With about 34 hours left until the first round of the NFL draft -- and about 35 hours until the New York Giants are scheduled to make the ninth pick, things have started to come into focus a bit. Assuming they stay at No. 9 -- a fair assumption, considering Jerry Reese's history of not trading early-round picks -- I think it's a good bet the Giants will take someone their head coach would describe as "a big human, now."
That means a lineman of some sort, and by now you know my feeling on this. I think it's going to be an offensive lineman, and I think it's going to be Miami's 6-foot-6, 330-pound Ereck Flowers. But nothing is certain until it's done, and the names of guys like Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat, La'El Collins and D.J. Humphries will continue to be connected to the Giants in intervening hours because those are players they like enough to have had in their building.
I think Flowers is their No. 1 guy among the linemen right now, since they believe he can play right away at right tackle or guard and eventually blossom into a top left tackle. And I don't think any of the eight teams picking in front of them is a threat to take Flowers before they can. He comes with his own concerns, as his pass-protection technique needs a lot of work before he could ever be a left tackle. But the Giants don't need him to play left tackle this season, and they believe he can help them while he learns and develops.
So that's where I am with it, based on the information I've been able to glean during an admittedly difficult time of year for good information.
However, I also get the sense the Giants' first preference in this process would have been to find an anchor for their defensive line. They found new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo a big-time weapon in the first round last year with Odell Beckham Jr., and they'd love to do the same for new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and a side of the ball on which they have a slew of holes and question marks.
The problem is there's no perfect solution for them on defense in the range where they're picking in the first round. Guys like Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree don't fit what they do on defense. Guys like Randy Gregory and Shane Ray have too many scary question marks attached. As much as they need a safety, No. 9 is too high to take Landon Collins. And while I believe (as Jeff Legwold does too) that Leonard Williams is the No. 1 player on the Giants' board, he'd probably have to fall out of the top five before the price of moving up could be considered reasonable. (I think Oakland is his floor at No. 4.)
So if the Giants were to surprise and take a defensive player, it would probably have to be someone like Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton, a 6-foot-2, 339-pound wall of a young man who has piqued their interest as a potential anchor in the interior of the defensive line. Pairing Shelton with the up-and-coming Johnathan Hankins at defensive tackle on their four-man line would make the Giants a very difficult team against which to run the ball. And with Shelton eating up blockers, Hankins might be able to flash his pass-rush ability a bit more. They poked around on a couple of the top defensive tackles in free agency and ended up with Kenrick Ellis, but they could stand to upgrade there yet.
Shelton comes with his share of red flags. He doesn't appear to bring enough in the pass rush to justify a top-10 pick, and our man Bill Polian has mentioned several times on TV lately that Shelton's time of 5.64 seconds in the combine 40-yard dash is a major concern due to the lack of precedent for defensive linemen having NFL success at that speed. Take Shelton at No. 9, and the Giants may have just spent a hyper-valuable pick on a guy who ends up being a two-down player in the NFL. But he has intrigued them during the pre-draft process, and it's possible they could take him at No. 9. More likely, he becomes an option if they trade down, along with Humphries and the Collinses. But I don't think they will or should trade down.
Before we end this, I have to address a couple of skill-position guys who have been in the discussion. Yes, if wide receiver Amari Cooper falls to No. 9, I believe the Giants would take him. While they don't see wide receiver as a position they need to address with this pick, I think they consider Cooper far and away the top one in this class, and to them he'd likely represent too much value to pass up at No. 9. But Cooper is likely to be gone before the second commercial break Thursday night, so I wouldn't get too excited about that one. And no, I don't think they have any interest in running back Todd Gurley.
My feeling is that the Giants will take a large person in the first round Thursday night. I think it's going to be Flowers, but it could end up being a defensive lineman, too. Which would you rather see them pick?