New York Giants Mock Draft Rounds 1-2: Securing a right tackle, corner, and pass rusher

evan neal, giants

With the NFL Draft quickly approaching on Thursday, the New York Giants are in a great spot with tons of leverage holding the 5th and 7th overall picks. Either they can look to move back and acquire more draft capital, as new general manager Joe Schoen indicated during his most recent press conference, or they can stay put and take the best player available approach.

Either way, the Giants will have two impact players on Day 1 or more capital to utilize down the road. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at a mock draft that is seemingly more realistic with every passing day.

New York Giants Mock Draft Rounds 1-2:

5.) Alabama OT – Evan Neal

There is plenty of reason to believe that Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal will be available with the 5th overall selection.

With teams extremely high on Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross, the Giants will have their fair opportunity to land a right tackle for the future. Neal, luckily, has experience at right tackle, which is the position they’re looking to plug.

Last season, he enjoyed 1073 total snaps, including 650 pass-blocking. Neal is a dominant run blocker and well-rounded player, but team’s like the increased upside with Ekwonu and Cross.

At 6’7″ and 350 pounds, Neal is a physical specimen that ran a faster 40-yard dash time than Ekwonu at 30-pounds heavier. Most of his struggles come in the form of fundamentals or understanding plays as they unfold. More experience and good coaching should iron out any deficiencies in his game, making him an easy selection for the Giants.

7.) Cincinnati CB – Sauce Gardner

Next on the list is Sauce Gardner out of Cincinnati, who enjoyed 968 snaps last year, including 482 in coverage. Gardner allowed a 50% completion rate for 131 yards and zero touchdowns. There’s a reason to believe that Gardner is a perfect fit for Wink Martindale’s system, which demands great cornerback play in a heavy Cover 1 scheme with an aggressive mentality.

Having a young talented corner to pair with Adoree Jackson, assuming the Giants trade or cut James Bradberry, would be excellent. Featuring great length and instinct, Sauce has the potential to be the best defensive back in the class, despite teams falling in love with Derek Stingley as the draft approaches.

36.) Oklahoma EDGE – Nik Bonitto

In the 2nd round, the Giants look to address EDGE rusher after skipping out with one of their two first-round picks. With Martindale loving speed off the line of scrimmage, Oklahoma stand-out pass rusher Nick Bonitto would fit the bill perfectly. Enjoying 264 pass-rush snaps last season, Bonitto tallied 7.0 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.

Bonitto has explosive speed off the edge, putting quarterbacks in immediate distress and forcing premature decisions. If the Giants can curate pressure immediately, the cornerbacks don’t have to stick in coverage as long. The problem with Martindale’s system is that the longer the defensive backs are forced to stay back in coverage, the more difficult it becomes to lock down receivers. Having speed off the edge is essential, and Bonitto offers that and more.

Giants Draft Rumors: Daniel Jeremiah points out two specific defenders who would be a great fit for Wink Martindale

jermaine johnson, giants, seminoles

The New York Giants have a few big decisions to make in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. With plenty of smokescreen reports being released into the media, creating confusion among fans and analysts, new GM Joe Schoen can go in any direction.

Schoen has done a great job expressing a desire to execute multiple strategies, whether that be staying put and taking the best player available or trading back to acquire more draft capital for this year or next. At this point in time, nobody has any idea what Big Blue will do, despite rumors indicating they have interest in Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross.

However, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah pointed out two specific defensive players who could fit the bill perfectly for Wink Martindale’s system.

The first defensive impact player is Jermaine Johnson out of Florida State. At 6’5″ and 260 pounds, Johnson made the transition from Georgia to FSU, looking for a bigger role on defense. This past season, he played the 10th most snaps of any edge defender in the country, tallying 14 sacks, seven QB hits, 25 hurries, and 22 run stops.

As an athletic maestro that can make an impression in the run game immediately, Johnson has all the raw tools to become a phenomenal pass rusher at the next level. It’ll take him a bit of time to learn and adapt to the NFL, utilizing his hands more aggressively to shed blocks. However, for a player of his size, he has the adequate bend and creates great leverage.

