The 2022 NFL Draft will be held in Las Vegas, but it looks set to be a very New York affair.
With one week left of the regular season, the Jets and Giants are each expected to have two top-10 picks. The 4-12 Jets are expected to be number four, and thanks to the Jamal Adams deal in July 2020, they also have 6-10 Seattle’s first-rounders, who are currently expected to be seventh overall. The 4-12 Giants are expected to be number five, and they own 6-10 Chicago’s first-rounder (currently expected to be eighth) as a result of the Bears’ substitution for Justin Fields last April.
The two teams also have some common needs out of season, especially along the offensive line and in the defensive front seven. Here are 10 top prospects expected to be available early in the draft so Jets and Giants fans can keep an eye on this offseason:
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Williams stepped into a starting role in 2021 and immediately became one of Alabama’s greatest playmakers, capturing 75 passes for 1,507 yards and 15 touchdowns. He may be the fastest receiver in this class, with the speed to take the top of a defense and the acceleration to blow off defenders at the snap and with the ball in his hands.
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Neal is listed on the Alabama website for 6-6, 360 pounds. You would expect any of that stature to be extremely powerful, especially in the running game, and Neal does not disappoint there. The surprise comes when you see him on the left tackle and see someone moving as if he is 100 pounds lighter: his footwork and technique are very healthy. He also has experience with left guard and right tackle.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Clean centers typically do not go into the top-10 unless they are special, and Linderbaum may be one of the best centers that has come out in recent memory. He has the power to influence the running game and the footwork to be an asset in the pass protection. He also shows excellent awareness and intelligence when making pre-snap calls.
Ikem Ekwonu, OT / OG, North Carolina State
If you’re looking for a blocker who enjoys sending defenders backwards, Ekwonu may be your guy. He is a tough, physical mauler with excellent power at the point of attack. He was a three-year-old starter on the left tackle for Wolfpack, but he has some experience inside the guard.
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Cross made great strides in passport protection as a junior. He allowed just two sacks and 16 hits on 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus. Add that to his excellent size and power, and Cross becomes one of the most well-rounded tackles in this draft class.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge rusher, Oregon
Thibodeaux may not get past the second overall pick – right now he is largely expected to lag behind other pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson. If he gets the chance to get a few picks, he could be the dynamic kind of sack artist that neither New York team has had in a while. Thibodeaux is very athletic with great explosiveness outside the snap and he uses a variety of moves to get into the backcourt.
George Karlaftis, Edge rusher, Purdue
Karlaftis did not light up the statistics sheet at Purdue – he only had 4 1/2 sacks in 2021 and 7 1/2 in 2019 – but he faced many doubles due to his pure athleticism and ability to ruin a match. He may not be as fast or bendy as other top-tier pass-rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, but he wins instead with his amazing mix of strength and technique.
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Dean is the latest Georgia linebacker to warrant early draft consideration. He is very instinctive and can quickly diagnose games, and once he reads the action in front of him, he is athletic enough to make cover games from sideline to sideline or to immediately get downhill to stop the race.
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Stingley, the grandson of former Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley, led LSU with six interceptions in his freshman season in 2019. He has since been slowed by injuries and coaching changes, but his physical qualities – top-tier athletics, technique and ball skills – remain.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
In each draft, there is a Derwin James-type defender who can apparently do it all – play deep safety, take on backs in the field and line up against changing receivers or big tight-ends in the castle. Hamilton is this year’s edition, making him a valuable chess piece for a defensive coordinator who is creative enough to plan his strengths.