Grades, grades, grades. Everybody wants to do NFL draft grades. Shoot, we do them, too. Like Day 3 here. And Day 2 here. And Day 1 here. And overall grades here. Because we know you love 'em., and in an instant gratification world everyone needs to know who "won" or "lost" the draft. Around here, though, we have our own unique way of quantifying good and bad. "Kudos & Wet Willies" is how we do that around here. So, let's look back at the New York Giants' 2016 draft haul with a special edition of "K&WW."
Before beginning, let me say this. Everyone has their own beliefs about whether General Manager Jerry Reese and the New York Giants did a good job the past few days. Whatever I write here most likely isn't going to change anyone's mind. I am just going to lay out what I think, and what years of being around the Giants has taught me.
I understand that a great many Giants fans want to focus on what the Giants DIDN'T DO in the draft. They did not draft an offensive or defensive lineman, despite everyone -- including the Giants' front office -- knowing they had a need there. Especially on the offensive side of the ball. This is the first time in Giants' history, 81 drafts dating back to 1936, that they had gone an entire draft without selecting at least one lineman.
Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross said that made this a "historic" draft for the Giants.
"Not surprised. You are never surprised by anything. We weren’t going to force anything," Ross said. "You always want big bodies, but you want the right big bodies. You can’t just go into it saying we want an offensive lineman and they throw somebody up there or we want a D-lineman. We spent a lot in the offseason on the D-line. We’ve got some high draft picks on the O-line, so we have some good players there right now and we weren’t going to force the issue at either one of those positions."
The reality is, with six picks entering the draft and, arguably, needs at every position on the roster except quarterback, there was no way the Giants were going to find a player to fill every need. I say this all the time, but it doesn't work that way. You simply can't fix every problem in one draft, or one offseason. You collect as many good players you believe can help your football team as you possibly can.
Let's focus on what the Giants did accomplish.
What they did
The Giants added three defensive players who could be eventual, if not immediate, starters on a defense in need of help across the board. They added the wide receiver they really wanted in Sterling Shepard, a player Chris termed "a perfect fit" for the Giants' offense. They added a versatile running back who could be a three-down player, and a tight end with the tools to be the all-around tight end the Giants have sought since Kevin Boss left for the Oakland Raiders as a free agent before the 2011 season.
So, the Giants did a lot. They didn't do everything, but as I said earlier that was never a realistic expectation.
Let's also acknowledge that we are attempting to pass judgment, or at least formulate an opinion, about something that is currently impossible to judge. None of these players has even gone through an NFL practice. As much as we rush to judge and put a grade on everything, it will really be years before we can properly evaluate this draft class. Let's try, though we may not really be able to see the forest for the trees, to assess the picks.
Grading the picks
Round 1 -- Everybody who knows anything about the NFL Draft understands that the Giants did not enter the draft Thursday night expecting to select cornerback Eli Apple. The way things went in front of them, however, that is what happened.
In Apple the Giants got an exceptionally young (he's only 20), tall, fast, corner with a ton of upside. Yes, I was surprised by the selection of Apple. Truth is, though, I would have been even more surprised in that circumstance had the Giants selected Vernon Hargreaves, the chalk as the best corner in the draft. Reality is, given a choice the Giants do have a physical profile they like. Apple -- taller, longer-limbed, faster in the 40 and in the 10-yard split -- fit the profile. Hargreaves did not.
I couldn't tell you right now if Apple will wind up in the slot, or if Janoris Jenkins will play in there at times while Apple plays outside. I really couldn't care. Long-term he's a starter on the outside. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is 30 and, with all of his guaranteed money paid after this season, could be a salary cap casualty before next year.
Apple, should he pan out, fills a short-term need for a third viable corner and a long-term need for a starter on the outside.
Let me address the Laremy Tunsil stuff. There are still some fans up in arms because the Giants didn't select Tunsil. Expected to be off the board long before the Giants selected, Tunsil fell to the Miami Dolphins at 13, no doubt in part because of the gas-mask bong video that surfaced.
Maybe the Giants will regret not going out on the limb for Tunsil, but the Giants have emphasized character and "clean" prospects in the draft for the past few years. Tunsil wasn't clean, and I had no issue with the Giants passing on him at No. 10.
I have to ding this pick a little bit, though, just because it seems like the entire world knew the two players the Giants really wanted here were Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin or Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd. Perhaps if the Giants had put up a better smokescreen instead of seemingly using a bullhorn to let everyone know what they wanted to do, the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears would not have jumped in front of them.
Still, the Giants made something good out of a bad situation.
Round 2 -- This, quite honestly, is the pick the Giants were dying to make. They selected Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard.
Giants VP of Player Evaluation Marc Ross said of the selection "We're excited. We were waiting for this guy today."
GM Jerry Reese said "We think he's going to come in and he's NFL-ready -- ready to play right now."
Wide receiver was undoubtedly a need area for the Giants entering the draft, and we had pegged Day 2 as the "sweet spot" for finding a weapon to put opposite Odell Beckham.
The Giants filled this need about as well, on paper, as they could have.
