EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants landed two of the most talented players in the NFL draft when they selected Oregon Ducks edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and Alabama Crimson Tide offensive tackle Evan Neal with the fifth and seventh picks, respectively, on Thursday night.
Thibodeaux was a surprise selection at No. 5, but the board played out perfectly with all three of the draft’s top offensive tackles still available, allowing the Giants to grab Neal with the seventh pick after the Carolina Panthers took NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6.
Thibodeaux was one of the draft’s biggest names and most debated players. Some questioned his effort and work ethic and concentration on his brand.
But the Giants didn’t believe that was a problem after doing extensive research on Thibodeaux, who has an electric first step. New general manager Joe Schoen traveled to Eugene, Oregon, for Thibodeaux’s pro day just days after the NFL’s annual meetings in Florida. The Giants also snuck in a Zoom meeting with the talented pass-rusher the week of the draft.
One of the top prospects entering this past season, Thibodeaux had seven sacks despite playing with an ankle injury in 2021. His 17.8% pressure percentage was third-best in the FBS.
New York was the only team in the NFL last season to rank in the bottom five in both pass block win rate and pass rush win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Neal, 21, was a second-team AP All-American this past season and a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. He allowed one sack his junior season, which came in the national title game against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Neal saw constant improvement at Alabama. His pressure percentage allowed dipped from 2.5% as a freshman (when he played guard) to 1.3% this past season as a left tackle.
Neal also brings tremendous versatility to the Giants, having played a season each at guard, right tackle and left tackle. That gives the Giants options with 2020 fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas showing major improvement last season at left tackle. It’s likely that Neal begins his Giants career at right tackle.
It would give New York two potentially young bookend tackles to protect quarterback Daniel Jones. The Giants are the third team in the common draft era to select two offensive tackles in the top 10 over a three-year span.
The Giants wanted to grab an offensive tackle early in this draft in order to help shore up an offensive line that has been problematic for almost a decade. They also signed Mark Glowinski as a free agent to start at right guard and Jon Feliciano to be their center.
The idea is that the revamped and upgraded offensive line will give them a chance to get a true evaluation of Jones this season. The Giants declined to pick up the fifth-year option in Jones’ rookie contract earlier Thursday, sources told ESPN.