The New York Giants got plenty of rave reviews for their work in the 2022 NFL draft. While hearing that praise in the media was expected, seeing it from one of the team’s biggest rivals comes as quite a shock.
To be clear, the Dallas Cowboys did not explicitly say they liked the Giants’ draft. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said a lot when he decided to show members of the media his team’s draft board during a recent press conference.
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“Can you see that?” Jones asked the reporters.
Cowboys CEO and director of player personnel Stephen Jones laughed nervously while his father revealed the draft board to the media. Head coach Mike McCarthy looked just as uneasy.
“Don’t show ’em that,” Stephen Jones said.
Too late. Now, the internet has its hands on the Cowboys’ first-round draft board. The highest quality screen grab came from Mike Leslie of WFAA in Dallas.
The Athletic claims to have identified the top 34 players on the Cowboys’ draft board, and the top two are edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal. The Giants got Thibodeaux with the fifth-overall pick and Neal with the seventh-overall pick.
We don’t know exactly where the Giants had Thibodeaux and Neal ranked, but getting them at Pick No. 5 and Pick No. 7 is incredible value based on the Cowboys’ draft board. Jones might even be a little jealous that Dallas didn’t have two picks in the top 10 this year.
Thibodeaux Was the Consensus No. 1 Pick Last Year
The Cowboys having Thibodeaux as their No. 1 overall prospect should not come as a major shock. At this time last year, ESPN’s top two draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both ranked him above everyone else in the 2022 class.
Kiper, in particular, compared Thibodeaux to Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
“This kid, Kayvon Thibodeaux, could be that good,” Kiper said in May of last year.
Thibodeaux’s final year at Oregon wasn’t spectacular. He finished with 7.0 sacks in 10 games played, falling short of his freshman year total of 9.0 sacks in 13 games played. His draft stock started to dip due to that inconsistency in college.
Before the draft, the New York Post reported that the Giants were concerned with Thibodeaux’s desire to grow his personal brand rather than his football career. It’s clear from interviews that he is excited about the business opportunities he’ll have while playing in New York, but ultimately the Giants’ reported concerns did not stop them from drafting him.
Some Talent Evaluators Had Neal No. 1 Overall
Neal ended up being the second offensive tackle off the board when the Giants selected him seventh overall, and that may end up being the steal of the first round.
Tom Rock of Newsday reported before the draft that Neal was “considered by many to be the No. 1 prospect at the Combine.”
This notion was supported by the folks at Football Outsiders, who named Neal the top overall prospect by their team of former NFL general managers. Neal is just as much of a physical specimen as Thibodeaux, but he lived up to his full potential in college and does not share any of the reported character concerns.