“Jermaine Johnson makes a ton of sense to me with them. He’s big, now. He’s big and long, and he’s got some juice coming off the edge,” Jeremiah said. “That one kind of would make sense with matching what they’ve traditionally had where Wink has been.”

Jeremiah also suggests that Sauce Garner could be in the cards for the Giants, representing one of the best corners in the draft class.

The Cincinnati stand-out defensive back was a menace last season, standing at 6’3″ and 193 pounds. There is concern that Gardner could be a bit grabby as he adapts to the NFL, which could draw penalties. Physically, he features phenomenal length and wingspan, giving him the perfect traits to make plays in coverage.

With Wink playing an aggressive Cover 1 style of defense that relies on man coverage, Gardner seems like a perfect fit. He is an outstanding press man coverage corner with 851 snaps in that category. Last season, he allowed just a 50% completion rate for 131 yards and zero touchdowns. He also collected three interceptions. Considering Gardner allowed just 131 yards over 482 coverage snaps compared to his 221 yards allowed over 322 snaps in 2020, it is quite obvious why he’s regarded as one of the top corners in the draft class.

“That’s a player that I think Wink would fall in love with just with the range that he has,” Jeremiah said. “He’s just so good at finding and playing the football and taking it away. I would think that would be a favorite there for Wink.”

Why Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner might be a perfect first-round selection for the New York Giants

sauce gardner, giants

The New York Giants possess a fantastic opportunity to build their roster with two top-ten picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. The expectation is that the Giants will address arguably their two biggest needs with these picks: offensive line and pass-rusher. However, options are plentiful for New York. Their roster could use improvement in a variety of places. This year’s draft class in particular is rich in cornerback talent with numerous prospects set to be drafted in the first round. The rumor mill is swirling and it seems like the Giants could end up taking cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner with one of their top-ten picks.

There has been a lot of chatter surrounding the New York Giants and their interest in cornerback Ahmad Gardner. According to Aditi Kinkhabwala, the Giants had dinner with Gardner after his Pro Day, expressing serious interest in drafting the Cincinnati talent. Some league sources feel like Gardner and the Giants could be a perfect marriage in the first round of this year’s draft.

Why Sauce Gardner and the Giants are a perfect marriage

The New York Giants tore down their front office and coaching staff this often and began building from scratch. Head coach Brian Daboll hired new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, cementing the Giants with a high-speed, blitz-heavy 3-4 defense. In Martindale’s defense, press-man cornerbacks are a necessity. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner fits that role perfectly. The Cincinnati cornerback prospect is elite while playing press-man coverage:

The primary coverage that Cincinnati utilized was man coverage. Ahmad Gardner excelled in this man-heavy defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Sauce never allowed a touchdown in his three-year collegiate career. He also snagged three interceptions in each of his three NCAA seasons. He also allowed just 6.6 yards per reception in 2021, according to PFF. Gardner has elite length and strength for a cornerback at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.

The Giants will be strongly considering Sauce Gardner when they are on the clock in April. The Giants’ secondary has lost some talent this offseason with Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers both departing. Additionally, a James Bradberry trade seems imminent, which will leave a huge hole at cornerback. The need is there and the scheme fit is perfect. The Giants could plug Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner into their press-man defense and watch him flourish as early as his rookie season.

Why the Giants could be targeting top ranked cornerback in 2022 NFL Draft

sauce gardner, giants

There is a legitimate possibility that the New York Giants have to choose between drafting Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon or Sauce Gardner out of Cincinnati with one of their first-round picks. The argument revolves around injecting more pass rush quality into the defense or finding a potential elite cornerback to pair with Adoree Jackson.

This scenario includes trading James Bradberry, which would clear about $11.7 million in salary space for the Giants, essential funding for the signing of the 2022 draft class.

Parting ways with one of their top defensive players will require a supplement, and the question is — is pass rush or elite cornerback play more important in Wink Martindale’s system?

Martindale plays a heavy man-coverage style of defense, focusing on cover-1 and blitzing heavily from multiple positions. His ability to curate a pass rush and send the house is why he’s one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the league, but his system requires dominant cornerback play to maintain that aggression.

