There will likely be no developmental period for New York Giants rookie offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. Following a torn pec injury to incumbent starting left tackle Will Beatty, the Giants will be forced to fast-track the No. 9 overall pick from the 2015 NFL Draft. The Giants will be forced to shuffle the offensive line, and their new goal will likely involve getting the five best offensive linemen on the field even if that means moving some players out of their natural positions.
Take a quick peak around the rest of what the Giants have to offer along the offensive line, and it won't take long to realize that Flowers is already one of the team's best five. If we assume Justin Pugh, Geoff Schwartz an Weston Richburg are locked in to starting spots, that leaves us with two positions to fll out. Flowers' challengers present a weak case to play over him. John Jerry started all 16 games for the Giants in 2014, but he finished as Pro Football Focus' 66th-ranked guard out of 78 qualifiers. The Giants singed swing tackle Marshall Newhouse who allowed 16 quarterback pressures, hits and sacks in just 373 snaps in 2014. He has performed poorly at every stop along the way in his NFL career so far. Fellow rookies Brett Jones an Bobby Hart can't claim to possess the natural talent and athleticism that Flowers has, and they certainly don't have his size.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese has mentioned in the past that he expects first-round draft picks in the top half of the draft to make an impact right away. That's what those picks are there for. The Giants selected Flowers with the highest pick they've spent on an offensive lineman since 1974. At 6-foot-6 and 329 pounds, Flowers has the prototypical size to play offensive tackle in the NFL. He was also a very productive player at the collegiate level. In 2014, he was a plus pass protector at the University of Miami. According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers allowed zero sacks and 10 total pressures. Only two tackles in the 2015 draft allowed less pressures.
Former Giants offensive lineman David Diehl said that Flowers reminds him of another great offensive lineman of their past--Kareem McKenzie.
"He's a more athletic Kareem McKenzie," said Diehl to Jordan Raanan of True Jersey. "Have you seen him? You're talking about a 21-year-old monster. He is huge."
Diehl is excited about what Flowers can become once Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty gets his hands on him.
"He's tough and nasty, gets after people," Diehl said to John Schmeelk of Giants.com. "He's a fighter. He brings the intangible stuff that meeting room needs and also brings competition amongst the offensive line. The five best players will be on the field, and they will all have to fight and earn that job. Granted, there are technique things he needs to work on, but all of us needed to work on those things when we were that young. I have the utmost confidence and respect in Pat Flaherty, and I know he will be all over him and make him the best player he can be."
Flowers is doing all of the right things so far in Diehl's mind. The rookie has made an excellent first impression on Diehl.
"[Flowers] said one of the best things he could have possibly said to me that already struck me the right way and gave me a good impression of him," Diehl said to Jordan Raanan of True Jersey. "We're sitting there talking about coming [to the Giants] and everything. Before I walked away he said, 'I know you're around a lot. [The team] said you were. Do you mind if at any time if I have any questions about technique or footwork or different types of stuff if I can ask you?'"
Diehl is not the only former Giants lineman who has taken note of Flowers' upside. Chris Snee broke game tape on two of Flowers' games in 2014 and offered up the following evaluation:
"Technically, he's got work to do, which a lot of these college kids do,'' Snee said. "With hand placement, his hands are often outside. I remember distinctly writing I was impressed with how he could anchor and hold his own with his hand placement being so poor. Physically, he's strong up top because he was able to get away with the technical errors. I read an article where he said he knows he has work to do, too. That's half the battle, he knows he's got to clean that up because you're not going to be able to get away with technique errors at this level, the defensive line will eat you apart.
"This is one thing I definitely noticed, he was a different player at the end of the year than he was in the beginning, in a good way. The Nebraska game, he didn't have a good game, to be honest with you. At the end of the year, the false steps that I saw early on were eliminated, which was good. Hand placement had improved.
"There were a couple of times where one of the South Carolina guys tried to cheap-shot his teammate and he ran over. As a lineman, you want to know your teammates have your back. I'm not asking a guy to get in a fight, but there are times when your buddy's in need, you want to see the guy run over there, as opposed to him just standing there, watching. That part was nice to see.''
Former Giants center Shaun O'Hara also took note of Flowers' nasty streak and willingness to finish plays.
"A couple things that jump out at you when you see him on tape, for how big he is, he has pretty good feet, he's pretty athletic and he finishes plays," O'Hara said about Flowers to John Schmeelk of Giants.com. "To me, playing offensive line it has always been it's the size of the fight in the dog not the size of the dog in the fight. I think he has a little nasty streak in him, and it's all about effort when it comes to offensive line play, so I like that aspect of it."
Current Giants offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz is impressed with Flowers' strength and physique, but he doesn't see Flowers winning the a starting job as an offensive guard. According to Schwartz, Flowers will have to compete to prove he is one of the team's best two remaining options at offensive tackle.
"I definitely think Eric is a tackle, I don't see him as a guard," Schwartz told Armen and Levack, on 104.5 The Team. "He is very athletic. You have to be a certain type of athlete to play tackle and he fits that mold of long arms, strong and powerful. I'm excited to see him get after it."
One thing we can be sure of is that Flowers will get every opportunity to win a starting tackle job this summer. During the Giants' rookie minicamp, he lined up primarily at left tackle, but the Giants may feel more comfortable preparing him to play on the right side now that Beatty is out. As a raw tactician, Flowers will certainly take his lumps, but he has the upside to hold down an offensive tackle spot for the Giants during the 2015 season. Given the current state of their offensive line, they are going to need him to realize that upside sooner than later.