Wonder 2022 Mini Draft Board

At the UltimateNYG Church of Football Drafting, it is QB, Protect QB, and Rush the QB. So philosophically, we want to draft QB, Tackle, and Edge when given the special real estate of 1.05 and 1.07. Despite what this Draft Board has for ranking, it does not matter that there are CBs, Safeties or WRs ranked that high. I do not want to draft those positions. Not at 1.05 or 1.07. If given the choice of taking players who are not QB, T or Edge, I want to TRADE DOWN instead. My ideal draft is Ekwonu or Neal and trading down the other pick. And then if I am picking in the middle of R1, if I can then get Center Tyler Linderbaum, it is a slam dunk. My second best draft is 1 Tackle and 1 Edge. Those are 2 approved positions. Every other position- hard pass, trade down. They lack the positional value.

For clarification, to understand the rankings, they are based on the player, not the position. In 2018, we had Saquon Barkley as the #1 player on the Board. But in a league where championships are not won by running backs anymore, you do not take RB early in the draft. The Giants paid dearly for this mistake, one that we pointed out literally 5 months before he was selected. Taking CB, S, or WR is not as egregious as taking a RB this high, but it is still a waste of value. We argue that there is a significant difference in taking Gardner at ~1.10 versus taking him at 1.05.

Five spots in the draft may not seem like a lot, but go tell that to a team picking in the low teens pining for an elite pass rusher or Tackle this year. Two years ago, when the Giants took Thomas at 1.04, the UltimateNYG crew was silent. Why? We got a terrific prospect and a terrific position of need at Tackle. Yet the Giants squandered a ton of value because there were 3 more elite Tackles in the set of 4 (1.13 Wirfs, 1.11 Becton, and 1.10 Wills), making taking Tackle at 1.04 unnecessary. Thinking of this as a limit from elementary supply & demand, if there are 32 elite tackles in the draft, you could skip taking a Tackle because there will still be one remaining 1 or 2 rounds later. Value is everything in the Draft. The draft is a series of above average decisions over many years, and if you keep routinely squandering value, you will find yourself with … the worst record in the NFL over the past 5 years.

People think Draft evaluations are ultimately decided by how the player did in the Pros. That is true, but it’s far more nuanced than that…

The team and the system that takes you has as much to do with how the player turns out.

The team that takes you has as much to do with the player’s career trajectory as anything. We are dating ourselves, but how many people reading this have heard of Al Toon? If you have not, do yourself a favor and read up on his career. Toon went 1.10 in the 1985 Draft. Another WR was second off the board at 1.16. His name was Jerry Rice. If Rice went off first to the NY Jets and Toon went second to the 49ers, you just have no idea what that would have looked like. Toon, even on the Jets, became an All Pro. Montana throwing to Toon changes everything. Toon racked up ~9 concussions. It is impossible to comprehend the difference between the Jets + O’Brien vs SF + Montana/Young. Toon was picked by the Jets and that was his career. Situation matters. Toon was the fantastic dominant receiver you never heard of because of situation. We see players and we make verdicts on selections, but we mostly ignore the fit. Do not ignore the fit.

We have broken this Board down into 4 Sections.
Top 15
Injured Players
16-25 (in no order)
Miscellaneous

Section 5 will put this all together for the Giants in Round 1 and Round 2 in the next blog post.

