NFC East: New York Giants

The New York Giants made six picks in this year's draft. They came away with a tackle, two safeties, a defensive end, a wide receiver and a guard. That means that certain positions on their depth chart -- quarterback, running back, linebacker, tight end -- remain untouched from a depth-chart perspective. But let's take a look at the positions that could be affected by what the Giants did this weekend. The (*) denotes a 2015 draft pick.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Projected starters: LT Will Beatty, LG Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, RG Geoff Schwartz, RT Ereck Flowers*

Reserves: OT Marshall Newhouse, G John Jerry, C Brett Jones, G/C Dallas Reynolds, G Adam Gettis, G Bobby Hart*, G Brandon Mosley, G Eric Herman

I don't know for sure which guard spots Pugh and Schwartz will occupy in camp, and this obviously assumes that the rookie first-round pick, Flowers, is ready to start right away (which obviously can't be assumed, since he's a rookie). It also assumes a return to full health by Schwartz, a smooth transition for Richburg from guard back to his college position of center and a smooth transition by Pugh from right tackle to guard. A lot of assumptions, but the overall talent level on the line looks the best it has in years.

SAFETY

Projected starters: SS Landon Collins*, FS Mykkele Thompson*?

Reserves: Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Josh Gordy, Chykie Brown, Bennett Jackson

Obviously, the Giants moved up in the second round to take Collins figuring he'd help right away. And they admit his more natural position is down in the box. That leaves free safety a question mark, as Berhe seems better suited in the box as well. Thompson was their weird reach pick in the fifth round, so projecting him as a starter is difficult. But they sure made it sound on Saturday night as though they viewed him as a complement to Collins and someone who could play the free safety spot. None of the other candidates on their roster looks like a sure thing to nail down the job. Expect a training-camp battle for that one.

CORNERBACK

Projected starters: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara

Nickel candidates: Trumaine McBride, Mykkele Thompson*, Jayron Hosley

Reserves: Mike Harris, Chandler Fenner, Chykie Brown, Bennett Jackson

We looked here just to highlight that nickel spot, where McBride is likely to get the first crack assuming a return to health, but where Thompson also has some experience and could make an impact if he looks good in camp. That's an important spot these days in the NFL -- basically a starting position considering how often teams are in nickel defenses -- and the Giants want to make sure they have people who can play it.

DEFENSIVE END

Projected starters: Jason Pierre-Paul, Damontre Moore

Reserves: Robert Ayers, George Selvie, Oawamagbe Odighizuwa*, Kerry Wynn, Jordan Stanton

The coaching staff hopes that Moore (who's still five months younger than this year's third-round pick, Odighizuwa!) can finally show the maturity, consistency and understanding of his responsibility that he's been unable to show in practice or games his first two seasons. They'd love for him to emerge as a starter and rush the passer from the left defensive end spot. But they also want the player who plays that position to be able to play the run. Odighizuwa could muscle his way into the rotation as a guy who's strong against the run (he has a bigger frame than Moore does) and who can move inside on passing downs when they load up on pass rushers.

WIDE RECEIVER

Projected starters: Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz (slot)

Reserves: Dwayne Harris, Kevin Ogletree, Preston Parker, Corey Washington, Marcus Harris, Geremy Davis*, Julian Talley

Obviously, not everyone makes the team here. The three starters (assuming a return to health by Cruz), along with Dwayne Harris, are sure things. And you have to think the sixth-round pick, Davis, makes the team as well. That's five right there, and it'll be interesting to see who emerges from camp with a spot on the roster out of this group.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A wrap-up of the New York Giants' draft:

Best move: The trade up to the top of the second round to select Alabama safety Landon Collins. It cost the Giants their fourth-round pick and one of their seventh-round picks to move up seven spots. Based on the way things were going Saturday, they weren't likely to find any obvious difference-makers in the fourth or the seventh. So making a big move to go up and get one of the better and more experienced all-around players in the draft was a good, aggressive decision. The Giants obviously had a major need at safety, which makes the move look even better. But it's clear they had a very high grade on this guy, and after he went undrafted in the first round, they were one of several teams trying to make a move to get him Friday night. Good for them for pulling it off.

[+] EnlargeLandon Collins
David J. Griffin/Icon SportswireThe Giants aggressively moved up to draft Alabama safety Landon Collins.

