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Giants Ranked No. 2 In Under-25 Talent

Dallas Cowboys are No. 1

NFL: New York Giants-Rookie Minicamp
Evan Engram
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are set up nicely for the future in terms of under-25 talent. Per Football Outsiders annual ranking of under-25 talent on NFL rosters, posted as ESPN Insider content, the Giants are No. 2 in the NFL in terms of best under-25 talent.

Unfortunately, the Dallas Cowboys are No. 1. The Washington Redskins are No. 20 and the Philadelphia Eagles are No. 25.

Scott Kacsmar says of the Giants:

Like the rival Cowboys, the Giants have two top-tier, under-25 talents in wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (three Pro Bowls) and safety Landon Collins (2016 first-team All-Pro). Positional value (i.e. quarterback) gives Dallas a slight edge there. The Giants also have a good slot receiver in Sterling Shepard, and a promising rookie tight end in Evan Engram, though Brandon Marshall will likely be the most targeted non-Beckham receiver this year. Paul Perkins is the lead running back, although Football Outsiders is projecting him to rush for 788 yards this season rather than enjoy a big sophomore surge.

The Giants likely would have ranked No. 1 if we had more confidence in two of their recent top-10 draft picks. Ereck Flowers has had a shaky start to his career as Eli Manning's blindside protector. In 2015, Flowers ranked 32nd among left tackles in snaps per blown block, and only moved up to 26th in 2016. Meanwhile, rookie corner Eli Apple was the weak link to an otherwise strong secondary last year. Apple finished 81st in adjusted success rate and 86th in adjusted yards per pass. Fortunately, cornerback is a position where talented players routinely take two or three years to develop in the NFL, but Apple is the No. 3 corner at best in New York right now.

New York could also have right tackle Bobby Hart, middle linebacker B.J. Goodson, and free safety Darian Thompson as three more under-25 starters this season, but that trio has very little starting experience in the NFL.

Valentine’s View

The No. 2 overall ranking, after being No. 12 a year ago, is a credit to GM Jerry Reese and the job he has done the past three years or so in re-stocking a roster that was largely devoid of young talent just a short time ago. That, of course, was a big part of why the Giants missed the playoffs four straight years before getting back to the postseason in 2016.

My biggest quibble with this, and it’s more than a quibble, is the disrespect Kacsmar shows for Apple. The 2016 first-round pick had what was basically a typical rookie season for a corner. Some good, some bad, some flashes of potential. He was not over his head or over-matched by any means. To call him the “weak link” in the secondary and say he is “the No. 3 corner at best” is off the mark. Understanding that the rankings are based on numbers from last year Kacsmar is ignoring the progress Apple has shown thus far. The view here is that no one will be calling him a weak link by the end of the 2017 season.