Most if not all jobs in sports emphasize the “what have you done for me lately” aspect of the business, and the NFL is a league in which it’s teams always look to what their front office personnel and coaching staff are doing to help improve the team at the present time.
Critics and analysts alike love to compare different draft classes by taking a look at how many players taken actually contributed to the team in their rookie seasons or took big steps towards doing just that in the future. Taking these criteria into account, it’s abundantly clear that the 2016 New York Giant draft class is and will be better than the 2017 class when all is said and done.
Of course, it’s easy to say this with the 2017 class yet to take a snap with the Giants, but it will be very hard for even the top two players selected last week to have as big of an impact as numerous players from the 2016 class had right away.
The Giants selected cornerback Eli Apple out of Ohio State with their first pick last season at No. 10, and he did not disappoint. The rookie started right away for Big Blue, and was able to tally 51 tackles, included 10 assisted, as well as an interception while shutting down big and fast receivers around the NFC and NFC East.
Time will time if Evan Engram will provide as much of an impact as Apple did last season, but with a team already loaded on the outside, he might lack the production to best Apple.
Speaking of weapons on the outside, Sterling Shepard was the next selection for the Giants, going at No. 40 in the second round, which turned out to be a steal for the Giants. Shepard proved to have the talent of a first-round pick in 2016, and the Giants have to be pleased that he fell to them later on.
In 2016, Shepard caught 65 passes for eight touchdowns and 683 yards. That’s only two touchdowns less than Odell Beckham Jr. 10, and Shepard was a valuable go-to option in the slot for Eli Manning when defenses were keyed in on Beckham.
With Victor Cruz coming off of an injury and Manning without a viable option at tight end to throw to, Shepard proved to be a worthwhile pick for sure.
Alabama defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson was selected in the second round just this past Friday, and, despite being a solid pick who should fill in nicely for Johnathan Hankins, will most likely not have quite the same impact on the Giants as Shepard did.
Hankins had 43 tackles and three sacks last season, and even if Tomlinson matches these numbers in 2017, he has the benefit of playing with Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison, all players who could and would pick up the slack if he faltered. Shepard only had Beckham to rely on to pick up the slack, and without him, the Giants might have been absent from the postseason yet again.
The Giants selected Boise State safety Darian Thompson in the third round with the 71st overall pick, and it’s safe to say that they saw some promising things from the rookie.
Although he missed a majority of the season and preseason with foot and shoulder injuries, Thompson had won the starting spot alongside Landon Collins and was slated to have a solid rookie campaign patrolling the filed from hash to hash.
Again, his success is merely speculation at this point, but the fact that he was going to start for this team and did so in Week 2 gives him enough of an edge over Davis Webb, who the Giants selected at No. 87 in the third round.
Webb is nothing short of a project coming out of California and will undoubtedly sit out the next few years before taking over the reigns, if he’s good enough to still be around by then. The simple fact that Webb won’t be playing much for the first two or three years of his career at least is enough to give last year’s third round pick in Thompson the nod over this year’s pick.
Last but not least, perhaps the most telling sign that this year’s draft class isn’t even close to deserving the grade of last year’s class is the fact that Paul Perkins will be the feature back for the Giants come September.
The former UCLA tailback was a fifth round selection for the Giants at No. 149, and he gradually grew into the best running back on the team by the end of the year.
Perkins didn’t have a touchdown in 2016 but was still able to produce with a meager offensive line, rushing for 456 yards on 112 carries and catching 15 passes for 162 yards as well. He showed great quickness vision throughout the year, and is now the most likely candidate to win the starting job in training camp.
If the fact that their fifth round pick from 2016 isn’t enough to prove that this class will be better than this year’s, then taking a look at who the Giants picked in the fifth and even sixth rounds in 2017 should do the trick.
Big Blue is deep on the defensive line this year, making Youngstown State defensive end Avery Moss’s selection in the fifth round questionable. He has a tainted background off of the field and won’t see enough time to contribute as much as
Perkins did his rookie season and will continue to do with the likes of Romeo Okwara, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Kerry Wynn all ahead of him.
Things can change, of course, but even if Moss moves up the depth chart to a second-string player, Vernon was on the field for 93.7 percent of all defensive snaps last season, and Jason Pierre-Paul was around the same before his injury.
Moss won’t see enough of the field to yield a similar return to Perkins even if he turns out to be much better than expected.
After looking at a majority of draft picks for both 2016 and 2017, it’s fairly easy to see that Apple, Shepard and Perkins were all great picks and will be hard for the likes of an Engram, Tomlinson and a Webb to beat out.
With that being said, last season’s draftees obviously have a distinct advantage with having a full season’s body of work under them to analyze.
For all we know, the 2017 class could blow the 2016 class right out of the water, and I’m sure coaches, front office members and fans and wouldn’t mind that at