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    NFL Draft Projections: Charles Cross’ landing spots include Giants, Panthers, Seahawks, and Saints

    Where are Charles Cross' best landing spots in our 2022 NFL Draft projections? Here's where the Mississippi State OT could end up.

    Offensive tackle is one of the strongest position groups in the 2022 NFL Draft. While Mississippi State’s Charles Cross may be considered the third-best OT available, projections indicate he’s still likely to come off the board within the top half of Round 1. Where are his best NFL landing spots?

    NFL Draft Projections: Charles Cross’ potential landing spots

    There’s a shortage of competent offensive tackles in the NFL, which should only push Cross’ draft stock up further. Evan Neal (Alabama) and Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) are viewed as slightly better OT prospects, but Cross is right behind them. He’s currently fifth on Pro Football Network’s Big Board, trailing only Kayvon Thibodeaux, Kyle Hamilton, and his fellow tackles.

    Cross played in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense with the Bulldogs, so he has plenty of experience in pass protection. Overall, he may be a better pass blocker than either Neal or Ekwonu. Cross demonstrates excellent footwork and precision, allowing him to play as a proverbial “dancing bear” at left tackle. He’s continuously improved throughout his collegiate career and allowed just 16 total pressures in 2021.

    Concerns about Cross revolve around his stature and ability in the run game. While his speed marks at the NFL Combine were elite, his subpar size (307 pounds at just under 6’5″) and strength measurables led to a mediocre Relative Athletic Score. Those limitations, plus his college offense, imply Cross might not be a run-blocking mauler right off the bat.

    Having said that, Cross shouldn’t be around for too long on Day 1. Let’s look at his possible landing spots in the 2022 NFL Draft.

    New York Giants

    Andrew Thomas, the Giants’ selection at No. 4 overall in 2020, showed tremendous progression at left tackle last season. Thus, the Giants are looking for a prospect to pair with him on the right side. While the value differences between left and right tackles are becoming slight, RT is still viewed as the “road-grading” tackle spot in some circles. Neal and Ekwonu are more capable of filling that role for Big Blue, at least in the immediate future.

    However, if both Neal and Ekwonu are off the board when it’s New York’s turn at No. 5, Cross could be an outstanding consolation prize. The Giants would feel comfortable knowing they’re set at tackle for the next 4-5 years at a minimum. General manager Joe Schoen owns the fifth and seventh picks in the first round. If he wants Cross, the first-year executive may want to pull the trigger at No. 5, especially given the team selecting one pick after the Giants.

    Carolina Panthers

    The team holding the No. 6 pick is none other than the Panthers, who have been the club linked the most strongly to Cross. PFN Insider Tony Pauline reported in early April that Carolina had narrowed its options to Ekwonu and Cross. If Ekwonu is gone when the Panthers are on the clock, Cross may be the pick. Carolina revamped part of its offensive line in free agency by signing Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman, but there’s still work to be done at left tackle.

    Of course, the elephant in the room for the Panthers is the quarterback position. Sam Darnold was unplayable in his first season in Carolina, so the club could use the sixth selection on a signal-caller. Malik Willis presents tantalizing upside, while Kenny Pickett has a relationship with Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. It will be surprising if Rhule and Co. don’t use their first-round choice on either a quarterback or a tackle.

    Seattle Seahawks

    The Seahawks are in an eerily similar position to the Panthers. After trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos, is Seattle prepared to start Drew Lock or Geno Smith under center? Depending on how the first eight picks shake out, the Seahawks should be in a position to draft their next quarterback.

    However, Pete Carroll and John Schneider are also staring at a massive hole at left tackle, given that Duane Brown is still a free agent. If the season started today, the Seahawks would likely roll out 2021 sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe at LT.

    With solid receivers already in place, Seattle needs to figure out the two most important offensive positions. If the Seahawks think they can wait until Round 2 (or even trade back into the end of Round 1) to land a QB like Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell, Matt Corral, or Carson Strong, Cross would make sense as their pick at No. 9.

    Houston Texans

    Grinding the Mocks, Benjamin Robinson’s excellent mock draft data tool, pegs Cross’ expected draft position at 10th overall. So, between Seattle at No. 9 and Houston at No. 13, we’re getting into Cross’ likely range.

    The Texans restructured Laremy Tunsil’s contract in March, but they will be able to move on from the veteran left tackle next offseason. Tunsil was involved in trade rumors earlier this year, so Houston may need a long-term replacement on the left side.

    The Texans aren’t expected to compete any time soon, and given the club’s recent moves, they seem to be aware of that. With a long list of needs but no immediate mandate to contend, GM Nick Caserio can take the best player available at a premium position — and there’s a good chance that’s Cross.

    Baltimore Ravens

    Offensive tackle isn’t a headline need for the Ravens. They signed Morgan Moses to a three-year deal this offseason, and they added Ja’Wuan James as insurance last year. However, left tackle Ronnie Stanley has only played in seven games over the past two years. In February, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic said “no one knows” if Stanley will be able to play in 2022 after dealing with a recurring ankle injury.

    Baltimore needs to prepare as if Stanley won’t be healthy enough to suit up next season. But more than anything, the Ravens thrive on value. Cross still being available at pick No. 14 represents value, and Baltimore would have difficulty passing on him.

    New Orleans Saints

    At pick No. 16, the Saints are Cross’ floor. New Orleans did their typical salary cap clean-up this offseason, and they could have afforded to re-sign Terron Armstead. Instead, they allowed their longtime left tackle to sign with the Dolphins, creating a hole on Jameis Winston’s blindside.

    The Saints pulled off an early-April trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, and they now own both the 16th and 19th selections in the first round. With James Hurst projected as the current starter at left tackle, New Orleans must make an upgrade. They can’t afford to wait until pick No. 19 to take Cross, as the Los Angeles Chargers would likely scoop him up at 17.

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