Bengals’ draft class possible ends any likelihood of an Eli Apple return

When Eli Apple was signed by the Bengals earlier than the 2021 NFL season, many followers groaned.

Apple, a first-round select of Ohio State by the New York Giants within the 2016 NFL draft, had been labeled a bust as he massively underachieved with the Giants, Saints, and Panthers.

He ended up beginning each recreation of the 2021 season and helped the Bengals not solely win their first playoff recreation in over 30 years, however they went to the Tremendous Bowl.

Apple re-signed earlier than the 2022 season and once more began each recreation, this time serving to the Bengals get to the AFC Championship.

In his time in Cincinnati, Apple turned a polarizing determine for the Bengals. Not solely did he play the very best soccer of his profession, however his trolling on Twitter was legendary.

For followers of different groups, Apple turned one of the vital hated figures in soccer. Bengals followers both liked him or hated him. There was no in-between, however many thought the Bengals would deliver him again if the value was proper, contemplating the crew’s lack of depth at nook.

Apple had an up-and-down season, ending with an total protection grade of 55.0, per PFF. He had some actually dangerous video games, however he had actually good ones too. He gave up 53 receptions on 91 targets for 4 touchdowns. He didn’t have any interceptions, however he broke up 9 passes.

With regards to his on-field play, he’s probably finest identified for one play within the AFC Championship recreation on January 30, 2022. The Chiefs had been main by a rating of 21-10 and had been knocking on the door of one other landing proper earlier than halftime.

Patrick Mahomes discovered Tyreek Hill within the flat, and Apple was the one man between Hill and the top zone. Right here’s the play.

If Apple doesn’t make that sort out on one of many quickest gamers within the NFL, the Bengals don’t go to the Tremendous Bowl. He made performs like that usually, however seemingly, simply as usually, he blew protection or bought burnt. Most individuals thought the Bengals would re-sign Apple, not less than for the depth or to be a backup to Awuzie or Taylor-Britt, however now that the draft is over, it’s clear the Bengals plan to maneuver forward with out Apple on the roster.

Earlier than any draft picks or free agent signings, the Bengals’ depth chart on the cornerback place was fairly naked. There was Chidobe Awuzie, who’s getting into the final 12 months of his deal and is coming off a season-ending damage, Cam Taylor-Britt and Mike Hilton, in addition to a handful of gamers with little to no expertise. Now, it’s fairly full and certain doesn’t have room for an additional participant except there’s a camp damage.

The Bengals chosen not one however two cornerbacks within the 2023 NFL Draft. They chose DJ Turner II out of Michigan within the second spherical with the No. 60 total choose, then grabbed D.J. Ivey out of Miami (Florida) with the No. 246 choose within the seventh spherical.

Earlier than the draft, in addition they signed former Raiders cornerback Sidney Jones IV to a one-year deal. Additionally they re-signed Jalen Davis to a two-year deal. Turner and Jones have the very best possibilities to start out as outdoors corners if there’s an damage or if there’s a setback on Awuzie’s knee rehabilitation. Davis is Hilton’s backup within the slot.

All through his profession, Apple has began in 71 video games, made 307 tackles, intercepted 5 passes, knocked down one other 45, pressured three fumbles, and recovered seven fumbles.

Over his profession, he’s had a mean PFF protection grade of 59.2 and a mean total grade of 60.5.

If that is the top for Apple in Cincinnati, and it appears to be like like it’s, I want him the very best in his profession within the NFL. Additionally, if and when he does play in opposition to the Bengals sooner or later, I hope he’s nicer to them on Twitter than he was with different groups.