Giants News | New York Giants –

NFL Draft

Presented By

Experts grade Giants' first-round selections


With their two first round draft picks, the Giants selected Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 5 and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal at No. 7.

Here are reactions from the experts on the Giants' two picks, along with analysis on each prospect.

Round 1 Winner: Giants

"When I went to write down the list of the Giants' biggest needs, the first two I wrote were "edge" and "right tackle." This is a huge win for New York, even if we thought general manager Joe Schoen might reverse it and take the tackle first. The Giants added an extra pick from the Bears' move up for Justin Fields last year, and they got two really great players here.

Thibodeaux is extremely explosive, even if he wasn't at his best in 2021. If the Giants can coach him up, he could be a star. Neal started 40 games at Alabama, including his junior season at right tackle. That's where he'll play in New York, which now has a pair of young, talented bookends in Neal and Andrew Thomas."

Thibodeaux: Grade A+

"Thibodeaux brings an explosive first step and plenty of power as a rusher, giving the Giants a potential future star to build their defensive line around. He's my no. 2 overall player, so I love this value, and his versatility makes him a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's scheme. Pair him up with Azeez Ojulari and let him go to work."

Neal: Grade A+

"New Giants GM Joe Schoen just pulled off what I'd consider a dream scenario in his first draft with the team, grabbing Thibodeaux with his first of two first-rounders and following up with a top-tier offensive tackle here. Neal combines massive size with incredible versatility and a balanced skill set in both the run game and in pass protection. He's a big boost to New York's offensive line and is exactly what Daniel Jones needs if he's going to break through in 2022. Neal is my fourth-ranked player and should start from day one."

Thibodeaux: Grade A

"Thibodeaux (6-foot-4, 254) was a productive college player with 19 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss in 32 games. He's a plus athlete and was a team captain last year. SIS tracks quick pressure rate (how often a pass rusher produces pressure in 2.5 seconds or less) and true pressure rate (how often a pass rusher produces pressure on straight dropbacks). Thibodeaux was top five in both categories last year and ranked higher than both Hutchinson and Walker.

"During the pre-draft process, there were vague references to teams being turned off by Thibodeaux's personality. But coaches are not qualified to be psychologists. Their job is to, well, coach. This is a great sign that the Giants' new regime understands that. The best version of Thibodeaux is probably some mix of Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney. There are no guarantees, but he has the tools to develop into a true game-wrecker. At No. 5, the Giants get a high-ceiling prospect at a premium position who could have easily gone No. 1."

Neal: Grade A

"Neal (6-foot-8, 337) started 40 games for Nick Saban — 15 at left tackle, 13 at left guard and 12 at right tackle. He was durable (missed just one game, and that was becausde of COVID-19) and reliable. Per The Athletic's Dane Brugler, Neal got called for just one penalty last year. And he allowed just two sacks on 650 pass-blocking snaps. The Giants can start Andrew Thomas at one tackle spot and Neal at the other. Neal has proven how versatile he can be and has the upside to be an All-Pro. With Thibodeaux and Neal, this couldn't have worked out much better for the Giants."

Round One: Grade A

"The third edge rusher drafted, Thibodeaux's power allowed him to control opposing linemen inside at Oregon, and he also won with power and speed on the outside. He played through injury in 2021 and still looked solid covering space; he's a versatile defender whom new defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale will want to play across from last year's second-round pick, Azeez Ojulari.

The Giants chose not to pick up Daniel Jones' fifth-year option but still found him a new pass protector in Neal at No. 7. The Alabama product started at both tackle spots and guard, so he can play right tackle across from Andrew Thomas without an issue. His Adonis-like build makes him a tough guy to bull rush off the edge or move in the run game. Neal has the overall athleticism and movement skills to stay with quicker rushers at the next level and should only improve his technique over time. Two home-run picks for the Giants."

Thibodeaux: Grade A

"The Giants took the time to get to know the person and the prospect, and felt plenty comfortable that he was an edge player whose skill set is rare, and whose ceiling is incredibly high. Put Thibodeaux in Wink Martindale's defense opposite Azeez Ojulari, then let him roam the front and make things happen."

