The 2016 NFL Draft has came and went, and a year’s worth of research with it. The New York Giants faced a particularly crucial draft this year, and they overcame some adversity during the draft to emerge with a particularly exciting class. Here’s Overtime’s grades for each selection.
1st Round: Eli Apple, Cornerback
The Giants saw many of their primary targets in the draft slip away for various reasons. Linebacker Myles Jack was highly thought-of, but his degenerative knee condition scared Big Blue away. Then tackle Jake Conklin and linebacker Leonard Floyd were selected 8th and 9th right before the Giants went on the clock at 10th overall.
The Giants were taken by surprise, and there was no clear selection to be made. Still, fans everywhere were shocked when the Giants picked cornerback Eli Apple from Ohio State. Apple has obviously got the right name for New York, but there is honestly real reason to be excited for Apple’s future.
For one, Apple is a perfect fit for the Giants’ defensive structure, a better fit than Vernon Hargreaves, the other top-rated available corner. He is 6’1″ and 199 lbs, and plays quite aggressively. He is penalty-prone, but veteran mentors like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins can help Apple hone his craft.
Apple only had 4 interceptions in two years starting at Ohio State, but that is because the competition elected not to throw his way at all at the end of the 2015 season. He has awesome measurables and is aggressive almost to a fault.
Apple will not have to start immediately, which is good for his development; he will grow into his role as his play dictates. Apple will become a game breaker one day for the Giants.
2nd Round: Sterling Shepard, Wide Receiver
It wasn’t a secret that the Giants wanted to draft a receiver in the early rounds, and they found their man with Shepard. A speedy slot receiver, Shepard was compared to Victor Cruz and Randall Cobb coming out of college.
While Shepard isn’t the big red-zone target that some fans crave, he is at least an ideal replacement for Victor Cruz down the road. He has excellent route-running (unlike the departed Rueben Randle) and is the definition of shifty. Shepard was also a top basketball player and long jumper during high school, which tells you a lot about his athleticism.
Shepard is a bit undersized (5’10”, 194 lbs), but he has the speed to get open in the red zone, much like Odell Beckham Jr. One thing is for sure, a receiving corps. of Beckham, Cruz, and Shepard may be one of the fastest and most dynamic in the entire NFL.
3rd Round: Darian Thompson, Safety
Thompson was an interesting pick at 71st overall. He is a true free safety, something that the Giants didn’t have before the draft, but he does struggle when it comes to tackling, which isn’t what you want from your safety. In that regard, he may be like Stevie Brown.
Thompson was the all-time interceptions leader at Boise State (19 career picks) and is a true ball-hawk, which pairs him nicely with the more conservative Landon Collins for the future. Thompson is an aggressive tackler, but not a technically sound one.
Thompson’s ability to stop the run will define his tenure with the Giants. He is the best center fielder on the Giants’ roster and is a great pass-defender, but his growth in the run game will determine if he becomes a starter or merely a nickel safety.
4th Round: B.J. Goodson, Linebacker
The Giants finally drafted a linebacker in round 4, picking up B.J. Goodson from Clemson. After the draft, the Giants said that they see him as their middle linebacker of the future.
Goodson had a monster senior year for the Tigers, making 108 tackles including 5.5 sacks, picking off 2 balls, and forcing a fumble. Experts labeled Goodson as “grabby” in pass-coverage, meaning that he may very well become a two-down linebacker.
Still, the Giants will take that from a 4th round pick. Goodson filled a need and will contribute on special teams to start the year, with the potential for more later on.
5th Round: Paul Perkins, UCLA
“A poor man’s Tiki Barber” was how Perkins was described by one scout. Perkins will most likely never become a bell-cow back, but he is an excellent change-of-pace back.
He is a 5’10”, 208 lb speedster that can block, catch the ball out of the backfield, and contribute on special teams. Perkins doesn’t seem to be in line for a ton of playing time this year, but he could become a top third-down running back in the future.
6th Round: Jerell Adams
The Giants’ final pick was a huge tight end by the name of Jerell Adams from South Carolina. Adams is 6’5″, 247 lbs and is a block-first tight end, something that the Giants needed desperately. However, he can still be a weapon down the seam and in the red zone.
Adams won’t see a lot of time as a rookie, but some think that he could become a starter at the tight end position. I’m not sure if Adams will quite reach that success, but he will likely at least be a solid backup in the Daniel Fells, Bear Pascoe-type mold.
While it may seem like I graded the Giants’ draft pretty favorably, it isn’t out of bias. I honestly do like every one of their selections this year for the first time in a long time. The early picks are studs, and the late-round picks have more potential than any of Jerry Reese’s other late-rounders.
All in all, the Giants had a highly successful draft this year. Only time will tell how good this draft really was, but I think it grades as one of Reese’s best.