Big Blue View mailbag: Offensive line, UDFAs, more questions – Big Blue View

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The mail’s here!
We have reached the final Big Blue View Mailbag before your New York Giants open their 2022 training camp. Let’s answer some questions while you wait for football to be back.
Gino Phillips asks: There is clearly some warranted optimism for the O-Line this season. The potential makeup should be much improved in run blocking. To me the pass blocking issues comes down more to the interior. It seems to me that last year there was way too much easy pressure up the middle and to the inside. Do you know if stats support that?
There might be more questions regarding that aspect or protection than of the tackles holding up. It is dependent on personnel and part coordination (inside stunts killed them last year as opponents feasted on that weakness).
Also, I have not read much about the nature of Thomas’s ankle surgeries. Is there any medical risk of this becoming a chronic problem for him?
Ed says: Gino, what I can tell you is that Will Hernandez finished 58th and Matt Skura 72nd among 85 qualifying tackles last season in pass-blocking efficiency, per Pro Football Focus. Unfortunately, Mark Glowinski was No. 77. Among centers, Billy Price was 26th among 40 qualifying centers. So, yes, there was more pressure up the middle than was ideal.
As for Andrew Thomas, as I understand it the hope is that this second surgery will alleviate the long-term concerns. Obviously, though, ankle surgeries in back-to-back years is not ideal. Thomas told the team’s official website that he was “prepared to be ready” for training camp.
Joel Story asks: Looking at the Giants’ 2022 offensive line draft picks and free agency acquisitions, it seems to me that the most common thread has been versatility. I’ve been particularly struck with the choice of Joshua Ezeudu, who sometimes changed O-line positions play-to-play at North Carolina. I’m wondering if this type of in-game versatility is a harbinger of things to come for the Giants’ O-line.
We’ve already heard how Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka have been moving running backs, wide receivers and tight ends around to other positions in the offense during OTAs. We’ve also heard that Wink Martindale runs a “positionless” defense, constantly moving his players around. Reportedly, he doesn’t even want his players using position designations, such as cornerback, linebacker or defensive end.
So, in this vein, do you think Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll have been signing offensive linemen that are skilled at more than one position, so that they will eventually be able to move them around in-game or game-to-game, in the hopes of making things less predictable and more difficult for opposing defenses? Or do you think Schoen and Daboll are simply looking for the best and greatest number of options possible, while following a more traditional approach to building an O-line, i.e. identify the best offensive linemen for each position, set them in place, and hope they’ll jell into a cohesive unit?
Ed says: Joel, I think you are overthinking it. Moving guys around from spot to spot in-game is the last thing any coach wants to be forced to do. Ask any player and it is very difficult because of the different stances, different techniques, different types of players you have to block at each position. Being able to do what Ezeudu did in-game at North Carolina is a rare and valuable skill.
Having versatile offensive linemen is critical. Schoen isn’t doing something other GMs before him have not tried to do for years. There are only 53 roster spots, and 46 on game days. Teams often enter games with only seven active offensive linemen. Thus, they must have some players who can competently play multiple positions. You never know where a need will pop up.
Edwin Gommers asks: Following the 2018 season, both the New York and the national football media started the Saquon vs. Darnold debate and kept it going for a long time. In hindsight, the pick should have been Nelson, but that’s water under the bridge now.
With the trade back in last year’s draft, the Giants passed on both Slater (Pro Bowler and 2nd Team All Pro) and Parsons (Pro Bowl, 1st Team All Pro and DROY).
However, passing on both allowed the team to draft Neal and Thibodeaux. So which discussion will we see play out in the media in the next few years?
Parsons vs. Thibodeaux, Neal vs. Slater or both?
Both draft picks this year have a high expectations to live up to based on the performances of Parsons and Slater and I’m curious to see if and how the media will pick this up.
Ed says: Edwin, I guess you could look at it as Micah Parsons vs. Kayvon Thibodeaux or Evan Neal vs. Rashawn Slater. There is nothing wrong with making those individual comparisons. I don’t think any Giants fans would have been terribly unhappy had the Giants stayed at No. 11 and drafted either of those players a year ago.
