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ESPN Giants-only mock draft brings New York Evan Neal, Kayvon Thibodeaux

ESPN Giants-only mock draft brings New York Evan Neal, Kayvon Thibodeaux

ESPN’s Jordan Reid penned a six-round New York Giants mock draft that dropped Monday morning. Let’s review Reid’s selections for the Giants.

This will give us an opportunity to see how Reid, a young and rising star in the draft community, sees the draft playing out for New York. It will also give us an opportunity to discuss some prospects we have not talked a lot about. There is one caveat to all of this — we don’t know what players were and were not on the board for Reid to choose from. We only know who he selected.

Round 1 (No. 5) — Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Reid says:

Neal is the ideal match for the Giants with their first pick. Pairing him opposite Thomas gives the franchise two bookend players at the position. Neal is also the only one of the top three tackles in the class with experience on the right side — he started 13 games at right tackle during his sophomore season at Alabama. Drafting a big offensive tackle gives Jones an adequate amount of protection up front.

Valentine’s View: I can’t argue with this at all. I think we’re at the splitting hairs point between Neal, Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross. Neal is plug and play for the Giants because of his previous right tackle experience.

Round 1 (No. 7) — Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

Reid says:

One of the most obvious needs on the Giants’ roster is at edge rusher … he [Thibodeaux] would immediately become the best pass-rusher that the Giants have had in a decade.

Valentine’s View: Another pick I have zero argument with. My only question for Reid — which I have asked and have not yet received an answer to — is if cornerback Sauce Gardner was already off the board at either the fifth or seventh pick.

Personally, I would take Gardner at one of these spots if he was available. I think Wink Martindale’s defense needs what Gardner brings — press-man prowess and the ability to be trusted on an island. I have no problem with ending Thibodeaux’s slide here, though. He would easily be the best pass rusher the Giants have drafted since Jason Pierre-Paul.

Round 2 (No. 36) — Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Reid says:

Elam is a physical press-man corner who has the skill set to thrive in a scheme that operates with man coverage principles. At 6-foot-2, 191 pounds, Elam ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the combine and looked smooth in positional drills during Florida’s pro day last Monday. He is one of the most underrated corners in this class.

Elam is still only 20 years old, and his ability to develop with a roster undergoing a rebuild and fit in the scheme makes him an easy selection at this spot.

Valentine’s View: Once again, no argument from me. Having missed out — or chosen not to select — Gardner in Round 1, Elam is the perfect consolation prize here. He has the skillset and the physical attributes you want, and I love the fact that he won’t be 21 until after the draft. My only quibble with Elam is a wish he was a more willing, aggressive tackler.

Round 3, (No. 67) — Channing Tindall, ILB, Georgia

Reid says:

The Giants have lacked speed on the second level. Tindall brings that and much more. He’s an ideal fit in a 3-4 scheme because of his ability to attack downhill and fill against the run with lots of enthusiasm.

What makes Tindall so appealing here is that he’s an ascending prospect still gaining exposure to the position. He never started a game at Georgia — he was behind Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker on the depth chart — but still managed to lead the Bulldogs in tackles last season. This Day 2 prospect is a mainstay on special-teams and can wear many hats as soon as he walks through the door as a rookie.

Valentine’s View: Tindall is a player I have not yet studied. I think, though, that adding athleticism and coverage ability at inside linebacker has to be on the “to-do” list. Here is what Chris said about Tindall in his prospect profile:

“Tindall has the athleticism, mental processing, and range to be an effective coverage or nickel linebacker, which might be his best role to start. Likewise, his burst should make him an effective blitzer, particularly for teams that like to scheme free runs to the quarterback. His downhill play and hard-hitting tackles should give him “three down” versatility, but teams might want to work on his ability to shed blocks before putting him on the field in short-yardage situations.

“Tindall should ultimately become a starting linebacker with the ability to contribute in every phase of the game. His mental processing and pre-snap communication suggest that he could be developed as a MIKE linebacker at the NFL level as well as an outside linebacker.”

Round 3 (No. 81) — Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina

Reid says:

At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Likely is the best option in Round 3 and provides versatility in the passing game. His 12 receiving touchdowns in 2021 led all FBS tight ends and gives an idea of how dangerous he can be across all formations. He also isn’t shy when competing as a run blocker.

