American Football

Continuing the Giants’ rebuild in this year-end mock draft


NFL Combine
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

What direction will the Giants go in 2023?

The New York Giants are not where they thought they’d be when 2022 started. Coming into the season, we thought 2022 would just be a year to be endured before the team could make meaningful moves forward in 2023 and beyond.

Twelve months later, the Giants have a lot of decisions to make. Will they re-sign Daniel Jones and tie Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll to him for most of their contracts, or let him walk? What about Saquon Barkley? Will the Giants re-sign Julian Love and Darius Slayton? Will they extend Andrew Thomas and Dexter Lawrence II?

And all of that is just free agency and salary cap considerations. What about the 2023 NFL Draft?

As it stands right now, the Giants are in the playoffs, and thus guaranteed to pick in the bottom third of the draft order. They have a very limited roster that needs all the young talent they can get. Their draft position could make filling the holes on their roster a challenge, but it also opens up a variety of options.

As usual, I went with the Pro Football Network’s mock draft machine for this mock draft. I did not originally set out to trade in this draft and intended to do this draft straight-up, without moving around the board.

But the draft threw me a curve ball as I was sitting at 22nd overall. None of my original targets were there, with the top receivers and press-man corners all selected ahead of me. On the flip side, I could see Joe Schoen doing business with Brandon Beane and picking up a fourth Day 2 pick at the cost of dropping back slots and potentially getting better value.

Raptor’s thoughts

Let’s jump right to the chase and talk about the elephant on the draft board: selecting Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.

I haven’t even gotten close to hitting “publish” on this piece, and I can already hear the chorus of “Chris hates Daniel Jones” starting up. The reality is, I don’t particularly care about Daniel Jones, but I DO care about not letting biases color my analysis. Whitewashing warts because he’s “our guy” (personal bias) or letting his last six games outweigh the previous 40 (recency bias) is Gettlemen-esque logic.

And as I said in my post-game piece on Christmas Eve: Jones is coming off of the best game of his career, but I still have reservations because of the consistent inconsistencies in his game.

So with that in mind, I’m letting Jones seek his fortunes elsewhere in this scenario. Maybe that’s a mistake and he plays well for Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, or Indianapolis. Or maybe he becomes Andy Dalton or Mitch Trubisky with a stronger jaw line.

My belief is that the Giants have their best coaching staff since 2008, and they deserve a player who would let them coach and scheme to their greatest potential.

Hendon Hooker’s evaluation is going to be a complicated one, but he could easily be a “how did the NFL let him fall!?” type player.

He’s going to be 25 on draft day and is coming off of a late-season ACL tear. Draft evaluators are also concerned how Hooker’s success at Tennessee — with their wide-open vertical spread offense — will translate to the more condensed NFL field.

But all of those concerns are why the Giants might be the perfect environment for Hooker to reach his potential. The Giants have Tyrod Taylor if Hooker needs time at the start of the season, and their coaching staff excels in coaching to players’ strengths.

Hooker has a strong arm, great accuracy to all areas of the field, and was arguably the best player in the country at the time of his injury with an utterly gaudy stat line of 3,125 yards, 35 touchdowns, two interceptions. He was the driving force behind Tennessee’s elevation from a joke in the SEC to besting Alabama. Hooker is an efficient thrower of the football with clean and repeatable mechanics in the pocket, as well as enough athleticism to threaten teams that turn their back on him.

His age and (particularly) his injury are red flags, but with age comes maturity and a healthy Hooker could be a Top 10 pick.

To help shorten Hooker’s learning curve and improve the Giant’s receiving corps, I used my first second round pick on Tennessee Jalin Hyatt. Hyatt is slightly built at 6-foot, 180 pounds, but he has the potential to be a Number One receiver, thanks to his quickness, agility, route running, track speed, and reliable hands.

The combination of Hyatt, Wan’Dale Robinson, Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James, and Colin Johnson is a potentially dangerous receiving corps — particularly with Saquon Barkley and Daniel Bellinger as tertiary options.

The rest of the draft

It’s long past time that the Giants used a high pick to reinforce the second level of their defense. Tommy Eichenberg has emerged as a leader on the OSU defense. He’s a complete MIKE linebacker who’s a fast and punishing run defender, a smart and athletic coverage player, a dangerous blitzer, and one tough SOB who played the last part of the season with two broken hands.

Miami CB Tyrique Stevenson is a big Height/Weight/Speed prospect who reportedly runs a 4.40 second 40 at 6-foot, 215 pounds. He’s an experienced press-man corner with the hips and technique to translate to the NFL. The Giants’ secondary has held up better than expected this year, but injury concerns around Adoree Jackson and Aaron Robinson make cornerback a position in which the Giants need to continue to invest.

And speaking of positions in which the Giants need to invest, I finished Day 2 by selecting Ohio State C Luke Wypler. The Giants should be able to find two adequate starting guards between Ben Bredeson, Nick Gates, Joshua Ezeudu, and Markus McKethan next year. But I’m a big believer in the importance of centers — not only are they one of two positions that touch the ball every snap, but they’re responsible for setting protections. Wypler is an experienced center who is second on the team in snaps since winning the starting job before the 2021 season. He’s smart, athletic, and a good technician at the center position. While he doesn’t have great size and only average strength, his understanding of angles and leverage will go a long way toward compensating.

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