New York Giants: Projecting the starting offensive line for 2021

New York Giants, Daniel Jones
Oct 4, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have had an eventful off-season, recently signing WR1 Kenny Golladay and premier corner Adoree Jackson. While several positions have received resource allocations, one unit has been given the silent treatment, and it’s arguably the weakest link on the Giants’ roster.

The offensive line, which ranked 32nd in pass-blocking efficiency in 2020, hasn’t received any upgrades just yet, in fact, they lost their most consistent and best player in Kevin Zeitler to free agency. The Giants cut Kevin and saved $12 million in salary space, rolling it over to Golladay and a bevy of other free-agent signings.

While their free agency looks strong, the OL could end up being a problem moving forward, especially with Daniel Jones showing inadequate pocket awareness at times. There is reason to believe several players will take significant steps forward, but as we’ve seen in recent years, depending on the OL to succeed with unproven players can be a recipe for disaster.

Nonetheless, the Giants do have the 2021 NFL draft to utilize, and I imagine they will find a way to bolster the trenches on offense.

Projecting the New York Giants’ starting OL for 2021:

LT: Andrew Thomas

LG: Will Hernandez

C: Nick Gates

RG: Draft Pick/Shane Lemieux

RT: Nate Solder

The left tackle position is all but secured by Andrew Thomas, who showed solid development in the second half of 2020. Despite starting off the year poorly, failing to make a successful transition against elite-level talent, he gradually improved, and it was later discovered that he suffered a foot injury in training camp that he played through the entire year.

At left guard, the Giants have Will Hernandez, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. The Giants split time with Hernandez and Shane Lemieux last season, trying to get some live-action reps for the fifth rounder out of Oregon.

Hernandez caught a nasty case of COVID-19, which kept him out for a few weeks and turned up the fatigue notch tremendously. Lemieux helped supplement his loss and ended up grading out as one of the worst pass-blocking guards in the NFL. For now, I believe Hernandez will remain at left guard, but Lemieux’s future is a bit murkier.

Thankfully, the Giants are secure at center, with Nick Gates holding down the position and seeing tremendous growth as the 2020 season progressed. They feel as though he’s a long-term solution at the position, and I would tend to agree.

At right guard, the Giants have a bit of a problem. They could roll with Lemieux, who is unproven and did not look good in his rookie season, or they can draft a prospect who can compete instantly. This draft has a plethora of solid guards in the second round, and a player like Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis could fit the bill. I expect them to find a player to compete at RG, even if it’s top OT prospect, Rashawn Slater, out of Northwestern.

Selecting Slater might be a best-case scenario, as he can also compete at right tackle, where the Giants currently have Matt Peart and Nate Solder preparing for a position battle. Having too many players at one position is never a bad thing, especially when it’s on the offensive line. Solder hasn’t played RT in over a decade and missed the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Peart looked good in spurts but ultimately can’t be depended on as a sure-fire starter on day one.