Riskiest move: I don't think Ereck Flowers is a bad pick at No. 9 overall, but I'll put him in the "riskiest" category because (a) the later picks really aren't, by definition, risks; and (b) the ultimate verdict on this pick rests on Flowers' ability to develop into a top-end left tackle in the NFL. By the Giants' own admission, Flowers is not yet at that point, and he'll need some work on his technique in pass protection before he is. His strength, size and athleticism all bode well, as does his clear desire to improve and excel. So this is a risk worth taking on a player about whom the Giants feel very good. But if he can't be a good left tackle for them long term, then he won't end up having been worth the No. 9 pick.

Most surprising move: Without a doubt, it was the fifth-round selection of Texas safety Mykkele Thompson, who wasn't invited to the combine and was himself surprised to be drafted at all. The Giants say they see Thompson as a free safety type, and coach Tom Coughlin specifically said they viewed him as a complement to Collins, though he wouldn't go so far as to predict they could both start as rookies. The Giants clearly like Thompson's speed, and when they met with him (he said they were the only team who had him in for a visit), they were impressed with his intelligence as well. The surprise is because it seemed as though they could have used the pick on someone else and still signed this guy as a free agent. But as vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross said, this draft "thinned out pretty quickly," so the Giants figured it didn't matter if they were reaching as long as they liked the player. "Sometimes you think, 'Maybe we can get him as a free agent,' " Ross said. "But if everybody feels strongly about him at the time, sometimes you just take him."

File it away: One of Flowers' most hyped matchups of this past college football season was the Miami-Nebraska game in which he did very well against touted Nebraska pass-rusher Randy Gregory. Because Gregory was selected in the second round by the Cowboys, the two could see each other again when the Giants open the season in Week 1 in Dallas. "We should have won that game, is what I remember about it," Flowers said Saturday. "Yeah, I'm looking forward to that."

My take: I think you have to grade this draft with the idea in mind that it wasn't going to be a transcendent one for anybody. The Giants targeted guys they liked and filled some needs, and they approached it without panic and without any false belief about their ability to find saviors. Flowers, Collins and third-round pick Owamagbe Odighizuwa all have a chance to contribute right away. And given the rest of the depth chart at safety, it sounds like Thompson will get that same kind of chance. Sixth-round receiver Geremy Davis and seventh-round offensive lineman Bobby Hart look like helpful special-teamers with potential. All around, have to give the Giants draft a thumbs up.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few quick thoughts on the New York Giants' seventh-round draft pick.

The pick: Bobby Hart, offensive tackle, Florida State

My take: Nothing wrong with taking a huge (6-foot-5, 329-pound) offensive lineman at the end of the draft. Hart obviously played at a high level of competition, blocking for Jameis Winston at Florida State. Giants general manager Jerry Reese said the team projects him as a guard at the NFL level, even though he played right tackle in college. Hart, 20, is very young and obviously has room and time to grow.

Early success: Hart played high school football on a St. Thomas Aquinas team that won a 2010 Florida state championship and finished with a No. 3 national ranking. He was 17 as a freshman at Florida State when injuries thrust him into the starting lineup.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few quick thoughts on the New York Giants' sixth-round draft pick.

The pick: Geremy Davis, WR, Connecticut

My take: This is a big (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) and strong (23 bench-press reps, tied for most his position at the combine) wide receiver who does a decent job of using his size to his advantage in traffic. He's not known for his speed or his separation or his hands, but that's why he's in the sixth round, right? When you take guys in this round, you're looking for people who have some skills and physical traits and can try to work their way up on special teams, and Davis is one of those team-captain types the Giants have been trying to scoop up in these past couple of drafts. Best-case scenario, he develops sometime down the road as a red zone target or maybe converts to tight end. Worst-case scenario, he's scary as heck on coverage units.

