Evan Neal or Charles Cross to Giants? Signs point to a tackle in the first round of the NFL draft – the NFL Nation

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The joke that the New York Giants are in it [checks notebook] Year 10 of their offensive line rebuilding is no longer fun. It’s downright scary.

The Giants have been trying for a decade to get their offensive line back in order after it disintegrated after their victory in Super Bowl XLVI. In the 2013 draft, they began trying to rebuild the unit with the selection of Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh in the first round (19th overall).

It continues into next week’s 2022 NFL draft, with the Giants scheduled to pick fifth and seventh overall (April 28-30 on ESPN, ABC and the ESPN App). Coach Brian Daboll said last month during the NFL’s annual meeting that the Giants “seek to add” to the position, and it has been widely speculated that if the Giants retain both first-round selections, one will be an offensive tackle. That’s what ESPN’s Todd McShay is planning in his latest mock draft with Mel Kiper Jr.

“It’s an important place,” Daboll added.

There are strong tackling opportunities near the top of the draft. If you want NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu (6-foot-4, 310 pounds), Alabama’s Evan Neal (6-8, 337), Mississippi State’s Charles Cross (6-5, 307) or Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning (6-7 , 325), it must be within the top 12 to 15 choices, predicted a source.

It makes sense. Offensive tackling is a prime position and there are many linebackers.

Right now, Giants Andrew Thomas, the overall number 4 in 2020, has anchored at left tackle. The untested Matt Peart, Matt Gono and Korey Cunningham are the top options on the right. It seems like a lock that a highly respected rookie will be added to the mix with one of the Giants’ five picks in the 81 best picks.

A study of 13 evaluators ranging from general managers to scouts to coaches to HR managers to analysts, saw a clear gap between the best tackles. Neal got seven first-place votes and Ekwonu had six. But Cross snuck in with four second-place votes, and one leader considered him the best left tackle in the draft.

Neal is considered to be the prospect with the least risk. He is “athletic, strong” and can be connected immediately on the left or right side according to an offensive line evaluator. Perhaps the only blow is that he does not always keep his feet while trying to climb up to the second level of the defense, something that can be rectified with more experience.

Ekwonu is considered an “elite run-blocker”, according to several sources. He improved his pass blocking enough last season to be believed to be in the running to become No. 1 overall over the Jacksonville Jaguars. And almost half of the evaluators probably believed in his pass block to rank him as the best tackle in a good tackle draft.

Some with the Giants are particularly high on the Cross, according to several sources. The question is how much input they want in this year’s draft. Giants GM Joe Schoen was hired in January in the middle of the evaluation season, and like most new GMs inheriting an entire scouting department, he is expected to make changes to his staff after the draft.

Cross is the “best pure passport protector in the draft,” according to longtime O-line scout and development consultant Duke Manyweather. Cross-coach with Manyweather, but that is a statement backed by several scouts who studied the first-team All-SEC tackle.

In a way, Cross makes the most sense for the Giants.

“Athletically, he has everything you need,” said one scout.

Manyweather insists that Cross can play on the left or right side, even though he played exclusively on left tackle for Mississippi State. This is important for the Giants with Thomas on their list. He had a strong 2021 season in left tackling and it would make more sense for any newcomer to join the right side.

Schoen has said the Giants are willing to trade back, probably with their eyes on adding some 2023 draft capital. The Carolina Panthers at No. 6 and the New Orleans Saints at No. 16 and 19 are tackling teams that the Giants must closely monitor in that scenario. In particular, the Saints are said to have a serious interest in the Cross, according to a source.

With what the Giants are trying to do with their new offensive line, Cross and Neal seem like ideal fits.

“The job of an offensive lineman, especially for our tackles, is … to be able to keep the pocket width … upside down, and get movement at the scrimmage line,” Daboll said. “Those are the two most important things we look for in our offensive linemen … Some guys are better at one than the other, but in the end they need to be able to do both to be an effective player for U.S.”

The Giants prioritize the ability of their offensive linemen to move in their new offensive. All four top tackles in this year’s draft are doing relatively well. Penning ran the fastest 40-yards of the top linemen (4.89 seconds) at the NFL Scouting Combine. Cross has good feet and Neal carries his weight with astonishing ease.

It gives the Giants some pretty good opportunities in the first round as they work to make their line a strength again, as it was for their last Super Bowl team.

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