Joe Schoen's first NFL draft as general manager of the New York Giants was a breeze.
The New York Giants used their top picks in the 2022 NFL Draft to fill two of their biggest needs: Getting after opposing quarterbacks, and protecting their own.
With the fifth pick, Big Blue selected defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. The unanimous all-American from last season recorded seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss with Oregon.
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Thibodeaux is a fast rusher who makes plays in the backfield with uncanny burst and length. The former five-star recruit seemed destined to be a first overall draft pick after his freshman season, but between injuries and a shortened pandemic season he never was able to put together a fully dominant year.
"They are getting a leader, they are getting a competitor, a guy who wants to win at any need,” Thibodeaux said in a conference call.
Thibodeaux tied for seventh in Oregon program history with 19 career sacks in 31 games. He had 34 1/2 career tackles for loss. The 6-foot-5, 258 pounder has a combined 21 quarterback pressures, 13 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 sacks in three career Pac-12 championship games.
Before Thibodeaux, the Giants had not drafted a defensive end/edge rusher in the first round since taking Jason Pierre-Paul in 2010. He will fit into defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's variety of multiple schemes.
Then, two picks later, the Giants followed that pick up by taking offensive tackle Evan Neal with the seventh overall pick. The 6/7, 337-pound lineman helped lead Alabama to the national championship game.
Neal has size and explosive athleticism. He started 40 games for the Crimson Tide and missed only one game (due to COVID-19) in his three-year career, which ended as an All-American.
“The Giants are going to get a guy that is going to come in every day and work his hardest to be the best that he can be and just ultimately help the organization win,” Neal said.
He will be a bookend to Andrew Thomas, who has played the left side since being drafted in 2020. Neal can play both sides so expect new coach Brian Daboll to use him on the right side to start.
When the Giants selected Neal it made it 14 straight years in which the Crimson Tide has had a first-round selection, tying the record set by Miami from 1995-2008.
The Giants had major needs for an offensive tackle and an edge rusher heading into the first round Thursday night and the draft played right into their hands.
If there was anything surprising about Schoen's picks it was the order in which they were selected. Tackle was the biggest need but with an early run on defensive players, Schoen grabbed Thibodeaux at No. 5 and then knew he would be able to grab a tackle at No. 7 since there were three good options.
“Both are 21 years old, young players,” said Schoen, the former Buffalo Bills assistant general manager who was hired to replace Dave Gettleman. “Both still have upside to develop, but you know it worked out great. We’re happy.”
Before the draft Schoen said he would be willing to listen to teams looking to trade. He said no one called to talk about the No. 5 pick and there were three teams who were interested in No. 7. However, Schoen said the Giants really felt good about six players and some remained when they picked, so they took them.
Daboll said the draft room was calm and composed.
“I think you can be that way when you prepared, when you put the time in and have conversations before things happen,” Daboll said. “I can’t tell you how many different scenarios we went through the past week. So we felt we would be ready for whatever decisions we had to make.”
The Giants (4-13) had plenty of needs coming into the draft, but the offensive line and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks were the top two.
New York has had five straight losing seasons and has not been to the playoffs since 2016.
Schoen confirmed the Giants did not pick up the fifth-year option on quarterback Daniel Jones, the No. 6 pick in the 2019 draft.
“We really like Daniel and the work he’s been putting in and we’re excited where he is and excited to work with him,” Schoen said. “It was just a decision we thought was best the New York Giants at this time.”
The Giants will have the fourth pick in the second round and two more in the third. They could use help at wide receiver, safety, cornerback and tight end.