Not only do many in the media, and fans, expect the New York Giants to draft a tackle with one of their two picks in the first round of April’s draft, but even executives for rival teams expect them to as well.
The Giants have the fifth and seventh picks and many holes to fill. However, one of the most prominent weaknesses heading into the 2022 season is the offensive line, and specifically at tackle. In a league driven by the passing game, and quarterback Daniel Jones having butterfingers, the Giants need to upgrade their offensive line if they hope to turn the offense around under new coach Brian Daboll.
That need is so glaring, that a rival executuive told SNY on Wednesday there would be “shock” if they didn’t go in that direction in round one.
“I think we’ve all penciled in the Giants for taking a tackle there,’ the anonymous executive said. “How could they not? They don’t have a starter [at right tackle]. They don’t have any money. They’d be crazy to do anything else. It would be a shock, it really would.”
Related: 2022 New York Giants mock draft
With that expectation in mind, let’s take a look at the four best and likeliest options at tackle for the New York Giants in the first round of the NFL draft.
Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
Central Michigan left tackle Bernhard Raimann is a pretty good athlete being 6-foot-6, and 303-pounds. After a rough start against Missouri in the 2021 opener when he gave up one sack, a quarterback hit, and two hurries, he gave up zero sacks, two hits, and four hurries over the next 11 games.
While there is little Raimann can’t do as a blocker, the biggest issues for him is a lack of experience and aggression in certain instances. With shorter than preferred arms and wingspan, he will need to initiate blocks at the next level and avoid defenders beating him to positions. However, he has serious upside considering he is this good and only played on the offensive line for two seasons in college. And the fact that the team attended his pro day shows they are intrigued by the Austrian.
Evan Neal, Alabama
Alabama tackle Evan Neal is not just one of the biggest talents in this lineman draft class, he is seen by many as the best. The 6-foot-7, 337-pounder faced some of the toughest defenses in the country consistently and was an elite talent at both right and left tackle during his time in Tuscaloosa. He is a very good athlete for his size, and once he gets his hands on defenders and sets himself, they are going nowhere.
The one area he will need to improve on is his aggressiveness, and not letting defenders dictate the action, otherwise he is one of the most complete talents in this year’s class and the top lineman on many draft boards around the league.
Charles Cross, Mississippi State
While Neal is the top choice for many experts, Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross is probably the 1A of this class. What makes him a dark horse to be taken as the top lineman in April is the fact that he had the most pass-blocking snaps in the country last year, and he was outstanding at it. The NFL is all about pass protection, and there is no better player in that area in this group.
It’s weird to think that being a good sportsman and avoiding penalties could be a drawback, but it’s probably the biggest knock against Cross. He lacks some meanness, and at the highest level against the best athletes in the sport, offensive lineman need to be a little nasty at times to make up the athletic differential with their defensive counterparts. That said, the Giants can’t go wrong in taking him with either pick in the first round.
Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
NC State standout Ikem Ekwonu is not a world-class athlete in the mold of former O-line great Joe Thomas. However, what he lacks in agility he makes up for in a nasty playing style and serious horse power. Ekwonu’s strength is his calling card and he can use it to bully defenders. Especially, when he gets out in the open field.
Ekwonu’s lack of speed is his biggest knock, and at the next level, quick rushers could end up being a nightmare for him on gameday. However, if he can be coached up to find ways to technically make up the speed and athleticsm difference, he has all the other tools necessary to possibly become the best lineman from this year’s class.