On the night the Giants drafted Ereck Flowers, the organization glowed about his potential. Jerry Reese called him "a big, tough guy with a little bit of a nasty streak." Tom Coughlin hailed him as "a battleship, an aircraft carrier." They had found their left tackle of the future. Reese even said "It's all upside with him.
"A franchise left tackle is a rare commodity," Marc Ross, the Giants scouting director said that night. "There are not many of those guys around the league and we think this guy has the ability, the upside, the potential, the toughness, the smarts and the competitiveness to be a franchise left tackle for us."
Two years later, is it possible the Giants were wrong?
They might be considering that possibility after a second straight season of struggles for the ninth overall pick of the 2015 draft. They're not exactly giving up on the still-only-22-year-old, especially since at 6-6, 329, Flowers does have rare strength and size. But Reese left the door open on Monday that maybe left tackle isn't his best - or his permanent - spot
"Is he the left tackle? Should he be in a different position? We will evaluate that," Reese said. "But I do think that he is a big, strong kid who has a chance to be a really good player."
That last part may be true, but the first part is a startling admission considering how strongly they've stuck behind Flowers in the past. They had no issues inserting him as the left tackle as a rookie after incumbent Will Beatty tore his pectoral muscle two months before camp started that year. And they refused to consider moving him to right tackle last offseason, even as several free agent tackles refused to seriously consider the Giants because they didn't want to play on the right side.
Their reward for that has been poor play and a lot of pressure on quarterback Eli Manning. Many scouts rate him among the worst tackles in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, which grades every NFL player, Flowers has given up more pressures over the last two seasons (128) than any offensive lineman in the league.
Measuring what a pressure is can certainly be subjective. But anyone whose watched Giants games this season knows that Flowers has earned any low grades he's gotten and whatever criticism is directed his way.
"I saw a guy who's learning to trust his technique," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said, diplomatically, on Monday. "With young players, the way they come into league now, you have to take a leap of faith with their technique as far as the bending, keeping your elbows tight and striking with your hands and pass protection. Finishing the way you're capable of finishing, those are the things that need to improve."
"Ereck has played basically every snap since he has been here," Reese added. "He is an early-out junior, still a young player, but it is time for him to show us the fruits of being a first round draft pick, and I still think he has a chance to do that."
He might. And he might even do it at left tackle. The idea that if he moves to right tackle - a position he hasn't played since his freshman year at Miami - he would suddenly become a better player isn't based in reality. The idea that he could be moved to guard has the same issues, especially since it's a position he's never played.
But at this point the Giants have to be open to anything. The offensive line needs help. It was one of the NFL's worst for much of the season. They have good, young players in center Weston Richburg and guard Justin Pugh, but they are in need of upgrades everywhere else. That's especially true at tackle, where Flowers was a mess and both Marshall Newhouse and Bobby Hart were only marginally better.
So if there's an opportunity for the Giants to land a premier tackle in free agency and he wants to play on the left side, then they have to move Flowers for the good of the offensive line.
That they're open to that possibility is a sign of progress. Maybe as Flowers grows up (and hopefully matures) he'll prove the Giants' original faith in him was justified. But they're smart to at least consider the possibility that their initial evaluation of his future was wrong.