Heading into the draft, both the Giants and the Eagles had a pair of first round picks, while Dallas and Washington had one each. The Eagles had, in fact, had 10 total picks and 3 first-rounders at one point, but GM Howie Roseman went through a process of rationalizing them, including trading two of his first-rounders to the Saints, in return for one of theirs and future considerations. Interestingly, it was one of those draft picks from Philly (acquired by Howie Roseman from the Colts in trade for Carson Wentz last year) that the Saints traded to the Commanders on Thursday night.
But the history of the meandering 16th pick in the 2022 draft isn’t really the focus of this article. Rather, I just want to summarize what Washington’s three NFC East rivals did on Thursday night, and what the moves might mean for each team.
Basically, while Washington traded back for more picks, the Giants and Cowboys stayed put and drafted players with the picks that they started the draft with at 8 pm ET. Howie Roseman of the Eagles did not.
Let’s start with Jerry & Stephen Jones, and the Cowboys.
The Cowboys had the simplest draft of any team in the NFC East. They had Pick #24, and they used it to select an offensive tackle, Tyler Smith out of Tulsa, who is expected to begin his NFL career as a left guard, with the possibility of transitioning to LT as he develops.
Tyler Smith has been described as “raw”, which seems a bit unusual for a 1st round offensive lineman, but he’s also described as very strong and nasty, with lots of upside potential.
Jerry & Stephen Jones still have 8 more draft picks to use on their 2022 roster, including four 5th-round picks.
Blogging the Boys
The Cowboys are already catching heat for this one.
One has to hope the Cowboys have good air conditioning in their draft war room, because Jerry and Stephen Jones must have been sweating throughout much of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft Thursday night. They watched a lightning fast run on wide receivers occur earlier than expected before Kenyon Green and Zion Johnson, the two guards they were connected to the most, both came off the board well ahead of pick 24.
In the end, the Cowboys stood pat at 24 - neither trading up or down - and selected Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith. While not many expected Smith to be a first-round pick, his name did begin picking up steam as a player the Cowboys were interested in within the final 24 hours before the draft.
Smith’s ascension to this point has definitely been unconventional.
As a player, Smith became known for his tenacious effort. He fits the stereotype of a mauler who loves the physical nature of the sport, frequently seeking out contact and trying to set the tone. The caveat, of course, was that Smith was playing against non-Power 5 competition. More than that, Smith is still very raw, as you’d expect from someone who’s played just 22 college games. He needs to become more technically refined as a blocker, as well as tone down his tenacity; Smith drew 12 penalties in 12 games this past year.
While he spent both seasons with the Golden Hurricanes at left tackle, Smith was projected by most to transition inside to guard at the next level. That explains Dallas’ interest even more, as they let Connor Williams walk in free agency and saw enough from Connor McGovern during the 2020 season to know he’s not the answer at left guard.
Moving Smith inside will allow him to hone his technique, especially in pass protection, without being left on an island out on the edge. His experience at left tackle also creates the potential to be groomed as a replacement for Tyron Smith, who will turn 32 this year. Still, Smith’s selection in the first round is considered a reach by many, and the pick is already drawing some heat from fans and analysts alike.
The Giants have a new head coach in Brian Daboll and a new GM in Joe Schoen; both come from Buffalo and threaten to restore order to a franchise that had fallen into disarray over most of the past decade.
The Giants entered Thursday night with two picks in hand — #5 (their own) and #7 (acquired from Chicago in a trade that allowed the Bears to draft Justin Fields last year). Prior to the start of the draft, pundits expressed the opinion that Schoen would use the first one to select a player, but then trade back from #7 to acquire more picks. That didn’t happen.
The other expectation was that if the Giants used both picks, they would likely take an offensive lineman at #5 and then go defense with #7. Schoen tripped up the pundits by doing the opposite, taking edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux at #5 after two other pass rushers had come off the board at #1 and #2. He then sat on his hands for one pick while the Panthers took the first offensive lineman, Ickey Ekwonu, off the board at #6. The Giants looked at their board and took the next offensive lineman on the list, who turned out to be Evan Neal from Alabama.
Thibodeax will likely take on a starting role on the Giants defense, which has struggled to create any real pass rush in recent years. Meanwhile, Neal is expected to step in at right tackle as the bookend to Andrew Thomas, who cemented himself as New York’s starting left tackle and most consistent offensive lineman last season. The interior has been bolstered by a number of low-cost veteran signings this offseason.
The result of the first round of the 2022 draft has to be considered a good night by Giants fans. They got a top-tier player for the trench warfare that typifies the NFC East on each side of the ball. Simple, straightforward and likely to be successful.
The Giants came into the draft with 9 picks, and still have 7 in hand, including a pair in the 3rd round and another in the 5th round.
Big Blue View
Giants were “very comfortable” with Thibodeaux after doing a mountain of work
The New York Giants knew all about Kayvon Thibodeaux and the big personality that apparently drove some NFL teams away from the Oregon edge defender, at one time thought to be a likely No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
That’s because the Giants probably did more work on Thibodeaux, a player they hope will be a cornerstone of their defense for years to come, than on any other player in the 2022 draft class.
