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Fact or Fiction: How many rookies will start Year 1


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

More than two Giants rookies will start at least 10 games this season

Dan Salomone: Fact – Given the top-end talent, volume of picks, and the grueling nature of a long NFL season, this is a safe bet. Linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal are essentially locks as the fifth and seventh overall picks, respectively, and second-round pick Wan'Dale Robinson saw a lot of time this spring while other receivers dealt with injuries. The list starts with them as you go down the 11-man draft class.

Lance Medow: Fact – Remember, all it takes for a player to record a start in the NFL is to be on the field for the very first play of the game, so the bar isn't extremely high. Barring injuries, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal will have a great chance to get to 10, so the big question is if someone else enters that territory. Wan'Dale Robinson has a reasonable shot to accomplish that feat because he should assume a key role on offense. So does tight end Daniel Bellinger, who has the opportunity to contribute as both a blocker and receiver.

Matt Citak: Fact – Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal were selected within the first seven picks of this year's NFL Draft, with both players likely slotted into the starting lineup immediately. After the first-round picks, there are numerous rookies who could end up starting 10+ games. Wan'Dale Robinson is already looking at a sizeable role in the offense, and could end up being an every-week starter depending on the health of the wide receiver group. Joshua Ezeudu will compete to start at left guard, while Daniel Bellinger is firmly in the competition at tight end. Then you have guys like Dane Belton and Micah McFadden, who don't have a ton of players ahead of them on the depth chart. Between the nine draft picks taken after the first round, chances are at least one will start 10+ games this season.

Xavier McKinney will lead the team in both tackles and interceptions

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Give him the interception crown, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will look to restart tackling machine Blake Martinez, who is coming off a serious knee injury. Even though he played in just three games last season, Martinez is still third in the NFL for most tackles since 2016.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Last season, Xavier McKinney led the team in interceptions with five but finished third in tackles behind Tae Crowder and Logan Ryan. Keep in mind, Blake Martinez played just three games in 2021 and given his track record, assuming he can play the majority of the season, he should be a strong candidate to set the team pace in tackles. When you take into consideration the youth in the secondary, McKinney has a good chance to top the charts in interceptions, but it would be surprising if he finishes first in both categories.

Matt Citak: Fiction – McKinney is the player you could be most excited to see in Wink Martindale's system. The defensive coordinator has gotten stellar play from numerous safeties during his time with the Ravens, and McKinney appears to be the next man up on that growing list. The third-year safety is probably the favorite to lead the team in interceptions, but when it comes to tackles, let's not forget about Blake Martinez. The linebacker led the NFL in total tackles from 2017-2020 before tearing his ACL early last season. Assuming he's back healthy for the start of the season, "the tackling machine" should live up to his nickname and once again lead the Giants in tackles.

View photos of the the Giants' 2022 draft class on the practice field during spring workouts.

Carolina will be the most improved team on the Giants' schedule

Dan Salomone: Fact – Let's not forget quarterback Baker Mayfield is just two years removed from leading the Browns to their first playoff appearance and victory since 2002. Carolina hopes to bring that back out of him following the recent trade.

Lance Medow: Fiction – In the wake of acquiring Baker Mayfield from the Browns, you would have to put the Panthers right up there. Carolina also did a nice job improving its offensive line this off-season and the return of key players on defense from injury should help the cause. But let's place the Jaguars just ahead of the Panthers on this list. Jacksonville won just three games in 2021 and endured a mid-season coaching change. Trevor Lawrence is entering his second season, Clemson teammate Travis Etienne will return after missing his rookie season due to injury and they added several pieces to the receiving corps this off-season, including Christian Kirk. However, the Jaguars' most valuable addition is new head coach Doug Pederson. His track record with quarterbacks and ability to adapt his personnel based on injuries will help immensely.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Don't let the trade for Baker Mayfield fool you; the Panthers still have a lot of work to do on their roster. Instead, there are two obvious choices for the most improved team on the Giants' schedule this season, and both come from the AFC. The Baltimore Ravens finished 8-9 last season, due in part to a plethora of injuries. Former Giants and Falcons RB Devonta Freeman, who joined the Ravens right before the start of the season, wound up leading the team in carries following season-ending injuries to three of their backs. Baltimore's defense also took a massive hit when they lost top corners Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. Now healthy, the Ravens should return to their status as an AFC contender this year. The other AFC team in consideration is the Indianapolis Colts, who made a big splash earlier this year with the acquisition of veteran QB Matt Ryan. Ryan should immediately vault the Colts to the top of the AFC South, right there with the Titans. But let's go with Baltimore since Lamar Jackson will return to his MVP form in 2022.

It will only take 10 wins to win the NFC East

Dan Salomone: Fact – In order for this to be fiction, the second-place team would need double-digit wins, which hasn't happened since 2016. Even with a 17th game on the schedule, that might be a reach. Then again, anything is possible in a topsy-turvy division that hasn't produced a repeat champion since the early 2000s.

Lance Medow: Fact – Last season, 10 wins was enough as the Eagles finished in second at 9-8, with the Cowboys claiming first place at 12-5. It was the first year the schedule expanded to 17 games but if even if you look at the track record of the division under the old format, 10 has pretty much done the trick. Since 2010, the only seasons in which 10 victories didn't cut it were 2014 (Dallas recorded 12 and Philadelphia 10) and 2016 (Dallas had 13 and the Giants 11).

Matt Citak: Fiction – Looking at the last 10 years, 10 wins was enough to take the NFC East crown six times. However, the division should make a big improvement this season. The Dallas Cowboys, fresh off last year's 12-win season, brought back most of their roster, while talented youngsters such as Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs will have another year of experience under their belts. The Philadelphia Eagles added Haason Reddick, James Bradberry and A.J. Brown and will return Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce; so their success will likely depend on the growth of QB Jalen Hurts. Then there's the Washington Commanders, who shook up their QB room with their trade for Carson Wentz. Washington's defense is still very talented, and now their offense should be much better. The division is completely up for grabs and 10 wins might not be enough to take first place.

View photos of the New York Giants' 2022 regular season schedule.

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