SECTION 1: TOP 15

  1. DE Travon Walker (pictured). You cannot teach size and speed. He just has too much upside. Georgia dropped him back, zoned him, did all kinds of things with him, but I just have him as a simple 4-3 DE and LET HIM LOOSE! Seals the edge, stud at doing that. His potential? The sky is the limit. Everything is going for him. Always delivers the effort. If put on the right team with the right fit, will be Defensive rookie of the year. (Put him on ATL, they will double and he’ll disappear as a rookie.) Comp: Bigger Deacon Jones.
  2. T Ikem Ekwonu. Has the most upside of the Tackles. Athleticism. Better at the second level. More powerful in run blocking than Charles Cross. The dropoff to Cross is not big, but there is dropoff. Ekwonu is more physical, has some mauler. Comp: Younger healthier Tyron Smith.
  3. T Evan Neal. Just a massive beast. He can move for his size. It’s just impossible to get around him. I can’t see him failing. Good feet. Massive shadow. You pair him with a Guard, run behind him on 4th & 1, and you are moving the sticks. Comp: Trent Williams.
  4. DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. Immense talent. I want to see more care, more intensity, more motivation. He may have slowed it down to take care of himself so that he did not get hurt pre-draft. Some ask that he needs a consistent motor, and that is why they question this intangible. Interview him. Check out what his high school coach said. Get that read. If clear, has huge ceiling. Gets off the snap great. 4-3 DE, not a 3-4. I do not want him playing 5 technique 3-4. I think Wink Martindale can play either a 4-3 or 3-4, so make it fit if you take him. If he plays with all out abandon, he’ll be terrific and can be scary good. Upside Comp: Myles Garrett. Downside Comp: Jadeveon Clowney.
  5. CB Ahmad Gardner. I love him. If I somehow could get Neal or Ekwonu at 1.05 and trade down just a few spots to like 1.11 and get Gardner or Johnson, I am great. He has the body to gain some weight. Needs just a little more strength. Has the length. Has strong hands, tough to get off the line in press. Plays physical. But he will need to be careful early (as a rookie) against Jamarr Chase or DK Metcalf, because without more strength, if those guys beat him at the line they’ll beat him for a TD. Has talent, blue chip. People are having this debate between him and Stingley… ridiculous. It is so clearly Gardner. Note for Giants fans, this is not who we want at 1.05 or 1.07. Just not enough positional value for a CB this early. He is not a shutdown CB. Close to a shutdown CB, but those are the zebras, not the horses. Think horses. Do not take at 1.05 overall just because we have him as the 5th ranked player in the draft. Comp: a little stronger, slightly shorter version if we cross Cromartie and Ramsey.
  6. EDGE Jermaine Johnson. In a weird way, I like him more than Aidan Hutchinson because I know what I am going to get. Speed. Power. Length. Good athlete. Plays to the whistle. If you can trade down to 1.10-1.12 and take him there, great value. Almost for sure a very good professional football player. He does not have the ceiling of Walker or Thib. But his floor is higher than Thib. Comp: a taller bigger version of Dexter Manley.
  7. EDGE Aidan Hutchinson. With the success of the Watt brothers and the Bosa brothers, it affects Hutchinson’s stock price. But I do not view him as good as those guys. He is not a LBer. He is not a DE like JJ Watt or Bosa, so more of a tweener. 3-4 OLB. Can’t seal the EDGE. Not crazy enough to take on the big Tackles. Can be plenty good but not for me at the top of the Draft. I am not denying his worth. I still have him as the 7th best player in the draft. Just not the top. Comp: Poor man’s Kevin Greene.
  8. S Kyle Hamilton. Great at what he does, but he is a Safety. Like Gardner, you cannot be taking these players at the top of the Draft because their positional value is not there. We had RB Saquon Barkley as the best player on the Board, but that did not mean we wanted to take him at 1.02 overall. RB at 1.02 is a waste, and CB or S at 1.05 (or 1.07) is a waste too. Hamilton is great at what he does, but he is a Safety. Not fast, cannot play with the range of an Ed Reed or Earl Thomas. He has a SS body with a FS mindset. Has good ball instincts so he can see the field. Will be a very good football player. But how much is that worth? He is big and strong. Can drop down in the box, can move between LB and Safety. Hits. Tackles. VG value. Doesn’t cover and rush the passer for value there. Understand, like Gardner, he will be a terrific pro, but the Draft is about value and it is hard to use a super high pick on this player. Comp: Isaiah Simmons.
  9. WR Drake London. Tall. Strong. Fast. Catches the ball. What more could you ask for?! These are the kinds of guys I want as WR in Round 1. Aaron Rodgers makes this guy All-Pro. I want him for the Jets at 1.10* because he will give Wilson a big target who can go up for the ball and be an excellent red zone target. Comp: A better faster version of Mike Evans if in the right system.
  10. T Charles Cross. There is a dropoff from Neal or Ekwonu to Cross. He is fairly similar to Ekwonu except not as big or quick. But he is nonetheless still really good. Not as wide as Neal. Will be a good solid NFL Franchise Left Tackle. Very high floor. You will not go wrong with him at 1.12-1.14. Comp: decent ceiling to a Tyron Smith.
  11. DT/NT Jordan Davis. He loses value in a 4-3. I want to see him as a NT in a 3-4. His value is to take up space in the middle, require 2 blockers to take him on. Can be an All Pro NT with the right system and team. Comp: a faster Ndamukong Suh.
  12. LB Nakobe Dean. All over the field. Good football player. Will be a little of everything. Thumbs up. Comp: Poor man’s Micah Parsons.
  13. WR Garrett Wilson. Speedster. Runs good routes. Can he adapt to the NFL? Can he last? Can he get off press coverages? How well he answers those questions is how well he does in the NFL. At 1.13, obviously I like him, because he is very talented. Comp: bigger version of DeVonta Smith.
  14. ILB Devin Lloyd. Not as good as Dean, but like Dean, he does everything. Solid ILB. Quick. Strong. He gets this grade because he will be a 3 down LBer, which is what you need to be in today’s NFL to get taken in Round 1. Comp: a lesser version of Derrick Brooks IF he plays ILB rather than OLB.
  15. C Tyler Linderbaum. Who did we like last year as our fallback pick at the end of Round 1 or early Round 2? His name was Creed Humphrey. Regular readers of the UltimateNYG blog will know why we liked Humphrey … and why we like Linderbaum. What they have in common is that they were both wrestlers in high school. This ups their value because they understand leverage and hand placement. Shocking (not!) that the Chiefs took him at 2.63 and they have the leader of their OL in one rookie season. Linderbaum is a little undersized for me, smaller than Humphrey. He can have a little too much finesse; otherwise he would be worth more and be rated a little higher. Linderbaum is more athletic, smoother. This guy’s value is going to be huge to a zone blocking scheme. He will be tremendous as a pulling lineman in the run game because he’ll be able to pick up defenders in space. His only problem is- how does he handle the Jordan Davis NT one on one? He does not have the strength of a Nick Mangold to do that. So he will need help in that matchup, and that decreases his value a little bit. If he gains some mass, he may lose some of that speed and athleticism. Still, if the Giants were able to get Ekwonu or Neal at 1.05 (or 1.07, depending on what QBs go early), they could trade down to the 1.14-1.18 area and get Linderbaum. OMG, salivating at what that OL would look like. Comp: Tom Nalen (Denver’s smallish 286 lb great Center from 1995 to 2007).

