As we meander through position-by-position reviews for the New York Giants heading into Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday night, we now arrive at one of the hot-button spots on the roster. We have come to the offensive line.
Players lost: Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Bobby Hart, D. J. Fluker
Players added: Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh
Current roster: C Brett Jones, G Jon Halapio, G, John Jerry, G Kristjan Sokoli, G Ethan Cooper, G Damien Mama, G Patrick Omameh, G John Greco, OT Nick Becton, OT Laurence Gibson, OT Nate Solder, OT Adam Bisnowaty, OT Ereck Flowers, OT Chad Wheeler
Whether the Giants add any starting-caliber pieces in the draft or not, this will not be your 2017 offensive line. Or your 2016 line. Ereck Flowers will not be at left tackle. Veteran Nate Solder, a free-agent signee, will be. Flowers will be competing with Chad Wheeler, Adam Bisnowaty and whoever else comes along for the right tackle job. Justin Pugh is gone and Patrick Omameh is penciled in at left guard. Weston Richburg is gone, replaced at center by Brett Jones. D.J. Fluker is gone, and one of the John’s — Jerry/Greco/Halapio — would be the starting right guard if the Giants had a game to play today.
The need is ... umm ... HIGH.
For the first time in a long time we aren’t talking about a need at left tackle — Solder’s got that. Everywhere else — center, guard, right tackle — more talent, please!
Center — The Giants think Brett Jones can handle the job. He did well last season when Richburg was hurt. This, though, will be the first time he is penciled in as a starter. Notice in the roster above that Jones is the only center listed. Halapio and Greco “can” play there, but likely only in emergencies. It won’t be a shock to me at all if the Giants select an interior player who’s primary spot is center at some point in the draft.
Billy Price and James Daniels are considered the first two centers likely to come off the board. A player I like for the Giants is Frank Ragnow of Arkansas [profile], partially because he also has the size to play some guard if needed. Later prospects could include Mason Cole of Michigan, Scott Quessenberry of UCLA and Will Clapp of LSU.
Guard — Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame is overwhelmingly considered the best offensive lineman in the draft, perhaps the best guard prospect in decades. Would GM Dave Gettleman select a guard at No. 2, or trade down a few spots and take one?
“Is it ever too early to take a great player?,” Gettleman asked rhetorically during his pre-draft press conference last week. “You know my philosophy – big men allow you to compete and you have to build your lines. I’m going to build this team from the inside out. You look at the teams that go deep in the playoffs, you turn around and you take a look at how (Eagles General Manager) Howie (Roseman) has built Philly – both fronts, let’s go. Because again, those three truths don’t change, you’ve got to run the ball, you’ve got to defend the run and rush the passer. So, everyone else wants to talk about skill guys and I want to talk about hog mollies.”
Will Hernandez of UTEP and Isaiah Wynn of Georgia are likely to be the next guards off the board. Would either fall to the Giants at No. 34 in Round 2? After them, players like Austin Corbett of Nevada [profile], who could be the draft’s biggest offensive line sleeper, and Braden Smith of Auburn [profile] could be targets.
Tackle — Unless the Giants trade down into the middle to late parts of the first round, they are unlikely to have a chance to select the players commonly considered the top tackles in the class — Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame, Connor Williams of Texas, perhaps even Kolton Miller of UCLA [profile].
Tyrell Crosby of Oregon [profile | interview] is a name to watch. Martinas Rankin of Mississippi State [profile], Orlando Brown of Oklahoma, Brian O’Neill of Pitt are probably Day 2 selections. Other names to know are Chukwuma Okorafor of Western Michigan, Jamarco Jones of Ohio State, Alex Cappa of Humboldt State and Brandon Parker of North Carolina AT&T [profile].