What if the Giants miss out on Ikem Ekwonu and Evan Neal? | Trade back or stay put

ikem ekwonu, giants

There is a legitimate reason to believe that the New York Giants could miss out on both Ikem Ekwonu out of NC State and Evan Neal from Alabama. Neal is expected to be one of the top two picks in the 2022 NFL draft, but Ekwonu’s stock has risen significantly at the NFL Combine.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you know how desperately the Giants need offensive line support, specifically at right tackle. Teams have had success finding tackles and guard in the mid-rounds, but Dave Gettleman failed miserably outside of Andrew Thomas.

However, you could make the argument that the Giants simply don’t have the luxury of hoping a mid-round selection pans out, especially as they plan the development of Daniel Jones, and his progression is predicated on solid protection.

After Ekwonu and Neal, the next best draft option is Charles Cross out of Mississippi State. There are concerns that Cross could have a tough time moving to the right side, but that would be the case for any of the first-round graded tackles, with most of them featuring at left tackle during the collegiate careers.

Cross is considered to be arguably the best pass protecting tackle in the draft class, which definitely suggests he would be a good fit for the Giants, who are expected to feature a focused passing attack next season.

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com had a glowing review of Charles Cross, indicating he can play both tackle spots and develop into a premium starter within two years:

Two-year starter who plays with a high level of consistency from game to game, no matter the opponent. Cross is an average athlete but he’s strong, plays to his length and has sticky, strong hands. Despite limited starting experience, he’s well-schooled and knows how to play. He has average slide range, so edge rockets are going to beat him to the top of the rush at times, but he does a nice job of utilizing length and footwork to recover when beaten. He plays with strong, inside hands and a broad, powerful core. He’s an ace at neutralizing power rushers and is above average in sustain and finish modes as a drive blocker. Cross’ play strength, hand placement and body control should allow for a relatively smooth transition into the league, where he can become a good, long-time starter at either tackle position.

The major deficits regarding Cross are his average athleticism and kick slide against speed rushers on the outside. As a raw player, he has good feet and great hands, two essential factors for quality tackles at the next level.

Cross’s narrow base can put him in tough situations at times, but give him an NFL weight room and new diet, and he may be able to add a bit more mass to his frame while sustaining his quickness.

Zierlein compares Cross to Taylor Moton in terms of physicality and Tristan Wirfs with his play. Combining those two players into one would be tremendous for Cross, and the Giants might be intrigued by his skill set.

Alternatively, Big Blue could always look to trade back for a team that may need a new tackle and is willing to move up and grab Cross or a potential quarterback. The problem is the drop-off in tackle talent is significant after Cross, so they would be taking a big risk.
Given the team’s concerns at right tackle, Cross could easily be justified as the best player available at 5 or 7 and would fit an essential need in the trenches.
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