The first round of the 2016 NFL Draft was truly one to remember, that is, for some teams of course. The NFL Draft is an essential part of a team’s growth and gambling draft picks can ruin a franchise’s future. The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys both made some very bold choices in this year’s draft. However, only one gamble may pay off.
The Giants spent a large amount of money in the 2016 free agency period. Most of their acquisitions were on the defensive side of the ball. Jerry Reese filled some major holes that desperately needed to be addressed, including the Giants’ secondary. Most analysts assumed the Giants would choose an offensive player in the first round due to their focus on the defense in free agency.
Reese actually decided to do the opposite, by drafting former Ohio State Buckeyes’ cornerback Eli Apple last night. Apple was projected to be drafted far outside the top 10. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports had Eli Apple being drafted by the Carolina Panthers at the 30th overall pick. Mike Mayock of NFL.com had Eli Apple being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 25th overall pick.
There is clearly something very odd about the Giants drafting Apple, who was never ranked as a top 10 talent. Reese must feel as if Apple is a prospect he just couldn’t pass up. Apple definitely wasn’t falling into the second round, so choosing him was the only choice the Giants had.
The gamble the Giants’ organization and Jerry Reese made may have been a little too risky. Choosing a player within the top 10 usually means that he can be an instant contributor. Apple is not one of those players. Apple is going to have to do a lot of learning before he consistently hits the gridiron.
The move is even more puzzling given the fact that the Giants signed former Los Angeles Rams’ cornerback Janoris Jenkins to a monster deal this offseason. Behind Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, there isn’t much depth at the cornerback position. Reese clearly wanted to add some depth at the position.
In the post-draft press conference, Reese was asked a few questions about the possibility of any of their listed cornerbacks being switched over to safety. Reese stated that they will all play cornerback, including Apple.
“When you have two corners in this league, you’re short one because the offensive teams throw the ball so much and you’ve got to have three quality corners to really get out there and function at a high level, I think. This guy gives us three quality guys that we think we can play with anybody around the league with these three kind of guys.”
The Giants could definitely use depth at cornerback, but adding a “depth” player within the top 10 is a little bit of a reach. It almost seems as if Reese wasn’t prepared for the Tennessee Titans to trade up one place higher than the Giants and take one of their highest-rated players, offensive tackle Jack Conklin.
The Giants should have addressed their poor offensive line, which is a move that would have made more sense. Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, who is rated the best offensive lineman in the entire draft, was still on the board when the Giants chose Apple.
Tunsil happened to be the La’el Collins of 2016. Collins had a scandal unravel just before the 2015 NFL Draft. The scandal caused him to go undrafted until he was eventually signed by the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys happened to get a major steal because Collins developed into one of the better offensive tackles in the NFL.
A scandal on Tunsil’s social media accounts hurt his draft stock just before the draft started yesterday. He argued that the accounts that allegedly belonged to him were hacked. Just before the draft, there was a video posted of Tunsil smoking a substance through a tube while wearing a gas mask on his social media account.
Even though it isn’t the Giants’ style to draft a player like that, it still may have been a better move than drafting Apple. The Giants missed out on a key player that could have solidified their offensive line. Tunsil has the ability to be an immediate starter and protecting Eli Manning should come first.
The Dallas Cowboys made a sensible move by drafting running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was, by far, the highest-rated running back prospect in the draft, with the fourth overall pick. Elliott was also on the Giants’ radar and definitely could have been chosen if the he fell to the 10th overall pick. The Cowboys knew better than to pass up Elliott.
The Cowboys found their running back of the future in Elliott who is a definite “plug and play” kind of football player. With arguably the best offensive line in the league, Elliott may do more damage than former Cowboys’ running back DeMarco Murray.
Elliott is young, fast, and dangerous. With a healthy Tony Romo and a consistent running game, the Cowboys may recapture their playoff-caliber form. Romo, Elliott, and Dez Brant is a tandem that will be every NFL defenses’ nightmare.
Drafting a running back within top five choices of the draft may pay off from a short-term point of view, but in the long-term it could hurt the Cowboys’ salary cap. If Elliott does become a star, which he has the potential to be, the Cowboys are going to have to pay him like one.
It should be interesting to see Elliott and the Cowboys face off against the Giants’ overhauled defense. Fans won’t get to see what move paid off more until the two teams square-off in week one.
[Photo via Jon Durr/Getty Images]