New York Giants: Taylor Lewan

If you followed our NFL Nation mock draft on Tuesday (or if you go back and look at it right now), you know I think the New York Giants will take an offensive lineman in the first round Thursday night. I stand by this, though I'm not all the way sure about Michigan's Taylor Lewan as the pick. First of all, I think it's doubtful he drops that far. And second of all, some conversations I've had lately lead me to believe they might prefer Notre Dame's Zack Martin over Lewan even if they do get the choice.

I also don't think the Giants have given up on potentially drafting someone who touches the ball. I don't think they would take North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, because they like their tight ends to block. But if Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans were to tumble enough, it's possible they could make a small move up to snag him.

But my strong feeling is that the pick will be an offensive lineman, and ESPN Stats & Information offered some stuff this week that helps illustrate why:

Giants rushers were first contacted in the backfield on 21 percent of their rushes last season, highest in the NFL.

This indicates a widespread problem. We all know about Eli Manning's 27 interceptions, and Stats & Info also points out the 44 turnovers committed by the Giants were 10 more than any other team. But this stat shows they couldn't even get a running game started, so poor was the protection up front. It's a major short-term need as well as a long-term one, mainly because...

The Giants have drafted 2 offensive linemen in the 1st round since 1990, tied for 3rd fewest in the league: 2013 (Justin Pugh), 1999 (Luke Petitgout).

Normally, I'd say this indicates a trend to which you can expect the Giants to stick, like the one about how they haven't picked a first-round linebacker since 1984. But I think Pugh's strong performance as a rookie, coupled with the obvious fact that neglect and decay on the offensive line crippled their offense last season, has convinced the Giants of the value of investing major resources in the offensive line. As a result, I think it's likely that they find their best option at No. 12 to be an offensive lineman. I wouldn't be surprised if they took two with their first three picks.

Anyway, we'll be doing a live mock draft all morning on SportsCenter, and sometime during the 10 a.m. hour you will hear me make the Giants' pick at No. 12. If Lewan is there again, it will be hard for me to pass him up, but as I said earlier, I'm starting to waver a bit toward Martin.
Yes, still one more month to go. Remember, the NFL pushed back this year's draft by three weeks because of a scheduling conflict with a new Easter show at Radio City Music Hall. So the first round isn't until May 8, which means another month of mocks and rampant speculation.

Speaking of which ...

The New York Giants hold the No. 12 pick in the first round of said draft, and they still have any number of ways they can go with it. The popular consensus at this point has them taking North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron with that pick. Sensible pick, as they need a tight end and I can't imagine they're too excited about continuing to go with year-to-year stopgaps at the position (especially if they are down to Kellen Davis already). But popular consensus a month out isn't worth much unless you have the No. 1 pick in Andrew Luck's draft, and this is clearly not the case here.

So where else could the Giants go with that pick?

Wide receiver: Mike Evans is another popular pick at this point, and a look at the Giants' offense on paper right now shows that Eli Manning could use some exciting new targets.

Offensive line: I like Zack Martin or Taylor Lewan here, because I think they need more long-term helpers in the pipeline at offensive line. Get someone you can imagine playing on the same line as Justin Pugh for the next 10 years.

Defensive line: Pitt's Aaron Donald has to at least be temping for defensive tackle after letting Linval Joseph walk.

Defensive back: Sounds crazy, but their draft history as well as their 2014 free-agent activity shows the Giants believe they can never have too many defensive backs. If there's one sitting there at 12 that they had rated in the top five or six on their board, they will think about it for sure.

Me, I go line -- one or the other. I think they should take the best lineman available to them at that pick, be it defensive or offensive. When you're picking that high in the draft, you look for building blocks, because the reason you're picking that high is that you need them. I could endorse a pick of Ebron or Evans on the basis that what they have at those positions right now isn't good enough and likely won't be good enough long-term. But you can say the same about the lines, and they're more important from a foundation standpoint. The Giants' problems are with their foundation.

Lewan could be ideal for Giants, except ...

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, a potential New York Giants draft pick, tried to clear his name Thursday in connection with a rape case that rocked his campus.

Lewan's former teammate, kicker Brendan Gibbons, was thrown out of school in December for reportedly violating the school's student sexual misconduct policies in 2009, when he was accused of rape by another student. The alleged victim accused Lewan of threatening her, claiming he said he wanted to rape her if she pursued charges against Gibbons.

Speaking before 20 or 30 reporters at the NFL scouting combine, Lewan insisted he made no such comment.

"It’s a situation between two people,” Lewan said, alluding to Gibbons and the woman. “I’ve said a lot of dumb things, but those are not things I’ve said. I would never disrespect a woman like that. I consider myself a guy who holds doors, not threatens people."

Lewan, widely regarded as one of the top three tackles in the draft, is projected as a first-round pick. He could be available for the Giants (12th overall pick), who absolutely need to upgrade their offensive line. The Giants are a relatively conservative organization, usually staying away from red flags. Obviously, they'd perform due diligence on Lewan.

On the field, there's not much to dislike. Lewan is a polished technician -- he actually returned to school for his senior year -- and he plays with a nasty streak.

"I think my strength as a player is, I like to think I'm very consistent," he said. "I definitely play through the whistle. I also think that's a weakness because everyone likes to comment on that. But I like to play through the whistle and put people in the dirt as much as possible."

Lewan has been known to take it too far. He was involved in a helmet-twisting incident against Michigan State's Isaiah Lewis, and he reportedly was investigated for possible assault after Michigan lost to Ohio State.

“I wasn’t in any fight,” Lewan said. “That’s not who I am off the field.”

Combine watch: OT Taylor Lewan

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
With the NFL scouting combine set to begin this week, we're taking a look at a handful of prospects the New York Giants might consider with the No. 12 pick in the first round. Today's entry plays offensive line, which is the biggest offseason need the Giants have.

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Why they'd take him: The Giants believe themselves to be fine at tackle with Will Beatty locked up long-term on the left side and 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh on the right. But while the interior of the line appears to be the more pressing problem, the larger, long-term problem is a lack of top talent at offensive line on the roster. The 13 years they went without taking an offensive lineman in the first round before Pugh hurt, and the mid-round guys on whom they've taken chances haven't panned out. Taking the best tackle available at No. 12 would deepen their offensive line talent overall and allow them flexibility down the road. Maybe Beatty's poor 2013 was a sign he can't handle full-time left tackle duty and he'd need to be replaced. Maybe Pugh would be better at guard, as many pre-draft projections last year suggested. Adding premium talent on the line and sorting it out later would be a better thing for the Giants than struggling to find five qualified linemen, as they did throughout 2013.

Where he ranks: Our pre-draft rankings have him as the No. 9 overall player and the No. 3 tackle. Mel Kiper's latest mock draft Insider has him going No. 11 to the Titans. Todd McShay's latest mock draft Insider has him going No. 12 to the Giants. Hmmmm....

Something positive (via ESPN's scouting report): "Powerful drive blocker. Shoots hands inside and controls defender once locked on. Above-average initial surge and drives through contact."

Something negative: "Can get beaten around the corner by better speed rushers. Average athlete who struggles to redirect quickly."

History: The last time the Giants took an offensive lineman in the first round was last year, when they took Pugh at No. 19. Prior to that, their last first-round offensive lineman was Luke Petitgout at No. 19 in 1999. So it may be that they only go offensive line when they have the 19th pick. Maybe they trade down?