For a long time I covered the NFL draft for a website where I learned from following the draft prospects that it's important to ignore the buzz about what you hear about prospects because you'll hear everything. Every prospect is likely a first-round pick, every prospect is also a reach where they were selected. Mob mentality takes over throughout the process and the players you become accustomed to are the players that are talked about most often, and thus you develop a favorite. A funny thing happens, though when you develop favorites. You rule out other possibilities.
The "this is not MY guy therefore he is not the RIGHT pick" mentality happens to everyone. Whether we're talking about TV shows (you like a show at 8 o'clock on Tuesday, you then rule out all other shows that are on. We like the Giants, therefore we must rule out all other teams!
It happened to me this year. For the second time since I've been covering the draft for the NY Giants. The first time was when the Giants selected Justin Pugh and I avowed to myself that I'd never let it happen again. But it did. It does to everyone, whether you're just beginning to follow the draft or you're Mel Kiper and have been doing it for 30 years.
But it shouldn't. When will we learn our lesson? This year it happened because of two players, Leonard Floyd and Vernon Hargreaves. The fact that the Giants were picking top 10 also narrowed my scope on players outside the top 10. I became entrenched in the Floyd camp (and I do believe he was the pick if he was on the board) because the Giants have lacked a play-making linebacker throughout the Eli Manning era and Floyd COULD be special. Even if he's not likely to be special, the potential was good enough for me. The Giants have practically put Jason Witten into the Hall of Fame with how atrocious they have been covering tight ends over the middle of the field. Floyd was MY guy. Now, I hadn't ruled out other possibilities. I thought offensive tackle Jack Conklin was a strong possibility as well as Laquon Treadwell as a fall back option outside the parameters of the consensus top 10 players. Then a funny thing happened with Larmey Tunsil and Myles Jack was, in fact, actually going to tumble in the draft.
As for Hargreaves, I accepted that he was the number one cornerback left on the board and spouted the Giants must be interested in him DESPITE the fact that I over and over again said "Vernon Hargreaves isn't a great top 10 pick because he's shorter and slower than ideal." I also pointed out a number of times that the Giants have a prototype at a few positions Defensive end (they must have long arms), Defensive linemen (they don't like the light ones), linebackers (they want size and length and speed there too -- which is why they haven't drafted one high in a long time and why Floyd makes sense), running backs (SPEED score -- a combination of speed) and cornerback. Drafting a cornerback early the players must be at least 6-feet tall and run in the 4.4 range.
All this pointed to Eli Apple. A young, ascending player from a big time program who plays cornerback is 6-foot-1, runs a 4.40 40-yard dash, and is clean off the field. His name is Eli. Apple. It was destiny. We should have seen it coming.
Apple is the prototypical Giants cornerback and filled a huge position of need. We (and I'm very much included) assumed it would be Hargreaves because he was the consensus. But we live the Giants. And Hargreaves just doesn't fit the Giants. How did we NOT see this pick coming?
The Giants entered the offseason needing to significantly improve their depth at the cornerback position because only Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a 30-year-old, was a quality starter. Even after adding Janoris Jenkins in free agency, the next man up was Trevin Wade; who was a nice surprise last year, but he's not a building block. The Giants desperately needed a cornerback. And since Jerry Reese took over as general manager the Giants have spent first round picks on defensive backs Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips, Prince Amukamara. We knew that the Giants put a premium on the position.
The pick makes all sense in the world and it's not a reach. My final mock had Eli Apple going 11th to the Bears. And numerous reports have pinpointed the Dolphins at 13th as the most likely landing spot for Apple. Eli Apple was probably not a dark-horse candidate, he's was a front-runner all things considered--we just didn't see the light.