2011 NFL Draft: Giants May Tackle the Offensive Line with These 5 Prospects
The New York Giants offensive line has been a steady force during the majority of Tom Coughlin's time in New York, but 2010 was a year where it looked like it needed to be rebuilt and restructured. As a result, it is likely that there could be some major changes in store for the line this upcoming season.
David Diehl will possibly be moved from left tackle back to guard, which he is better suited for, sending Rich Seubert to the bench. In that case, third-year player William Beatty would step into the left tackle spot.
On the other side of the line, Kareem McKenzie will be turning 32 this year and has suffered through few nagging injuries during his time in New York. Furthermore, center Shaun O'Hara is coming off injuries to his foot and ankle. With O'Hara reaching the ripe old age of 33, New York needs to consider drafting his heir apparent.
With only right guard Chris Snee locked into the starting lineup for the foreseeable future, the Giants have a lot of decisions to make. Protecting Eli Manning must be the Giants' first priority and these next 10 players could help the team do that in the near future.
1. Anthony Castonzo: Castonzo seems almost made to be a Giant and his Boston College roots will only help his cause if Tom Coughlin reverts to his dedication of seeking Golden Eagle players from his coaching alma mater. Castonzo may not be a future Hall of Famer, but he looks the part of a 10-year starter in the league. The word solid has been used to describe New Yorks offensive line on more than one occasion, and Castonzo would fit that bill.
Coming from BC, he has proven he is a heady player, relying on his intelligence and technique to become an above-average pass protector. He has displayed good body control and does a superior job keeping his defenders in front of him the majority of the time. The only knock on Castonzo is his problems with speedy defensive ends, which blew by him on a few occasions. If Castonzo can work on his footwork to counter their speed he could settle in on either side of New York's line with Beatty becoming the bookend on the other side.
2. Nate Solder: Solder has all of the physical attributes one would want from a starting left tackle. His time playing tight-end at Colorado clearly attributed to that, but no one can teach him how to be 6'8" and 320 pounds. Despite his height, he is able to get good leverage on defenders and has excelled in run blocking.
He is constantly aware of what angles defenders are coming from, and his toughness cannot be questioned. His pass-blocking skills, however, leave something to be desired, particularly against 3-4 outside linebackers who have superior speed and take advantage of Solder's height by not allowing him to gain leverage. However, if Solder is available by some chance in the second round, the Giants may be running to the podium.
3. Ben Ijalana: Ijalana is gaining serious steam as a possible early second-rounder and may be gone by the time the Giants select. But if he is available in the second round he may just be headed to New York. The Giants value versatility and Ijalana provides that, with his ability to play both guard and offensive tackle. His strength and athleticism allows to dominate at the point of attack and he has the type of mean streak coaches like from offensive lineman.
His toughness will never be questioned as he has played through his share of injuries during his time at Villanova. However, the fact that he went to Villanova is a concern, as he never faced NFL talent. Furthermore, his problems versus speed rushers will only contribute to the likelihood that he will be relegated to guard in the pros. If he works into modeling himself after Pittsburgh Steeler Willie Colon, he might be able to turn a few heads and become a starter at right tackle in the near future.
4. Stephen Wisniewski: A player I'm sure most Giants fans would love to have, Wisniewski would be the clear heir apparent to O'Hara and be starting by possibly next year. His football instincts are superb, and like Ijalana he offers the versatility of playing multiple positions, those being center and guard. His technique would quickly gain the admiration of Tom Coughlin and his ability to gain leverage would yield the same from his teammates. His strength leaves something to be desired as stronger defensive tackles sometimes get the better of him. If he can improve his strength, some team will be thankful they drafted him to be their future center.
5. Brandon Fusco: How can anyone not like a player from a college called Slippery Rock. I have to admit I had no idea who Fusco was before the combine, but once I did I made sure to watch some video on him. His tenacity stood out during the entire game and he finished off blocks with some nastiness attached. He did look somewhat overwhelmed by quicker defensive tackles and needs to work on his lateral footwork. If he can learn how to gain better leverage and work on his lateral movements he could be a gem for a team two or three years down the line.
It shouldn't be a shock to any of the Giants faithful if they decide to draft more than one offensive lineman in the first two days of the draft. If they believe that Shawn Andrews, Shaun O'Hara, and Kareem McKenzie can stay effective for the next two years they may choose to do otherwise, but that is highly unlikely. With New York relatively young at most of their other positions, they have the opportunity to continue drafting players for the future of their offensive line, while staying competitive in the present.
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