EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants, who have been steadily reconstructing their offensive line, tonight added a large and vital building block when they selected tackle Ereck Flowers on the first round of the NFL Draft.
Flowers, the ninth overall pick, is a 6-6, 329-pounder from the University of Miami. His selection marks the third consecutive year the Giants have taken an offensive lineman in the first two rounds of the draft. Justin Pugh, the starting right tackle the last two years, was a first-rounder in 2013. Weston Richburg, who played left guard last season but will compete at center this year, was chosen on the second round in 2014.
"We always talk about we're going to take the best player, but we're always cognizant of what our need is as well," general manager Jerry Reese said. "And we think this is a good need and a value pick for us. We think this can help solidify the offensive line, so hopefully this will settle the offensive line down and we don't have to keep talking about the offensive line as much."
"He is an addition to the players that we have here," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "We are excited about that. We do have some veteran players here as well. Hopefully the best will rise to the surface.
"(Flowers' attributes), together with the desire to improve both our offensive and our defensive lines, to be honest with you, we think we have made a good start here."
Flowers, who played three seasons for Miami, can play either tackle position. He started the first four games of his collegiate career on the right side and 25 games in his final two seasons at left tackle. Coughlin did not want to specify where Flowers will play without first talking to his coaching staff and the players who will be affected, such as Pugh or left tackle Will Beatty.
Flowers said he has no preference.
"I see myself anywhere on the line," said Flowers, who noted he played some guard in practice. "I'm ready to come in anywhere on the line to make a contribution. Whatever helps the team win.
"I have a lot of confidence in myself and whatever I do or I wouldn't be playing this sport at all or doing any of the stuff I do. It's really just the confidence in myself and what I see in myself. I can't really sit here and persuade you, but I'm confident in myself and what I do."
Flowers, a Miami native who attended Norland High School, was voted second-team All-ACC by the league's coaches last season. The Giants believe he possesses all of the tools and intangibles to be an outstanding professional for many seasons.
"The kid is an outstanding athlete," Coughlin said. "He is very young. He is a battleship, an aircraft carrier or however you want to describe him at six-foot-six, 329 (pounds). Strongest guy in the draft. Outstanding feet. (He) just turned 21 a couple of days ago."
"(Flowers is) a physical, nasty, tough football player and you just don't see that too often anymore in college football," said vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross. "He is a man-child physically. He is gigantic. He has long arms. He just turned 21 on Saturday. Super productive against the highest level of competition there, the Florida States and the Nebraskas. He is a good player who is just scratching the surface of how good he can be."
The members of the Giants' hierarchy described Flowers as a quiet young man who plays with a mean streak.
"I like to really get into the game," Flowers said, "and I really play with a lot of passion. I love the game of football."
And he is eager to learn from his coaches and more experienced teammates.
"I think I'm a player who needs to work on everything," Flowers said. "I think I've got a long ways to go and I'm ready to go that way. I love everything about football, so I'm pretty happy about the confidence in myself. I'm just ready to take this next step."
The Giants believe Flowers can excel as both a run and pass blocker.
"If I had to rate one versus the other, I think he's good at both," Reese said. "I think if I had to grade one over the other, I think he's probably a better pass blocker. He's very productive as a pass blocker, but I think he's a very good run blocker as well."
"He's nasty in the run game, but his length and his feet as a pass protector – he did that well, as well," Ross said. "He did both really well. We expect him to be a complete tackle who will excel as a punishing run-blocker and a nifty pass-blocker."
Flowers expects to grow in both disciplines.
"I think I'm a pretty good run-blocker," he said. "I think I show a good amount of athleticism. I think I'm a pretty good reach-blocker, but other than that, I think I can improve in everything, including the things that I would say I do pretty well at. I'm ready to make those improvements."
The Giants' offensive line will be interesting to watch throughout the offseason and in training camp. The group, coached by Pat Flaherty, will include the three recent draft choices (Pugh, Richburg and Flowers), incumbent left tackle Beatty, as well as young veterans like Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry (who started all 16 games last season).
"You're always trying to fix some problems you have on your team," Reese said. "And offensive line has been an issue for a couple of years, and we're trying to finally solidify the offensive line. I feel like we've got some strong caliber players in the offensive line and we just need them to stay healthy and gel together and play well."
NOTES AND ANECDOTES FROM THE GIANTS' SELECTION OF TACKLE ERECK FLOWERS ON THE FIRST ROUND OF THE NFL DRAFT
- The Giants have selected an offensive player with their first-round selection for four consecutive years. Flowers follows running back David Wilson (2012), tackle Justin Pugh (2013) and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (last year). The most recent defensive Giants first-rounder was cornerback Prince Amukamara in 2011.
- This is the Giants' longest streak of first-round offensive players since they chose six in a row from 1987-92 (Mark Ingram, Eric Moore, Brian Williams, Rodney Hampton, Jarrod Bunch and Derek Brown).
- Flowers is the fourth player from Miami taken by the Giants on the first round since 2002. The others were tight end Jeremy Shockey (2002), defensive tackle William Joseph (2003) and safety Kenny Phillips (2008).
- Flowers is the first Miami Hurricane selected on the first round of the draft since Phillips seven years ago.
- Flowers was the Giants' highest draft choice since they chose quarterback Philip Rivers fourth overall in 2004. Philips was sent to San Diego in the trade that delivered Eli Manning to the Giants.
Photos of Miami OL Ereck Flowers