NFL Nation reporter Dan Graziano assesses which rookies on the New York Giants could earn a starting berth this season.
Why Ereck Flowers could start: The No. 9 overall pick in this year's draft, Flowers was likely to start at right tackle immediately as a rookie. But when starting left tackle Will Beatty went down with a pectoral muscle injury, the Giants shifted Flowers to left tackle to see whether he could get up to speed in time to play that critical position. Even if he can't handle left tackle and they have to try someone else there, Flowers' run-blocking ability makes him a strong instant starter at right tackle for a line that needs an infusion of top-end talent. But the Giants have spent this offseason running Flowers with both the first-team and second-team line at left tackle, which indicates they have both a high opinion of and big plans for him. Teammates and coaches have lauded Flowers' size, quickness, athleticism and attitude as attributes that should help him succeed long term in the NFL, and they believe he can have success right away amid the understandable growing pains. But the main reason Flowers looks likely to start is because the Giants have a major need for help on the offensive line and he has as much raw talent as anyone they have for those spots.
Why Landon Collins could start: If the Giants have needs on the offensive line, they have a bright, flashing VACANCY sign at safety, where none of the three players who started games for them last season are still on the team. That's why the Giants traded up in the second round of the draft to get Collins, the former Alabama safety who somewhat surprisingly slipped out of the first round. Collins is a big, thick rookie who looks like an instant-impact starter at the strong safety, but because of the dearth of candidates, the Giants are training him in the free safety positions as well. Plain and simple, while he's never started a game at the NFL level, Collins is the best safety on the Giants' roster right now. They believe his experience in a championship atmosphere at Alabama makes him more NFL-ready than a lot of other rookies would be. But again, he's penciled in as a starter because they have almost no other options.
Why Mykkele Thompson could start: Again, necessity. The leading candidate to start at safety along with Collins was probably 2014 fifth-round pick Nat Berhe, but he missed all of OTAs with a calf injury and is likely set back. The guy who ran with the first team in Berhe's place was 2013 fifth-round pick Cooper Taylor, who's coming off his own serious injury and isn't a perfect fit at free safety. Free-agent signee Josh Gordy and converted cornerback Bennett Jackson are the other candidates, so why not 2015 fifth-rounder Thompson? Yes, he looks very undersized for an NFL safety (he lists at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, but see him in person and you'd agree those numbers feel high), but when they drafted him the Giants said they saw him as a good complement to Collins. He has some range and some instincts and could show enough in training camp to earn a shot ahead of a relatively weak field of candidates.
Why Owamagbe Odighizuwa could start: There is a wide-open spot at left defensive end. And while Odighizuwa isn't among the leading candidates to win the starting job opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, he could outplay those candidates and earn himself a larger role as the season progresses. The Giants like Robert Ayers as a pass-rusher but not against the run. They love Damontre Moore's talent but still consider him underdeveloped. They view George Selvie as a defensive end who can play the run and still get after the passer a bit, but he's a journeyman who hasn't had sustained NFL success. They like Kerry Wynn, but he's still relatively inexperienced. Odighizuwa has been held out of OTAs with a hamstring injury, but the Giants are high on him as a run-stuffer whose pass-rush game can be developed and refined.