Cue the “Big Apple” headlines. The Giants selected Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple with the 10th overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
Apple had been in the news before being selected because of an anonymous scout questioning his life skills, including Apple’s cooking ability.
“You hear everything,” said Giants GM Jerry Reese. “It’s all people talk about, the draft, it’s a phenomenon now. Half the stuff people we’re talking about, they don’t know what they’re talking about. There’s stuff spewed all over the place. We listen to our scouts, we do the work. Hey, this guy is a good player, he’s clean. We don’t have any issues with him.”
Big Blue is looking for another Jason Sehorn, not another Emeril Lagasse.
“I don’t care about his cooking,” Reese said.
Perhaps gaining national recognition can prepare him for the fishbowl that is New York sports. For his part, Apple didn’t seem too bent out of shape about it.
“It’s all good,” Apple said. “That’s part of the process, I knew it was going to be crazy. I didn’t think it was going to be like this crazy, but now that it’s over, I’m happy. I can’t wait to start playing football and do something I actually love to do, so I’m excited.”
While the Giants won’t count on Apple to cater team meals, they can hope for some production from the Defensive MVP of the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. He was also on the 2014 Ohio State championship team. Playing in college for the Buckeyes isn’t the same as playing in New York, but he does have experience in big games.
“All that’s a part of the equation, but what he does on the field, how he played, he’s a big time player, big time program,” Reese said. “He’s 20, he’s got a huge upside, he was the highest player on our board, it’s a need pick.”
While everybody loves an underdog story, players from bigger schools might have less of an adjustment to make than a star from an FCS school. Perhaps Apple can have a similar career to Terry Kinard. Kinard was on a national championship team at Clemson, and then was selected 10th overall by the Giants in 1983. Although the 80s Giants are remembered for Carson, Banks, and Taylor, Kinard had 27 interceptions in seven seasons. The safety was also part of the 1986 team that won Super Bowl XXI.
Many fans and experts were surprised by how early Apple was taken. Even Apple didn’t think going to the Giants was a possibility.
“Not really, honestly,” Apple said. “They talked to me one time at the combine, but that was about it. It’s kind of crazy to see myself on the screen (at) like number 10 and all that stuff, but I’m excited.”
With the league being as pass-oriented as it is, having another corner was vital for the Giants.
“What is it up to, 60% now, that teams are in three wide or more,” said Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross. “So your third corner is essentially a starter now and that’s the way you’ve got to look at it. A guy like Eli, with size, is almost more than a third corner. You can use him in different ways.”
Ross was not scared off by Apple’s alleged lack of cooking skills. “It’s ridiculous,” Ross said. “You look at players and you scout them for the qualities that are important. Somebody asking about cooking is ridiculous.”
The organization is hoping that a corner who picked off four passes in college is worthy of being a top-10 pick. There are questions about that from experts but that means very little to the Giants. “If you get a dime for every expert, I could retire,” Ross said. “Come on. Experts? People analyze. People have opinions. What’s it based on? Nobody has seen the tape. Nobody goes to practice. Nobody puts in the work like the scouts do. It’s easy to second-guess and pick and say get everybody’s pick right and tell them what they should do, but you’ve just got to put in the work and trust what you do.”
Playing in the media capital and suddenly becoming a millionaire could turn some guys into wild animals, but the Giants aren’t worried about Apple. “He is young but he is mature,” said head coach Ben McAdoo. “He showed that in the interview where he could — he did a great job communicating with us about football, about things that weren’t football, about his personal life. He did a great job when the film was on. He can jump on the board and communicate that way, so he is a mature young man who comes from an outstanding program that has a lot of great players and he shined there.”
Over the years, the Giants have had very few draft busts, unlike the team they share a stadium with. The Giants are hoping that Eli Apple doesn’t buck the trend.