NFC East Draft Grades
The 2013 NFL Draft certainly carried a much more ‘under the radar’ feel than 2012’s circus, thanks in large part to the lack of play callers getting their names called on Day 1. Grading a team’s draft class is tricky; do you look to see how well a team addressed their needs? Do you grade it simply on how well it looks on paper (ask Cowboys fans how they feel about that)? Every talking head has their own way of analyzing a draft class, none of which are right or wrong, but some are more insightful than others. In this writer’s humble opinion, the grades should be a mix of need, talent, and system-fit. True grades cannot be assessed for at least 2-3 years, but here goes:
Dallas Cowboys : C+
With the Cowboys beginning to see their Pro Bowl caliber players like Romo and Ware age into their mid-30s, it was certainly eye-opening to see them trade back in the first-round. This could be a reflection of a lack of talent in need positions early in the round, or simply Jerry Jones trying something different. First-rounder Travis Frederick (Wisconsin) was unquestionably a reach, but the combination of the fact that he comes from the University of Offensive Linemen and that he will provide solid run-blocking instantly makes the selection somewhat feasible. The selections of TE Gavin Escobar (San Diego State), WR Terrance Williams (Baylor), and Joseph Randle (Oklahoma State) are what bump this draft class up for the Cowboys. As perennial Pro-Bowler Jason Witten continues to age and deal with injuries, the 6’6” Escobar will provide the Cowboys the ability to feature legitimate 2 TE sets, while also molding this young player into a future starter with amazing upside for years to come. The poor blocking and inability to get off the line in bump coverage is a concern, but the physical attributes were too much to pass up. Terrance Williams has the talent to outplay his draft position, but will find himself in a spot where coming by playing time will be an issue. For Williams, the issue will be finding playing time amidst the group of Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Dwyane Harris. 4 WR sets are not out of the question, but with the addition of another pass-catching TE in Escobar the ball distribution could get thin quick. The other 2 predominant picks were J.J. Wilcox (S, Georgia Southern) and Joseph Randle (RB, Oklahoma State), each of which did not provide overwhelming talent, but more a need to add depth. Both do not have the upside of earlier round picks, but have the chance to start in some capacity within the first 2 years and give the Cowboys much-needed depth.
New York Giants: B+
The New York football Giants followed their usual path of laying underneath the radar in this draft, making solid picks that furthered line depth and provided legitimate back-ups/future starters for multiple positions. The Justin Pugh (OT, Syracuse) pick was a solid one in that it provided the team with a viable starting lineman that could be around for a decade and fills a needed position at right tackle. 2nd rounder Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State) adds depth to the defensive line while shoring up the need for another run defender on the line. The 3rd and 4th round picks really should get the attention of Giants’ fans. Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M) and Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse) bring potential to the table that could blossom into something big in a few years. While Nassib will sit behind Eli Manning for as long as the starter is healthy, Moore provides an amazing skill set that is comparable to current All-Pro Jason Pierre-Paul. Nassib brings size and confidence to the table, while Moore’s lack of maturity could potentially offset his amazing talent. While the team failed to address its weakness at linebacker, the addition of Moore gives the team another edge rush option and Hankins will provide another run support option along with Mike Patterson and Linval Joseph.
Philadelphia Eagles: B-
A new era has begun in the city of brotherly love, as rookie head coach Chip Kelly attempts to bring his fast-paced offense from the Pac-10 to the NFC East. The Eagles certainly covered a great deal of ground in this year’s draft, but was it enough to help conform the offense to Kelly’s new system. The team’s first pick, Lane Johnson (OT, Oklahoma) was one that addressed a glaring need for a team who has been severely impacted by its offensive line issues in recent years. The athleticism and quickness of Johnson will provide Coach Kelly with the necessary parts to operate his infamous bubble screens, while also providing protection for QB Michael Vick. Tight End Zach Ertz out of Stanford adds another piece to the puzzle offensively for Kelly as he brings a level of physicality, intelligence, and versatility to the table that once-prospective star Brent Celek has lacked in recent memory. The poor red-zone offense of the Eagles will certainly be impacted by this addition. The 3rd round selection of Benny Logan (DL, LSU) and 5th round pick of Earl Wolff (S, N.C. State) seem like solid picks that fill depth needs, but the selection of USC QB Matt Barkley is somewhat suspect. While Barkley possesses the abilities of a pocket quarterback, his limited movement and weak arm on the run do not seem to mesh with what Coach Kelly is looking to get out of his system.
Washington Redskins: B
The 2013 NFL Draft for the Washington Redskins was somewhat of a waiting game, as the team handed over its 2013 and 2014 first-round picks to the Rams in order to move up and draft QB Robert Griffin III last year. This team’s draft defines the confusion and debate with draft grades, as they picked up several late round ‘needs’ that have off-the-field issues, but who could blossom into NFL stars and took a few risks with injury-riddled talent in the middle to late rounds. CB David Amerson (N.C. State) was their first selection in the 2nd round and started a theme for the 2013 Skins draft; ball hawks. Amerson was joined by 4th round selection Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State) and 6th rounder Bacarri Rambo (S, Georgia) as newbies to the club who could legitimately start coming Week 1. With a porous secondary, it was imperative for the club to address this glaring need, while also providing Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslem with some legitimate weapons to play around with. Jordan Reed (TE, Florida), has been compared to former Gator Aaron Hernandez as a player who can stretch the field and provide the Redskins with another pass-catching tight end to compliment Fred Davis. While blocking will be a work-in-progress, Reed’s downfield abilities were simply too much to pass up in the 3rd round. The selections of Brandon Jenkins (OLB, Florida State) and Jawan Jamison (RB, Rutgers) were typical Shanahan picks; those that had early-round talent but were passed up due to injury. Jamison will provide Shanahan with another change-of-pace back who could take 3rd down snaps from Evan Royster, while Jenkins provides All-American potential that will allow him to fight for starting time in the midst of Rob Jackson’s suspension. The Redskin’s draft provides both talent and need, the question is whether or not the injuries and off-the-field issues will be dispelled enough in order to provide the team with legitimate starters down the road.