In my view, though, it is far more nuanced than that. It is about whether the accumulation of what the Giants gained by making the deal was worth passing on Parsons and Slater.
In the end, the trade has allowed the Giants to end up with Kadarius Toney, Aaron Robinson, Evan Neal and Daniel Bellinger. In the end, will those four players combined be worth more to the Giants than Parsons or Slater would have been?
That’s how I’m looking at the situation. I don’t know how other media members will portray it.
Steve asks: Who starts next to Martinez? McFadden? There’s more depth at edge. Might someone like Ximines be switched inside? It cannot be Crowder again, can it? Please say no.
Ed says: Steve, it absolutely could be Tae Crowder again. At least initially. Sorry, but that’s the reality. There is optimism about Micah McFadden, but he was a fifth-round pick. Same with Darrian Beavers, a sixth-round pick. I would guess that in sub-packages a player like fourth-round pick Dane Belton might at times replace Crowder.
One player who might beat watching is Cam Brown. He played inside at Penn State, and took some snaps there in the spring. Oshane Ximines? Inside? What makes anyone think he can do that? Honestly, I will be very surprised if Ximines makes the roster.
ctscan asks: I’ve been reading the 90-man roster profiles as per usual and was considering the optimism/Buzz/interest we in Giants nation, and probably the wider NFL fan community, seem to feel for undrafted free agents immediately after the draft and all through training camp. Maybe it’s the Victor Cruz effect here in New York, but it feels like people are typically more hopeful of finding a diamond in the rough among the undrafted free agents than they are with late-round drafted players. I sure want to see what Austin Allen can do!
In any case, is this optimism born out at all? What is the success rate of seventh-round draft picks versus undrafted free agents? I’m sure you and your guys have a fancy statistic that quantifies this right?
Ed says: CT, everybody loves the ‘undrafted player makes good’ story. Many fans think ‘well, he got drafted, so he should definitely make it’ and ‘he’s an undrafted guy, so he probably doesn’t have much of a chance.
Players who are drafted in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds are really fliers. They are Lottery tickets. No player who is drafted on Day 3 should ever be said to have ‘busted’ as an NFL player. Those guys are generally considered spare parts from the minute they get drafted, and the story is when they make a long, successful career for themselves.
Fact is, there are a LOT more undrafted players players in the NFL than seventh-round picks. Think about it. Including compensatory picks, there are roughly 35 seventh-round picks every year. If each of the NFL teams brings a dozen undrafted free agents to training camp, which is probably about average, that’s 384 undrafted players in camp vs. 35 seventh-round picks.
Listwire did a piece detailing the breakdown of 2021 NFL rosters. It went like this:
Crazy, right? Not really. Not when you remember there are seven rounds to the draft, 53 roster spots and 350 or so undrafted players competing for jobs in each camp. Coaches often say they don’t care where a player is drafted. That’s not completely true — guys who were drafted in the first round or make big money are getting more opportunities just because of the investment made, but NFL teams need to find useful undrafted players.
I found an incredibly well written 2018 Senior Thesis from a Claremont McKenna College student about this topic. Here is part of the conclusion written by Trey Smith:
“ … overall, the probability of exiting the NFL is higher for undrafted free agents than for seventh round draft picks, but there does seem to be an advantage in going undrafted … Also, I found evidence that kickers, punters, and defensive lineman tend to give undrafted free agents a better chance of lasting longer in the NFL. Given these two findings, it very well could be the case that an undrafted player could either pick to try out for the Packers or Bengals, or that he could 29 try and find a team that is lacking defensive lineman, kickers, or punters, assuming that he plays that position. Through survival analysis, I also found that as undrafted players play more seasons, their survival estimates converge and eventually pass the estimates for seventh round draft picks. This could be due to the fact that there are lot more undrafted free agents than seventh round draft picks in this sample, hence, why the initial survival estimates are far worse to begin with for undrafted players.”
Here is one of the many charts in the paper:
Read the paper for a lot more detail if you wish.

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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