By Steve Silverman
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It is possible for teams to overcome less than productive NFL drafts on occasion, but if you are going to be successful in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s world, teams must find talented and productive players on a consistent basis.
It helps if the coaching staff can develop that talent, but the baseline is extremely important. Players have to bring a significant level of talent with them when they join their teams, and they must be ready to show that off from the start.
Neither of New York’s teams appear to have done an overwhelming job in that area.
The Jets hit a home run with their first-round pick, Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee, and the choice of Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg may work out in Year 2 or 3. But the rest of the draft appears to be ordinary at this point.
The Giants did not hit the ball out of the park with Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple in the first round. Apple has a fine all-around talent, but the Giants used the No. 10 pick in the draft to take a player that most general managers would not have taken until the 20th pick or later. Many of the other selections are strong, including Boise State safety Darian Thompson taken in the third round. But it’s hard to love what general manager Jerry Reese did when he appears to have misread the draft with his first pick.
Lee should be a sensational fit for the Jets’ defense, and the more that coach Todd Bowles sees from him in training camp this summer, the more he will like him and realize that he has a chance to be a game-changing player. Lee has the ability to get into the backfield and make plays, and he is fast enough to cover the best tight ends in the league.
That theory will get tested severely when Lee has to confront Rob Gronkowski, but he may be better equipped to deal with that assignment than any other linebacker the Patriots’ superstar will face all season.
Hackenberg is not an immediate answer for the Jets. It is very unlikely that in his rookie year he will overcome the accuracy problems he displayed at Penn State, and that means he will offer little help to a team that has quarterback difficulties in the coming season (at least until they bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick). It is also easy to question why the Jets went with Hackenberg when they could have selected Connor Cook of Michigan State, but general manager Mike Maccagnan obviously did not think the former Spartan was the better quarterback.
The Jets have needs on the offensive line, but they didn’t address them until they selected offensive tackle Brandon Shell of South Carolina in the fifth round. If they had addressed their o-line needs in the third or fourth round, Graham Glasgow of Michigan or Rees Odhiambo of Boise State would have been available, and either of those players would have been better than Shell.
PHOTOS: 2016 NFL Draft
The Apple pick is not a bust for the Giants, just an overpayment by Reese. The Giants apparently wanted edge rusher Leonard Floyd of Georgia, and when the Chicago Bears traded up and took him, Reese reached for Apple.
Reese found a couple of big-time winners with his next two picks in Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard and Thompson.
Shepard is a dynamic slot receiver who can run any pattern asked with precision and dependability. While he lacks impressive size at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, he has game-breaking quickness, an impressive vertical jump and the kind of hands to make the tough catch.
Eli Manning already has Odell Beckham Jr., and life just got even better for him with the addition of Shepard.
Thompson has the kind of ability that could have warranted a pick late in the first round or early in the second. He was one of the best safeties in the draft, and he has the kind of unique ball skills that could make him a difference maker right from the start of the season.
Fourth-round pick B.J. Goodson had an excellent run during his college career at linebacker for Clemson, and he should help a Giants defense that was poor last season get a little bit better
The Giants are not very impressive at the running back position, but the addition of Paul Perkins from UCLA should help. Perkins is not a superstar, but the 5-10, 208-pounder was quite productive with the Bruins (3,491 career rushing yards) and has the vision to find the hole and accelerate through it.
We’re giving the Jets a C-plus for the draft and the Giants a solid B because they recovered well after the first-round reach.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy