Hope is not a strategy, and hoping the offensive line is fixed won’t help Daniel Jones take a third-year leap and get the Giants back in the playoffs.
GM Dave Gettleman went Hog Mollie-wild last year when he drafted left tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth-overall pick, right tackle Matt Peart in the third round and guard Shane Lemieux in the fifth round.
But guess what? The jury is still very much in doubt.
And because it is, because John Mara can only dream of Eli Manning’s old bodyguards named Diehl and Snee and O’Hara and Seubert and McKenzie, Joe Judge and Gettleman — Judgettleman — cannot and should not conclude he is out of the Hog Mollie business.
“We’re going to work our fannies off, and we’re going to get it fixed,” Gettleman said when he arrived.
And yet four years later, here we are.
Gettleman signed a big-bodied No. 1 wide receiver in Kenny Golladay, but Jones cannot throw him open from his back, cannot be the playoff quarterback the organization believes he can be unless he as comfortable in the pocket as Manning was in his prime.
GMs get in trouble when they reach for need, but it is likely that there will be some kind of a marriage of value with one of several critical Giants needs with the 11th pick of Thursday night’s NFL draft.
Another wide receiver.
Another pass rusher.
And, yes, another offensive lineman.
It is likely that a player with as much positional versatility as Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, who can play every position on the line, or USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, who many teams believe can play tackle as well as guard, will appeal to Gettleman and to Judge.
“Somehow, some way, Joe Judge and Jason Garrett have to get the offensive line to protect this quarterback, and make him feel more comfortable in the pocket,” ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick told The Post, “otherwise it’s gonna all fall apart, as far as them trying to get him where they need to get him to.
“Let’s just say Rashawn Slater slides down there, let’s say he’s available at 11. And you have him, and you have Jaylen Waddle available, and you have, let’s just say for the sake of discussion, you had Micah Parsons still available.
“I think that would be a good, healthy discussion, because I’ll tell you this: I think Rashawn Slater will be an All-Pro. Not a Pro Bowler, I think he’ll be an All-Pro within his first two years. The kid is fantastic. He’s much better right now than anybody the Giants have on their offensive line. That’s a fact.”
Riddick mentioned how Slater fought off Chase Young in 2019 and favors him slightly over tackle Penei Sewell.
“Rashawn’s got feet like a typewriter,” Riddick said, “and he’s got the strength to match.”
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah also prefers Slater to Sewell.
“Slater’s just really, really dynamic in terms of what he can do just working in space, and I thought he was just a more consistent pass protector,” Jeremiah said.
While Jeremiah believes the 330-pound Sewell has more upside, he is convinced that Slater can play both tackle and guard.
“I think Slater has five-position flexibility, he can play any of the five positions,” Jeremiah said.
Receiver Devonta Smith, the Heisman winner, could be part of the discussion at 11 as well. So could cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn. Kwity Paye could be the pass-rusher consideration. Gettleman, barring the first trade down of his career, has just six picks. He didn’t swing for any offensive linemen in free agency. If not at 11, he ought to keep an eye out for one at 42, or at 76, or at 116.
Judge already hired Rob Sale as his third offensive line coach and the experienced Pat Flaherty as a consultant, and because the offensive line doesn’t only impact the young franchise quarterback, Judge needs the offensive line to open holes for a Saquon Barkley-centric attack. The Baby Hog Mollies — guard Kevin Zeitler is gone — better grow up and grow up fast. Especially Thomas, who needs to start playing like the fourth-overall pick of the draft.
“Every team I’ve been on that has been playoff-worthy and gone deep has had a good offensive line,” Gettleman said following the 2020 draft. “The O-line really does set the tone.”
Judgettleman can go in any number of directions. If Waddle falls, who wouldn’t want their own Tyreek Hill? Smith? He’s the Slim Reaper. Surtain and Horn? You can never have enough corners. Paye? Leonard Williams could use help chasing the quarterback. The Giants will get a good player. They simply cannot afford to assume that the offensive line is fixed. Because there is no definitive proof yet that it is.