Well, put it in the books. The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone in a flash. The Giants have made their picks, and there's certainly a lot of information to parse through. Of course, nothing really matters until the players get on the field, but that won't stop us from having opinions.
The biggest critique of this draft will be the fact that the Giants did nothing to add to the defensive or offensive line. Indeed, there's plenty of tweets/comments/yelling about this fact. Hogwash! Anybody that watched this team last year knows that there are needs at EVERY single damned position. There's no such thing as a "set" position for the Giants outside of maybe QB. The Giants spent two 1first-round picks and a second- round pick in the last three years on the OL. They spent more than $100 million on the defensive line in free agency. If there's anybody out there that wants to tell me that CB, WR, FS, LB, RB, and TE don't need upgrades, I'll call you a liar. So with that said, let's dig in to a draft that I will label my favorite draft that I've ever seen from a Giants team.
That's right, this was the "best" draft that I've seen since I started following the NFL draft a good while ago.
Round 1 -- CB Eli Apple
Perhaps my least favorite pick of this draft was the first pick. Not because Eli Apple is a bad player. Oh no, quite the opposite. I had him ranked 20th on my final big board and gave him a first-round grade. It was confirmed that the Miami Dolphins would have taken him at 13 should he have slipped three more spots. I probably just would have gone with Myles Jack, Laremy Tunsil, or Vernon Hargreaves over him.
But that's in the past. What do the Giants have in Apple? They have someone who has got the flexibility and hips to be able to play both in the slot and on the outside. He's got the change of direction ability to rival that of Hargreaves. He has those things at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. He's faster and more physical than Hargreaves as well. What he doesn't have is technique. He's sloppy and doesn't trust his own elite skills. That leads to him grabbing receivers a lot and creating penalties. He's, in many ways, the cornerback version of Ereck Flowers. Elite physical tools that need to be harnessed by the right coaches.
I compare him to Prince Amukamara with a nastier attitude right out of the box. He's instinctual in run support, diagnosing plays and breaking on the runner very quickly. He's physical and will not get bullied by bigger receivers. He's also as fast and as nimble as smaller receivers. He'll probably start in the slot, but make no mistake, his future is as a boundary corner, probably as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's replacement.
Grade: C, but only because there were better players (in my eyes) available. He also needs to work on technique.
Round 2 -- WR Sterling Shepard
When you talk about fit, it's hard to find a player-team combination that "fits" better than Sterling Shepard to the Giants. If he were about two inches taller, he'd be a top 10 pick. He's the best route runner in this draft class with above average straight line speed and has tremendous YAC ability. He also drops pretty much nothing. Sound like somebody Giants fans are familiar with?
While the comparisons to both Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz are fun, he actually reminds me of a faster Jarvis Landry. Rueben Randle saw 217 targets as Odell's No. 2 in 2014-2015. Shepard will likely see more than that because he'll be open a lot more. With the quick-hitting offense that Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning run, there is a premium on reliability, route running and YAC. Which is exactly why Randle is no longer a Giant. It's precisely why Sterling Shepard is.
He can play inside, and with his 41-inch vertical and ball skills, he can play outside, too. Forget the fact that he's only 5-foot-10. We should have learned by now that size is but a number. He's going to obliterate defenses to no end in this offense and it's going to be a thing of beauty to watch.
Grade: A, it was between Shepard and Michael Thomas at WR for me in the second round, but Shepard is the much better fit.
Round 3 -- FS Darian Thompson
Thompson was a player that, pre-combine, would've taken a miracle for him to fall to the Giants at No. 40. Then he ran a 4.67 in the 40-yard dash. We found out that he was sick and he greatly improved on that to 4.5 at his pro day.
The book on him is simple: Ball-hawk. He has a nose for the football and instinctually he's among the top safeties in the draft. He can read and react and close quickly. He's not afraid to make plays on the ball and that's clearly something the Giants have been looking for this offseason as they signed another gambler in Janoris Jenkins.
This gambling has also meant he's let a few plays behind him. He's also not the world's greatest tackler. Definitely a couple of issues, and I don't think he's going to completely eradicate his tackling issues, but he's smart enough and a hard enough worker to fix any lingering issues in coverage. He's big too. 6-foot-2, 208 pounds makes him an imposing presence.