The Giants are entering a crucial year in which they must surround Jones with as many outlets to find out what they have in him, and Likely is a viable option who could help in multiple phases of the game.

Valentine’s View: Likely is the most dynamic receiving tight end in this draft class. I keep passing on him in my own mocks, though, and it’s because I wish he was farther along in his development as a blocker.

In his ‘Rookie Scouting Portfolio’ Draft Guide, Matt Waldman considers Likely a project:

If you’re one to believe that most small-program prospects have room to develop physically because the funding isn’t as strong as Division-I programs and it impacts the caliber of training that they receive, then Likely might have growth potential in terms of muscle and explosion. He’s a fluid athlete at the catch point who can take contact but must work on tracking and technique to optimize his potential as a receiver.

If he can get bigger, more explosive, and technically more advanced as a route runner, pass catcher, and blocker, Likely could emerge as an H-Back with passing-game productivity within 2-3 years. At this point, he might make an active roster based on his receiving and YAC skills but he’s not ready for blocking at the line of scrimmage. Special teams might be his area of focus early on.

Round 4 (No. 112) — Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati

Reid says:

Ford is a well-built, hard-nose runner who is at his best when asked to run downhill concepts. Because of his frame and extra layers of body armor, he is great at breaking tackles and has the speed to generate explosive plays.

At 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, he makes subtle movements at the first level and in space when creating pass opportunities. Ford is not a target who will revolutionize a passing game with concepts built around him, but he can be an outlet or last option of a quarterback’s progression.

Valentine’ View: The Giants would probably like to add to their running back stable, and speculation has centered around the Giants adding someone with skills that would impact the passing game. Ford fits the description.

Round 5 (No. 147) — Luke Fortner, C-G, Kentucky

Reid says:

After already drafting Neal with their first selection, [Joe] Schoen should select an interior blocker who has starter traits. And Fortner can play guard or center.

With Thomas and Neal penciled in as the two starters on the outside, adding Fortner into the mix provides New York with competition along the interior. And Fortner could battle for playing time early on.

Valentine’s View: Another pick that makes perfect sense. The Giants figure to try and find someone in the draft who could eventually take over at center for Jon Feliciano, and Fortner fits the description and is good value at this spot.

Giants fans won’t like the fact that Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compares Fortner to Matt Skura:

Center prospect with outstanding character, leadership and intelligence to go with position flexibility. Fortner has a proportional frame with adequate length and room to get bigger. He plays with above-average body control and hand usage to maximize his leverage and is consistent at the point of attack. He’s not a bad athlete but has issues timing his work-up blocks, which limits his second-level success at times. He can tune-up the pass protection, but it’s good enough as a foundation right now. Fortner is adequate in some areas and good in others. He could become a scheme-flexible starter in time.

Round 5 (No. 173) — Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor

Reid says:

At 6-foot-2, 181 pounds, Thornton is a slender but explosive pass-catcher on the perimeter and thrives in the deep portions of the field. He averaged 15.3 yards per catch during final breakout college season, and his 4.28 40 time at the combine proved the speed that is littered throughout his game film.

Thornton is the type of wide receiver who is worth taking a chance on in the later rounds.

Valentine’s View: This is another player I have not studied. The Giants need playmaking help at wide receiver, though, and I will take a chance on 4.28 speed all day long. Especially at this point in the draft.

Round 6 (No. 182) — Jeremiah Moon, OLB, Florida

Reid says:

Late-round picks are usually best spent drafting high-upside prospect who just lacked production or have come along slowly in their development. Moon fits well into the team’s 3-4 defensive scheme as an outside linebacker.

At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, he ran a 4.76 40, jumped 40.5 inches in the vertical jump and wowed with an impressive 11-foot-1 broad jump at the combine. His agility pops up frequently on tape, but Moon has failed to supplement it with any type of consistent pass-rush or run-defender prowess.

The Giants could take this opportunity to develop depth at outside linebacker — the team already has Azeez Ojulari, Elerson Smith and Quincy Roche — by using Moon strictly as a designated pass-rusher on late downs or in obvious pass situations.

Valentine’s View: Yet another player I’m not familiar with. At this point in the draft, though, taking developmental players with athletic upside who profile as guys who can help on coverage teams makes sense. This reminds of the Giants taking Cam Brown in Round 6 a couple of seasons ago.