Eli Apple's selection as the No. 10 pick in last year's NFL Draft was met with some objection, but early returns indicate the Giants made a sound choice.Who should be Giants' free agency priority after JPP?
Apple had a solid first season, starting 11 games, and his performance earned himself a spot on famed former Cowboys personnel man Gil Brandt's 2016 All-Rookie Team for NFL.com.
"Some thought the Giants reached for Apple in the draft, but I think he outplayed expectations, posting 51 tackles, a pick and a forced fumble," Brandt wrote. "Apple looks like he'll be a cornerback in the NFL for a long time; he can play inside or outside."
Apple may be able to play inside, but the Giants have not yet asked him to do that. There's no indication they will, either. He and Janoris Jenkins appear entrenched as the Giants' outside corners going forward, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (or another corner) handling slot duties.
Apple finished with 49 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble, playing in 14 games. Those statistics are a bit deceiving, too, considering Apple played under 10 snaps in two games before exiting due to injury.
Apple was benched about halfway through the season against the Eagles, but he bounced back to play at least 98.2 percent of the Giants' defensive snaps in the final six games of the season, the playoff loss to the Packers included. Apple also played at least 96.8 percent of the defensive snaps in seven of the Giants' last eight games.
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NFL.com also recently heralded the Giants' 2016 rookie class as a whole, giving the group a one-year draft grade of B-plus. That grade encompassed the Giants' six-man draft class (Apple, Sterling Shepard, Darian Thompson, B.J. Goodson, Paul Perkins, Jerell Adams) as well as the team's key undrafted free agent signings (Andrew Adams, Roger Lewis, Romeo Okwara).
The Giants' return to prominence was fueled by a defense that invested heavily in upgraded personnel in the offseason. In addition to bringing in some marquee names via free agency, the team also plucked a long, rangy corner in Eli Apple to fortify the secondary. The rookie contributed 51 tackles, one forced fumble and an interception in 14 games. Most importantly, Apple showed team officials he could be a solid long-term playmaker at the position. Andrew Adams joined Apple in the secondary and responded well to being pressed into duty after entering the league as an undrafted free agent.
On offense, the Giants got solid contributions from Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. Shepard, in particular, looked like a natural WR2 on the way to scoring eight touchdowns on 65 receptions. He should team with Odell Beckham Jr. to give the Giants a solid 1-2 punch in the passing game for seasons to come.
The Cowboys' draft grade was A-plus (Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott made that an obvious mark), while the Eagles received a B-minus and the Redskins got a C.
James Kratch may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesKratch. Find our Giants coverage on Facebook.
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