Neal: Grade A

"The fit is ideal, given that Neal was the prospect who had no issue sliding in at right tackle, whereas Ekwonu and Mississippi State's Charles Cross only played on the left side. The 6-foot-7, 337-pound Neal is confident, battle-tested, physically dominant and durable, having started 40 games at Alabama."

View photos of the Giants' draft picks as they tour their new home.

Favorite Day 1 Picks: Entire Giants' haul

"At one point in the pre-draft process, both players the Giants selected — Kayvon Thibodeauxand Evan Neal — were the betting favorites to go No. 1 overall. Even if that was just a product of the markets or a lack of true information, it shows how highly touted those players are, each of whom addresses an area of need. 

Thibodeaux posted a 91.5 PFF pass-rushing grade this past season and has all kinds of burst and quick-twitch evident in his pass-rushing game. Neal has incredible size at 6-foot-8 and around 340 pounds, but he carries that weight like a tight end and boasts supreme movement skills. He is the best composite of pass protection and run blocking of the top tackles in this draft class and has experience in college playing right tackle, where he will slot opposite Andrew Thomas to help the Giants massively overhaul their offensive line."

Thibodeaux: Grade A

"He is the best pure pass rusher in this draft. He has the explosive ability the Giants badly need. The question with him now is his character. Does he love the game? But I think he will get past any of that talk and become a dominant edge player. I love this pick."

Neal: Grade A

"The Giants land the best tackle in the draft. He will step in at right tackle and give them a nice pair of bookends with Andrew Thomas. They have to protect the quarterback better, and they will. He will be a long-time starter who goes to a lot of Pro Bowls."

Thibodeaux: Grade A

"Thibodeaux left Oregon with solid production—19 sacks and 35.5 TFLs over three seasons—but he has an impressive combination of speed (4.58 40-yard dash) and strength (position-high 27 bench press reps at the combine). With his explosive first step and closing burst, double-digit sacks should become the norm for Thibodeaux relatively early in his NFL career, and he gives the Giants another talented young pass-rusher to pair with Azeez Ojulari, who had eight sacks as a rookie last season. He's a top-three prospect, so the Giants get some good value here."

Neal: Grade A+

"Neal offers the Giants versatility, as he started at left guard, right tackle and left tackle over the past three seasons, respectively. The former five-star recruit has an impressive combination of size, length and power, but he's a smooth mover for a prospect his size. Neal is a freakish athlete who topped Bruce Feldman's annual freaks list for The Athletic. Left tackle Andrew Thomas improved in 2021 from his rookie season, but the Giants' offensive line needed an upgrade at right tackle, and Neal provides that on day one. Neal was my top-ranked offensive linemen and fourth-ranked prospect."

Thibodeaux: Grade A+

"Thibodeaux will now be placed in Don "Wink" Martindale's aggressive scheme. He can play from a two- or three-point stance. His versatility is ideal for the system. Thibodeaux opposite Azeez Ojulari gives the Giants two highly athletic and explosive ends to pair with a big and physical defensive front to set the tone in the NFC East. "

Neal: Grade A+

"The board couldn't have set up better for the New York Giants. First, they chose the highest-rated player in the class with the Kayvon Thibodeaux selection. Neal's addition might even be better simply because he's the top-rated offensive tackle, per Bleacher Report's Scouting Department. The Giants desperately needed to upgrade their offensive line, which trumped every other need. Neal had been in the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick. What makes him so valuable at this juncture is the fact he's an NFL-ready blocker who can immediately slide into right tackle opposite Andrew Thomas."

View some of the top photos of Giants fifth overall pick and former Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Top Picks of Round 1: Kayvon Thibodeaux & Evan Neal

"It would have been hard for general manager Joe Schoen to misstep at No. 5 and No. 7 overall, but credit is still due for the decision to draft two high-quality players in Thibodeaux and Neal — two players who were once prime candidates to be the first overall pick.

