Giants 2022 Mock Draft Roundup: OT Ikem Ekwonu stands out in first round

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Ikem Ekwonu treated image, Giants field background
Ikem Ekwonu treated image, Giants field background

First-year head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen will look to this year's draft to improve the Giants after a dismal season.

New York owns two top 10 picks and could go a number of directions with who they draft. They also have the option to trade down for more picks.

Which area of need will the team prioritize? Here are the latest mock drafts...

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

No. 5: OT Evan Neal (Alabama)

The Giants, as expected, removed the hefty contract of right tackle Nate Solder from the books and here's their direct replacement for him opposite Andrew Thomas New GM Joe Schoen needs to upgrade the offensive line well for new coach Brian Daboll and started with adding center Jon Feliciano and right guard Matt Glowinski in free agency. Neal and Ekwonu are neck-and-neck in the race for first offensive lineman off the board. Neal will be an all-around rock on either the left or right side.

No. 7: CB Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner (Cincinnati)

The Giants need a young alpha playmaker on the back end of their defense and Schoen has given serious consideration to move the hefty contract of James Bradberry before or during the draft. Gardner can give them that kind of juice as he's settled into to be a safer pick that Derek Stingley Jr. with more athletic upside and more reliable size.

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) celebrates a sack of Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) in the second quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship.
Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) celebrates a sack of Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) in the second quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship.

Connor Orr of SI.com projects the Giants trading the No. 7 pick to the Saints for No. 16, No. 19, No. 49 (a second-round pick) and a second-round pick in 2023.

No. 5: CB Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner (Cincinnati)

New Giants defensive coordinator Don Martindale could very well change his stripes in East Rutherford and blitz less, though even in a more reserved 2022 the Ravens were sending extra rushers on almost a third of their defensive snaps. Gardner would take James Bradberry’s spot and pair with Adoree’ Jackson for a cornerback tandem that is good enough to stay afloat in the NFC East right away. The Giants certainly have some more work to do, but I was always impressed by what Brian Daboll did with Josh Allen while the Bills’ offensive line was a work in progress. Maybe they’ll press a top need here and hope for the best two picks later. Or maybe (see below) …

No. 16 DE George Karlaftis (Purdue) - via trade with Saints

The Giants have some room to play with here and a defensive line that needs some serious attention. While I might go with an interior player here, Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll come from a Buffalo team that has brilliantly stockpiled edge talent in the last two years, preparing for a series of deep playoff runs against elite quarterback play. Karlaftis was double teamed frequently at Purdue, which led to some misconceptions about his speed. We had a chance to view part of a private workout with Karlaftis and came away impressed. The Giants can bookend their defensive line and get tougher in a hurry.

No. 19: LB Nakobe Dean (Georgia) - via trade with Saints

I covered the Giants for a few seasons as a day-to-day beat reporter, so I understand I’m going to be littered with compostable material when I mock them an inside linebacker. The Giants, you say, just don’t draft inside linebackers in the first round. My retort? The Giants have an independent eye on their scouting process for the first time since the late 1970s. Off-ball linebackers have never been more important. The Giants’ defense seems, right now, to be far away from a Wink Martindale blueprint. Dean would be a critical piece toward the amoebic looks that made the Ravens’ so hard to contend with. And he’s not just a product of a generationally great defensive line at Georgia. There’s a good deal of independent work happening there, and it’s impressive.

Chad Reuter, NFL.com

No. 5: OT Ikem Ekwonu (NC State)

Ekwonu will be Saquon Barkley's new best friend at right tackle, moving defenders out of the hole to aid the former Rookie of the Year's bid at a bounce-back campaign. Defenders will also have a rough go at trying to break through Ickey's wide frame and long arms to reach Daniel Jones in the pocket.

No. 7: DE Kayvon Thibodeux (Oregon)

The Giants find themselves a powerful rusher to pair with last year's second-round selection, Azeez Ojulari. Thibodeaux can move in space and also kick inside in sub-packages, making him a valuable chess piece.

Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports

No. 5: OL Ikem Ekwonu (NC State)

I have Ekwonu rated as the No. 1 tackle in the class, so congratulations to the Giants on finding somebody to play left tackle for the next decade.

No. 7: DL Travon Walker (Georgia)

Travon Walker is a lot more projection than production, but the lack of production could be more about the scheme he played in at Georgia than the player. I certainly understand why so many personnel types are high on him. I am, too. I just don't buy that he will go any earlier than this.