On Thursday night, the New York Giants made two first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft: edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5 overall) and offensive tackle Evan Neal (No. 7 overall).
While Thibodeaux and Neal are now teammates thanks to the Giants, this spring/summer will not mark the first time they’ve shared a practice field. Back when they were underclassmen in high school, they attended the same recruiting event and even went head-to-head in drills.
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Here’s a video of Thibodeaux going up against Neal in a 1-on-1 pass-rush drill at a recruiting event, courtesy of Rivals on Twitter:
Thibodeaux flashed a nifty spin move on the first rep, but Neal neutralized the rush. On the second rep, Thibodeaux used a speed rush to get around Neal pretty cleanly. Regardless of who won each rep, this is definitely an example of iron sharpening iron.
When it comes to Thibodeaux, you can’t tell his story without mentioning his recruitment coming out of high school in Los Angeles. He was one of the top recruits in the country (No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite for the Class of 2019) and chose Oregon over Alabama, Florida and Florida State.
Thibodeaux was a little underwhelming at Oregon, but still managed to record 19.0 sacks in 30 games played. He comes to the Giants with a ton of potential and an apparent hunger for everything New York City has to offer.
Neal was in the same recruiting class as Thibodeaux and ranked No. 7 overall in the 247Sports Composite (No. 1 among all offensive tackles). The IMG Academy product chose to play under Nick Saban at Alabama over offers from Florida State, Georgia and Miami.
In three years at Alabama, Neal was a flexible and valuable starter at guard and both tackle positions. That flexibility and experience — combined with his 6-foot-7, 350-pound frame — is why the Giants felt comfortable selecting him with a first-round pick on Thursday night.
Michael Strahan to Serve as Thibodeaux’s Mentor
Thibodeaux is an ambitious individual, and now he has the perfect mentor in legendary Giants defensive end Michael Strahan to help him accomplish all of his goals on and off the field.
Shortly after the Giants drafted him, Thibodeaux shared a text message his camp received from Strahan. Here’s a video of that moment, courtesy of the team’s official Twitter account:
“He should be happy,” Thibodeaux said, reading Strahan’s words. “I’m happy for him. They asked me if I was serious about mentoring him yesterday, so I knew it was going to happen.”
Thibodeaux says he knew Strahan would be his mentor even before the Giants selected him. This makes a lot of sense, since Strahan reached the pinnacle of the game as a pass rusher and is now extremely successful in media. That is a path Thibodeaux clearly wants to follow.
Neal Has Already Been Named a Starter
Meanwhile, Neal hasn’t even stepped on a practice field with the Giants yet and he’s already penciled into the starting lineup. While speaking to the media after making New York’s two first-round selections, general manager Joe Schoen declared Neal the team’s starter at right tackle (via Art Stapleton of The Record).
Schoen has clearly made fixing the offensive line a priority since taking over as the Giants. Here’s an idea of what the starting lineup could look like for Week 1:
This is easily the most promising lineup of talent the Giants have had at the position in years, so credit to Schoen and company for making this a primary focus in Year 1.