Thibodeaux is fresh off a 91.5 pass-rush grade in 2021 and was a top-three prospect overall on my draft board. Meanwhile, Neal will fill a big void at right tackle, which is where he started for Alabama in 2020 and earned an 83.7 PFF grade before kicking over to left tackle in 2021. The 6-foot-8, 337-pounder posted the lowest pressure rate allowed among all SEC tackles of the PFF College era.

Thibodeaux and Neal are two players who have a physical profile that is "built in a lab" kind of special."

Thibodeaux: Grade A-

"The Giants had been tied to taking the best offensive tackle available for a while, either Evan Neal or Ickey Ekwonu, but they also had a critical need for someone to wreak absolute havoc on the edge. Joe Schoen could have waited and tapped into the position depth later, but Thibodeaux's immense ceiling for a franchise that values freakish sack artists was difficult not to take after the Jets passed."

Neal: Grade A+

"The Giants should be pinching themselves in Schoen's first draft after being able to get Thibodeaux and Neal. They now have their rock of a (likely) right tackle working opposite rising first-round star Andrew Thomas. His combination of size, athleticism and quickness is exceptional and Neal will be a massive boost to the protection of Daniel Jones and the running of Saquon Barkley. The Giants have tapped into their old-school strengths nicely with two tremendous picks that are perfect need fits, too."

Thibodeaux: Grade A

"A projected top-five pick since dominating the Pac-12 as a true freshman, Thibodeaux is the flashy edge rusher the Giants have lacked since Jason Pierre-Paul left town. His speed and power combination next to Leonard Williams gives New York the 1-2 punch up front to bully NFC East offensive lines. Like Sauce one selection earlier to the crosstown Jets, Thibodeaux has the flashy personality to excel in the big market."

Neal: Grade A

"Big Blue is back! The 2022 draft could not have played out better for the Giants, who nabbed the best combination of twitch and production of the edge rushers in Thibodeaux and now take the massive Neal two picks later. The duo will both literally and figuratively push each other as the Giants have completely revamped the line of scrimmage. Neal and Andrew Thomas at tackle allow the Giants to live up to their moniker, with the behemoths giving Daniel Jones his best chance yet at living up to his own top 10 selection."

Round One Winner: Joe Schoen

"The Giants GM knew he was in a strong position, as he held the fifth and seventh overall picks in this draft. He made the most of those opportunities. The rise of cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. -- who ultimately went third overall to the Texans -- left the Giants in position to select defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 5. That also gave the Giants their shot at one of the two best offensive tackles, and they scooped up Alabama's Evan Neal at No. 7 after Carolina selected Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6. You can minimize these moves by saying the Giants would've had a hard time screwing this up. But plenty of teams have mystified with their utilization of high first-round picks. The Giants just added two players who, at varying points in the pre-draft process, were discussed as potential No. 1 overall selections. That's a pretty good night."

Round One Winner: Giants

"In his first draft as the Giants' general manager, Joe Schoen landed Oregon pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 5 overall, and then Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal with the No. 7 overall pick.

Thibodeaux was regarded as the No. 1 overall pick in mock drafts during the college football season. While that narrative changed as we inched closer to the draft, he was still seen as one of the best players in the class. Getting him at No. 5 overall is good value, all things considered, and the Giants again scored on value at No. 7, taking who could be the safest player in the draft in Neal. He's a Day 1 starter with great versatility. CBS Sports' Pete Prisco gave both Giants' picks an "A" grade."

Matt Miller on Thibodeaux: "Thibodeaux's speed off the edge and his overall pass-rushing traits are exactly what defensive coordinator Wink Martindale wants in his hybrid defense. Thibodeaux is a complete pass-rusher and will give the Giants a real threat at the outside linebacker/defensive end spot."

Steve Muench on Neal: "Neal played left tackle last year and right tackle in 2020. He's got the skillset to quickly develop into an effective edge protector, and he should help improve a run offense that ranked 24th in rushing yards per game last year."

