For years now, the offensive line has been a riddle the New York Giants have not been able to solve. Among the reasons: injury (remember Will Beatty?), bad draft picks (Ereck Flowers), poor personnel decisions in free agency (Patrick Omameh) and sorry execution (watch the tape, any tape.)
"It's very, very difficult for Saquon (Barkley) to run the ball if he doesn't have holes," Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said on a conference call Friday. "It's going to be difficult for Daniel (Jones) to throw the ball when he's on his back.
"We'll continue to build the offensive line. Is it a pressure point? To a degree. I'm not going to deny that. But it's about getting the right guy. It's about not panicking."
Gettleman isn't responsible for all of the Giants' issues on the offensive line. But this will be his third draft in his current role -- and his third try at fixing on the line -- and it's less plausible as time goes by to blame solely his predecessor, Jerry Reese.
Gettleman has spent two of his 17 total Giants draft picks (including a supplemental pick) on offensive linemen. In 2018, he drafted Will Hernandez in the second round; he has started every game at left guard since. In 2019, he selected tackle George Asafo-Adjei in the seventh round; he is not on the roster.
Gettlemen has had hits and misses in free agency -- they all do -- and when asked Friday if Nate Solder, the Giants' free agency prize in 2018, will remain at left tackle, the GM said: "The bottom line is, and Joe (Judge) said it, we're going to bring in people to compete. Everybody has to compete. Again, my thought process is we're not afraid to have too many good players at one position, to answer your question. Joe knows Nate (from New England), which is helpful. They have a relationship, they have a history. But we're going to bring in the best players. If they're at a position where there's an incumbent starter, then he's going to compete."
You have to believe that fixing -- finally fixing -- the offensive line is the top priority, especially in this draft with so many talented tackles available. As the GM said, the production of their young quarterback and their superb running back -- with the clock ticking on his rookie contract -- depends on it.
Open for business: As you've probably heard, Gettleman has never traded back in the draft but is open to it, under certain conditions: He would want to have the trade in place before the Giants are on the clock. "We can't fool around," he said. "That would be the best thing." The NFL is planning to hold a mock draft on Monday, and Gettleman said that will be "interesting to see how it works" and helpful, too.
Back to college: New head coach Joe Judge hired several coaches directly from the college ranks. Gettleman said that has been helpful during the draft process.
"Joe hired Burton (Burns) to coach the running backs and he's been at Alabama, so just think about all of the insight we get into the Bama kids," he said. "Obviously a number of our coaches are coming directly from the Southeastern Conference. So, you've got great contacts. It's very helpful, it gives you insight, all of the information. Our college scouts do a great job of digging out information, so between the information the college scouts have, and Burton, and fellas like that that we've hired that are coming from college, it sure really gives us a good in."
"There are a lot of college players like that," he said. "... There's a lot of versatility going on, a lot of different ways that people are using players. It's not standard. It's not what I grew up with, that's for sure. You're seeing it more. It's up to us to figure out how that player who's been in what you're saying to me is an unconventional position, it's up to us to figure out how he fits the New York Football Giants."
At the Combine, talent evaluators were equivocal: The team that drafts Simmons will have to have a plan for him.
Which begs this question: What if Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown is the best player on the Giants board? Generally speaking, Gettleman said: "You can never have too many great players at one position. That doesn't scare me, it doesn't bother me. What you're trying to do is build the best roster you can."
Still, Brown would be a surprise. A big one.
The process: Gettleman and Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit agreed that preparing for this draft, in these extraordinary times, has not been a problem.
"We're starting to tidy things up and put a bow on it," Gettleman said. "Like I said, everybody's putting in the old man's work. We're certainly going to be prepared."
Pettit said nothing has changed from the last two drafts, except "we're not in the same room" come Thursday night.
Pettit said everyone will be conferenced in on Zoom "and we'll be able to have the same conversations we've had every year in the past (and) everyone's going to have the same voice that they've always had."
Pettit said the Giants feel comfortable they will make decisions "in the same way we would if we were sitting (together) in our office in East Rutherford."
2020 draft love: Going back to at least the combine in February, talent evaluators from every corner have raved about the overall quality of this draft.
Including Gettleman: "This is a pretty good draft. It really is. There's a couple of positions that are really thick with players. ...You can't say that if you're not picking in the top 15 you're in trouble. You can't say that."
A final -- intriguing? -- note: Two years ago, Gettlemen fell in love with Barkley and gushed about the running back after making the pick. Last year, the Giants reveled in surprising many by drafted Jones at sixth overall and enjoyed telling us how they coveted him all along.
Next Thursday night, after making the pick, Gettleman might tell us differently, but he indicated on the conference call that this year's pick is still up for grabs.
"We're still discussing it," he said. "We're still discussing."
As everyone in East Rutherford would tell you, they've got to get this one right.