Could Jerry Reese and the New York Giants actually pass up on Garett Bolles at 23 during the NFL Draft if he’s still on the board?After returning to the playoffs after a four-year absence last season, the Giants are thinking big. Ride their outstanding defense, Eli Manning and their dangerous receiving core toward a fifth Lombardi Trophy, the narrative goes.
Let’s project that forward, though — does anyone foresee incumbent left tackle Ereck Flowers pulling a Jumbo Elliott 1990-esque performance, dominating opponents’ top pass rushers on the way to a Super Bowl berth?
If you read that question and considered it rhetorical, then it’s high time to get over the excitement of a mostly strong offseason and realize that this problem HAS to be addressed now — as in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Flowers may yet turn out to be a dominant, road-grating right tackle when the team finally accepts the obvious and moves him there, but expecting him to approximate Tyron Smith this year after two very shaky seasons protecting Manning’s blind side is folly. All of the concerns talent evaluators expressed about him prior to the 2015 draft have proved prophetic — his footwork is poor, he lacks the athleticism to play the left side in the pros, his hands are a mess.
An educated guess says the Giants won’t be able to get away with that again this year and make any sort of playoff run. That’s why, regardless of which skill players might fall to them at No. 23, they have to consider taking Utah’s Garett Bolles at the spot if he’s there.
The Giants are said to be high on him — considerably more so than Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramcyzk or Alabama’s Cam Robinson, the other top offensive line prospects in the draft – though they have characteristically refused to tip their hand before the selections start. But they desperately need someone to come in and compete for that spot, because really, what other option is there?
Besides, this pick could prove to be a steal. Bolles’ troubled youth has been analyzed ad nauseam, and such a background tends to stick with a player into the draft, but there’s little to suggest he hasn’t turned his life around. Married with a child and nearly 25 years old, it appears that is behind him.
Deciding to trust that as reality would allow the Giants (or any other team) to focus on what they would get with Bolles — an elite athlete with a mean streak who wowed observers at the NFL combine. Bolles’ speed and quickness were on display as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.95 seconds — second-fastest among offensive linemen – and was also a top performer at his position in the broad jump, 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill.
Bolles would hardly a perfect selection. He’s raw, having played only one year at the FBS level. He’s certainly not going to anchor the running game, at least not yet, as he’s still filling out and didn’t impress with his strength at the combine. And there’s always going to be at least a tinge of concern that his earlier off-field troubles could reoccur.
He also probably wouldn’t fill the “best player available” mantra that Giants general manager Jerry Reese at least claims to follow to the letter every April. There’s bound to be a more talented skill position player, or perhaps one of the enticing linebacker prospects available at 23 that could prove too hard to pass up.
But really, can the Giants afford NOT to add a tackle prospect like Bolles given their expectations this season? Flowers regressed in 2016; there seems to be just as good a chance he’ll continue to do so next season as there is that he’ll improve. They aren’t going anywhere with a revolving door at the most important position on the line. And is it realistic to think some workable veteran option will simply shake loose before next season?
“Sooner or later they’ve got to solidify that offensive line, and they’re (picking at No.) 23, and I think that offensive line run starts right around there, 19 or 20,’’ NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said Wednesday. “Tampa Bay (No. 19), Denver (No. 20), that whole group. The Giants are sitting there, and if a Garett Bolles or a Ryan Ramcyzk or a Cam Robinson is available, I think that makes a lot of sense.’’
Reese would never say it publicly, but he understands the urgency on the O-line after allowing it to deteriorate after the latest Super Bowl victory. Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg have been excellent picks; Flowers is looking like he’s not going to cut it, at least on the left side. Last season, the Giants had Michigan State’s Jack Conklin rated as one of the top players in the entire draft, and he proved their assessment correct after Tennessee jumped ahead of the Giants to take him eighth. Conklin earned first-team All-Pro honors as a rookie.
The left tackle situation — and really, the entire offensive line – ranks among the biggest issues that could significantly hold the Giants back in 2017. Adding Bolles hardly seems the surest solution, but it doesn’t seem at all feasible that Flowers will go down in Giants’ championship lore in the same breath as Elliott, or even David Diehl. Not prioritizing this problem now could leave the famously attention-shunning Reese with plenty to answer for next season.