Getty ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the New York Giants drafting OT Ikem Ekwonu in their latest mock draft.
We’re in the midst of mock draft season, and no one dominates this time of year more than ESPN’s Mel Kiper. Since the mid-1980s, Kiper has been analyzing the NFL Draft and is widely considered the leading voice in the annual event.
With the actual draft two weeks away, Kiper hosted a two-round mock draft on Wednesday. And with the fifth overall pick in that mock, he has the New York Giants drafting offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu out of North Carolina State.
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In his article, Kiper says that Ekwonu is his number one offensive tackle over Alabama’s Evan Neal:
If the board moves this way, the Giants should be thrilled to get their pick of the top two offensive tackles. I have Ekwonu slightly above Evan Neal, but it’s hard to go wrong with any of them — they’re my No. 2 and No. 3 prospects in this class. Ekwonu answered all the questions about his pass protection ability last season. If left tackle Andrew Thomas continues to improve, these two could form one of the best bookend pairings in the NFL.
Yes, you read it right. The world’s most popular draft analyst believes the Giants could be a pick for “one of the best bookend pairs in the NFL” at offensive tackle. For anyone who has watched this team over the past decade, it would be a welcome development.
We also know that Ekwonu admires at least one current Giant. In an interview with Pro Football Focus on Wednesday, he revealed that he is a huge fan of Saquon Barkley and recently had the opportunity to meet the star running back.
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“He’s one of the best running backs in the game,” Ekwonu told PFF’s Ari Meirov.
If the draft shakes out the way Kiper sees it in his latest mock, Ekwonu could soon be clearing the way for Barkley out of the Giants’ backfield.
Kiper taunts a pass-rusher to the Giants at the No. 7 pick
Also armed with the No. 7 overall pick, the Giants can address needs on both sides of the ball in the first round of this year’s draft. And that’s exactly what Kiper makes them do.
Kiper’s pick for the Giants at No. 7 is defensive end Jermaine Johnson II out of Florida State. He describes Johnson as a versatile pass-rusher with the potential to be an “instant starter.”
The Giants can get their tackle at No. 5 and then focus on their defense, which allowed 4.7 yards per play last season (31st in the NFL). Johnson had 12 sacks last season and was one of the most impressive prospects in the Senior Bowl in January. He already has some veteran pressure moves and can be an instant starter. He also played a lot of outside linebacker for the Seminoles, so he’ll have some versatility on Don Martindale’s defense. And if you’re keeping track, this puts four frontrunners in the top seven picks.
Two seasons ago, the Giants’ defense wasn’t bad. They ranked ninth in the NFL in terms of points allowed per game and 12th in yards allowed per game. Last season, however, they dropped to 23rd in points allowed and 21st in yards allowed.
How did this happen?
Part of the reason is that they didn’t have a double-digit sack artist in 2021. Azeez Ojulari, a second-round rookie last season, ended up leading the team with 8.0 sacks. Adding a complementary pass-rusher like Johnson could open things up for Ojulari and have a similar “bookend” effect on defense, like the one Kiper envisions between Thomas and Ekwonu at offensive tackle.
Giants go to safety in second round of Kiper’s Mock Draft
To round out the Giants’ picks in Kiper’s latest two-round mock draft, ESPN’s analyst has New York pulling safety Jalen Pitre from Baylor. This would address a huge need for the Giants, as they lost a starting safety in Jabrill Peppers to the New England Patriots in free agency and lack depth at the position.
Kiper also thinks it’s possible the Giants could get an offensive weapon with this pick.
“The Giants could target a wide receiver here, depending on how the scoreboard falls,” Kiper wrote for ESPN. “The 6-foot-3 George Pickens (Georgia) might make sense.”
The Giants have already made significant investments in wide receiver. It would probably be wiser to address a more pressing need, such as security posture, with this choice.
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