On Thibodeaux: "The Oregon product recorded over 30 pressures as a true freshman in 2019, and he's coming off a career-high 91.5 PFF pass-rushing grade last season. He fits the mold of the impact pass-rusher New York desperately needed off the edge."

On Neal: "Neal is the cleanest fit as the player who spent time at right tackle in 2020 with Alabama. The 6-foot-8, 337-pound tackle is one of the best pound-for-pound athletes in this class and is coming off back-to-back seasons with PFF grades north of 83.0. There's a lot to be excited about with the Andrew Thomas-Neal tandem at tackle."

Which team with multiple firsts did the best on Day 1? Giants

"Coming away with edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal was the best case scenario for GM Joe Schoen. New York was in need of improvement in the trenches, and both players will be Day 1 starters who completely change the outlook on both sides of the ball. It's clear that the new regime wants to build the team from the inside-out."

Which team best addressed a need? Giants

"They came into the night with a chance to own the board at Nos. 5 and 7. And Schoen walked away with arguably the top players at two key positions of need: pass-rusher and offensive tackle. Both Thibodeaux and Neal were pegged as potential No. 1 overall picks earlier this year. Now they're new teammates in New York."

Round One Winner: Giants

Favorite pick from top 10: Kayvon Thibodeaux

"Kayvon Thibodeaux to the New York Giants was huge. I think he has the most explosive first step of any of these pass rushers in this draft class. He's a guy that lost momentum, he lost steam and [teams] were nitpicking and all this stuff. But this guy is going to be a foundational player for the Giants. To get him at five, a guy that's can come in and be an immediate impact player on the defense. I love this pick, and then how they followed it up too at seven. Just a great draft for the Giants."

On Thibodeaux: "After missing a few games because of an ankle injury he suffered in the season opener, Thibodeaux was spectacular in his return. He had a strip sack, another sack and nine total tackles against UCLA. Against Cal the week before, he had a sack and 10 pressures. He finished the season with seven sacks and two forced fumbles, and even though he had half as many sacks as Hutchinson, he had the second-best pressure rate in the country (17.8%). Thibodeaux, the No. 1-ranked high school recruit in 2019, is an elite pass-rushing talent with the quickness and bend to get double-digit sacks annually at the next level. He had nine sacks as a true freshman in 2019 and had three more and 9.5 tackles for loss in seven games last season."

On Neal: "It would also not be totally outlandish to see Neal picked No. 1 in the draft. The Jaguars need a stalwart left tackle, and that's Neal, who has a massive frame and stellar physical traits. I put him at No. 3 to the Texans in my debut mock draft. He started at right tackle in 2020 and was Bama's starting left guard as a freshman in 2019. He moved over to the left side in 2021, taking over for first-round pick Alex Leatherwood. Neal is the complete package, excelling as a run-blocker and also in moving his feet as a pass-protector."

On Thibodeaux: "Thibodeaux offers great size, length and explosiveness. He moved up and down the line of scrimmage in the Ducks' scheme, but primarily stood up on the edge. He shows a tremendous burst off the snap and excels using his inside arm to stab, create space, close and finish. He also has an effective shake/bull move to rock and displace offensive tackles."

On Neal: "Neal is a massive left tackle (6-foot-7 1/2, 337 pounds) with strong hands, quick feet and awareness. In the passing game, he has the foot quickness to handle speed rushers. He uses his length to keep his chest clean and has a firm anchor versus power rushers. He can bend his knees and sink his weight, but there are times when he gets too aggressive, lunges and winds up on the ground. In the run game, Neal has strong hands and lower-half power to generate movement at the point of attack. He has the athleticism to adjust at the second level and in space on screens. Overall, I'd like to see Neal improve his patience and balance, but he has all of the tools to emerge as a frontline starting tackle early in his career."

On Thibodeaux: "Thibodeaux has an explosive takeoff and outstanding closing burst through the quarterback. His swipe, dip and push-pull moves are very effective, but he doesn't have elite torso flexibility to work through blockers at the top of the arc while engaged. He does a great job of using quick hands and initial power to stay unblocked and fight through contact."

