Your wait to find out who the New York Giants' pick at No. 12 in the Big Blue View Community Mock Draft is over. The pick is Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, a player who could join 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh in anchoring the Giants' offensive line for years to come.
In our poll Thursday asking what you would do with this pick, Lewan was the most popular choice. I know, however, that those of you who will dislike this pick will REALLY dislike it based on the character concerns that have been voiced about the 22-year-old, including assault charges stemming from a December fight.
The reality was, looking at the remaining draft board there is no other player left who represents the value Lewan has. Don't forget how highly NFL teams value left offensive tackle -- three of the first four picks a year ago were left tackles. It will upset the 'Beezer Brigade' to hear it, but neither Anthony Barr of UCLA nor C.J. Mosley of Alabama represents the value that a potential franchise left tackle like Lewan does.
I know there are many out there who are fans of Barr, in particular. He was never on my radar, however, especially after my recent interview with Greg Gabriel, an NFL college scout for three decades. Gabriel insists that Barr is a 3-4 outside linebacker and putting him a 4-3 is "wasting max talent." That's good enough for me.
Looking at the board, there are no other wide receivers I want at 12. Marqise Lee is intriguing, but he isn't the big, physical outside presence I want. He seems like more of a Victor Cruz type, and while that is hardly a bad thing the Giants already have the original -- and they have Jerrel Jernigan.
Some fans are on the Kony Ealy bandwagon, I know. As of now, not me. Most analysts don't see him as 'value' at 12.
To be honest, if I was going to 'reach' for someone, it would be Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. Martin draws comparisons to Pugh and depending on how the real draft falls if the Giants have reservations about Lewan the selection of Martin -- something not often discussed here -- is one that would not completely shock me.
Let's get back, however, to discussing Lewan.
The character concerns are, of course, front and center. I keep going back to converations I've had with people who have experience scouting for NFL teams. Former New York Jets' scout Joe Bommarito, a 12-year NFL scouting veteran, told me recently that Lewan "should be OK to take at 12." Gabriel was even more emphatic, saying flatly that Lewan "won't get to the Giants." NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said during a conference call a few weeks ago that "I'd jump all over him" if Lewan was available with the Giants' pick at No. 12. ESPN's Mel Kiper has him going to the Buffalo Bills at No. 9 in his recently-released 'Grade A' draft. Four of the five CBS Sports draft analysts also have Lewan going to the Bills at No. 9 as well.
The mounting evidence tells me that the people who analyze draft prospects for a living don't think any of the off-the-field stuff will impact Lewan's draft status. Those people have more knowledge of the process, and more knowledge of what NFL teams believe, than I do. I am going to trust their opinions, thus basing my pick here solely on performance on the field.
When you do that, I don't know how the pick can't be Lewan.
The Giants' biggest stated priority this offseason was to rebuild an offensive line that broke down a year ago. They added Geoff Schwartz as a starting guard, J.D. Walton as a potential starting center, and John Jerry and Charles Brown for depth. I don't know how they pass up the opportunity to add a potential franchise left tackle, however, especially with the status of Will Beatty uncertain after the broken leg he suffered in the 2013 season finale.
Do I know how the line would shake out if they drafted Lewan? No, I don't. Could Lewan or Beatty move to the right side and Pugh move to center? Maybe, but I wouldn't be at all certain that would be the plan. Lewan, like Pugh last year and rookies almost every year, wouldn't be handed a job. He would have to earn it, but this is a move that would make me feel much better about the long-term stability of the offensive line.
I solicited the opinions of our draft analysts on the selection. I did not ask for their advice, I told them I was selecting Lewan and asked for their opinions. Thoughts from each are below.
Do Not Want.
I can see the logic in taking the athlete (though I don't particularly care how good an athlete an offensive lineman is). But with all the questions about the player, I couldn't draft him without information that I simply don't have. I'm of the opinion that where there's smoke, there's fire and between his off-field issues and some of his on-field actions, I see a pattern of behavior that is, quite frankly, scary.
The Giants' roster is in flux. They have lost a number of long-time veteran leaders, and will lose more next off-season (particularly along the offensive line). To me, the risk of bringing a potential character risk and distraction into a locker room that is the most fragile it has been in years, as well as moving Justin Pugh to his third OL position in three years (and one that is completely alien to him at that) outweighs the potential benefits.
Taylor Lewan has to be the pick here. In terms of value, he's fourth on my most recent big board (14) behind Johnny Manziel (8), Darqueze Dennard (10) and Anthony Barr (13). However, we have no need for Manziel, Barr isn't a good scheme fit, and while Dennard is certainly a great prospect, there isn't enough of a gap in talent for me to say that we ignore the more pressing need.
Lewan would fortify the offensive line for the long term. Not only as insurance for Will Beatty on the left side, but could upgrade Justin Pugh on the right side. That moves Pugh to one of the guard positions and we have an athletic offensive line capable of keeping Eli upright. Assuming Lewan checks out in his interviews, this is about as easy a pick as it can get with the top two OTs, top two WRs, top DT, and top TE gone. Dennard, C.J. Mosley, Anthony Barr, and Odell Beckham Jr. would all warrant consideration from me at this juncture but I don't think any of them come very close to the balance of fit, talent, and need that Lewan does.
The pick of Taylor Lewan is an easy pick to make because of the uncertainty surrounding the return of 2012 Will Beatty. Even if Beatty fully recovers from his leg injury he still has to prove that he can play left tackle at a higher level than he did last year. The Lewan move also works because of Justin Pugh's versatility, a lot of people thought prior to last year's draft that Pugh could be a very solid starting offensive tackle in the league or a future Pro-Bowl guard, or center. The only concern with the pick is if Beatty bounces back to a high level the Giants will have three starting tackles with only two positions open, but that's a good problem and a much better alternative to one starting tackle for two positions.
'BigBlueWreckingYou' is now on the clock with the St. Louis Rams' second selection of the first round, 13th overall.
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