With the ninth selection of the 2015 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected Ereck Flowers, a left tackle out of the University of Miami.
The pick was met with mixed reactions from fans and commentators. Flowers is a massive, powerful, and nasty young lineman who just oozes upside. However, he is also very raw as a football player and has several technique issues that need to be fixed.
When Flowers was drafted by the Giants, it was to solidify an offensive line that had been put in flux by age and injuries since 2010. It was basically a given that the ninth overall pick would start on the offensive line from day one, and generally assumed that he would be the starting right tackle. The Giants envisioned Flowers joining an offensive line anchored by veterans Will Beatty and Geoff Schwartz, along with talented second and third year pros Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh (respectively).
But, even the best laid plans of Giants and men can go awry, and that is just what happened. When Will Beatty tore his pectoral muscle -- which was successfully repaired -- the Giants lost their best offensive lineman and had their plans for the 2015 offensive line evaporate before their eyes.
The Giants may have already been planning for Flowers to step in at right tackle -- or possibly left guard -- but now his name has to be tossed into the fray for the starting left tackle job.
So let's take a look at what Flowers brings to the table.
I selected Flowers vs Virginia (2014) for two reasons. First: This game featured a mixture of runs by Duke Johnson as well as a passing attack. Secondly: Virginia had Eli Harold, one of the best, and quickest, edge rushers in the 2015 draft class. This tape shows both Flowers' strengths and weaknesses.
This is a nice simple play to start off with. The offense is lined up in the shotgun, and flowers is matched up on Eli Harold.
Flowers gets out of his stance and well and into his kick slide quickly off the snap. His feet look good in this play, with good knee bend and not much forward lean at all. That means he can change direction quickly, as well as anchor against a bull rush.
Flowers' hands are a bit of a mess off the snap, with his elbows flaring way out and his hands going wide. That gives a pass rusher an easy opening to use a rip move and get under the lineman's pads, or could cause an official to throw a flag, assuming holding because he saw Flowers' arms go wide. It also takes away from the strength of his punch. Flowers has long arms and is massively powerful, not being able to use that with a jarring punch is just handicapping himself.
It winds up not mattering because he is able to latch on to Harold and control him almost immediately -- and this is a very quick-hitting play -- but an NFL pass rusher could exploit the technique flaw.
Overall this is a good play for Flowers and the offense, but there is room to improve.
There is quite a bit more going on in this play, so let's start at the beginning (I hear it's a very good place to start). The defense is showing blitz with five players up on the line of scrimmage, but only three of them are down linemen. They do send a blitz, but it is an "A Gap" blitz from the middle linebacker rather than the B or C gap pressure they were showing pre-snap.
In addition to that, the right defensive end (Harold) and the tackle next to him run a stunt.
This is the type of defensive play that shredded the interior of the Giants' offensive line in 2014. In this case, Flowers -- who once again shows good feet and knee bend with his lower body -- keeps his head and picks up the defensive tackle as he comes outside. He picks up a bit of help from the left guard, but he does a great job of escorting the tackle around the pocket. Once again Flowers' hands get a little sloppy, but given the bodies around him, it's not bad.
All in all, a good play from Flowers, even if the pass fell incomplete.
This is the follow-up play to the first pass protection play.
Flowers is once again lined up at left tackle, across from Eli Harold, and there is a lot to like on this play. Flowers fires out of his stance at the snap, jarring Harold back and turning him perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, opening a big hole. That hole ultimately gets filled by safeties coming down-hill, but Flowers does his job very well.
The impressive part is that despite being three inches taller and roughly 80 pounds heavier, Flowers simply does not allow Harold to be the low man. He completely denies Harold the leverage he needs to be even a little successful on this play, and then finishes the block with some authority after the play is well and truly past them. For a two- or three-yard gain, this is a very nice play by Flowers.
Flowers is matched up on Harold one last time for this play.
The offense is lined up in a heavy set, with two in-line tight ends and only two receivers. This is a simple run play, and Johnson runs right behind Flowers.
It is a bit difficult to see, but again Flowers fires low and hard off the ball, this time getting a good punch on Harold. Flowers is able to create movement immediately, turning Harold to face the sideline and bending him back before forcing him back. The play ends horribly for Miami -- Johnson fumbles the ball as he gets hit -- but this play is just straight up domination from Flowers.
I've begun to think of the selection of Flowers in much the same way I think of Jason Pierre-Paul's selection in 2010. Both are athletically talented, with extremely high upside. However, both are also very young, inexperienced, and technically raw.
Also, in a less than pleasant twist of fate, much like JPP, an injury to a talented veteran is going to force Flowers to grow up much quicker than the Giants had anticipated when they drafted him.
College Football Focus rated Flowers as the second-best run blocking lineman in the entire draft. You can plainly see that he's absolutely good at it, and he enjoys exerting his will on whoever he is blocking.
They also rated him quite highly as a pass protector, but that is mostly due to his physical dominance. Even if he is out of position or initially gets beaten, his size and power let him control lesser rushers. Flowers has tremendously quick feet, but his footwork is sloppy. He has vines for arms and frightening power, but flailing arms and bad hand placement don't let him use those advantages. The good news is that while he will need work on his pass protection, his issues are fixable. Ultimately, his risk level as a draft choice comes down to how hard and how fast he can work on those issues.
Flowers is a raw prospect, no two ways about it, and the injury to Beatty puts that much more importance on his -- speedy-- development.