In exactly one month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce who is the Giants' 2016 first-round pick. Whoever that pick is, he’ll come into a franchise that is looking to snap a four-year streak of missing the playoffs and that will need him to step up right away and make a contribution.
Twitter has exploded with potential draft scenarios, and figuring out the NFL draft is more frustrating than trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube—and I had more patience for solving a Rubik’s Cube when I was a kid than I do in trying to figure out the countless twists and turns the NFL draft might take.
However, half of the fun is breaking things down, applying logic and doing research, which leads me to this week’s topic. In this series, I’ll present each position that could be the pick at No. 10. I’ll look at the pros and cons of the position and narrow down the field to what the pick will be.
Let’s kick things off with offensive tackle.
Why It Should Be an Offensive Tackle
It took the Giants some time to realize this, but since 2013, they have invested draft picks in the guys up front, perhaps seeing the success that the Dallas Cowboys had in applying the same approach.
Justin Pugh and Ereck Flowers are both first-round picks. Weston Richburg and Bobby Hart, the latter of whom is projected to be the starting right guard this year, are second- and seventh-round picks, respectively.
So why not just finish off the job and plug another draft pick in at right tackle?
Doing so gives the Giants a chance at something that they haven’t had since the days when David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie served as quarterback Eli Manning’s security detail from 2007-2010: a chance for continuity.
The oldest of the current group is Pugh, who is only 25 years old. Pugh and Richburg, 24, are already taking charge of the unit as leaders, with Flowers, just 21 years old, also having shown signs of finding his leadership voice.
Another high-round pick, even if it’s not the No. 10 selection, would be the cherry on top for a unit that otherwise has a solid foundation.
There is one final point in favor of an offensive tackle at No. 10 over an offensive skill player or a defensive player.
During his media session with reporters at the NFC Head Coaches Breakfast, head coach Ben McAdoo said the objective is to keep the offense on the field as long as possible, thus taking some of the stress off of the defense, per the team's official website.
Give the running backs holes, and the running game has a chance to succeed. Give the quarterback time to go through his reads and throw the ball, and the passing game will soar.
That all starts up front in the trenches with big, powerful, strong and nasty individuals who show relentlessness in their quests to win one-on-one battles.
Without a solid and complete offensive line, it’s not going to be easy for the offense to succeed, which is a strong case for the Giants to select a tackle at No. 10.
Why It Won’t Be an Offensive Tackle
Whether fans want to hear this or not, the Giants have a fallback solution already on the roster: Marshall Newhouse.
Now I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way that Newhouse should be anywhere near the field—let alone as a starter in 2016.
It’s hard to disagree. Per NFL Game Statistics and Information System, Newhouse was the second-most penalized Giant last year behind Flowers (10).
In Newhouse’s case, five of his eight penalties were for offensive holding (three of which resulted in a stalled scoring drive).
In viewing those penalties, he resorted to holding on at least three of them because his opponent beat him.
So why is Newhouse even in the discussion? Because he knows the offensive system and, as McAdoo said during last week’s NFC Coaches Breakfast session with reporters, is versatile, per Michael Eisen of the team's official website:
Marshall Newhouse was a guy that we brought in for depth reasons. He stepped up when he had his opportunity and he played well for us. We’re glad to have Marshall back. He’s a smart guy who’s played a lot of football and he has some flexibility there.
He’s just not a right tackle, he can play on the left side and he can play inside as well. At one point in time in Green Bay he had the ball in his hand a little bit just learning to snap, so he does have some flexibility for a veteran, which is nice to have.
If all else fails, Newhouse projects to be the starting right tackle for 2016. However, the Giants are going to continue to leave no stone unturned for a more long-term solution to such a key position.
There is one other variable: Would the Giants consider bringing Will Beatty back on a lower contract?
That won't happen for a couple of reasons.
First, as Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reported, the Giants never discussed a pay cut with Beatty (who the team waived for a failed physical) or Geoff Schwartz.