On Neal: "Neal was a starter in all three of his seasons at Alabama, and he played guard as a true freshman in 2019, right tackle in 2020 and moved to the left tackle in 2021. In pass protection, Neal is long and wide and has explosive power in his punch. He gives zero ground against bull rushers, though he lacks elite mirror quickness. He is a dominant run-blocker with excellent first-step quickness and great angles."

On Thibodeaux: "Although he needs to continue filling out his frame, Thibodeaux is physical vs. the run and rushes with upfield urgency and cornering skills to skirt blockers. His go-to move is a powerful jab step that helps open up his options, but he is still learning how to efficiently patch together his rush moves. Overall, Thibodeaux isn't a fluid mover, and his impact runs hot and cold, but he understands how to create leverage as a pass rusher with his length, flexibility and hand strength. He draws comparisons to Jadeveon Clowney with NFL teams and has the talent to develop into a high-end starter if he stays committed."

On Neal: "A smooth athlete for a massive blocker, Neal bends well in pass protection and continues to rework his feet into position, using controlled hand exchange to keep rushers contained. In the run game, he has strong hands and does well at initial contact as a drive blocker, but his balance and sustain skills start to fade as the play progresses. Overall, Neal lacks elite lateral agility and needs to clean up his leaning, but he is an effective blocker thanks to his rare mix of size, athleticism and flexibility. He projects as an immediate NFL starter with Pro Bowl potential and multi-position versatility."

On Thibodeaux: "The Oregon product displays exceptional balance and body control turning the corner. With outstanding instincts and snap-count anticipation enhancing his speed rush attempts, the electric pass rusher could blossom into a destructive force as a pro."

On Neal: "Neal is a super-sized edge blocker with natural skills as a left tackle. The 6-7, 337-pounder is a patient technician with the length to stymie pass rushers off the edge and the power to blow defenders off the ball. The Alabama standout is a powerful run-blocker, but not quite as nasty as some of his counterparts in this class."

On Thibodeaux: "Thibodeaux has an elite first step combined with an ideal frame for the position. While he lacks refinement, that combination still led to a 91.5 PFF pass-rushing grade in 2021."

On Neal: "The mammoth 6-foot-7, 350-pounder is one of the most imposing specimens ever to grace this planet, and he moves like a man 50 pounds lighter. He allowed only 24 pressures over the past two years between left and right tackle."

Lance Zierlein,

On Thibodeaux: "Enticing edge defender whose game is fueled by traits and power over skill and instincts at this juncture of his career. Thibodeaux is hardly a finished product, but has pro-ready attributes that should help him acclimate quickly. He's a plus run defender who punches above his weight at the point of attack with heavy hands and a sturdy base. He has some suddenness in tight quarters and above-average pursuit speed, which should keep the tackles for loss rolling in throughout his career. Thibodeaux rushes with effort, upfield burst and play-through power that should bring reasonable sack/pressure production."

On Neal: "Three-year starter with rare combination of measurables, talent and pedigree. Neal has experience against the best competition the college game has to offer. He has started at both left and right tackle and should project on the left side if he can continue to manage his weight. While he has flashes of greatness on tape, he doesn't always maintain that level throughout a game. Intensity and consistency are two areas that will be key in matching performance with profile. Technique has been drilled into him and Neal plays with good fundamentals across the board. He's well-versed and capable in a variety of run schemes and has correctable areas of improvement in pass protection. Neal will come into the league as a good NFL starter, but greatness will require additional attitude and action."

On Thibodeaux: "Thibodeaux has the explosive first step to get into the pads of offensive linemen and the quick hands to prevent blockers from latching onto his frame. His swipe and push-pull moves are extremely effective. He stacks blockers, locates the ball and sheds in time to make plays as a run defender. Thibodeaux is an excellent tackler with the burst to make plays in the backfield and closing speed to make plays chasing from the backside."

On Neal: "Neal is a dominant run blocker who overpowers defenders when he latc