Vacation was great, thanks for asking. I hope you enjoyed the "Nine for No. 9" series that took a look at players the New York Giants might or might not consider with the No. 9 pick in the NFL draft 24 days from today. But while I was away, NJ.com's Jordan Raanan threw a new name into the mix -- one that wasn't among the nine I examined -- and I think it's worth exploring the possibility of Miami offensive lineman Ereck Flowers for a variety of reasons.
First of all, as Jordan points out, Flowers is more of a project than is Brandon Scherff, the Iowa offensive lineman who's been the popular Giants pick in so many mock drafts. Flowers is less likely to help right away on the offensive line than someone like Scherff is, and for that reason Giants fans may be worried if the team is thinking his way.
But it's important to remember where the Giants are, why they are there and that they are not kidding themselves about either thing. The Giants have a top-10 pick for the first time since 2004, the year they traded up from No. 4 to No. 1 and landed franchise quarterback Eli Manning. They know they're not in the top 10 by accident -- that a run of five poor drafts from 2008-12 has hollowed out their roster and produced consecutive sub-.500 seasons. They also know that picking in the top 10 affords them the opportunity -- even the necessity -- to find a franchise cornerstone player who can help them not just in 2015 but for years to come.
So with that in mind, let's circle back briefly on Scherff, a mauling run-blocking lineman who'd help instantly at either guard or right tackle but may never be more than either of those things. No offense to the young man, but that may not be the kind of player on whom you happily spend a top-10 pick.
Flowers, meanwhile, could be a first-year starter at right tackle (with Justin Pugh moving inside to guard if that's the way they decide to go) and eventually develop into a franchise left tackle. At 6-foot-6, 329 pounds, he has the size for it, and if the issues right now are with things like balance and pass-protection technique, the Giants have enough faith in their coaching staff's ability to develop those things while Flowers plays in a lower-leverage role. Will Beatty has three years left on his contract at reasonable money, but next offseason is the Giants' first chance to get out of that deal with little pain if they so choose. If the Giants came out of this year's first round with an offensive linemen they truly felt could be the long-term replacement for Beatty -- and if that player also could fill a role in 2015 -- they'd have to feel very good about that.
Part of Jordan's report here also relies on the idea that "the Giants think very highly of him." In forecasting the Giants' first-round pick, it's essential to remember the extent to which GM Jerry Reese relies on his scouts at this time of year. If the Giants have Flowers rated as their top offensive lineman, they're not going to worry that others have him projected further down in the first round. They fell in love with Jason Pierre-Paul in 2010, David Wilson in 2012 and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 and drafted those players in large part because their scouts (and their GM and their head coach) saw in them a level of talent they believed worthy of a first-round pick. Obviously, mixed results there, but the consistent theme that runs through those picks and so many others in recent Giants draft history is that they identified the players they wanted and went for them regardless of what the external market factors may have said. So just because Flowers isn't thought of by other teams as a top-10 pick, don't assume the Giants won't make him one.