RT: Nick Gates
Look, I’ll be upfront; I’m a tad bit biased when it comes to Nick Gates — check that, super-biased when it comes to Nick Gates. I’ve been leading the Nick Gates hype train since he was picked up as an undrafted free agent in 2018, as seeing him fall to the ranks of the undrafted was one of the highest failures of recognizing talent out of all 32 GM’s I’ve seen in quite some time.
I had a solid mid-round grade on him heading into that draft and was hoping Big Blue would be able to snatch him up after an outstanding career playing left tackle at Nebraska in the Big 10 – aka the college football offensive lineman factory.
Luckily, Dave Gettleman got him to agree to a UDFA deal with the NY Giants, and even if he didn’t think he was worth a 7th round pick, he still deserves massive credit for finding this diamond in the rough in the pool of the undrafted.
After facing criticism over his perceived lack of athleticism due to his low SPARQ (overall athleticism test) score, Gates faced more adversity when he missed all of his rookie season due to injury.
This is where I really give Gettleman credit, as he was able to recognize the talent and potential in that short 2018 offseason and kept him around for a second crack – something most teams probably wouldn’t have done, as they would have likely fallen in love with some new UDFA the next year.
This is where I go back to ‘having the five best lineman’ on the field argument, as I truly feel Nick Gates is a far better player at this stage of their careers than Nate Solder. Even with just a small sample size – Gates started two games at tackle and one at guard in 2019 – the third-year pro showed he is far superior to the overpaid veteran.
If Joe Judge is true to his words and every position really is an open competition regardless of other factors, you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that starting Solder over Gates would be a wise move for the NY Giants in 2020, and beyond.
Remember, while it would be great it Big Blue made a crazy playoff run, this year is about rebuilding and taking a meaningful step forward – how does trotting out Nate Solder over a promising young player on a cheap deal advance that strategy?
It doesn’t. Nick Gates committed zero penalties and allowed one sack that I will protest until I die was not on him in his three starts. He sprung numerous Saquon Barkley touchdowns by displaying his ability to get to the second level and make big-time blocks (the biggest thing that stood out to me on his college tape in the first place).
Don’t count out veteran addition Cameron Fleming at this point either, as he’s shown he can be reliable in short spans. However, it doesn’t make much sense to me to play an average guy on a one-year deal instead of going with the high upside of Gates (and in turn Lemieux).
So, while many may feel like I have a personal vendetta against Nate Solder at least this – who, as always, I have to mention I feel terribly for what his family was dealing with and wish them well in every regard – is about getting the best five lineman on the field with an eye towards the future.
Two enormously important things for the NY Giants to accomplish in 2020.