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Fact or Fiction: Rookie impact on 2022 Giants

THIBODEAUX-AZEEZ-FACT-OR-FICTION

The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements about the draft and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

At least five Giants rookies will start a game in 2022

Dan Salomone: Fact – Given the 11-man draft class and incoming group of undrafted free agents, you're looking at approximately a dozen rookies making the final 53-man roster. Having five of them start at least one game isn't a stretch, especially when you take into account the injuries that are inevitable in every NFL season. Starting with top picks Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, the 2022 crop of rookies will become the foundation for the new era under Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll.

Lance Medow: Fact – This is a very reasonable goal considering all it takes to qualify as a starter is to be on the field for the very first play of a game. The Giants' two first-round picks Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal will be regular starters, Wan'Dale Robinson will likely carve out a versatile role and Joshua Ezeudu will compete for the left guard spot - that already gives you four with Cordale Flott, Daniel Bellinger and Dane Belton highly likely to squeeze in a start here or there.

Matt Citak: Fact – Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal are expected to step in as starters from Day 1, which already gives the Giants two rookie starters. Looking back at last year, Kadarius Toney (seven games), Kenny Golladay (three games) and Sterling Shepard (10 games) each missed time due to injury, so there is a good chance that Wan'Dale Robinson cracks the starting lineup at some point. Joshua Ezeudu is expected to compete for the starting left guard position, and even if he doesn't win it right away, could eventually earn that spot in the starting lineup. Moving onto the Day 3 picks, don't be surprised to see Dane Belton and/or Micah McFadden get into the starting lineup in 2022. Belton is the third safety on the Giants' roster at the moment, while McFadden looks like a perfect fit as an off-ball linebacker in Wink Martindale's defense.

Azeez Ojulari benefits the most from drafting Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – The whole team benefits from the arrival of the first defensive player in Oregon history to earn unanimous all-America status. Think about how his pass-rushing skills will speed up the clock of opposing quarterbacks, which will open up more plays for defensive backs like Xavier McKinney. And Thibodeaux's presence will extend beyond his side of the ball. Making plays on defense sets up the offense, and vice-versa.

Lance Medow: Fact – The two main players you can make a case for are Azeez Ojulari and Leonard Williams because any time you add an additional pass rusher to the mix, it forces the offense to have to focus on that individual and, perhaps, presents more favorable opportunities for others. Although the team is using a new defensive scheme this season, Ojulari led New York with a promising eight sacks as a rookie in 2021. Williams warrants consideration, but a lot will depend on where Wink Martindale decides to line him up and how he uses his tools – these are factors that give Ojulari the edge because we have a better idea of how he will fit into the scheme.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Ojulari certainly will benefit from the presence of Kayvon Thibodeaux, but the interior defensive linemen will benefit the most. Let's not forget that Leonard Williams is just one season removed from an 11.5-sack performance, while Dexter Lawrence earned a solid 74.0 pass rush grade from PFF last season. With Thibodeaux and Ojulari garnering all of the attention on the outside, Williams and Lawrence will see more one-on-ones on the interior, which both linemen should take advantage of.

View photos from the college careers of the Giants' entire 11-player draft class

The most intriguing Day 2 pick was WR Wan'Dale Robinson

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Versatility is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu took it to a different level at North Carolina. He not only made starts at three different positions throughout his career, Ezeudu had the ability to switch positions mid-drive. "He's impressive," general manager Joe Schoen said. "It's rare. I was fortunate enough to see him play live twice this year, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh. He's a big man, and it's impressive. Again, he could play multiple spots not only on a week-to-week basis but within a game, within drives. So, it's very impressive, and he's an outstanding kid. You guys will like getting to know him."

Lance Medow: Fact – In just one season at Kentucky, Wan'Dale Robinson made his presence felt by setting school records for receptions (104), receiving yards (1,334) and 100-yard receiving games (6). If that's not impressive enough, he also contributed on special teams and was utilized as a running back. Robinson is an extremely versatile player going back to the beginning of his collegiate career at Nebraska and Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka will tap into that skillset based on how they've used similar weapons such as Isaiah McKenzie and Mecole Hardman in Buffalo and Kansas City, respectively. All three players are 5-10 or shorter and have similar abilities.

Matt Citak: Fact – Wan'Dale Robinson flew somewhat under the radar heading into the draft, but his performance at Kentucky last season was special. Robinson set new school records with his 104 receptions for 1,334 yards, adding seven touchdowns along with seven rushes for 111 yards (15.9 avg.). His 91.3 overall grade from PFF was the highest among all SEC receivers, topping fellow early-round picks Jameson Williams, Treylon Burks and John Metchie III, to name a few. Robinson also registered 134 rush attempts in his two seasons at Nebraska, highlighting his special abilities. The Giants don't make this pick unless the staff has a plan in mind for the 5-foot-8 receiver.

The most intriguing Day 3 pick was TE Daniel Bellinger

Dan Salomone: Fact – Pride in blocking without any drops as a senior sound pretty intriguing. The fourth-round pick out of San Diego State said his trusty hands were a result of always playing catch with his dad, who would voice his displeasure every time he dropped the ball. He also has the ability to stretch the field when needed, as evidence by his 73-yard catch in 2021, which was the longest by an Aztec tight end since at least the 1996 season.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Dane Belton is the most intriguing third-day selection. Daniel Bellinger did most of his damage as a blocker at San Diego State based on the Aztecs' scheme and has upside as a receiver. Although it will be interesting to see how his talents translate to the Giants' offense, the team may rely on several different tight ends. Belton played safety and outside linebacker at Iowa, thanks to his hybrid role in the Hawkeyes' defense and collected five interceptions in 2021. The combination of his skills and production make him appealing, especially when you take into consideration how much Wink Martindale relies on blitzing.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Bellinger saw his role in the passing game increase each year at San Diego State, and the Giants certainly hope he can develop into their top tight end in time. But the Day 3 pick who could step in and make an impact in his rookie year is Micah McFadden. It is no secret that Wink Martindale loves to blitz. Well, McFadden picked up 6.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 12 games for Indiana last season, earning an elite 92.0 pass rush grade from PFF. This was the highest pass rush grade among ALL off-ball linebackers last season. In fact, McFadden registered 6.0 sacks in only eight games in 2020, which helped him earn an 85.8 overall PFF grade. McFadden appears to be a perfect fit for Martindale's defense, and after serving as Indiana's team captain for two seasons, should also bring some additional leadership to the Big Blue locker room.

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