With the fifth overall selection, the Giants secured Kayvon Thibodeaux, a 6-foot-5, 258-pound edge rusher from the University of Oregon. Two choices later – with the pick they obtained in a trade with the Chicago Bears in the 2021 draft – the Giants took Evan Neal, a 6-foot-7, 350-pound tackle who instantly becomes the favorite to be the starting right tackle.
The Giants.com crew reacts to the first picks made in the Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll era:
John Schmeelk: The Giants drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux at fifth overall, the player with maybe the most pass rush potential in the entire draft. They then selected Evan Neal, a three-year starter at Alabama at three different positions with an excellent combination of traits, athleticism and consistent performance. They fill two needs at premium positions with two players who could easily become the best players at their positions in the draft.
What interested me the most, however, was the strategy and preparation that led to the two picks. With the Panthers selecting at sixth overall, the Giants had to play some game theory to determine what player to select at five, and which one to select at seventh overall. The Giants opted to select Kayvon Thibodeaux first, since they had him much higher on their board than their next best pass rusher.
With all three top offensive tackles available, Joe Schoen determined he would be happy to have any of the two offensive tackles, since they were graded similarly. Coach Brain Daboll spoke about how Joe Schoen would carry magnets around with him and how the group would constantly go through all these scenarios as to whom they would draft depending on who was picked in the top four.
The Giants could have opted to select their top offensive tackle first and bet Carolina would not take Thibodeaux or trade with a team they would, but Schoen was more risk averse and wound up with two great players. It was great to see the front office so prepared, think so deeply about potential scenarios, and execute day one so well. On to Day 2.
Dan Salomone: At the combine, Joe Schoen said he would sleep well the night before the draft if he found seven top-tier players, knowing the Giants were guaranteed two of them with the fifth and seventh overall selections. As it turned out, there were "six guys we coveted," he revealed Thursday night after the Round 1 picks. So, while he may have not had a perfect sleep before his first draft as GM, the scenario that played out was close to dreamlike.
With Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson the presumptive first and second picks, the draft really started with LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. going third to the Houston Texans. After the Jets took Cincinnati's Sauce Gardner, another corner, at No. 4, the Giants were left with favorable options as all six of their "coveted" players remained on the board. It also any ideas of trading back. Schoen said he talked to three teams who wanted to move up to No. 7.
"We had some conversations in a scenario where it was really six guys we coveted, and if one of them weren't there, if all six went, then we would have probably considered moving back, Schoen said. "But any scenario where two of the six guys we liked were there, we were going to stay. That would have been really the only chance we would have moved back in that scenario."
It made for a draft room that was serene enough to sleep in.
"There was not a lot of talking at all," coach Brian Daboll said. "It was calm, composed. And I think you can be that way when you're prepared, when you put the time in and you have the conversations before they happen."
Lance Medow: It's always nice when value and need come together, and I think that's the best way to describe how things played out for the Giants in Round 1. They addressed both the pass rush and offensive line with their top two picks and grabbed one of the top-ranked players available at their respective positions. Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux joins Azeez Ojulari to form a youth movement in getting after the quarterback, while Evan Neal of Alabama does the same with Andrew Thomas on the opposite side of the ball as bookends at tackle.
The other appealing factor for Thibodeaux and Neal is their experience and length. Both played three years in college and provided plenty of tape and substance for evaluation as opposed to projection based on one breakout campaign. On top of that, Neal played three different positions for the Crimson Tide – both tackles and left guard. While the Giants plan to start him out at right tackle, that versatility will come in handy to protect themselves from injury or other needs. It also helps that Neal already has experience at the position they plan to insert him. Neal is 6-foot-7 while Thibodeaux is 6-foot-4, so those frames will prove beneficial as they try to solve the top tier talent on the NFL level.
When Joe Schoen addressed the media, he mentioned they felt there was more of a drop-off at edge rusher after Thibodeaux compared to the offensive line. That's more of a reason why you take the Oregon standout first and then claim the offensive lineman second if you feel much more comfortable about a few players at that position. The roster needed an influx of impactful players, and the Giants certainly accomplished that feat in the first round. Now, it's a matter of developing those two players, which is even more critical, to transfer that potential to the field.
View photos of the Giants' draft picks as they tour their new home.