SECTION 2: INJURED PLAYERS

The second section of this 2022 Draft Review is a Memorial to 3 players who would otherwise be elite top prospects, but fell victim to injury in college. I just do not know how to evaluate these players without a detailed medical evaluation. Not all ACL injuries are the same. And yet, if you are taking a player who tore his ACL in college, he has one less bite of the apple. These are absolute beasts, studs, if not hurt. I absolutely love Ojabo but feel terrible for him because of him getting hurt. Yet, it must change the evaluation and require medical/risk on where to take these guys. These guys will go in Round 1 but I have no idea where they should go because the medical report needs to detail the impact of the injury/risk to their career.
WR Jameson Williams
CB Derek Stingley
EDGE David Ojabo

SECTION 3: PLAYERS RANKED 16-25

Listed alphabetically
CB Andrew Booth
WR Treylon Burks
WR Jahan Dotson
S Daxton Hill
EDGE George Karlaftis
(overdrafting risk on this player)
CB Trent McDuffie
WR Chris Olave
G Trevor Penning
(yes, move him to Guard, barely top 25)
QB Malik Willis
DL Devonte Wyatt

SECTION 4: MISCELLANEOUS

Okay, it is time to talk Quarterback. There is not a single QB in this year’s draft that is worthy of a Round 1 ranking. Yes, I have QB Malik Willis in the 16-25 grouping, but that is because of some potential. So let’s explain. He is a freak, physically strong. He can throw the ball, and run the ball. He has a strong arm. But he is not as evasive as Lamar Jackson, so stop thinking like that. He needs to go to a team where he can sit for 2 years and learn. In today’s NFL, because of rookie contracts, the value is in getting them developed as soon as technologically practicable. So they are going to rush this guy onto the field, and that is a mistake. Because I will be burning 2 years of the cheap rookie deal, that is why his draft value drops, and that is why I do not like him too high. Yet, if is he is taken behind an Aaron Rodgers in GB or a Matt Ryan in IND, I know he will carry the clipboard and will take the time to develop properly for the pro game. Sit. Learn. Patience. Great coaching needed. Upside COMP: Steve McNair. Downside comp: Bust.

These other QBs? QB Kenny Pickett? No. QB Matt Corral? No.

Early Round 2 Guards for the Giants… G Kenyon Green or G Zion Johnson. I prefer Green to Johnson, but very close in similarity. Kenyon Green is going to be a 10 year plug and play Guard. Stick him in and let him go. Will do a good job for the Gmen and if you get a chance to take him at 2.36, run to get your pick in, because that is good value. Comp: for Giants fans, these guys are lesser versions of (yes, Center) Shaun O’Hara.

Do you have a particular player we did not discuss which you would like Wonder to evaluate? Let us know. If the player is mocked in Round 1 but we did not mention him in this post, it probably means that Wonder likes him less than consensus/where he will be selected.

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