The New York Giants haven’t had the most effective tackle play in recent memory. 2020 fourth overall selection Andrew Thomas showed promise down the stretch of his rookie season, but he struggled in the first half of the year; according to Pro Football Focus, Thomas surrendered 10 sacks, 6 on true pass sets, and 57 total pressures which was second-most to the Jacksonville Jaguars Jawaan Taylor’s 58.
Struggles for the Giants at left tackle precede Thomas. Nate Solder was signed to a record-setting tackle contract in 2018, a four-year, $62 million contract with $34.8 of it guaranteed. Solder was adequate in 2018, giving up 7 sacks and 33 pressures, but was a mess for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones in 2019. Solder led the league in pressures allowed with 56 and he gave up 11 sacks - 9 of them being on true pass sets.
The impetus to the Solder contract was a disastrous 2017 combination at tackle that consisted of former 2015 top 10 pick Ereck Flowers on the left side, and 2015 seventh-round selection Bobby Hart on the right. Outside of the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals tackle combination, there were no other teams that gave up more pressure than the pairing of Flowers and Hart.
This examination into the allocation of assets to the tackle position was prompted by a tweet from Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus.
The data analyzes the percent of draft capital devoted to specific positions by NFL teams from the year 2011-2020. By looking at the horizontal, X, axis we can see the positions and the vertical, Y, axis we see the teams in alphabetical order. Find the intersection of the tackles and the New York Giants and we’ll see that it is Big Blue who have allocated the highest percentage of their draft picks to the tackle position with a 12.8 percent. This may be the most in the NFL during that time span, but it’s third on the Giants behind the CB position at 13.5 percent and the interior defensive line spot at 12.9 percent.
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and look at the 10 tackles selected by the two general managers
- 2011: Round 4, Pick 117 - James Brewer, Indiana
- 2012: Round 4, Pick 131 - Brandon Mosley, Auburn
- 2012: Round 6, Pick 201 - Matt McCants, Alabama-Birmingham
- 2013: Round 1, Pick 19 - Justin Pugh, Syracuse
- 2015: Round 1, Pick 9 - Ereck Flowers, Miami
- 2015: Round 7, Pick 226 - Bobby Hart, Florida State
- 2017: Round 6, Pick 200 - Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh
- 2019: Round 7, Pick 232 - George Asafo-Adjei, Kentucky
- 2020: Round 1, Pick 4 - Andrew Thomas, Georgia
- 2020: Round 3, Pick 99 - Matt Peart, UCONN
Brewer was a fourth-round selection and his impact with the team was minimal throughout his entire rookie contract, as were all the tackles up until the selection of Justin Pugh. The Syracuse product was a bit over drafted, but he was a respectable player, who was better at guard than tackle. Flowers was a reach and a failure of a draft pick by the Giants; Hart was a seventh-round pick who started games - and it wasn’t because of his skill-set. Bisnowaty had little impact in the NFL. Most of these picks are late-round fliers who failed to make a significant impact, albeit Hart and Brewer ended up starting multiple games, which was not desirable.
Gettleman didn’t invest any of his few 2018 draft picks into the tackle position, and only a seventh round selection at tackle in 2019 - but he realized the issue and double-downed in 2020. Gettleman went with Thomas at 4 and Peart at 99; now the Giants are possibly in a position to have two long-term fixtures on this line. That is, of course, if Peart can develop and seize the right tackle position in 2021, and also if Thomas continues to refine his craft and ascend his trajectory like we saw towards the end of 2020.
The issues with the Giants offensive line throughout the last decade haven’t necessarily been due to draft capital investment, but the value of the investment and the product (players) that the team invested in. Ruling out the two 2020 draft selections, only Pugh was an effective player, and he moved to guard.
Flowers was a big-bodied, strong tackle with long arms, but his sets were horrendous in college and even at the combine his footwork was visibly an issue. Most of these other selections weren’t Day 2 picks, but late-round players who had deficiencies. Reese selected William Beatty out of UCONN in 2009 at pick 60 (second round). Beatty happened to be a very effective player for the Giants and he was acquired at a spot in the draft where talent is more ubiquitous.
Two drafts earlier, Reese’s first draft, and not-arguably by far his best draft as the general manager of the Giants, he selected Adam Koets with pick 189 (sixth round) out of Oregon State. Koets was a depth option who didn’t have the impact that the rest of his draft class provided for the Giants. The rest of that draft happened to all have a big impact somewhere along the way to the Giants Super Bowl XLII victory.
Sadly, Brewer, Mosley, McCants, Hart, Bisnowaty, and Asafo-Adjei, 60 percent of the tackles drafted in the 10-year-period, were in the later rounds and didn’t work out. That wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the Pugh and Flowers draft selection yielded effective long-term starting tackles - neither did. Hopefully for Gettleman, both Thomas and Peart develop in a more productive way than the 2013 and 2015 first round selections of Pugh and Flowers.
Quarterback Daniel Jones is seemingly in a “make it or break it” year. He gets Kenny Golladay, a healthy Saquon Barkley, a tight end that can catch in Kyle Rudolph, but his success will also still be contingent on the offensive line allowing Jones to operate. Thomas and Peart are top-100 picks entering their second year, with Nate Solder as the swing. The tackles are also much more stable than the guards; Shane Lemieux needs to become more consistent in pass protection and Will Hernandez has not lived up to the 34th pick in the draft. Nick Gates made an impressive transition to center last year, and I hope that his development continues to ascend.
Head coach Joe Judge has stressed the importance of finding linemen who are versatile and can play multiple positions. The unproven nature along the line makes me feel more comfortable with tackles that have inside translatability; guys like Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater and USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker. These are the types of situations where drafting a tackle who may ultimately kick inside are warranted because there’s already possibly a realistic answer on the offensive line at tackle. I’m all for creating honest competition and allowing the cream to rise to the top.