Needing a quick fix, N.Y. Giants could focus on “high floor” prospects in 2022 NFL draft

2022 NFL draft

The New York Giants find themselves in a precarious situation.

Want a new right tackle? Then what does that say about 2020 third-round pick Matt Peart, the 99th overall pick out of Connecticut. Looking for an interior lineman to pair with RG Will Hernandez? Then what does the team do with 2020 fifth-rounder Shane Lemieux, who started nine games last season and was the starter at left guard before a season-ending injury suffered in Week 2. Need a playmaking wide receiver? Is the team ready to move on at quarterback? The team invested first-round picks at those positions in recent years on players who thus far haven’t performed up to their draft status.

And the list goes on. Looking for a playmaking cornerback? 2021 third-rounder Aaron Robinson has yet to take a single snap, 2020 fourth-rounder Darnay Holmes is a second stringer who played just 1 snap last week, and 2019 first-rounder Deandre Baker is now a backup with Kansas City.

The bottom line is this: Almost any move the Giants make in the 2022 NFL draft will be an admission of failure from recent drafts.

With that said, there are a few bright spots amidst New York’s 0-3 start.

Much-maligned left tackle Andrew Thomas has played at a Pro Bowl level so far, allowing just five pressures and no sacks in 134 passing plays. 2019 first-round defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence has been solid. And second-round pick Azeez Ojulari’s 3 sacks currently leads all rookie pass rushers.

But there have been too many non-contributors, particularly from high picks.

Is it coaching? Scouting? Bad luck? All of the above?

It’s hard to say this early in the season under a regime that might not be around for next season.

But if the Giants want to make it back to the playoffs, then the team could focus its attention on players with relatively “high floors.” Armed with nine picks in the 2022 NFL draft, here’s a sneak peak at what the Giants might do on the first two days of the draft, when they could have five of the top 75 picks.

Round 1

  • Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton: Only two safeties have been drafted as high as No. 5 overall, Sean Taylor (2004) and Eric Berry (2010), but Hamilton could easily be the third. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior has been in most top-10 lists all season and hasn’t disappointed thus far, with 25 tackles (second on the team), 2 TFLs, 2 pass breakups and 3 interceptions, which ties him second nationally. ESPN’s Mel Kiper listed Hamilton as his No. 2 overall prospect in his most recent rankings, calling him one of the “most versatile defenders in the country.” From Kiper: “Hamilton has the size to move up to the line of scrimmage and help in the run game, and he has the speed and range to cover pass-catchers out of the slot. He’s exactly what NFL teams want in their first-round safeties.” Is safety a need for New York? Probably not, with Jabrill Peppers, Logan Hall and 2020 second-rounder Xavier McKinney manning the position. But Hamilton is simply too good a talent to pass up, and Peppers will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

  • Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum: Generally speaking, you don’t see safeties and centers go in the top 10, primarily because of the importance placed on their respective positions. But when highly rated talent falls to a team with a need at that position, then it’s hard to pass those players up. And center is very much a need for New York (current starter Billy Price was the lowest rated center in the league the first two games until somewhat of a bounce-back game last week). No fan base is going to be thrilled by the selection of Linderbaum because it’s not an “exciting” pick – but they’ll be elated by the end of the season. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound junior won’t wow you with his size or length, but Pro Football Network calls him the “best pure prospect at the position in some time.” He’s exceptionally explosive, fluid, athletic and quick, evaluators say.

Round 2

  • Alabama LB Christian Harris: Giants fans would scream over passing up OTs like Miami’s Zion Nelson, Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning, Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele and Penn State’s Rasheed Walker – all of whom could be available high in the second round – but each comes with question marks. Instead, the “high floor” pick here is the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Harris, who’s started every game since his freshman season. The junior would step in for Blake Martinez, currently out for the season with a torn ACL, or Reggie Ragland, who had one of the lowest grades in coverage snaps in 2020, according to PFF. Like Hamilton at safety and Linderbaum at center, linebacker isn’t a “premium” position, but the value here would be too good of an opportunity to pass up. (Harris was the No. 5 overall prospect in The Draft Scout’s Matt Miller’s latest top 50 big board.) PFF calls Harris “a terror when coming downhill” and “the kind of athlete who can go top 10,” ranking him No. 21 overall. So why would he be available in the early second round? It’s possible if the 2022 NFL draft shapes up as expected and is historically deep due to the number of players who returned to school because of Covid complications. A deep draft would likely push down players like Harris, who would otherwise go higher any other year.

Round 3

  • Alabama CB Josh Jobe: The Giants turn to Alabama again for their next pick, taking the 6-foot-1, 194-pound senior. Jobe has tons of experience, playing in 42 games with 18 starts. He’s not as dynamic as past Alabama CBs like Patrick Surtain II or Trevon Diggs with only 1 career interception thus far, but Jobe produces. He’s racked up 101 tackles, 18 passes defended, 2.5 TFLs, 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles for his career. Jobe is the No. 68 prospect in PFF’s latest top 100 list.

  • Arkansas OT Myron Cunningham: Another “high floor” player, Cunningham will be one of the older prospects in the draft, as the 6-foot-6, 325-pound senior turns 24 on Oct. 21. But Cunningham has plenty of experience with 36 career starts, including 24 with Arkansas, all at left tackle. Cunningham, who already earned his degree and is a team captain, allowed just 2 sacks and was flagged 4 times in 2020.

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