If a team doesn’t approach a high-priced veteran about a pay cut and instead just shows him the door, that’s usually a good sign that the two sides have zero interest in reuniting.
The other problem with Beatty was his inconsistency. In 2012, his contract year, he was among the top left tackles in the league.
In the first year of his new contract, he allowed 13 sacks and 39 quarterback hurries, both career highs, per Pro Football Focus, and a performance that left some wondering if Beatty’s solid 2012 season was an exception rather than a rule.
In 2014, what would be his final season for the Giants, the sacks and pressures dropped, but Beatty finished that season as the most penalized Giant, according to NFL Game Statistics and Information System.
That year, eight of Beatty’s nine penalties were for offensive holding, with three of those penalties coming in the Week 16 game against the then-St. Louis Rams.
When a trend such as that emerges, that’s usually a sign of a flaw in an offensive lineman’s technique. Not to mention that those holding penalties turn manageable yardage into long-yardage situations, making it easier to tee off on the quarterback.
There is also one other thing to keep an eye on: the Denver Broncos and offensive tackle Ryan Clady, who is coming off a torn ACL that cost him last season.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, with Denver having adding free agent Russell Okung, the belief is that Clady will be put on the market.
Would the Giants trade for a 29-year-old, four-time Pro Bowl left tackle who is coming off a season-ending ACL injury?
Here’s the problem with the whole concept. First, if the Giants want to finally snap their streak of being the defending NFL injury kings, they need to stop bringing in guys who are coming off significant season-ending injuries the year before.
The other problem is Clady’s contract. Per Over the Cap, Clady is due to count for $10.1 million against the 2016 salary cap, which includes a $9.5 million base salary (the base salary being the only portion of his cap figure that a team trading for Clady would be hit with).
Simply put, there is little to no chance of a team agreeing to take a player coming off injury with a $9.5 million base salary this year and a $10 million base next year.
If the Broncos were to work out such a deal to ship Clady elsewhere, the veteran offensive tackle would have to agree to a lower base salary, something he might not be willing to do.
So if you’re the Giants, why not wait until Denver cuts Clady so you don’t have to potentially give up a draft pick?
Okung visited with the Giants but left the building without signing. Penn never made it to New York before re-signing with the Raiders.
Why is this a problem? Because if general manager Jerry Reese reiterated to Okung that Flowers is the left tackle, that most likely convinced Okung to move on.
If, however, the Giants traded for Clady, he would have no choice but to do as the coaches asked, which would mean a likely move to right tackle.
And the Pick Is…
Although I’ve gone through scenarios outlining reasons for and against taking an offensive tackle in the first round, the Giants will probably wait until Day 2 to address this position and spend the No. 10 pick on another position.
With that said, let’s now look at potential picks at No. 10 just in case the Giants indeed have their sights set on completing their offensive line with draft picks.
According to NFL Draft Scout, there are four tackles projected to go in the first round: Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss, Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame, Jack Conklin of Michigan State and Taylor Decker of Ohio State.
In his most recent mock draft on March 24, ESPN.com’s Todd McShay has two offensive tackles, Tunsil (to Tennessee at No. 1) and Stanley (to Philadelphia at No. 6), off the board by the time the Giants go on the clock.
Conklin, 6’6”, 308 pounds, appears to be the best option if Tunsil and Stanley are gone. McShay noted that Conklin “is a plug-and-play starter on either the left or right side of the line, with the long arms (35 inches) and agility to protect the quarterback.”
According to his ESPN scouting report, there is a lot to like about Conklin, starting with his ability to handle speed off the edge.
This is key, especially now that defensive coordinators are moving around their defensive ends more and more to get better matchups.
Like any rookie, Conklin has some rough patches he’ll need to iron out, but coaching will help fix that, and the tools are there. ESPN’s scouting report rated him as exceptional in both run blocking, which is what you like to see in a potential right tackle, and toughness.
Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout also praised Conklin, who he concluded has been ready for the NFL from Day 1, for always being “in a ready position and rarely seems surprised, which compensates for his lack of elite quickness in pass protection.”
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.
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