The New York Giants wasted little time in the 2021 offseason surrounding third-year quarterback Daniel Jones with weapons to maximize the previous year’s 31st-ranked offense (in terms of yards and scoring). The signings of Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Kyle Rudolph provide more reliable options than the giants had in 2020, with Ross bringing an explosive element to the squad. the addition of Devontae Booker gives the Giants a solid backup to Saquon Barkley.
Many fans of the Giants are pleased, as they should be, are are hopeful these additions will translate to wins on the gridiron. The concerns with the Giants offense have now pivoted to the offensive line (like that wasn’t an issue before?). With the subtraction of the Giants’ best offensive lineman, Kevin Zeitler, the offensive guard position remains a question mark.
Shane Lemieux, a fifth-round rookie out of Oregon last season, was a solid run blocker for the Giants while was benched after he returned from his bout with with COVID-19. It is unknown exactly if that’s what led to his benching.
Nevertheless, the two do not inspire much hope to the interior offensive line, and neither does the addition of veteran guard Zach Fulton. In Daniel Jones young career, he’s been pressured a total of 429 times, according to PFF’s DPR ranking. An argument can be made that Jones holds onto the football a bit too long at times, but anyone who watches a Giants’ game can see that far too much pressure gets into the backfield once the quarterback hits his back foot on three-step drops. This has to change.
The Giants may look at EDGE in the first round, there’s a possibility that they stay put at No. 11 and select their highest ranked EDGE; whether that’s Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Miami’s Jaelan Phillips, or Michigan’s Kwity Paye. New York could also go the best player available route and go after one of the Alabama receivers, Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. If the Giants go in that direction, and forgo a chance at Oregon’s Penei Sewell or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, then the team could look to invest in their interior offensive line on Day 2 of the 2021 NfL Draft. Here are five names that may make sense.
Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
The star player was a part of the 2018 Joe Moore winning unit, and his shine may have been the brightest. Humphrey has taken every collegiate snap at the center position which makes a transition to guard a bit more of a projection; however, Humphrey is smart, has a wrestling background (understands leverage and knows how to manipulate bodies), and he is a two-time captain.
Humphrey leverages his hand well to fit and has fluid hips to open and close on twists while showing good foot speed to mirror, when necessary, in pass protection. Also showed impressive athletic testing during his pro day:
Humphrey’s lower body explosiveness and agility shows a player who can kick and pull when asked, which would be essential for what the Giants want to do with their guards.
Ideally, Nick Gates, the Giants’ 2020 first-time center, would remain at the position and Humphrey would transition to guard, but having the versatility doesn’t hurt, right? Gates has played guard at a solid level in the past for the Giants in 2019; if Humphrey is the better fit there, I would be open to shifting Gates to one of the guard positions which would allow Lemieux and Hernandez to battle it out for the remaining starting spot. Adding a player like Humphrey will make the offensive line unit much better. Whether that’s at the guard or the center position can be determined in training camp.
Landon Dickerson, Alabama
If this player had a clean bill of health we wouldn’t be talking about him on Day 2. His 2020 film was insane before he tore his left ACL in the SEC Championship Game against the Florida Gators. He’s gigantic for a guard at 6-foot-6, 326 pounds, but he uses his 10 ⅜” hands very well, which is one reason why his grip strength and hand pop are so effective.
Dickerson has played at every position along the Crimson Tide’s offensive line, but was mostly utilized at center. I’m not as worried about his transition to guard in the NFL. Dickerson uses those dynamic hands combined with excellent footwork, power, and has very good athletic ability for a man of his size.
The concern with Dickerson isn’t just the torn ACL from December. He has a pretty extensive injury history with his lower body. Dickerson had significant ankle injuries in 2017 and 2018, with the former requiring surgery. He also had tore his right ACL when he was at Florida State back in 2016. Only his 2019 season was finished without serious injury. I understand the red flags and they have to be taken seriously into the evaluation, but this player has really good tape, is beloved by his teammates, and has true leadership qualities. He sounds like a Joe Judge type of player.
Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
Banks is a 6-5, 325-pound, guard who has experience playing both tackle positions in college. His massive size is evident on the interior parts of the offensive line. His wide body and ability to generate power from his lower half would make him excellent as a play side guard who can down block and just obliterate defenders to create inside rushing lanes.
Banks is powerful at the point of attack and actually does a solid job lowering his high center of gravity to mitigate balance issues. His technique doesn’t always look pretty on ACE and DEUCE block climbs, but his length and broad stature gave defender’s issues - running around a man of his size isn’t either. His anchor in pass protection is also very adept; his hands aren’t as crisp or as technical as some of these other players, but he would be a welcomed addition in the third round, if available.
Ben Cleveland, Georgia
Yeah, Banks is big, but Cleveland is gigantic! The 6-6, 343-pound, Cleveland is a tough, mean, strong, and deceptively athletic human being.
Cleveland ran a 5.05 40-yard-dash which is in the 92nd percentile for the guard position while weighing in the 95th percentile - those numbers do not typically correlate. He can bend, pull, and locate well in space for a man of his size and stature. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman loves hog mollies and Cleveland really fits that bill.
I do believe Cleveland gets caught trying to utilize the hit stick at times and overpower his assignment rather than just latching on and playing through the whistle. His strength and power are impressive traits, but I would like to see more than just a big hit on a consistent basis. He is going to pose problems for interior defensive linemen who attempt to rush the half man because his half man is about 75 percent of a normal man. The fact that he has enough athletic ability to operate as a back side puller on the Giants counter plays, at his size, makes him a solid target on day two for New York.
Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
I love the temperament and attitude that Davis brings to the offensive line. He’s a good run blocker that can execute many different assignments and ran a lot of stretch/outside zone at Ohio State. Has the foot speed, control in space, and athletic ability to kick out and locate to pull in power and gap systems.
He’s also sound in pass protection and brings a mean finishing ability to the table. There’s upside with a player like Wyatt Davis, but I do wish he was a bit more technically sound in both run blocking and pass protection. Both his eyes and feet could improve which would unlock a more complete player.
Does a very good job using his hands with quality grip strength, imposing his rough nature and controlling defensive lineman - has a strong edge and doesn’t lose half-man relationships often. Gets his hands inside and controls with good torque and readjustment ability. Can punch and not bring his feet at the line of scrimmage as well which can pose a problem; is typically balanced but these inconsistencies do show up. Had mental lapses on the line of scrimmage in 2020 that resulted in sacks.
With the right coaching, Pat Flaherty and Rob Sale, Davis could be a very good guard at the next level. He was very effective in college, especially in 2019, but he’s certainly worth a day two pick and I won’t complain if the team happens to be the Giants.
Writer’s note: I also love Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz for the Giants in the third round.