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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."

View some of the top photos of Giants seventh overall pick and former Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal.