With the NFL only 24 hours away, lets reflect back to the 2016 NFL Draft. The 2015 New York Giants finished with a 6-10 record, and had the 10th overall pick in what turned out to be a draft filled with talented players. With the 10th pick, the Giants selected Eli Apple, CB from Ohio State. Now that he has amassed one full season under his belt, lets grade this pick, and look forward to our next first round selection, and make a prediction of our next first round pick will make less of an impact, an equal impact, or a greater impact, then Eli Apple did.
Eli Apple started the season as the nickel corner, behind talented veterans Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Eli Apple would make his first career start on September 25th, 2016 in a 29-27 loss to the Washington Redksins. During the start, Eli Apple ended up injuring his hamstring, and was forced to miss two of the next three games, with separate injuries. There was certainly some growing pains for the young CB, as the 21 year old would have to adjust to a new level of competition, the low point for Apple could be considered his game against the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was benched for cornerback Trevin Wade after not playing well.
Eli Apple began to show promise for the Giants, during the Giants week 13 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Eli Apple not only intercepted Ben Roethlisberger (his first and only INT of the season), he would also record his first career fumble recovery in a 24-14 loss. Overall Eli Apple played in 14 games, starting in 11 for the New York Giants, recording 7 pass deflections, 51 combined tackles, and the aforementioned interception and fumble recovery. He would be named to the 2016 All-Rookie Team, as NFL Media Senior analyst Gil Brandt was quoted as saying “Some thought the Giants reached for Apple in the draft, but I think he outplayed expectations…Apple looks like he’ll be a cornerback in the NFL for a long time; he can play inside or outside” (Source Giants.com)
The Giants got an impact player once Eli Apple adjusted to the NFL level, and was able to maintain being healthy. From Week 10 onward, Eli Apple took more then 95% on the defensive side of the ball, and while there were growing pains, it is clear the Giants have found themselves a long time starter in their 2016 first round pick. I give this pick an A, the Giants did very well for themselves.
I think whoever the Giants draft tomorrow night in the first round will have some big shoes to fill if they want to have as much impact as Eli Apple did. For this to happen, I believe the player will have to come in, and be an instant contributor on either side. If the Giants do choose to go with offensive linemen, and he is able to play every snap from the Left Tackle position well, I believe the Giants will believe that he provided as much value as Eli Apple did this past NFL season. In my own personal opinion, I think the play will be slightly less valuable to the Giants then Eli Apple was, not because I think they can not be successful, but because expectations need to be tempered to a later first round pick, and Eli Apple did have some growing pains, as is expected. At the end of the day, if the Giants are able to choose a starting-caliber playing, and they show flashes of greatness, that will be good enough for me, and many other Giants fans.