A team selecting in the top 10 is usually a team that needs significant roster improvements at specific positions. A top 10 pick should be projected to be at least a starter if not number one on the depth chart at their position when the season kicks off in September. Yet the people Big Blue selected, Eli Apple with the 10th pick and Sterling Shepard with the 40th pick overall are two individuals that will not have a tremendous amount of pressure placed on their shoulders in their inaugural campaign.
The New York Giants were a team that had a lot of needs to be addressed in the 2016 NFL draft. While the defensive line was a primary focus during free agency there were no major acquisitions at offensive line or linebacker. Many projected that the G-men could follow a similar pattern and draft an offensive lineman in the first round or the Giants could do something they have not done since 1984 by drafting a linebacker in the first round.
After a most unusual 1st round because of a 30 second video released on social media, Roger Goodell strolled to the podium and announced that the Giants had drafted from Ohio State University cornerback Eli Apple. Apple’s name made pundits in New York City ecstatic because his first name is the same as two time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning and his last name goes along with one of the many pseudonyms for New York which is the Big Apple.
After the pundits had their fun and the loyal followers of Big Blue did their google search on Eli Apple there are two reasons that the new Eli will not have immense pressure when Apple suits up in his rookie season. First, the Giants already have two starting cornerbacks in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins. Rodgers-Cromartie established himself as a playmaker in 2015 with three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. The G-men had a bleak 2015 Rodgers-Cromartie earn a trip to the Pro Bowl for his play. Jenkins signed a 5 year 62 million dollar pact with the G-men this off-season and when you sign that large a contract it should be anticipated to make an immediate impact.
The second reason Apple will not have unbearable pressure in 2016 will be because Apple will be used as the number 3 cornerback. When the Giants play their divisional arch nemesis the Dallas Cowboys Apple will not draw the assignment of Dez Bryant. Bryant is a top 5 talent in the league and many experienced NFL cornerbacks have been exploited by Bryant. And as it stands right now Apple will not have the responsibility of shutting Bryant down twice in 2016.
Similar to Apple, Shepard will not have pressure because of current players on the roster. In Shepard’s case Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz alleviate potential stress. For the wide receiver position for the New York Giants the number one slot on the depth chart belongs to Odell Beckham Jr. Very few players have entered the league and made such an impact for their team in the manner in which OBJ has done. Currently OBJ will be the focal point of opposing defenses not Shepard. Shepard should ease himself into Ben McAdoo’s offensive and find his niche for 2016 without being the focal point of the 11 players on the opposing side.
Victor Cruz is another reason why there will not be pressure on Shepard. Cruz is an example of a rags to riches story who went from undrafted free agent to crossover media sensation in 2011 mainly because of his play and his salsa dance touchdown celebration. Unfortunately the last time Cruz salsa danced for the Giants was in October 2014 when his season was cut short due to an ACL injury. 2015 was not better for Cruz as he was unable to completely heal a calf injury and did not play the entire season. There could be more pressure on Cruz in 2016 than Shepard because Cruz only signed a one year deal and Cruz still needs to prove that he can stay healthy and play at a high level.