Joe Schoen’s team-building beliefs were laid out as soon as he was introduced as general manager of the New York Giants.
Good teams add through free agency. Great ones build through the draft.
“I believe in that — drafting, developing and signing your own,” Schoen told Shaun O’Hara in an introductory 2022 interview on the Giants’ YouTube page. “I think that’s very important if you want to sustain success.”
Schoen’s mindset is instructive after his most recent rash of free agent pickups. As good as additions like tight end Darren Waller, wide receiver Parris Campbell, and linebacker Bobby Okereke can be, they’re “supplementing moves,” not backbone-forming ones.
Those foundational players are found during next month’s draft. Schoen has one less selection at his disposal after trading the 100th overall pick to Las Vegas for Waller; the team still has 10 selections at its disposal in Kansas City.
Here’s a peek at what the Giants might do after free agency in the 2023 NFL Draft:
25th overall pick: Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz
Center isn’t the sexiest first-round projection for Big Blue — until you turn on Schmitz’s tape.
The 2022 first-team All-American dominated the Senior Bowl, garnering interest from center-needy teams like the Giants, according to Pro Football Network draft expert Tony Pauline.
“I can confirm the interest from Big Blue is real,” wrote Pauline. “The franchise made several heavy investments in skill players as well as quarterback Daniel Jones. Yet, at present, they do not have a starting center under contract.”
That’s still true; center/guard Nick Gates signed with the Commanders and center Jon Feliciano is a free agent.
In Schmitz, the Giants could find a third building block after investing back-to-back first rounders in tackles Evan Neal and Andrew Thomas.
Draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared Schmitz to former Titans standout center Ben Jones in this scouting report on NFL.com:
“(Schmitz) is well-schooled in all phases of the run game,” Zierlein said. “He consistently uses the proper footwork and angles to find early positioning and has the tenacity to finish blocks at a high rate.”
57th overall pick: Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents
At 6-foot-3 with a 82 7/8 inch wingspan and 41.5-inch vertical, Brents’ freak athleticism is hard to ignore.
He certainly has Big Blue’s attention. According to WalterFootball.com, the Kansas State product was one of 18 confirmed prospects to meet with the Giants at the 2023 NFL Combine.
Zierlein’s report on NFL.com: “(Brents) has the disruptive traits to reroute the release and the dog in him to handle his business in run support.”
89th overall pick: Ole Miss receiver Jonathan Mingo
Mingo would add a little physicality to a Giants receiving room full of smaller, shiftier players.
At 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds, he has the frame to line up outside, too.
Zierlein compared the Brandon, Miss. native to former NFL star Anquan Boldin — and his Ole Miss highlights back that up.
128th overall pick: Cincinnati linebacker Ivan Pace Jr.
Okereke shouldn’t be the only linebacking help Schoen imports this offseason.
Pairing Pace Jr. with last year’s Cincinnati linebacking draftee Darrian Beavers would give Big Blue some options and depth at an often-overlooked spot.
Zierlein’s take on NFL.com: “A rare blend of leverage, toughness and tackle obsession makes Pace’s tape a fun day of film study. He might be one of the strongest players in the 2023 NFL Draft from a pound-for-pound standpoint.”
160th overall pick: Coastal Carolina defensive tackle Jerrod Clark
Clark tweeted that doctors once thought he’d never play football again following spinal surgery.
A storybook comeback could continue on a Giants defensive line that sorely needs bodies. Schoen told reporters at the Combine that depth at the position was “not great.”
Clark can help change that with his surprising quickness for his 6-foot-3, 334-pound frame.
“Clark is a former high school tight end with decent feet, ” Zierlein noted. “So improved quickness could help him become a more disruptive interior talent.”
172nd overall pick: Illinois safety Jartavis Martin
Safety Julian Love might find a more lucrative contract elsewhere this offseason.
Enter Martin, who’d play behind Xavier McKinney and Dane Belton while adding some corner versatility, according to Zierlein.
“A buttery smooth hip swivel allows him to glide and transition effectively from his pedal,” Zierlein said. “But he has just average route recognition to stay connected to clever route runners.”
209th overall pick: Oregon defensive end D.J. Johnson
A little familiarity in the pass rushing group wouldn’t hurt Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Schoen and Co. could go back to Oregon with Johnson, a 6-foot-4 edge who wins with power, per Zierlein.
“(His) jarring initial hand strikes that can create early advantages,” Zierlein said. “Johnson is big, explosive and rugged but lacking the experience and technique to consistently capitalize on his physicality.”
240th overall pick: TCU quarterback Max Duggan
Duggan found ways to win with his arm and his legs at TCU, guiding the Horned Frogs to the National Championship Game.
His ceiling is “capped” as a backup, according to Zeirlein’s scouting report. But that’d be just fine with the Giants, who already have their starter in place in Daniel Jones.
243rd overall pick: Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim
Who better to run behind Schmitz than the back who did it in college last season?
Ibrahim took 320 carries for 1,665 yards and 20 touchdowns as a Golden Gopher last season. That production might be useful to spell Saquon Barkley a little more in 2023.
Zierlein thinks Ibrahim can shoulder some work, comparing him to Texans star ballcarrier Dameon Pierce.
“His no-nonsense running approach and innate feel for the end zone will be easy for coaches to love,” Zierlein said.
254th overall pick: Shepherd offensive tackle Joey Fisher
Shepherd isn’t known as a football powerhouse.
But Draft Network’s write-up said Fisher has “clear NFL traits that will make him an intriguing prospect.”
That’s good enough for a Giants flier at the back end of the seventh round. With his upside, Fisher can develop behind Big Blue’s established tackles and challenge for a swing spot down the road.