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Giants Stun Many, Select Eli Apple in 2016 NFL Draft

After months and months of speculation and mock drafts, the Giants made one of the more surprising picks of the 2016 NFL Draft’s first round, selecting Ohio State CB Eli Apple with the tenth overall pick.

At 6-1, 199 pounds, Apple has the build of an NFL corner, and was a steady playmaker for the Buckeyes over the past two seasons. He has great strength that should help him go up against NFL receivers, and is quick for his size, which is a plus.

In his two years on the field for Ohio State, he racked up 17 passes defended, four interceptions, and 86 tackles (7.5 for loss). He was a key part of the Buckeye’s 2014 championship season, and he clinched the championship game victory in 2015 when he picked off Oregon QB Marcus Mariota on the final play of the game.

Newly selected Giants CB Eli Apple with Commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft on Thursday (Photo: AP).

Newly selected Giants CB Eli Apple with Commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft on Thursday (Photo: AP).

Despite Apple’s impressive college resume, his selection is still very surprising. Cornerback was not thought to be a position of need for the Giants, and even if the Giants went with a corner, most had Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves (who went to the Bucs with the very next pick) ranked higher.

Rumors throughout the day suggested the Giants were interested in selecting Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd with that pick, but the Chicago Bears traded up to get the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s ninth overall pick to get Floyd. The Bears’ eagerness to trade up despite the Giants being the only team ahead of them suggests they were confident the Giants would take Floyd.

In addition to Hargreaves and Floyd, the Giants were also linked to Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins (who went 12th to the Saints), Ohio State LB Darron Lee (20th to the Jets), and UCLA LB Myles Jack (who was not selected in the first round).

Offensive tackle was a major need for the Giants entering the draft, but Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley and Michigan State’s Jack Conklin were off the board by the time the Giants picked, going to the Ravens at No. 6 and the Titans at No. 8, respectively.

The Giants could have addressed their need at tackle by selecting Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil, who was still available. But the Giants opted to pass on the former consensus top overall pick after his Twitter account was seemingly hacked, displaying a video of him smoking a bong through a gas mask.

Giants fans have been less than thrilled with the pick. At the Giants’ draft party at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night, the Big Blue crowd let out an audible grown and exclamations of confusion and shock when the pick was announced.

Apple seems to have a lot of promise, and reportedly has the strong work ethic that the Giants organization values, but he still wasn’t expected to go so early. Most draftniks had him as more of a mid-to-late first round pick. ESPN’s Mel Kiper didn’t expect Apple to be taken until the Cardinals selected 29th overall.

What role Apple will fill as a rookie remains to be seen. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is due over $6 million a year for the next three seasons, and the Giants just gave Janoris Jenkins a five-year deal worth $62.5 million, which would seem to lock those two in as the starters.

Beyond DRC and Jenkins, however, the Giants don’t have much in the way of depth. Behind the two starters, the Giants have just Trevin Wade, Tramain Jacobs, and Leon McFadden. Unless the Giants add a veteran corner in free agency, Apple should have no trouble earning slot corner duties, and should be a reliable back-up in the event one of the starters goes down with injury.

The draft continues with Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday night. The Giants still have a lot of positions of need, including offensive line, linebacker, and safety. It will be interesting to see if the Giants address any of those needs when they pick ninth in the second round.

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