“We spent a lot of time with him. We met with him at the Combine, I flew out there for his pro day along with a couple other individuals, and we had him in here for a visit. He’s a very outgoing individual. He’s got a lot of personality. I’m sure you guys will enjoy your time with him meeting him, but a really good kid, likeable kid, works hard,” GM Joe Schoen said Thursday night.
“We had a good — Brian [Daboll] and I had several conversations with some of his coaches the last couple of days. We FaceTimed him last weekend and we got to know the kid maybe more than any player in this draft. Liked the personality and liked the player.”
Perhaps the Giants tipped their hand when it comes to their interest in Thibodeaux way back at the Combine, when Thibodeaux admitted the Giants had given him a “hard time” during their meeting with him.
“We had a great interview. They were kinda on me. They were giving me a hard time, but I feel like it was that big brother moment where they give you a hard time because they’re interested in you and they like you,” Thibodeaux said at the time. “I grew up in a big city, so a big city is nothing new to me.”
Turns out he was right about the Giants’ interest. And now, he will perform in the big city in front of the bright lights.
Giants now have a pair of young offensive tackles to build with
Schoen said the Giants snagged Neal at No. 7 “because Ickey was gone at six.”
There is, though, much more to it than that.
The Giants plan to play Neal at right tackle, and he is the only one of the three top tackles to have extensive experience at that spot.
“It helps when you’re going to draft a player at number 7 and you get to see him do what you’re going to ask him to do. That makes you feel good,” Schoen said. “We definitely went back, we studied his tape from last season when he was at right tackle and even watched some of the stuff at guard. His versatility is important. One guy goes down in a game, it helps the eight guys you take on game day. If a guy can move around like that and help you out, that’s an added plus, too.”
Neal played guard and both tackles at Alabama. Brent Taylor of SB Nation’s Roll’BamaRoll recently told the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast that Neal’s best tape with the Crimson Tide is at right tackle.
“Evan has played multiple positions,” said head coach Brian Daboll. “He’s long — it takes a guy the long route to go to the quarterback. He’s got long arms. He’s a big, massive man, played multiple positions, had a lot of people down at Alabama that I trust and had a lot confidence in him and had a lot of good things to say about him and along with [offensive line coach] Bobby Johnson and [assistant offensive line coach] Tony Sparano, the guys that have looked at him, we thought very highly of him.”
“On the medical, a lot of times teams share medical grades, and, you know, I think it was 52 percent of the league, there was only 8 percent that had issues with anything with Evan,” Schoen said. “And circling up with that, I think that was a rumor that was out there, but the majority of the teams in the league, again, he started 40 career games; he missed one game because of COVID.
As mentioned at the top of this article, the Eagles did a lot of trading in the leadup to Thursday night, but the bottom line is that they arrived in Las Vegas with two first-round picks, #15 and #18. They did not use either of these two picks to directly select a player in the draft on Thursday night.
First, the Eagles front office traded up from #15 to #13, giving Houston a 4th round pick and a pair of 5th rounders, reducing their pick total by three. GM Howie Roseman then used #13 to pick defensive tackle Jordan Davis from Georgia. Davis is widely considered to be among the best DTs in the draft, and most fans seem to see him as the successor to Fletcher Cox, who is 31 years old and nearing the end of his career.
The real surprise came when the Eagles’ second trade of the day was announced — and it involved a player!
The Eagles sent #18 overall and a 4th round pick to the Titans for receiver A.J. Brown. This has to be considered something of a coup for the Eagles, who have been searching high and low for a way to improve their wide receiver group. After using a second round pick on JJ Arcega-Whiteside in 2019, and first round picks on Jalen Reagor in 2020 and DeVonta Smith in 2021, the Eagles still spent the ‘21 season with an underpowered passing game.
In any sane world, A.J. Brown would not have been available. In his first three seasons, Brown has put up nearly 3,000 yards at an average of 16.2 ypr and scored 24 touchdowns.
In the same three seasons, Terry McLaurin has put up just over 3,000 yards at an average of 13.9 ypc and has scored 16 touchdowns.
In other words, the Titans decision to trade AJ Brown is perhaps a little bit more unlikely than it would be for the Commanders to trade away Terry McLaurin.
Apparently, the trade, which has been in the works for some time between the two teams, happened because the Titans didn’t want to meet the receiver’s contract demands. Those demands were obviously pretty significant, because right after the trade was announced, the Eagles also announced that they had given Brown a 4-year deal worth $100m.
All-in-all, the Eagles used 6 draft picks to add two players on Thursday night, with one of them cashing in for an elite-level $25m per year contract, but Eagles fans were all smiles on Friday morning.
The Eagles have 4 picks left in the 2022 draft, with no 4th or 6th rounders remaining.
Bleeding Green Nation
Spoiler: It was a really popular move and Davis is game changer for Philly’s defense.