Senior letdown: Davis caught 71 passes for 1,085 yards and three touchdowns in a stellar 2013 season as a junior, but his production fell off during a 2014 season that was tough all around for UConn. He started 10 games as a senior and caught 44 passes for 521 yards and three touchdowns.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few quick thoughts on the New York Giants' fifth-round pick:

The pick: Mykkele Thompson, DB, Texas

My take: I was pretty surprised that this was a guy worthy of a fifth-round pick, and then when the Giants put him on a conference call, we found out that he was, too. "It was a surprise for me," Thompson said. "I don't even know how to explain it right now. After the numbers I put up this year, I thought free agency was going to be the main goal, probably." He also said the Giants were the only team that brought him in for a pre-draft visit. Obviously, if you take someone in the fifth round that no one else was interested in, a guy who was just hoping someone would take a shot on him as a free agent, that's not a good use of a pick. Obviously the Giants like this guy, and it's the third year in a row they've spent a fifth-round pick on a safety who could have been had later, so I guess that's kind of their thing. The best thing you can say about this is that it's a head-scratcher.

He can see clearly now: Thompson said his play improved early this past season when he got corrective contact lenses and was able to see things better on the field, so that's good, I guess. He's going to have to develop rapidly to be a real NFL player, as he's undersized for a safety at a little more than 6 feet tall and didn't do much in college. He had a total of two interceptions and two forced fumbles in his college career in spite of starting all 13 games as a senior and playing all four years. Have to think he's a special-teams guy and a real long shot to get into the defensive mix, this year or ever.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Just before they brought out second-round pick Landon Collins to meet the media in person for the first time, the New York Giants tweeted a photo of Collins holding up a No. 27 Giants jersey. Collins would prefer a different number, and plans to ask for No. 26 instead.

[+] EnlargeLandon Collins
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsLandon Collins says he'd prefer to wear No. 26 for the New York Giants.

That is the uniform number Collins wore at Alabama and the number of his idol, the late Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who wore it as well at the University of Miami. Collins said in February at the scouting combine that he patterned his game after Taylor's, that he remembers crying when Taylor died in 2007 at the age of 24 and that Washington was his favorite NFL team because of Taylor.

So Collins will request No. 26, which was worn for the past five years by safety and team captain Antrel Rolle, who signed this offseason with the Bears. Collins is not worried about trying to fill Rolle's shoes.

"I look at the guys who came before me at Alabama, guys like Mark Barron, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, I've always had big shoes to fill," Collins said. "So Antrel Rolle, I respect him and I definitely want to fill his, too, and just keep it going."

The Giants traded three picks -- a second-rounder, a fourth-rounder and a seventh-rounder -- to move up in the draft Friday night and select Collins with the No. 1 pick of the second round. They have a glaring need at safety with Rolle, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps all gone from last year's team, and they expect Collins to be able to play right away. He expects it as well, and says that's because of what the Alabama program and Nick Saban do to prepare their players for the NFL.

"Coach Saban, he always says he doesn't coach us as freshmen; he coaches us as juniors," Collins said. "That puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders as an 18-year-old, but I respect it. It made me the man and the person I am today, and the leader."

Ereck FlowersBrett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As New York Giants first-round pick Ereck Flowers towered over a podium and took questions here Saturday morning, his father sat quietly in the back with Ereck's two uncles. The cap on Everald Flowers' head matched his son's -- a metallic "ny" Giants logo on the front and a red outline of the New York City skyline on the underside of the brim over the words "New York" in white capital letters.

Everald checked his phone once or twice, but he was watching closely. He was there, watching, the night before, when Ereck threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Mets game at Citi Field. He was there, watching, Thursday night when the Giants called Ereck at his home in Miami to tell him they'd made him the No. 9 pick in the draft. He was there, watching, when Ereck put on 50 pounds between his junior and senior years of high school because he'd found he loved football and decided "he wants to be great."

These two do everything together, and they always have.

"He is very, very close with his dad," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Ereck Flowers on Thursday. "His dad is with him all the time. At his workout, his dad was there. I think that's a very strong relationship and I think it points to a very solid young man."

Everald Flowers is 43, which means he was 22 when Ereck was born and 28 when Ereck's mother died of cancer, leaving Everald alone with a 6-year-old boy to raise. A former football player himself who played linebacker at Division II Washburn in Kansas, Everald watched as his son kept growing and growing -- well over 6 feet by the time he hit high school and about 6-foot-4, 267 pounds when he started playing football his junior year of high school.

"He was a basketball player," Everald said of Ereck. "He was always tall. But after junior year when he started playing football, he just went to work -- training, eating and he got up to about 320 pounds his senior year. I trained him and I just said, 'Let's go.' And he went."

