Todd McShay mock draft 3.0: DL Travon Walker, WR Garrett Wilson to the Giants

The 2022 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books and, as expected, it has certainly shaken up draft boards. We fully expected a new round of mock drafts to be released after the Combine, and the big outlets have obliged.

ESPN’s Todd McShay released his Mock Draft 3.0 Wednesday morning, and he includes a pair of picks for the New York Giants that are sure to be controversial. McShay mocked Georgia edge defender Travon Walker and Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson to the Giant at No. 5 and No. 7 overall, respectively.

Let’s take a look at the picks, and his rationale, then I’ll offer my thoughts.

5. New York Giants – Travon Walker, DE, Georgia

The Giants generated just 34 sacks (tied for 22nd) last season, and while Walker didn’t pile on the QB hits at Georgia (six sacks and 29 pressures last season), he was asked to do a lot of different things in a Bulldogs’ front seven that presents three other likely first-rounders. The 272-pound Walker had a terrific workout in Indy, running a 4.51-second 40 and 6.89-second three-cone drill. Few players I’ve ever evaluated can generate the power he does from the ground up, and that was on display with a 35½-inch vertical and 10-foot-3 broad jump. Teamed up with Leonard Williams and Azeez Ojulari, Walker will only continue to develop while giving the Giants a dynamic edge rusher to spark the defense.

7. New York Giants (via CHI) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Kenny Golladay led the Giants in receiving last season with just 521 yards. Evan Engram led the team in catches with all of 46, and he’s headed to free agency. The next two on the list were running backs. And Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney each struggled to stay healthy. You get the point. With the top three linemen in the class off the board already, new GM Joe Schoen and new coach Brian Daboll can get quarterback Daniel Jones help in another fashion. Wilson has elite body control, 4.38 speed and a big catch radius. New York can walk away happy on Day 1 with exciting new players on defense (Travon Walker) and offense (Wilson).

Raptor’s thoughts

Where do I begin?

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I suppose I’ll start by laying out the context for the picks. McShay’s first four picks are:

  1. Aidan Hutchinson
  2. Kyle Hamilton
  3. Ikem Ekwonu
  4. Evan Neal

So the top two offensive linemen, the top defensive lineman, and the top… We’ll say “Back 7” player are all off the board.

Then, at 6, McShay has the Carolina Panthers taking Mississippi State OT Charles Cross.

I’m not really going to talk much about either of the picks specifically. I want to look at the rational behind them.

The only way Walker makes sense to me for the Giants in the Top 10 is if his workout sent McShay back to the tape and he saw evidence that Walker could be a “Montez Sweat” typse player. Sweat had a similarly incredible workout but was limited by his role in Mississippi State’s defense. It’s possible that Walker is capable of much more than he showed on tape, simply because his job didn’t allow him to show things like how well he can do the things an EDGE needs to do in a scheme like Wink Martindale’s.

But McShay doesn’t mention that, or show any receipts, and instead he simply rattles off Walker’s (fantastic) Combine numbers.

To me that utterly smacks of recency bias.

Recency bias is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as,

…a common distorting effect within systems of performance appraisal. It refers to the appraiser assessing employee performance, not on work undertaken across the full performance management cycle, but only on recent events or activities that can be readily recalled.

In this case we’re replacing “employee” with “prospect,” but it still holds true. An evaluator has a tendency to favor more recent information over older information, and it’s something you continuously need to account for.

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McShay wasn’t talking about Walker during the season, or even much before the Combine. It wasn’t until that freaky-deaky workout (teased by Daniel Jeremiah) that his name vaulted into the Top 10.

Prior to the end of the season, McShay had this to say about the Giants and the EDGE position:

They [Giants] still need edge-rushing help, but the offensive line also has to improve and the linebacking group could use another playmaker. It depends on where they fall in the order, and ESPN’s Football Power Index projects that they’ll have picks No. 5 and 6. Hutchinson and Thibodeaux will likely not be available, so Neal makes sense if he’s still on the board.

Neal and Hutchinson were both off the board, but Thibodeaux was still there. Likewise, Nakobe Dean — who McShay had pitched several times as a guy he loved for the Giants based on the tape — was there as well. But Thibodeaux doesn’t go until ninth overall and Dean didn’t go until 21st overall to the Patriots.

Of course, Thibodeaux had great measurables, and Dean didn’t work out at all. But Walker did, and the brand of the Georgia defensive line suddenly became the toast of the draft.

Evaluators are obviously allowed to change their opinions as they gather more information. That’s kinda the soul of the scientific method. And workouts absolutely should be factored into evaluations, particularly at positions where the athleticism is at a premium.

But, as one of the broadcasters at the Combine itself said: the Combine workouts are a supplement for tape evaluations, not a replacement for them.

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Evaluators absolutely should go back to the tape to see what they missed when there’s a surprising workout — either good or bad. But they shouldn’t throw out the prior evaluation because “Number go brrrrrr.”

I’m not going to ding McShay too badly for not respecting the Giants’ shift in defensive philosophy under Martindale, which would seem to prize coverage cornerbacks above pass rushers.

As for the Wilson pick: I don’t hate the idea of the Giants selecting a receiver early in the draft, and McShay is right that they need receiving help. And I do consider receiver a “premium” position that is worthy of a first-round pick.

However, given the absurd breadth and depth of talent in this draft, teams are going to be finding starters in the second or even third rounds. Given the way this draft played out, I’m taking any two of Ahmad Gardner, Trevor Penning, or Kayvon Thibodeaux and not looking back. I’ll circle back around and grab a player like George Pickens or Christian Watson in the second round.

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