For their first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Eagles moved up two spots to No. 13 to snag defensive tackle Jordan Davis out of Georgia. Davis is a ginormous guy at 6-foot-6, 341 pounds, and is an absolute freak athlete — he ran a 4.78 second 40-yard dash at the combine and blew the collective minds of NFL scouts everywhere.
“First, Jordan is big, strong and stout, and the first thing that makes him special is what people don’t give him enough credit for is stopping the run,” said Smith, who is originally from Camden, New Jersey, and has family in Philadelphia. “The Eagles aren’t exactly known for being ‘the Steel Curtain’ when it comes to stopping the run. Jordan is the guy that when you’re coming out of the tunnel, you want to be running with him. Another part of Jordan is he still has a lot to be developed. He’s going to be better and can be developed into being a productive pass rusher.
“In the Eagles’ defense, they have a race-to-the-quarterback philosophy. Jordan is a hard man to stop when he gets going. The Eagles have the team that can take him to a higher level. Jordan can play at 330, 335. With his size, conditioning is always going to be brought up. That goes with the territory. I was friends with Reggie White. Go back and look early at Reggie’s career. There was talk about having him get his weight down. Now I’m not comparing Jordan to Reggie White, but everyone has those questions when they’re that big.
“I know the kind of guy Jordan is. He’s a hard worker and he wants to get better.”
Jordan Davis is a dream pick for the Eagles. He singlehandedly makes the entire Gannon defensive structure work. He is a math-changer, a scale-tipper, a force multiplier in the worlds of two deep safeties and light boxes. Home run.— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) April 29, 2022
Davis is a guy to be excited about and that seems to be the consensus among analysts, fans, and his new teammates.
Roseman was asked whether the wide receivers earlier in the round factored into making the trade, but the GM said rather the trade was contingent on them getting an extension done.
ROSEMAN: “[It was] something we were working on during the course of the draft, and we were just kind of trying to balance finishing that, and if we didn’t finish that, making sure we got the right players. But, it didn’t matter who was on the board. For us. A.J. Brown was somebody that we had studied coming out, spent a lot of time on, and we had a lot of love for A.J. Brown coming out of that draft. Obviously things went a different way in that draft, but really excited to get him — just in terms of how Coach [Sirianni] can use him and his vision for A.J. Brown in this offense.”
He went on to say that they like how Brown complements the other guys that they have, and also explained that the WR’s relationship with “our quarterback,” Jalen Hurts, was something they’re excited about.
Nick Sirianni later talked about Brown and how he’s proven to be a productive player and someone they are excited to add to the offense.
SIRIANNI: “He plays with great play strength. This guy, this is a strong man. He’s quick for a big guy, and he catches everything. Those are things that really stick out from his tape. There’s no projection there. It’s like, ‘Well, this is what he’s going to be in the NFL.’ No, you’ve seen it. You’ve seen it for three years now. And it’s just exciting to put on his tape and watch him.”
Roseman mentioned that the deal came about really quickly, and credited Brown and his agent for getting an extension done so quickly, because things were coming down to the wire to make the trade. As for why the Titans were willing to get rid of their top receiver, Roseman said it came down to resources and the Eagles having more flexibility with Jalen Hurts still on a rookie deal.
ROSEMAN: “I think for them, because the amount resources we had and they are trying to accumulate some of those resources as well, I think they thought it made some sense for them at the time. And, you know, obviously with all these players, contract’s a big issue. When you have a young quarterback like we do, you can be a little bit more aggressive with contracts than maybe you can when you’re paying a quarterback.”
As for Brown’s injury history, Roseman admitted that they did pre-draft medical work and that, while there’s no guarantee or insurance, they know what type of player he is and what he adds to the team.
ROSEMAN: “Anything you do there’s risk, but that’s who we are going to be, we are always going to be aggressive and we are always going to take shots on guys that we believe in, and we believe in A.J. Brown.”
Sirianni was asked how Brown complements DeVonta Smith and the offense, and the head coach emphasized that his size and strength will add a lot to the position.
SIRIANNI: “He’s a bigger guy with a lot of play strength. Like I said, this is one of the stronger receivers in the NFL. I was on the opposite sideline of him twice a year in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. So, I saw it up close and personal, and then obviously we did our due diligence on tape.
But, yeah, there’s a lot of different things that because of his skill set, because of that play strength, because of that body quickness that he has and just the major – the biggest asset that he has is the one that’s so vital to the position. If you can’t catch the ball, you can’t play. And this guy catches everything.
And so, we can see him on a lot of different routes that fit our offense that uses that play strength, that uses that quickness, and that’s where he’s so tough. You want guys that can win one-on-one matchups. And this guy has shown in the NFL that he will win one-on-one matchups.”
The head coach later noted that having Brown on the field will help alleviate some of the focus on Smith from defenses, and will also help boost Smith as he looks to make a leap from Year 1 to Year 2.
Who had the best first day in the NFL Draft?
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New York Giants