Ereck went on to the University of Miami, where his experience as a 17-year-old freshman football player instilled that "nasty streak" about which Coughlin and the Giants' brain trust spoke so excitedly Thursday night. Everald Flowers said Ereck's angry on-field playing style came out of those early Miami practices, in which the more seasoned players thought they could push the young guy around.

"He played for a state championship in high school, and that team had, I think, 10 D-I prospects on it? So it was very competitive," Everald said. "So every day, you had to really bring it to the field. Then he gets to Miami and he's young, only 17, and he's quiet, and sometimes people think because you're quiet they can take cheap shots. But with his background, he's a guy who's not going to back down. He plays hard."

Flowers was known at Miami to get into it with opposing players on the field. He also got some attention during this past season for an obscene gesture he made toward opposing fans during the Miami-Nebraska game. The Giants say they love the intensity. Coughlin talked of Ereck as someone who "arrives in a bad humor at the pile," and GM Jerry Reese said Flowers "doesn't take any crap from anybody."

"When you're on the field, it's a different mindset," the ostensibly quiet Ereck Flowers said. "That's just the way I play."

It helped land the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Giant in the top 10 of the NFL draft and in New Jersey, where he said the traffic is much worse than it is in Miami and where he'll live away from home (and his father) for the first time. The two will remain close, working together on Flowers' rookie contract as Ereck has decided not to use an agent. Everald said the two of them have learned enough about the CBA and the rookie contract slotting system that they're not worried about the details of the deal. Everald pointed out that Ereck "drives the same car he had in high school" and lives at home, so the offseason financial assistance agents provide before the paychecks start rolling in aren't essential.

The Flowers' only concern, both of them said, was that Ereck end up in a good spot that was the right one for his career. And they believe he has. Wherever this thing goes from here, at this point Ereck and Everald Flowers are confident they'll be able to handle it together.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We started the day saying the New York Giants had to think defense in the second and third rounds of the draft, and it appears they were listening. Or maybe they weren't listening and just already knew that. Either way, they had a very nice night Friday.

The Giants started the evening's festivities with a trade up from the eighth pick of the second round to the first, a move that cost them three picks (their second-rounder, their fourth-rounder and one of their seventh-rounders) but landed them touted Alabama safety Landon Collins. Later, they sat tight at No. 74 (the 10th pick of the third round) and selected well-regarded UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa.

If I had told Giants fans 24 hours earlier that the team would come out of Friday with a safety and a pass-rusher, I imagine they'd have been content. Because of the kinds of guys the Giants got, I think they ought to be.

Let me make my annual point, which tends to go ignored but which I continue to think is important: First-night analysis of these picks is not about how the players will perform. I don't know how they will perform. The Giants don't know, the players don't know, you don't know, and no one who's talking to you through your television set knows. None of us can predict the future. All we can do is project and make best guesses. I don't know enough to make those projections and guesses, so instead I assess what I think of the picks and what the Giants did with them.

That said, I think the players the Giants took Friday look like the kind of players a team should target in the second and third rounds of a thin draft such as this one. Collins is a Day 1 starter in the NFL, but likely as a box safety, not as a guy who can help much in coverage. Odighizuwa can help on special teams and might, due to his pass-rush ability, be able to help as a rotational defensive lineman as a rookie. Both players, due to their high character and work ethic, look like players who, with luck, health, coaching and development, can become quality NFL starters. Again, no one knows if they will, but you play the odds in this thing, and the Giants have reason to believe the odds on these guys are good.

Both are flawed. Coach Tom Coughlin admitted Friday night that Collins needs to work on his ability to read the field and play deep coverage. Marc Ross, the Giants' VP of player evaluation, said Odighizuwa is a better interior pass-rusher right now than he is on the outside, where he's currently "more of a power guy, just tries to run you over." But both have contributions to make and appear to have the necessary drive and intelligence to improve in the areas they need to improve.

That's all you can ask. You don't find a lot of instant-impact starters in Rounds 2 and 3, and you don't find sure things anywhere in a draft. But the Giants defense is in need of a talent infusion at basically every level, and Friday night the team found talented guys who look as though they can provide. Are they and first-round pick Ereck Flowers enough to turn a 6-10 team into a playoff team? Probably not, but the Giants recognize that they're not going to find players in this draft who can do that on their own. What they believe they've found is players with the traits to help them build their way back to contention -- with whatever they can do as rookies and, down the road, with whatever kind of players they become.