That is probably why the Giants met with Gardner this week for dinner, further evaluating his talents and diving into his confidence.

Standing at 6’3″ and 190 pounds, Gardner is long and lanky, allowing just 6.6 yards per reception in 2021, according to PFF.

Sauce has phenomenal intangible traits, proving to be extremely confident and competitive. He projects as a great cornerback in multiple schemes, having tremendous zone coverage capabilities but great make-up speed and press coverage qualities to match in man-to-man.

The Giants can work around Gardner’s cons:

Some of Gardner’s biggest negatives are his tackling and grabby-ness at times. With a very aggressive style of coverage, Gardner can find himself latching onto receivers who beat him early, which could get him in trouble to start his career at the NFL level.

Refining his technique and footwork should alleviate those concerns over time, but pairing him with an established corner like Adoree Jackson would do him well.

NFL analyst Lance Zierlein compares Gardner to Richard Sherman, one of the best corners to ever live. Some have Derek Stingley out of LSU slightly ahead of him in terms of quality and readiness, but his style of play matches Martindale‘s aggressiveness perfectly, which is why the Giants have been so intrigued by his profile recently.

Could Giants shift draft strategy and target cornerback in 1st round?

sauce gardner, giants

With two first-round picks in the top seven of the 2022 NFL draft, the New York Giants have many different directions they can go and player pairings they can execute. Whether it be targeting a pass rusher and offensive lineman, general manager Joe Schoen and new head coach Brian Daboll have a difficult task ahead of them.

With teams and scouts able to finally get their hands on prospects in person this year, there’s more information regarding player evaluations and profiles when compared to the 2021 draft. Names like Travon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Ikem Ekwonu have done themselves favors at the Combine, but the one positional group that hasn’t gotten much attention in connection with the Giants is cornerback.

Derek Stingley Jr. out of LSU and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner are considered the top two corners in this year’s draft class, but the latter of the bunch has witnessed a skyrocketing stock, making him a potential selection for Big Blue with the 5th or 7th overall pick.

Gardner is an exciting young player who is 100% committed to the game of football, protecting his body like a temple of health.

“I’ve never had one of them — at all,” the Cincinnati cornerback said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We won AAC Championships (and) they’d bring cigars out and all that, never even had a little cigar. I’m just a guy that — intrinsic motivation, you know — even just for me, I naturally just be turnt up. After we get a win, I just naturally be excited. I don’t need anything to make me feel some type of way.”

Over 14 games in 2021, Gardner allowed just 117 yards on 13 catches. At 6’3″ and 200 pounds, Gardner projects as a year one starter with elite potential. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein coined his NFL comparison as Richard Sherman. As a long and lean corner, he would fit Wink Martindale‘s defensive system perfectly, playing heavy cover 1 and aggressive man coverage.

“I love being left on an island,” Gardner said. “I don’t have to worry about anybody else but my man. … I feel like I can eliminate the best receiver on the field.”

Given the Giants will likely trade James Bradberry this off-season, they still have Adoree Jackson to lock down the number one spot, so Gardner could slot right in behind him and cover the opposing team’s number two receivers to start his career. His lankiness and speed are extremely enticing, and allowing just 6.6 yards per reception last season stands out as a thrilling metric.
Gardner has had tremendous success tantalizing top receivers, notably Alabama wide receiver Jamison Williams in the national semifinal. The problem with Gardner is he gets a bit grabby, which can draw penalties. He accrued plenty of holding and interference calls during his time with Cincinnati. Despite the penalties, Gardner firmly believes he’s the best corner and should be selected above Stingley.

“I truly believe I’m the best cornerback,” said Gardner. “I just watch a lot of film, work on my technique, study receivers, work unrequired hours and do things when nobody is watching. That all translates when the lights come up.”

Gardner would do well to add a few more pounds of muscle at the NFL level, increasing physicality but maintaining speed. An NFL weight room and diet will likely get him where he needs to be. If the Giants want to go this route, the proper development will likely blossom another premium corner they can rely on for the future. As Schoen mentioned recently, cornerback is a position that draws heavy investment in free agency, so hitting on players through the draft is essential to a team’s foundation.