New York Giants Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma – Round 2
It is not a stretch to project Shepard to be a starter even though he could be limited to being a slot receiver. The reason for that is the overwhelming majority of offensive snaps in the NFL now feature three-receiver sets. Thus, a third wideout has replaced a fullback as a starter, and that makes the slot receiver a critical contributor. Shepard should be a starter for New York and I believe it could happen as soon as this season.

In 2015, Shepard totaled 86 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. He made some huge, clutch plays to lead Oklahoma’s offense. For the NFL, Shepard (5-10, 194) is a small, shifty slot receiver. He can get separation with his quickness and route-running, but looks limited to a slot role.

The Giants were a great landing spot for Shepard. With Odell Beckham Jr. drawing attention, Shepard should have a lot of one-on-one match-ups to exploit. Also, most teams nickel/slot corner is the worst cover corner among their three top cornerbacks. Thus, Shepard could be poised to draw a lot of favorable matchups. Being a highly experienced player, Shepard could quickly emerge as a solid starter for the Giants.

Most Likely To Bust

Darian Thompson, S, Boise State – Round 3
I thought the Giants could use a safety upgrade next to Landon Collins, especially given Collins’ limitations in pass coverage. New York needed a true free safety who could be the deep center fielder, yet also play some man coverage on slot receivers and tight ends. Curiously, New York basically drafted a lesser version of Collins in Thompson. Thompson also is a strong safety, a physical player who has limitations in pass coverage.

In speaking with sources, they say they don’t believe that Thompson has true centerfield speed. He’s at his best when the play is in front of him and isn’t a safety to go one-on-one in coverage. Thus again, Thompson is more of a strong safety than a free safety.

From a skill-set perspective, Thompson doesn’t have the speed, athleticism, instincts and vision to thrive in a free safety role. I think that will be exposed, and he could end up being a bust as a starter next to Collins. Thus, Thompson might end up competing with Collins to be the starting strong safety.

Potential Boom Pick

Eli Apple, QB, Ohio State – Round 1
The Giants took a raw, risky player with Apple. I think they made a huge mistake passing on Laremy Tunsil, but Apple does have a great skill for the NFL and plays a critical position. The 6-foot, 199-pounder has the size, speed and length to be an outside corner. He has the athletic potential to be a very good starting cornerback.

For the NFL, Apple would be best as a press-man corner to start off his career. He can play zone and off-man, but he looks more comfortable playing press-man. Apple is good at jamming receivers and turning and running with them downfield. Apple also has the height to defend big receivers and the speed to run with quick receivers. As a pro, Apple could start out as a press-man corner primarily as he develops the ability to play off-man coverage.

Apple also has the luxury of developing behind two quality veteran cornerbacks as Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should get the toughest challenges of receivers. Apple could start out competing as a nickel corner who is matched up on bigger slower receivers as he would have an easier time with them than smaller, speed wideouts. With those veterans to help him, Apple could develop into an excellent pro who is a boom pick given his great skill set.

Future Depth Player

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA – Round 5
Perkins was a nice value pick for the Giants in the fifth round. Over the past two seasons, he was a quality runner and receiver for the Bruins. Perkins has a nice combination of strength, toughness, and speed. As a junior in 2015, he averaged 5.7 yards per carry for 1,343 yards with 14 touchdowns. He also had 30 catches for 242 yards and a score. Listed at 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, Perkins looked slimmer than that during his college games, and I think he might lack the size for the NFL. It wouldn’t surprise me if Perkins has injury issues if the Giants try to use him as a bell-cow feature back. He could be a nice No. 2 back and a player who contributes to the passing game. Perkins could easily turn into a solid rotational and depth running back for New York.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

10. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State C Grade
I had a feeling that Eli Apple might be chosen over Vernon Hargreaves. But that was more of teams being down on Hargreaves than front offices liking Apple. I think this is a bit of a reach. I had Apple at No. 14, but with Shaq Lawson, Hargreaves and Laremy Tunsil available, the Giants could’ve gone in a different direction. Still, I won’t penalize the team too much, as they were blind-sided with Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd both being snatched off the board right in front of them. A “C” grade seems appropriate.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

40. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma B Grade
No surprise that the Giants drafted a receiver early. They were desperate to find a second wideout across from Odell Beckham Jr. It seems like there were higher-rated receivers on the board, such as Tyler Boyd or Michael Thomas, but Sterling Shepard makes sense as a second-round selection. Unlike New York’s initial pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, this is a solid choice that isn’t a reach.

71. Darian Thompson, S, Boise State A- Grade
Darian Thompson could’ve easily been chosen in the middle of the second round, so this is great value. Thompson also fills a need, as New York had to obtain help next to Landon Collins. Thompson has tackling concerns, but he’s a play-maker who will create turnovers for the Giants.

109. B.J. Goodson, LB, Clemson B+ Grade
B.J. Goodson had a ton of buzz in the lead-up to the 2016 NFL Draft, taking tons of meetings. This is the right spot for him though, and it’s hardly a surprise that the Giants chose a linebacker, as they have one of the worst situations at the position in the NFL. A solid tackler, Goodson should be able to compete for a starting job right away.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: B- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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