If given that “golden” opportunity as a rookie, expect Shepard to shine under New York’s bright lights, perhaps even generating some Offensive Rookie of the Year consideration if a few big plays on the big stage earn the Giants a return to the playoffs.
Other thoughts on the Giants’ 2016 draft class:
While Giants fans probably loved the selection of Shepard in the second round, there may have been some confusion as to general manager Jerry Reese’s pick of Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple at No. 10 overall. After all, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played well in 2015 and the Giants handed Janoris Jenkins a five-year, $62.5 million deal in the offseason.
Apple checked in at No. 18 on my own personal Big Board, so I am not about to characterize the selection as a terrific value, but given how often teams line up in three-receiver sets in today’s NFL, one can’t bicker about the Giants’ eagerness to add a third standout corner. The buzz leading up to the draft was that NFL teams were higher on Ohio State’s redshirt sophomore than I was, with some claiming that he would ultimately prove the best cornerback from this class.
The 6-1, 199-pound Apple is long, physical and fast, projecting ideally outside in press coverage, which is where the 6-2, 193 pound Rodgers-Cromartie excels. The 5-10, 198 pound Jenkins is the logical candidate to move inside for nickel duties — a role in which he stood out during his time with the St. Louis Rams. The addition of Apple is essentially extending the aggressive bet Reese and Co. made in signing Jenkins and edge rusher Olivier Vernon in free agency. Giants fans who applauded those moves should also approve of the addition of Apple — once they appreciate how he fits.
While perhaps not the plug-and-play option that Apple and Shepard offer, former UCLA running back Paul Perkins is another intriguing selection for the Giants. His slashing running style complements what the club already has in the always-grinding (but rarely breaking away) Rashad Jennings and Vereen, a receiving specialist. Perkins was highly productive at UCLA, leading the Pac-12 in combined rushing yards the past two seasons, but scouts wondered if the Bruins’ spread offense and talented QBs inflated his numbers. Expect Perkins to contribute in 2016, but Shepard is the name for fantasy football enthusiasts to get excited about.
Kaepernick will need further clearance from the San Francisco 49ers’ medical staff when he reports for training camp before he can take the field.