The NFL Draft Report’s staff has spent the summer months buried in the film rooms, looking at the draft-eligible talent that will be heavily analyzed by teams throughout the season and after, leading up to the draft. In this series, we will not only look at particular needs for those NFL teams, but also recognize a rising talent in the collegiate ranks, who could be the "perfect fit" to solve that organization’s glaring issue that have yet to be resolved.
One area that I pay particularly close attention to is the offensive line, an area vital to any team’s offensive success. Over the years, in meetings with teams and college scouts, our staff devised a universal grading system that helps in evaluating the available talent and determining their best fits at the next level of competition.
Those collegiate behemoths might still have some "growing up" to do, both physically and emotionally before they can settle into an NFL roster spot and most will go the full four-year term at the collegiate level to help both body and soul to reach peak level. Versatility is something most young offensive linemen need to display, as they might be required to play out of position when injuries affect the depth at the NFL level.
Among the 32 NFL teams, perhaps no organization heads into the season with as many questions up front as the New York Giants. While there are some whispers that they may be interested in San Francisco 49ers disgruntled offensive tackle Anthony Davis one only has to go back and review his horrible final season at Rutgers, coupled by inconsistent play on the West Coast, that would make any "big" move for the blocker perhaps foolish.
While the team invested major dollars in improving their defensive front seven, they did little to ease concerns at both tackle and guard during the veteran free agency period and in the 2016 draft. Currently, there are 402 offensive linemen on NFL payrolls, with teams doling out a total of $794,230,698 for those athletes, an average of $24,819,709 per team and an average of $1,975,698 per performer. The Giants place 28th on that list, as they will spend $15,494,442 for 13 offensive linemen, 10.4 percnt of their current team payroll, as it averages out to $1,191,880 per player. Only Chicago ($15.4 million), Denver ($15.1 mil), Baltimore ($14.2 mil) and Seattle ($10.7 mil) have lower payrolls for their offensive line units.
The biggest issues up front come from the right side of the line. In probably a case where Big Blue is getting exactly what they paid for, right guard John Jerry, a Miami Dolphins reject, somehow managed to secure a two-year deal worth three million in 2015. He will take home a base salary of $1.25 million (25th highest on the team), a roster bonus of $200,000 and a workout bonus of $50,000 this year. Jerry has a cap hit of $1,900,000 while his dead money value is $400,000.
Right tackle Marshall Newhouse is another blocker with less than inspiring results. He is also working on the final portion of a two-year, three million dollar deal that included an $800,000 signing bonus, a million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $1.5 million. In 2016, he will earn a base salary of $1.45 million and a workout bonus of $100,000, as his cap hit is $1.95 million and his dead money value is $400,000.
After his mighty struggles at left tackle last season, many analysts feel that the Giants might be better off shifting Ereck Flowers to the right side and utilizing Newhouse off the bench. As their 2015 first-round selection, Flowers was signed at a hefty fee. His four-year package is for a total of $14.4 million with an average annual salary of $3,597,930. In 2016, he will earn a base salary of $1,089,169. While there is no chance that he will be cut in the near future, he has a cap hit of $3.3 million and his dead pool money value is $11,775,042.
Two vastly underpaid Giants blockers are center Weston Richburg and left guard Justin Pugh. The former Syracuse tackle has made a home as an interior blocker, but Flowers’ struggles last year had the old regime thinking of possibly returning him to tackle before the front office decided to make a change at head coach. Pugh signed a four-year deal for $8,345,898 contract that will see him earn just $1.2 million in base and a roster bonus of $385,770 in 2016. He has a 2017 option for $8.8 million in 2017, but look for the Giants to at least start sitting down and talking extension soon.
No Giants blocker deserves a raise more than center Richburg, whose current deal also expires after the 2017 season. Coming out of college, he signed a four-year, $4,877,351 deal that included a $1,867,164 signing bonus, $2,928,861 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $1,219,338. In 2016, Richburg will earn a base salary of $863,396, 25th-best on the team and 26th among starting centers in the league. He has a cap hit of $1,330,187 while his dead money value is $933,582.
With the team hoping to get back into the playoffs this year, the Giants need to improve their up front protection. If they use the same unit from last season, it features a front-five that allowed 27 sacks and kept Eli Manning under constant pressure, as most of his fourteen thefts came while throwing under duress. Manning did help Big Blue tie with New England for the league lead with 36 touchdown passes and their aerial attack placed seventh in the NFL, averaging 271.1 yards per game.
The running game slid to 18th with just 100.6 yards per game and had the sixth-worst average per carry in the NFL (3.8 ypc) last season, but unless Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams start showing signs of life with the pigskin, 2016 sixth-rounder, Paul Perkins, might have to learn under fire. If they continue at their 2015 pace, running back could join the offensive line as prime draft need areas. With heavy dollars invested in Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, the team hopes they solve their edge rush issues, as the team ranked 30th in the league by recording 23.0 sacks on defense last year. A repeat performance could see "good money thrown to bad" and a front office upheaval, as the Giants will also have to address their mediocre defensive end crop in the 2017 draft.
Finding the "Glass Slipper" in the 2017 Draft
The NFL Draft Report has identified two players that we feel would perfectly fit the Giants offensive line issues. Pittsburgh’s Adam Bisnowaty could force the team to shift Flowers to right tackle, as this underrated talent has proven to be one of the best athletes in college at the demanding left tackle spot (see the player comparison chart to see how he stacked up vs. the top four offensive tackles selected in the 2016 draft). While Panthers guard Dorian Johnson captures the media’s attention, Bisnowaty is a Jordan Gross type with that long reach and great kick-slide that will keep Manning upright for 60 minutes every Sunday.
Another left tackle that caught the staff’s attention might not even play there this year, as Michigan’s Mason Cole is expected to shift inside to center for the Wolverines in 2016. Actually, it is that versatility that could see the Florida native entice the pros, as most scouts feel his in-line blocking and ability to stalk second-level defenders could make him great as a guard or center, while being a very good left tackle. Great tops very good in my books, any day. Cole in Big Blue could cause a line shift, with Justin Pugh shifting to the right side and the Wolverine taking over left guard duties. If Richburg tests the free agent market after the 2017 season, Cole can easily step in at center, and if Richburg bolts, his replacement would already be in place.
Below are very extensive profiles, scouting reports and statistical chart studies that our research department has compiled on both athletes. Follow the link below each name to read more details on these performers, before they become NFL stars;
Adam Bisnowaty profile
This Panthers left tackle might be on the cusp of joining the greats at his position from Pittsburgh’s glory years in the early 1980s. NFL teams reaped great benefits after drafting Mark May, Bill Fralic and Jimbo Covert from that era, However, since Covert went in the first round to Chicago in 1983, only six Pitt tackles have been drafted and Carolina is still regretting using their first pick in 2008 on Jeff Otah, who flamed out after three seasons and twenty-nine games. Here is The NFL Draft Report’s very extensive research on a player we feel is the best left tackle in college football. (See the full profile)
Mason Cole profile
While Michigan shifts their best offensive lineman to center for the 2016 season, Mason Cole could again be on the move next season. If he decides to enter the 2017 draft (as expected), he will not only draw attention from center-needy teams, (See the full profile)
-- Article reprinted with permission from The NFL Draft Report