It is widely speculated that New York will select an offensive tackle with the fourth overall pick. They might even be in a position to get the tackle they prefer if they happen to trade down to the sixth spot or something along those lines. This sets up well for the Giants.
There are four premium offensive tackle prospects in this draft: Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton from Louisville. It should be noted that not only is this an exceptional draft for this position at the top of the draft, but there is also considerable talent that should be available on the second day. If the Giants were to pass on a tackle in favor of someone like Isaiah Simmons, they still should be able to secure tackle help in the second round.
Of these four premier tackle prospects, who should the Giants value most? There are several factors at play before we examine the players one by one. First off, we know the Giants-and this comes from the top-value size and physicality at every position as much as any team in the NFL. We also know that this line currently has two rugged guards in Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez. Nate Solder hasn’t worked out as planned, but the right tackle position is still currently weaker than the left side nonetheless. Also, New York has hired Joe Judge from the Patriots and Jason Garrett from the Cowboys. Both of those offenses have put a premium on size, power, and nastiness upfront over finesse. There is no reason to think the Giants won’t be doing the same. If constructed properly, it isn’t difficult to imagine Saquon Barkley having Ezekiel Elliott-like dominance on the ground as Daniel Jones matures. Let’s break these four intriguing prospects down.
Wirfs is a remarkable athlete and demonstrated that in spades at the Combine. But to best understand what type of athlete is, we have to examine his background. Wirfs was both an outstanding wrestler as well as excelling in track and field as a shot putter and discus thrower. As a rule of thumb, wrestlers are very tough, use great leverage and fight tooth and nail to win a one on one matchup. As for shot putters and discus throwers, they build up momentum and then unleash all their power at the exact right time for the best results. That combination describes Wirfs almost perfectly. Unlike some great tackles that had basketball backgrounds and do their best work mirroring pass rushers and staying between their opponent and the quarterback (think about playing defense in basketball), Wirfs has a much different background. Obviously, Wirfs can run and is also very fluid in space with great change of direction. Because he does his best work in tight quarters (like a wrestler) and doesn’t have ideal tackle length, Wirfs projects as a truly elite guard. But for the Giants’ sake, that would be a fallback plan and in reality, New York isn’t in the market for a guard. That’s not at all to say that Wirfs still can’t be an excellent offensive tackle and he has aligned at right tackle for the majority of his snaps this past year. He certainly can excel outside and the biggest reason is his rare balance. Wirfs recovers very quickly, almost always staying in balance and keeping his power base and feet under him. He has a massive powerful lower body that almost looks more like Barkley’s than what you mostly find from offensive tackles. He would fit in very well.
Thomas as the longest arms of these four, big hands and a nearly ideal offensive tackle body type. He has lined up at both right and left tackle at Georgia, has started 41 games in the SEC and is widely regarded as a team leader. Thomas was highly successful against great competition for quite a long time and that counts for an awful lot. His recognition skills are quite impressive and Thomas as excellent eyes for the position, something too many talent evaluators overlook. He has light feet, more than enough power and is a good, experienced technician. Thomas also has quick-swiveling hips for such a big man, but his balance isn’t ideal and he is a little clunky is his pass sets. That being said, Thomas has very good overall power which he routinely displays in the run game and with his heavy punch in protection. Thomas is at this best coming forward and looking to demolish his opponent, which often happens.
Wills has a heavy basketball background and amazingly, appeared in 11 games at right tackle during his true freshman year at Alabama, a feat few can say they accomplished. He has been a rock of stability and excellence at right tackle (remember that Alabama’s quarterback was left-handed) ever since. Wills isn’t as tall as some might prefer for tackle, but he has a very balanced and well-proportioned frame and a wingspan of a much taller man. His balance is exceptional, as his Wills’ flat out power at the point of attack. He gets on his opponent instantaneously and ends the conflict quickly in the run game. Wills is aggressive, but rarely out of control. In protection, he has improved incrementally every year and while he has great experience, Wills is also the youngest of these four great tackle prospects. Many have glowed about what Wirfs and Becton did at the Combine, but in most years, it would have been Wills’ numbers that stood out above all others. Wills is very agile for a big man with rare explosiveness. That’s a dangerous combination.
Becton, obviously, takes the cake of this group for pure size and power. He looks like a Giant. Becton turned a lot of heads at the Combine by running a 5.10 40-yard dash at 364 pounds. That was a remarkable feat. To go along with Becton’s mass, he also has very long arms and big powerful hands. And when Becton gets those hands on his opponent, the
battle is almost always won. And yes, Becton does run extremely well in a straight line and is a nightmare for defenders when he is bearing down on them. But he isn’t as light-footed or nimble as some of the other tackles he is competing here against and that shows up in pass protection. Becton has the makeup of a traditional right tackle but aligned on the left side for every one of his snaps in 2019. Becton relishes in burying his opponent and that is very desirable, but there are plenty of instances when he is overly aggressive and gets over his skies, thus becoming too top-heavy. As a pass blocker, Becton is nearly impossible to run through and the path around him is longer than against nearly every other tackle in the league. Still, he isn’t yet a high-end pass protector and you don’t get to evaluate him taking many traditional pass sets last year. That might take a little time to develop, but you can sure see why the Giant might value Becton over these other three.
So, who should it be?
In conclusion, if it does play out that New York gets their pick of the litter of these four great offensive tackle prospects, the one at the top of their list should be Wills. He is the definition of a plug and play right tackle and while there are other of these top tackles that are better in some areas, none are the total package or overall fit that Wills is for the Giants. Wirfs would be a close second and Becton the third choice.