In too many recent years, the Giants have reached in these rounds and missed badly -- taking chances on guys with upside but no reason to believe they'd find their way to it. The past two years have seen a refocusing on players with strong internal foundations, who have played at a high level against strong competition in college, who have given people reason to believe they have the drive they need to become great. That's why last year's draft and the first two nights of this year's draft offer reason to think the Giants might yet be able to build their way back from the dismal past two seasons. That can't be done with a snap of the fingers and one great wide receiver. It takes time -- and patience -- and players who can grow along with you and your plan. That looks to be the way the Giants are thinking now, and it's a good long-term sign.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few quick thoughts on the New York Giants' third-round draft pick:

The pick: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA

My take: I wrote this morning that the Giants needed to think defense tonight and likely come away with a safety and defensive end. That's exactly what they did. Odighizuwa is 6-foot-3, 267 pounds and has the frame and speed to play defensive end in the Giants' 4-3 front. He blew away the Giants with his performance at the scouting combine, in what GM Jerry Reese called the "gymnastics." Odighizuwa ran a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash, and he had a 39-inch vertical leap, 127-inch broad jump, 4.19 in the 20-yard shuttle and 11.75 in the 60 -- all top numbers for his position. "You rarely see a guy with this kind of athletic ability," Reese said. I think it's a good pick. There were second-round projections on Odighizuwa, and a high-end project pass-rusher who is known as a high-effort, high-character guy is a fine way to spend your third-round pick.

Hip history: Odighizuwa has had surgery on each hip in the past three years, something that obviously limited his ability to stay on the field at UCLA. "Our doctors think he's fine and cleared him," Reese said. "That was definitely a concern for us, but there are no restrictions on him right now." He played every game for UCLA the past season.

Misc.: Odighizuwa joins a defensive end mix that includes Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore, George Selvie and others. Moore might be the leader to start at that spot opposite Pierre-Paul in 2015, but it's worth noting that Odighizuwa is five months older than 2013's third-round pick, Moore. ... His name is pronounced "Oh-wah-MAH-bay Oh-DIGGY-zoo-wah." His first name is generally shortened to "Owa." ... He was picked in the same spot (No. 74 overall) as Justin Tuck in 2005.

The New York Giants traded three draft picks (a second-rounder, a fourth-rounder and a seventh-rounder) Friday night to move up to the first pick of the second round and draft Alabama safety Landon Collins. That's a big move, but the Giants felt it was worth it.

Landon CollinsESPN Stats & Information


Some info from ESPN Stats & Information on just why it made sense for the Giants to make the aggressive move to get a safety who is known as a strong tackler:

  • The Giants allowed an NFL-worst 4.9 yards per rush in 2015.
  • The Giants allowed an NFL-worst 3.2 yards per rush before first contact in 2015.

Stats & Info also notes three of the four defensive backs who played the most snaps for the Giants last year -- safeties Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps -- are no longer on the roster, which means the Giants have a lot of issues to sort out at safety. Collins joins a competition with 2014 fifth-rounder Nat Berhe, 2013 fifth-rounder Cooper Taylor, former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Josh Gordy and possibly current Giants corners Chykie Brown and Bennett Jackson for starting safety spots.

In that mix, there's no clear candidate for a starting free safety who can play the deep middle of the field. The Giants believe Collins can be that kind of player, but they acknowledge he has work to do.

"Everybody thinks of him as a solid hitter. They kept saying over and over again on television about him being in the box," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Friday night. "That will be a part of it, but you can't play at this level as a safety without having to defend the middle of the field. Many times you see on film, he's down low and doesn't get in a position where he can see the entire field. So the deepest of the deepest, that is going to be a factor -- no doubt. But he is very skilled and very motivated."

It's always important to remember five months pass between the draft and the season, and players taken this weekend have the chance to get considerably better between now and when they have to play. Collins could be a better free safety in September than he is tonight.

Regardless, the Giants believe he can help them immediately on special teams and against the run, an area in which they obviously needed serious help.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few quick thoughts on the New York Giants' second-round draft pick.

