Can the New York Giants finally fix its offensive line in the 2022 NFL draft?

New York Giants

The New York Giants tried to build their offense in a conventional way – through the draft.

Franchise running back? Check. The Giants drafted Penn State’s Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Franchise quarterback? Check. New York took Duke’s Daniel Jones with the No. 6 pick the following year.

Franchise left tackle? Check. Andrew Thomas of Georgia was the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft.

The team even added relatively high draft choices along the rest of the offensive line. Tackle Matt Peart of Connecticut was a third-round pick in 2020. Will Hernandez was a second-round pick in 2018 out of UTEP. Overall, New York drafted six offensive linemen since the 2017 draft.

And now?

Barkely has had trouble staying healthy. Jones has been shaky enough that quarterback is a possibility in the upcoming draft.

But you have to wonder if those two would have had better careers thus far if the Giants’ offensive line was in better shape.

Thomas is starting to come around after an up-and-down start to his career. He finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 78.9 despite playing with an ankle injury that hampered him throughout much of the season. Reports say Thomas recently underwent surgery on his left ankle, and the team is hopeful he will be ready for the start of the offseason program.

As for the rest of the line? Let Zach Dietz of FanNation’s Giants Country explain it. From Dietz: “Outside of left tackle, Andrew Thomas, the entire offensive line of the Giants is up in the air.  While right tackle Matt Peart was inconsistent in 2021, he should return as the team’s starter with Nate Solder gone assuming Peart’s rehab and recovery from a season-ending injury stays on track. … But the interior is a much greater concern. Will Hernandez likely won’t return, and the cycle of bodies at guard and center didn’t inspire much confidence. This is without a doubt the biggest need for New York.”

In other words, it’s back to the drawing board for the Giants.

Armed with nine picks, including five in the top 85 and six in the top 110, New York has another shot at fixing its offensive line.

The only question is, how many of those premium picks are the Giants willing to spend to fix the line?

Keep an eye on these three players:

OT Evan Neal, Alabama

The 6-foot-7, 350-pound junior is generally considered the top offensive tackle, but North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu is gaining ground on him and can play either guard or tackle. Therefore, it’s possible Neal is still available when New York is on the clock.

And that would be welcome news for new Giants coach Brian Daboll. After winning two Super Bowls as an offensive assistant for the New England Patriots, Daboll left in 2017 to become the offensive coordinator for Alabama. The Crimson Tide would go on to win the 2018 championship, and Daboll moved on to become the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, a post he held until the Giants hired him to become head coach this past offseason.

So while Daboll was not at Alabama when Neal was there, you can bet he’s heard an earful about him from his former head coach Nick Saban, who he also worked for while at Michigan State.

Meanwhile, Neal has experience playing right tackle. Most of his playing time as a freshman came at left guard, then Neal was moved to right tackle his sophomore year before moving to left tackle this past season.

Again, though, it’s possible that Neal is taken before the fifth pick. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay recently had Neal going to Jacksonville with the No. 1 overall pick, calling him a “dominant run blocker” who “has a massive frame, explosive power and versatility.”

C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

Only one player received more snaps on offense last season than center Billy Price with 984. That player is Hernandez, the guard. Both players will be unrestricted free agents.

While it’s possible the team brings Price back at a team-friendly deal, it would be hard to pass on Linderbaum – even this high in the draft. There are several reasons for that, starting with the lack of center depth in this draft. After Linderbaum, who is ranked No. 5 in the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, the next-highest rated center is Arizona State’s Dohnovan West at No. 132 overall. Linderbaum is also considered one of the safest picks in the draft.

However, at 6-foot-3, 290-pounds, Linderbaum is a bit undersized for the position. From The Athletic’s Bob Sturm: “I have more (concerns) than most. I see his size (290) as a problem, especially if you are in a division with odd fronts and big nose tackles twice a season (18 teams will call a 3-4 their base defense in ’22). He may be able to add 10-20 pounds, but some guys have a real difficult time adding that much at this stage, so he might always be undersized. That can still work, but you are always giving up a ton of weight to your opponents. Also at Iowa, there was limited pass protection work, but when isolated, the ball needs to come out quick.”

G Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan

The 6-foot-4, 318-pound Goedeke isn’t even the most highly touted lineman from Central Michigan. That would be OT Bernard Raimann, who is the No. 57 overall prospect.

But Goedeke has quietly risen up draft boards in recent weeks and would make sense for the Giants with one of their two third-round picks. Walter Football recently listed Goedeke as one of its “stock up” players. From Walter Football: “Goedeke is a tough interior blocker with good size and strength. At the point of attack, he is a mean presence who really fights and competes. The 6-foot-4, 318-pounder has good size and average length for a guard – 33.13-inch arms. Some team sources like Goedeke more than Central Michigan teammate Bernhard Raimann.”

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