The Ohio State Buckeyes have become a first-round cornerback factory in recent years. Bradley Roby kickstarted the trend by going 31st overall in 2014. Just two years later, Eli Apple joined him. Unfortunately, the New York Giants didn’t get a great return on their investment. Still, that hasn’t stopped the newest member of the Carolina Panthers from breaking the bank.
Eli Apple went from Ohio State to the New York Giants
Ohio State produced a star-studded 2016 NFL draft class. Joey Bosa went third overall to the Los Angeles Chargers and became an instant-impact star. One pick later, Ezekiel Elliott went to the Dallas Cowboys. He too turned into an overnight sensation. Just six picks later, Eli Apple joined the Cowboys’ biggest rival.
The move should have been a home run for the Giants. After all, Apple ran a blazing 4.40 40-yard dash at nearly 6-foot-1, 199 pounds. Yet, the physically gifted defensive back never lived up to his draft status.
The Philadelphia native started 11 games as a rookie and recorded just one interception and seven passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus, he earned a grade of 58.9, which certainly fell below expectations considering he went 10th overall.
Apple started just seven games in his second season and didn’t record a single pick. He did bump his PFF grade up to 64.5. However, the former first-rounder wouldn’t spend much more time disappointing Giants fans.
Former first-round pick got traded to the Saints
Eli Apple wore out his welcome in New York for reasons beyond his disappointing play. He first found himself in hot water after posting on Twitter in the midst of a loss to the Cowboys in early December 2017. Just two days after Christmas, the Giants handed Apple a one-game suspension “for a pattern of behavior that is conduct detrimental to the team,” according to ESPN.
An argument ensued in part because Apple, a former first-round pick, was again working with the scout team. Words were exchanged between the embattled second-year player and cornerbacks coach Tim Walton, and Apple had to be restrained by teammates. He later declined to talk during an open locker room period with the media.
Star safety Landon Collins also referred to his defensive backfield mate as a cancer and even went so far as to say that Apple shouldn’t be on the team the following year, according to NJ.com.
Even if the directive didn’t come from Collins, the Giants obviously agreed. Just five games into the 2018 season, Apple got traded to the New Orleans Saints for fourth- and seventh-round picks. He went on to start 10 games. Apple recorded two picks and nine passes defended.
New Orleans declined his fifth-year option and let Apple play out the final year of his rookie deal. Last season, he failed to pick off a single pass in 15 starts. He also posted a career-low four passes defended and entered the free-agent pool with little buzz as a first-round bust.
Apple adds to his bank account by signing with the Panthers
Interestingly, Apple nearly became a Raider this offseason before his deal fell through. In the ensuing months, his name barely got mentioned amongst available free agents. However, the Panthers took a flyer on the talented CB at the end of May. Details of Apple’s contract haven’t been made available yet, but it’s safe to say the former Buckeyes standout doesn’t need to worry about money.
According to Spotrac, Apple has made almost $15.1 million since entering the NFL. As a top-10 pick, he received a whopping $9.2 million signing bonus. Last season, the Saints paid their starting corner $2.52 million. Apple did get fined $66,985 in December 2017 as part of his punishment for his confrontation with the Giants’ coaching staff.
Eli Apple does have a chance to resurrect his career in Carolina. He’ll be just 25 years old this season and he didn’t become the 10th overall pick without talent. The Panthers have a new coaching staff and a loaded defensive line. Perhaps a change of scenery and the opportunity to cash in as a free agent next year will help Apple elevate his game in 2020.