Round 3 -- Boise State safety Darian Thompson is a player yours truly has been enamored with since I first watched his film a few months ago. Karl Joseph, who went 14th to the Oakland Raiders, and Thompson were my favorite safeties in this class. Potentially, Thompson could give the Giants the play-making center field safety they haven't had for the past several seasons.
There are only a couple of small quibbles with this pick. Thompson does have a reputation for giving up some big plays, a bit like former Giants safety Stevie Brown who made some plays and gave some of them back with mistakes. Chris felt like if the Giants were going to take a safety here, Justin Simmons of Boston College was the choice. Simmons went to the Denver Broncos with the final pick of the third round. The only other quibble is that the Giants could possibly have used this pick on an offensive tackle. Two of them, Shon Coleman and La'Raven Clark, went later in the round. If the Giants were going to take an offensive tackle and hope to find one who had a chance to start in 2016 this might have been the final realistic opportunity.
Round 4 -- The Giants took Clemson linebacker B.J. Goodson. Only time will tell, but this could be your Giants middle linebacker of the future with Jasper Brinkley, Kelvin Sheppard and Keenan Robinson all on one-year deals. In the meantime, he should contribute on special teams.
If you are really hung up on the "they had to draft an offensive or defensive lineman" argument, you could hit the Giants for not taking defensive tackle Andrew Billings or offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins with this pick. If Goodson is the starting MIKE by 2017, though, this pick will be tough to argue with.
ESPN analyst Todd McShay named the selection of Goodson his favorite pick for the Giants in this draft:
This team needed linebackers badly, and they found a good one in the fourth round. Whenever I'd watch Clemson -- and I saw a lot of the Tigers in 2015 -- he always seemed to be around the ball. Assuming Goodson stays healthy (he had some durability issues earlier in his career), I'd be surprised if he isn't a starter in the next two years. Overall, GM Jerry Reese had a really strong Day 3. He found RB Paul Perkins, who's one of the hardest guys to tackle in space in this draft, in the fifth and TE Jerell Adams in the sixth. Adams will give QB Eli Manning a big-play threat down the seam.
Round 5 -- The Giants grabbed UCLA running back Paul Perkins here. This causes an interesting log-jam because the Giants already had five experienced backs on the roster. Obviously, they aren't all going to stick around.
Perkins' reputation is not one of being a breakaway runner. He is, however, a versatile back who can run and catch and has value on all three downs. Temporary log-jam notwithstanding, none of the veteran backs on the roster appears to be a long-term solution as a No. 1 back. Maybe Perkins will be that guy. Maybe he won't. This, though, is an excellent example of finding running back value in the middle to late portion of the draft.
Again, if you want to argue, you probably could have found a developmental offensive lineman here. It is, however, extremely unlikely the Giants would have found a lineman capable of stepping and taking a job away from right tackle Marshall Newhouse in 2016.
Round 6 -- By this point in the draft, you are hoping to uncover a diamond in the rough, and the Giants think they may have one in South Carolina tight end Jerell Adams.
"Big, tall, long guy. Fastest tight end in the draft. [It is] rare to see a guy that gives block effort like this guy," Ross said. "You don’t see these guys actually give effort. He does it, he uses his length to get on people, fast down the seam, a little raw on his route running and hands but in the sixth round of the draft a big, fast, competitive guy who is a good person off the field, we thought, was worth a chance."
Look at the spider chart and you see the athleticism Ross referred to.
These are the kind of players you take fliers on late in the draft. Players with something that intrigues. In this case, Adams' athleticism and the idea that his full abilities weren't tapped in South Carolina are the attractions.
What the Giants didn't do
I know, I know. They needed an offensive tackle, they didn't get one, and now you've got yourself all in a tizzy over the possibility of watching Newhouse play right tackle next season.
Well, relax. Newhouse is no more than a journeyman who should be a backup, and Pro Football Focus will always hate him. But, the Giants were eighth in the league in offense last year and only three teams in the league surrendered fewer sacks than the Giants. Newhouse started every game. Those numbers would seem to indicate the Giants can be pretty successful on offense even if Newhouse is at right tackle.
Besides, have you been listening to what Reese has been saying? Again and again this offseason Reese has use some variation of the phrase "we think the answer might be on our roster already" when discussing the offensive line.
That's a pretty loud and clear signal that the Giants believe Bobby Hart, the 2015 seventh-round pick, has an opportunity to win a starting job. Does the GM need to come to your house and whack you over the head with a sledgehammer to drive home that point?
The Giants, quite obviously, weren't as desperate to add an offensive lineman as the fan base is to rid itself of what they see as a Newhouse Nightmare.
"The right side of the offensive line, the story is yet to be written on the right side of the offensive line. We’re just starting the 2016 offseason," said head coach Ben McAdoo. "We’re going to look at every possible combination, give guys a chance to compete, and see where it goes from there. It’s still early."
The Giants will certainly monitor the Anthony Davis situation to see if the currently retired right tackle wants to play again. They will give Hart a chance. They will scan the market for players who get cut later this summer.
My advice? Focus on all the good things the Giants seem to have accomplished in this draft rather than the one thing they did not.