The immediate reaction over the selection of Eli Apple by the Giants was anything but kind. But, did Jerry Reese actually do the right thing?
If you believe the oft-repeated narrative that the New York Giants primary targets in Round 1 of the 2016 NFL Draft were Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd or Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin, then through seven picks Thursday it looked the odds were in the Giants' favor that at least one of the two would still be on the board with the 10th overall pick.
Then, the Tennessee Titans struck, moving up from No. 15 to No. 8 in a trade with the Cleveland Browns. Conklin gone. But, Floyd was still there and only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stood in the way of getting the player many thought they wanted all along.
Then, the Chicago Bears leap-frogged the Giants, moving from No. 11 to No. 9. Floyd gone.
Oh, crud. What common wisdom held to be the Giants' plan had just gone up in flames.
What on Earth would the Giants do now? If they didn't trade down, the pick had to be either free-falling offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil after his gas-mask bong video surfaced, or Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Right? That's what every media-compiled draft board in America said. Right? Maybe they would throw caution to the wind and draft LB Myles Jack. Right?
Well, wrong. GM Jerry Reese, head coach Ben McAdoo and the Giants decided to bring another Eli to the Big Apple, selecting Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple.
Wait, they did what? Fans hate the pick [see here | and here]. The immediate media narrative was that Reese got outmaneuvered, and then he reached.
Really? Look, I know there is always a rush to judgment. Everyone wants to put a grade on a pick, to decide if it was good or bad, as soon as the pick is made. I know no one expected this pick, not even Apple himself, and that he was ranked 26th on our Consensus Big Board.
None of that make it wrong.
Remember what the "Big Blue View Rules For Draft Success" say. Trade down, not up, unless you are making a move for a franchise-changing player -- almost always a quarterback.
Was it a bummer to watch teams move around and snag the players the Giants were expected to target right out from under them? Sure. Does that mean the Giants should have traded up? Absolutely not. They only have six picks, they need more than one player, Reese correctly assessed that they weren't in a position to surrender draft assets.
Given what happened in front of the Giants, did Reese select the wrong player? How does anyone know that? Apple is a 20-year-old kid with loads of talent and potential. He hasn't set foot on an NFL practice field, let alone played in a game. Who knows what kind of player he will be? I understand that meaningless draft boards didn't have Apple as a value pick at that spot, and that Reese's draft record and the Giants lack of wins over the past few seasons gives the GM no margin for error. Not to mention no good will from the fan base. How about, however, let's give the kid a chance to get on the field and perform before deciding that this was a move that -- judging by some of last night's vile comments -- should have Reese condemned to unspeakable fates.
Why didn't the Giants take Hargreaves, a player most media analysts ranked ahead of Apple? I am not privy to the Giants' draft board or their internal scouting reports, but personally I have never believed Hargreaves was a player who interested the Giants. Reese has a type -- he likes long, athletic players who check off the size/speed measurables and who have upside. Apple checks off those boxes. He's also a press-man corner. Hargreaves is a good player, but smaller and slower than ideal. Rightly or wrongly, he doesn't fit the Giants' profile.
Would I have been happy to see the Giants trade down in this scenario? Sure. I advocated that enough times in the run-up to the draft that it should be obvious I would have applauded a sensible trade down. Reese acknowledged the Giants had one offer to trade down, but said "we didn't like it." If the Giants had an offer to move down from a team picking inside the top 15, for me that would have been a no-brainer to accept. First-round trades after the Giants' pick, though, all came from teams drafting 21st or below. That would have been way too far to drop down. If that's where the Giants offer to move down came from, staying put was the right call. We don't know where it came from, and probably never will.
Certainly, this wasn't the scenario anyone expected for the Giants when the draft began. Reese and the Giants could end up with egg all over their faces. They could end up looking brilliant. Let's just calm down, take a deep breath, and let it play out. Besides, don't you need to save some of your anger for the next two days?