The NFC East had just one team in the playoffs this season, the first time that’s happened since 2004. The Giants were close and the Cowboys lost their quarterback, so a return to multiple teams in the playoffs isn’t out of the question. Draft reviews have been mixed for this division and, while no team combined drafted value with filling needs, there will be a solid influx of talent to this division this season.
Dallas has had issues protecting Tony Romo in recent seasons and it hurt them last year, when Romo missed a good portion of the season due to injury. Enter USC’s Tyron Smith, the draft’s highest-rated tackle. Smith played right tackle in college but has the size (6-5, 307) and athleticism to man the blind side in the NFL. His instincts need some work but he can be a starter this season, possibly by Week 1. Second-round pick Bruce Carter has the sideline-to-sideline speed teams like in a middle linebacker and, if it wasn’t for a season-ending knee injury, could have gone closer to round one. He’ll fit well in Dallas’ 3-4 scheme. DeMarco Murray has the size (6-0, 213) and speed (4.4) of a featured NFL runner, but he enters a crowded backfield and has had injury issues in the past. David Arkin played tackle at Missouri State but will move to guard to take advantage of his interior blocking ability. He won’t start right away but he offers potential as a fourth-round pick. Josh Thomas has the physical skills and aggressive nature to develop into a solid second or third corner in the NFL, but must improve his awareness and instincts to stick.
Dallas did well filling needs will their early and mid-round selections and also grabbed some talented players in the process. Murray is a player Dallas may view as their featured back of the future considering Marion Barber’s expected departure and the inconsistencies of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Overall, it was a solid draft for the Cowboys. Grade: B
The Redskins had the chance to take Blaine Gabbert to be their quarterback of the future, but opted to trade out of the 10th pick. Instead, they took Ryan Kerrigan after moving down six spots. Kerrigan may not have the highest ceiling but he’s a high-character guy with a non-stop motor and excellent instincts. He’s a good fit at outside linebacker in Washington’s 3-4 and should make plays up the field. Jarvis Jenkins may settle in as a defensive end rather than a defensive tackle unless he improves his strength but his athleticism will allow Jim Haslett to use him in multiple looks along the Washington line. Leonard Hankerson is a smooth, reliable receiver that has number-two potential in the NFL, but lacks the physical tools to be a top target. Roy Helu is a great fit in the Redskins’ zone-blocking offense, where his lack of lateral quickness will be masked in a one-cut scheme. Niles Paul became the third straight Nebraska player taken by the Redskins and, while he was inconsistent as a senior, still can contribute as a third wideout. Aldrick Robinson could help stretch the field out of the slot with his 4.35 speed. Brandyn Thompson lacks the size or speed to be a starting NFL corner, but finding a potential nickel back in round seven is good value. Markus White could be a pass-rush specialist to spell Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo on occasion.
Washington didn’t solve their quarterback issues, but many felt that this wasn’t the draft to grab a future leader anyway. The Redskins agreed and kudos to them for passing on Gabbert if they didn’t like him. Kerrigan and Jenkins should improve a front seven that needed a lot of help and Washington also added depth to what was a terrible receiving core outside of Santana Moss. Washington also had eight picks in the final three rounds and if a few of those players prove roster-worthy, this will be a good draft. Grade: B-
New York Giants
The Giants got possibly the steal of the draft when Prince Amukamara fell into their laps with the 19th pick. He was a top-ten player on our board and gives the Giants great depth and talent at corner. Marvin Austin has first-round talent but was maddeningly inconsistent at North Carolina. If he can show the desire to be elite, he just might be one of the steals of this draft. Jerrel Jernigan has the burst and elusiveness to make up for his lack of size (5-9, 185) and should be fun to watch out of the slot and in the return game. James Brewer is a project with the size (6-6, 323) to be used on the right side and the pass-blocking ability to be used on the left side. Once he improves his consistency and flexibility, he could start in New York. Greg Jones is undersized at linebacker but is a tackling machine with good intelligence and sideline-to-sideline ability. He could start on a team with a strong line, which the Giants have. Da’Rel Scott has the ability to be a solid third-down back if he stays healthy.
The Giants did a great job drafting for value in the early rounds, but eschewed what many viewed as their biggest need until taking Brewer in the fourth round. Their offensive line will continue to be an issue next season unless they make moves in free agency, but it’s difficult to argue with the talent they acquired. Amukamara and Austin could both be among the best players at their position from this particular draft. Grade: B
Many, including myself, thought cornerback Jimmy Smith was a great fit for the Eagles. But with Smith still on the board, they went with Baylor guard Danny Watkins, who should start from the outset on the right side. He’s a hard-worker with good fundamentals and the versatility to play multiple positions and should be an asset for Philadelphia. The Eagles addressed their secondary in round two with safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, who had a fifth-round grade from Draft Insider. Jarrett has nice upside and is solid against both the run and the pass, but will have to reach his full potential to justify this pick, as he’s not a game-changer. Curtis Marsh has good upside as a press corner in the Eagles’ system, but played just two seasons at Utah State after moving from running back and will need time to develop. Casey Matthews was a reach in round four with average athleticism and a seventh-round grade. While he’s a hard worker, he’s no Clay. Alex Henery has the leg strength and accuracy to replace the aging David Akers. I’ve always liked Dion Lewis, but his size will limit him to third-down duty and the Eagles already have a great receiving back in LeSean McCoy. Fullback Stanley Havili could make an impact catching passes out of the Philadelphia backfield, while his limitations blocking in the running game will be masked in the Eagles’ West Coast system.
While the other three NFC East teams added serious talent or filled holes on their team, the Eagles seemingly did neither. Every pick they made could be considered a reach in some sense and they didn’t make any particularly great value picks in the middle or late rounds. Watkins will help them right away, but other than that they drafted a bunch of prospects that are unlikely to outperform their draft slot. Grade: C-