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NFL Draft: Giants elect not to reach for offensive linemen

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese answers

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese answers questions from the media at the Giants Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

In this year’s draft, the Giants selected a player who eventually might replace Eli Manning, a player who eventually might replace Paul Perkins, a player who is replacing Johnathan Hankins and a player who will replace, well, the vacuum that the team has had at tight end.

Yet Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart still are penciled in as the starting offensive tackles.

That is not what fans of the team were hoping for. Yet the men who made those decisions seemed very comfortable with their situation on the offensive line, calling it a “perceived position of need” rather than an actual one.

“Probably inside this building we feel better about a lot of things than most outsiders feel,” said vice president of player evaluations Marc Ross, who also dropped the “perceived” line earlier in his news conference.

“We wanted to help the offensive line,” general manager Jerry Reese said, “but we didn’t want to reach for anyone, and we did that.”

They did add to the line, selecting four-year starter Adam Bisnowaty from Pittsburgh in the sixth round. They even traded up for him, later saying they saw him as one of the few draftable offensive linemen remaining in what was considered an underwhelming class at the position.

Bisnowaty was the first offensive lineman selected by the Giants since Hart in the seventh round in 2015, a span of 11 picks without taking a blocker. It was the longest stretch of consecutive Giants draft picks without an offensive lineman since they went 11 straight between Adam Koets in the sixth round of 2007 and Will Beatty in the second round of 2009.

The Giants have hopes for Bisnowaty.

“A big guy that is tough and rugged,” Reese said. “He’ll get into our offensive line group and challenge for a spot there as well.”

They also agreed to terms with a few undrafted rookie free agents on the line, including Chad Wheeler from USC, Jessamen Dunker from Tennessee State, Armando Bonheur from Samford and Sam Ekwonike from Coastal Carolina.

For many, though, it was not enough. Even former Giants offensive lineman Shaun O’Hara, now an analyst for NFL Network, was surprised that the Giants did not address that position sooner . . . while spending a valuable pick to add depth to a decidedly more stable spot in the lineup.

“You’re going to draft a quarterback that’s not going to play for at least three, four years?” O’Hara said on the air about the third-round selection of Davis Webb. “I look at this draft and I can’t believe that they’re again not going to help out on the offensive line, create some more competition. To me, that third-round pick was a waste . . . This is Eli Manning’s prime. You just went out and got Brandon Marshall. You added D.J. Fluker to the offensive line. You have a great opportunity now to make a huge statement, protect Eli and help him out. I think they’re missing out on it.”

The Giants themselves seem to think otherwise.

“We still have high hopes for Ereck,” Ross said. “He’s young. The guy started two years in the NFL and the guy is still young. He really should be coming out in this draft. So to say that you are going to throw a guy away for having inconsistencies his first two years in the NFL, I don’t think that is very fair to Ereck. We think he’s going to get better, he’s going to take a big jump. He does everything possible to get better. He’s in here every day working his butt off, so we have high hopes for him.”

What they don’t have is someone to challenge him for the starting job right now. They don’t have someone to compete with him and push him and, if things don’t improve, replace him.

They found players to do that for several positions in this draft. Just not the one most observers thought they should do it for.

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