The pick: Landon Collins, safety, Alabama

My take: Well, obviously, New York needed a safety. Until about a week ago, Collins was widely viewed as the best safety in this draft. (Arizona State's Damarious Randall was the only safety taken in the first round Thursday night.) The Giants made a big move to trade up from No. 40 to No. 33 and select Collins to help bolster a position of significant need. They gave up the No. 40 pick (second round), the No. 108 pick (fourth round) and the No. 245 pick (the extra seventh-rounder they got from the Broncos in last year's Brandon McManus trade). That seems like a lot to give up, and this pick up doesn't really solve their need at free safety, as Collins projects to be a box safety exclusively. But he likely immediately becomes the best safety on the Giants' roster, and the roster isn't quite as tattered as it was a year ago, so giving up a fourth-rounder isn't likely to hurt too much. I guess I like it.

The trade: Giants GM Jerry Reese said the Giants had a list of players they liked after the first round was completed Thursday night, and he began calling teams with picks ahead of his in the second round before he left the building Thursday night. "We just try to get good players when the opportunity presents itself," Reese said. "We try to be aggressive. We like this guy. When you move up to that spot, you have buddies around the National Football League, but they're not buddy enough to let you come up there for free. We paid a fair price for him." The Giants clearly believe Collins was a first-round player who fell to the second round and that it was worth using multiple picks to get him.

Comparisons, etc.: At the combine in February, Collins said his favorite player was the late Washington safety Sean Taylor, that he wore No. 26 in college because that was Taylor's number at the University of Miami, that Washington was his favorite team as a kid and that he cried the day Taylor died. He patterns himself after the hard-hitting Taylor as a tackler. Reese said the Giants believe he can play free safety as well and handle coverage responsibilities. And he believes that the experience of playing at Alabama in the SEC can help with that. "We think, if they're playing at a higher level of competition, it's an easier adjustment to play up here," Reese said.

videoEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants made the least-sexy pick of the first round of the NFL draft, and they should feel fantastic about it.

Ereck Flowers was a head-scratcher for Giants fans -- a raw, unpolished tackle who didn't muscle his way into the public discussion of top-10 picks until a week or so ago. He is not Leonard Williams or Vic Beasley, two defensive disruptors who came tantalizingly close to the Giants' grasp. He is not Todd Gurley, Trae Waynes or Danny Shelton, the better-known college stars who went with the three picks that followed him.

Flowers is a 21-year-old project. Yes, he could step in immediately in 2015 and help the run game as a starting guard or right tackle, but the reason he was worth taking with the No. 9 overall pick was his upside as a potential left tackle down the road. They still have Will Beatty there for now, but Beatty's cap number jumps up to $9.175 million in 2016, and it's worth thinking about a replacement.

"A franchise left tackle's a rare commodity. Not many teams have one of those," Marc Ross, the Giants' VP of player evaluation, said Thursday night. "And we think this guy has the ability, the upside, the potential, the toughness, the competitiveness and the smarts to be a franchise left tackle for us."

Whether that happens or not depends on a young man who just turned 21 on Saturday and on the ability of the Giants' coaching staff to even out the footwork and technique issues that made Flowers an inconsistent pass-protector at Miami. When you put it that way, it sounds like a risky pick for a team that has missed the playoffs three years in a row. The popular narrative around the Giants this offseason has been that this is a "win or else" year coming up, and that the jobs of general manager Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin, among others, are on the line if they don't make the playoffs.

That may or may not be true, but the more relevant fact of the matter is that Reese and Coughlin don't care. Or at least they don't care as much about that as they do about helping make the Giants better. Reese and Coughlin aren't the sort of men who manage out of fear for their jobs. They have a combined 35 years of service to the Giants' organization, and they're invested in its long-range success. That's the way confident and competent professionals look at things. They act out of a sense of responsibility, not self-preservation.

So on Thursday night, they took the player they liked the best -- a player my sources tell me they would have taken even if Brandon Scherff, Kevin White, Dante Fowler and Beasley had still been on the board. This isn't just spin. The Giants really, really like Ereck Flowers.

"We think it's all upside with him," Reese said. "He just turned 21. He's young, powerful, big, tough. ... He's got a nasty streak. All of those things we like about him."

