Giants could find offensive line help in draft

NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. says Indiana offensive lineman Jason Spriggs could slip out of the first round and be available to the Giants in the second round. AP Photo/L.G. Patterson

The New York Giants never used to use high draft picks on the offensive line. During a 23-year stretch from 1990-2012, the Giants used a grand total of one first-round pick and three second-round picks on offensive linemen. The first-rounder was Luke Petitgout in 1999 and the second-rounders were Scott Gragg (1995), Chris Snee (2004) and Will Beatty (2009).

Finding David Diehl in the fifth round in 2003 helped mitigate things a bit, but that's nearly a quarter-century's worth of ignoring offensive line in the early rounds, and the Giants paid the price. After the Super Bowl XLII champion line got old, there weren't ready replacements, and Eli Manning's protection became a major source of trouble.

The approach has changed. The Giants have used high picks on linemen in each of the past three drafts, taking Justin Pugh 19th overall in 2013, Weston Richburg with the 43rd pick in 2014 and Ereck Flowers with the No. 9 overall pick last year. Those are the team's current starting left guard, center and left tackle, and they feel good about that side of the line.

The Giants do need help, though, on the right side, where Geoff Schwartz won't return at guard and Marshall Newhouse would be better served as a backup than as a starting right tackle. Though they could, and might, go the veteran route in free agency to find help there, there is also a chance they could keep pushing this new strategy of building an offensive line through the draft.

Now, I believe the Giants need to take a defensive player with the No. 10 overall pick. They haven't drafted defense in the first round since 2011, and given the current state of their defense it would be malpractice not to do so in 2016. You could make a convincing case for them to use every draft pick they have on defense this year, and I couldn't argue it.

But it wouldn't be crazy to use their second-round pick, which as of now is No. 40, on an offensive lineman if they find one there they like. So when we had Mel Kiper Jr. on a conference call last week, I asked him for some names of linemen who might leak out of the first round and be available at the top of the second, the way Landon Collins was for the Giants last year when they needed a safety.

"I think if you look at the offensive line, if you just go to that position, there's a chance that some good ones could leak out and get into the second," Kiper Jr. said. "(Shon) Coleman from Auburn could be. (Jason) Spriggs from Indiana. (Germain) Ifedi from Texas A&M. Those were some guys, and I don't think all of them will, I think maybe one or two of those guys could. Taylor Decker (Ohio State), maybe. Some people now are becoming a little more intrigued with Vadal Alexander from LSU, because he can play tackle or guard. Jerald Hawkins, the left tackle out of LSU, had a disappointing year, but he's got a lot of talent. He could still be there.

"But I think the players who would be the most intriguing would be Decker Ohio State, Coleman Auburn, Ifedi A&M and Spriggs Indiana, if you could get one of those four still to be there at that point."

The idea is that, if a first-round talent is sitting there at No. 40, it's not a bad idea to take him even if you still have defensive needs. The Giants viewed Collins as a first-round talent last year and moved up from the eighth to the first pick of the second round to take him. A lot could depend on what does and doesn't get done in free agency, but if you're wondering about possible offensive line targets for the Giants in the second round, well, there you go.