The NFL Combine is the first important offseason date for team evaluators. The Combine provides coaches, general managers and team scouts the opportunity to watch and dissect aspiring NFL talent. It allows for players to sit down with team representatives and sell themselves. An impressive combine performance and team interview can elevate a player’s stock significantly.
For the New York Giants, the most important combine day is today, day three, when the offensive linemen and tight ends participate in a medley of drills designed to measure athletic ability. Giants GM Jerry Reese and his staff will scrutinize the player performances, looking for a special offensive talent who they believe will blend well with the offensive system of incoming offensive coordinator Ben Mcadoo.
The 2013 season exposed glaring weaknesses for the Giants on the offensive side of the ball, and in all likelihood, the Giants will use the 12th pick in the draft addressing one of these two deficiencies. Incoming reports strengthen this assumption, linking New York to first-round tight end Eric Ebron and offensive lineman Zach Martin.
Ebron, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound childhood Giants fan, is a blistering speedster with an unnatural ability to make plays down the field. Ebron impressed at the combine with his strength, bench pressing 225 pounds 24 times, more repetitions than Cyrus Kouandijo and Jake Matthews, offensive tackles all but guaranteed to be drafted in the first round. Ebron has been compared to San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis, and would provide New York quarterback Eli Manning with a deadly effective vertical target immediately. However, Ebron’s pass protection is suspect and he must improve on this element of his game in order to earn the trust of head coach Tom Coughlin.
Offensive lineman Zach Martin is the 2014 NFL Draft version of New York’s 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh. Although Martin is not the most technical or talented offensive lineman in the draft, he is the most versatile and is capable of playing at all five spots on the offensive line. In fact, some scouts have suggested that Martin is most natural at guard, an additional bonus for a New York team in dire need of reinforcements to the interior line. If the Giants decide to draft Martin, the interchangeability of Pugh and Martin would infuse the decrepit front-five with much desired depth. (Other possibilities at offensive line: Greg Robinson, 4.92 40-yard dash and 32 bench-press repetitions, Taylor Lewan, 4.87 40-yard dash and 29 bench-press repetitions or Xavier Su’a-Filo, 5.04 40-yard dash split and 25 bench-press repetitions).
The NFL Draft is still more than 10 weeks away, and free-agent signings and departures have yet to impact what direction the Giants will choose to go with their first-round pick. If the Giants lose linebacker Jon Beason to free agency, they might turn to Khalil Mack, C.J. Mosley or Anthony Barr Jr. to address a deficiency at the position. At this point so early in the draft process, nothing is certain.
If history is any indicator however, the Giants will draft based on value, not need. The 2014 draft class is swimming with offensive line and tight end talent, and the premier names listed above are worth tracking in connection to New York as the events leading up to the big weekend progress.