Ereck FlowersESPN Stats & Info

"He's a battleship, an aircraft carrier, or however you want to describe him at 6-foot-6, 329 [pounds]," Coughlin said. "Strongest guy in the draft. Outstanding feet. Just turned 21 couple of days ago. Those things, together with the desire to improve both our offensive and our defensive lines -- to be honest with you, we think we have made a good start here."

A good start. Not a perfect, final solution. The Giants have six rounds to go and seven picks still to make before this draft ends sometime Saturday afternoon. They are a team that has gone 13-19 the past two seasons and still has a lot of holes to fill. Make no mistake, they expect Flowers to help right away, most likely at right tackle with 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh moving inside to guard. But his selection is part of a bigger-picture plan to make the Giants a better team for the long haul -- not just for 2015.

That's just the way they do it around here. It's the reason they hold on to GMs and coaches longer than most teams do -- because it just makes sense that the people who make the long-term decisions are people who are invested in the franchise, and not replaceable parts whose decisions will be rendered moot by their replacements in a couple of years. They can point to four Super Bowl trophies as proof their way works (and they often do). And while Reese's draft record is by no means a strong one, he has done a good job with first-round picks, and he is a man who sticks to his plan regardless of any real or perceived outside influences.

Flowers is a good on-field fit for a Giants team that neglected its offensive line for too long and has paid a heavy price for it. But he's a philosophical fit, as well, for a team that always thinks big picture and long term, no matter how much pressure anyone thinks they are or should be facing.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few quick thoughts on the New York Giants' first-round draft pick.

The pick: Ereck Flowers, offensive lineman, Miami

My take: I like the pick. In spite of the high picks of Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg the past two years, the Giants still need to build the offensive line. In Flowers, they get a huge (6-foot-6, 330-pound) offensive lineman who can start right away at guard or right tackle and help upgrade the run-blocking, which was one of their offseason priorities. But the Giants also believe that the 21-year-old Flowers has a high enough ceiling that he can eventually be a top left tackle. That makes it worth spending a top-10 pick on the guy. His footwork in pass protection will need some work before he can move over there and replace Will Beatty, but the Giants believe they can work with him on that and develop him into a cornerstone.

"Mean streak": One thing I heard from several people about Flowers in the past couple of weeks was that the Giants and other teams liked Flowers' on-field nastiness. He might not have Brandon Scherff's tape as a run-game finisher, but he's a dominant physical presence in the run game who seems to generate a significant amount of on-field disdain for his opponent. The Giants like guys like that and believe they need an infusion of attitude on their lines and even in their locker room.

What's next? The offensive line addressed, I'd expect the Giants to focus strongly on defense in the next couple of rounds Friday night. They will look to add a safety and possibly a defensive lineman, as that side of the ball remains the one with more holes and a brand new coordinator who's looking to fix things in a hurry.

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Not sure whether you've heard, but the NFL draft begins tonight, which means we're nearly through with the 2015 round of mock drafts. Sometime shortly after 8 p.m. ET Thursday, all of the mock drafts that have led us to this point will be rendered moot and silly by something that happens in the actual draft that no one saw coming. It's a tradition unlike any other.

Anyway, our draft experts have submitted their final mock drafts, and both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are projecting the New York Giants to take an offensive lineman with the No. 9 pick. It's just not the same offensive lineman.

Todd is sticking Insider with Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who's been his pick for the Giants all along. Mel is picking Insider Miami's Ereck Flowers, though in his draft Scherff is already gone and he says he'd give the Giants Scherff if he were still there.

As I wrote Wednesday, my feeling is that Flowers is the likely pick. I don't know what the Giants would do if both Flowers and Scherff were on the board at No. 9, but I think it's a mistake to assume they'd take Scherff. Flowers is well regarded, likely to go in the first half of the round (maybe even to the Rams at No. 10 if the Giants don't take him at No. 9), and of the two he has the better chance to grow into an NFL left tackle.

We'll know soon enough, but if the Giants do take an offensive lineman Thursday night, it would be the second time in two years they will have spent a first-round pick on the offensive line. Justin Pugh's first-round selection in 2013 ended a 13-year stretch in which they did not spend a first-round pick on an offensive lineman. But the Giants used the No. 19 pick on Pugh two years ago, the No. 43 pick (a second-rounder) last year on Weston Richburg and now seem likely to spend the No. 9 pick of this year's draft on a lineman as well. Obviously, the line deteriorated and needed to be rebuilt, and the Giants have been wise to devote top-level resources to that rebuild. (Don't forget the free-agent signing last year of Geoff Schwartz as part of that as well.)

