently that we will attempt to answer as accurately as possible.
How big of a deal is it that Brian Daboll will have his offensive and defensive coordinators back for the 2023 season?
Very big. Daboll knows what it is like as a coordinator to engage in interviews for head coach positions and not get the job, so he understood how important it was for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka to speak with interested teams during this hiring cycle. Martindale met with the Colts. Kafka had interviews with the Texans, Panthers, Cardinals and Colts. Losing one would have been difficult for Daboll, and losing both would have been devastating, considering how well the staff worked in unison in the first year together. Continuity is always desired when things are working smoothly.
What should Giants fans think about seeing Kadarius Toney score a touchdown in the Super Bowl and set up the game-winning field goal for the Chiefs with a 65-yard punt return?
Yeah, it’s complicated. Most fans were disgusted with Toney’s various injuries and his inability to get on the field, and they trusted Daboll and Schoen enough to sign off on trading away the 2021 first-round pick they inherited from the previous regime. There were fans still enthralled by the flashes of talent Toney showed and wished things could have worked out with the Giants. It was always more about dependability and availability with Toney than it was a question of his skill set or physical ability. He probably needed a chance of scenery. Toney getting hooked up with Reid and Patrick Mahomes was like giving a chocolate addict a free pass to Hershey’s Chocolate World. Sure, it hurts for Giants fans to hear Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster say: “I don’t know what the Giants was doing with KT, but he’s a dog.’’ It remains to be seen what Toney makes of his career from here on out. He got hurt when he arrived in Kansas City, and Giants fans said things such as “What else is new?’’ After Toney made huge plays in the Super Bowl, those same fans have to endure it.
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