My NFL comparison for him? Eric Reid. Reid is better in run support and a better tackler, which is why he's a first-rounder, but Thompson's instincts and ball-hawking skills are on par. The best part of this pick is that he is perfect complement to Landon Collins. The Giants rotate from having one safety playing in the box while the other plays single-high to having both playing sides in Cover-2. Thompson is comfortable with both. He was my third-ranked true free safety prospect behind only Karl Joseph and Vonn Bell.
Grade: B, could have argued for Jonathan Bullard or Shilique Calhoun, but again, the fit here is what makes this a good pick.
Round 4 -- ILB B.J. Goodson
You wanted a linebacker? You got a linebacker. Not a "Beezer", but an honest to goodness linebacker. Goodson will figure to be a fan favorite by his attitude alone. He doesn't just fill gaps coming downhill....he attacks them. He is not shy when it comes to contact and he is 100 percent in on every play.
But Invictus, when people say stuff like "oh he's scrappy" and he's a "fighter" that usually means they aren't athletic. Usually, yes. This is a guy that ran a sub-4.7 40-yard dash, had a 34.5-inch vertical jump, and was fourth among all linebackers with a 7.05 time in the 3-cone. He's an athlete. He knows how to use his athleticism, too.
Is he the best in coverage? Admittedly no. Please don't put him on Rob Gronkowski. Will he be a liability in coverage the way Uani Unga or Jon Beason was for the Giants? No, no he won't. He's tight-hipped, but he can make do otherwise. In either case, he's a three-down linebacker has the potential to be devastating as a down hill linebacker.
My pro comparison is a lofty one, it's Stephen Tulloch. I legitimately believe that he can reach that height, too. Color me shocked if he isn't the starter by the end of the year.
Grade: B+, only reason this isn't a full on "A" is because of the deficiency in coverage, but it's the fourth round and no prospect is going to be perfect.
Round 5 -- RB Paul Perkins
Hoo boy. Giants fans, just put on highlights of this dude. He's the TRUTH. He's not a bell cow but he has some of the most beautiful cuts you'll ever see. The name of the game with him is balance, toughness, and vision. He's small, very small, but his low center of gravity and his "want to" are almost unparalleled in this draft and allow him to get those tough yards.
As a pure runner, he's instantly the best of the bunch in the Giants' backfield. He also has soft hands out of the backfield catching 30 balls for 242 yards last year. The question now is if he can pass protect. He's not the strongest player in the world and that is the biggest thing holding him back. I'm shocked, however, that he was available in the fifth round.
My pro comparison for him? A starter kit version of LeSean McCoy. His movement ability is just wicked, and it's going to be fun to see him make NFC East linebackers look absolutely stupid when they come up to try and tackle him. If we're being honest, the Giants should really go into the year with only Rashad Jennings, Paul Perkins, and Shane Vereen, but you know Andre Williams will be there to leach carries.
Grade: A, at this juncture, many wanted an offensive lineman, but this guy's ability to create makes it no contest.
Round 6 -- TE Jerell Adams
Before the sixth round started, on Twitter, I stated, "if the Giants were going by my BPA, they would take Jerell Adams." They finally decided I'm worth listening to after all these years. Adams is a tremendous prospect and is probably the best two-way tight end in the draft. Is he as dynamic as Hunter Henry? No, he's not close to that, but he's a better blocker.
The best thing about him is that he's a willing blocker and actively seeks contact. That should put him on the field early. He isn't particularly explosive, but he's got the requisite athleticism that the Giants seem to look for with a 4.64 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds (best in the combine). In many ways, he resembles Adrien Robinson with the monstrous exception that he's by all accounts a hard worker, loves football and was a great teammate and locker room leader. What does that make him, then? For me, he's the closest thing to Martellus Bennett this draft had. I wouldn't have blinked if the Giants took him in the fourth round. To get him two rounds later is a steal.
Grade: B, not the most explosive player and raw as a route runner, Adams nevertheless has the tools and determination to make it in the league.
Why was this my favorite NY Giants draft class ever? Really, really simple reason. I've never seen a Giants draft class with this good a chance to come away with SIX, that's right, SIX potential starters in one draft. I think every single one of these players has starting-caliber upside for this team in particular. Is that a nod towards good drafting or is it a hint at how bad this roster kind of is? Probably a little bit of both, but I can see upgrades with each one of these players.
There's no doubt in my mind that the Giants came out of the draft a stronger team, with players that are all clean off the field, have NO major injury history, and come in with a chip on their shoulder. Let's go Giants.
Final Grade: A-, a ton of "Kool Aid" no doubt, but any time you can come away with potential starters with every pick, you have no choice but to go with a high grade.