This is a wise course of action for a team that likes its offensive skill-position players and quarterback. No matter how skilled those guys are, it's tough to consistently put points on the board when you can't get the play blocked. Adding a top-10 talent to the offensive line Thursday night would be a major step toward a return to playoff contention for a team that hasn't finished .500 since 2012.

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With about 34 hours left until the first round of the NFL draft -- and about 35 hours until the New York Giants are scheduled to make the ninth pick, things have started to come into focus a bit. Assuming they stay at No. 9 -- a fair assumption, considering Jerry Reese's history of not trading early-round picks -- I think it's a good bet the Giants will take someone their head coach would describe as "a big human, now."

That means a lineman of some sort, and by now you know my feeling on this. I think it's going to be an offensive lineman, and I think it's going to be Miami's 6-foot-6, 330-pound Ereck Flowers. But nothing is certain until it's done, and the names of guys like Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat, La'El Collins and D.J. Humphries will continue to be connected to the Giants in intervening hours because those are players they like enough to have had in their building.

I think Flowers is their No. 1 guy among the linemen right now, since they believe he can play right away at right tackle or guard and eventually blossom into a top left tackle. And I don't think any of the eight teams picking in front of them is a threat to take Flowers before they can. He comes with his own concerns, as his pass-protection technique needs a lot of work before he could ever be a left tackle. But the Giants don't need him to play left tackle this season, and they believe he can help them while he learns and develops.

So that's where I am with it, based on the information I've been able to glean during an admittedly difficult time of year for good information.

However, I also get the sense the Giants' first preference in this process would have been to find an anchor for their defensive line. They found new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo a big-time weapon in the first round last year with Odell Beckham Jr., and they'd love to do the same for new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and a side of the ball on which they have a slew of holes and question marks.

The problem is there's no perfect solution for them on defense in the range where they're picking in the first round. Guys like Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree don't fit what they do on defense. Guys like Randy Gregory and Shane Ray have too many scary question marks attached. As much as they need a safety, No. 9 is too high to take Landon Collins. And while I believe (as Jeff Legwold does too) that Leonard Williams is the No. 1 player on the Giants' board, he'd probably have to fall out of the top five before the price of moving up could be considered reasonable. (I think Oakland is his floor at No. 4.)

So if the Giants were to surprise and take a defensive player, it would probably have to be someone like Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton, a 6-foot-2, 339-pound wall of a young man who has piqued their interest as a potential anchor in the interior of the defensive line. Pairing Shelton with the up-and-coming Johnathan Hankins at defensive tackle on their four-man line would make the Giants a very difficult team against which to run the ball. And with Shelton eating up blockers, Hankins might be able to flash his pass-rush ability a bit more. They poked around on a couple of the top defensive tackles in free agency and ended up with Kenrick Ellis, but they could stand to upgrade there yet.

Shelton comes with his share of red flags. He doesn't appear to bring enough in the pass rush to justify a top-10 pick, and our man Bill Polian has mentioned several times on TV lately that Shelton's time of 5.64 seconds in the combine 40-yard dash is a major concern due to the lack of precedent for defensive linemen having NFL success at that speed. Take Shelton at No. 9, and the Giants may have just spent a hyper-valuable pick on a guy who ends up being a two-down player in the NFL. But he has intrigued them during the pre-draft process, and it's possible they could take him at No. 9. More likely, he becomes an option if they trade down, along with Humphries and the Collinses. But I don't think they will or should trade down.

Before we end this, I have to address a couple of skill-position guys who have been in the discussion. Yes, if wide receiver Amari Cooper falls to No. 9, I believe the Giants would take him. While they don't see wide receiver as a position they need to address with this pick, I think they consider Cooper far and away the top one in this class, and to them he'd likely represent too much value to pass up at No. 9. But Cooper is likely to be gone before the second commercial break Thursday night, so I wouldn't get too excited about that one. And no, I don't think they have any interest in running back Todd Gurley.

My feeling is that the Giants will take a large person in the first round Thursday night. I think it's going to be Flowers, but it could end up being a defensive lineman, too. Which would you rather see them pick?

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