NFL Draft Review/Grade: NFC East

Continuing on with our draft reviews, it’s time to analyze the drafts of each team in the NFC East. This was definitely one of the most polarizing divisions regarding the draft. Two teams (Giants and Eagles) traded up in the first round, two teams (Giants and Redskins) selected quarterbacks, and one team (Cowboys) didn’t even have a first-round pick. Who improved their team significantly? Who whiffed with their picks? Let’s take a closer look.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys
Photo Cred: Dallas Cowboys

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 2, Pick 58 DT Trysten Hill, USF (B-)

Round 3, Pick 90: G Connor McGovern, Penn State (A-)

Round 4, Pick 128: RB Tony Pollard, Memphis (B)

Round 5, Pick 158: CB Michael Jackson, Miami (A)

Round 5, Pick 165: DE Joe Jackson, Miami (A-)

Round 6, Pick 213: S Donovan Wilson, Texas A&M (B+)

Round 7, Pick 218: RB Mike Weber, Ohio State (A)

Round 7, Pick 241: DE Jalen Jelks, Oregon (A-)

Grade: B

After trading away their first-round selection for Amari Cooper last season, the Cowboys had minimal selections to try to improve their team, though they had few glaring holes entering the draft. One potential need was another interior defensive lineman, since David Irving retired. That motivated them to select USF defensive tackle Tryston Hill with their second-round pick. Hill will be a rotational player for Dallas next season; he has solid length and speed and is fine against the run, but he’s still unpolished. He’s a nice pickup for the Cowboys, but with more impact players available at safety with Nasir Adderley, Taylor Rapp, and Juan Thornhill, they probably should have opted for a player who would be a day-one starter. Adding onto their depth, the team selected Penn State guard Connor McGovern in the third round. Though Dallas has one of the league’s best run-blocking offensive lines, there is uncertainty regarding center Travis Frederick’s health and guard Connor Williams’ struggles, so McGovern provides excellent insurance for this season and could start in the future.

Trying to add more excitement to their offense, the Cowboys selected Memphis running back Tony Pollard in the fourth round. Pollard is a versatile playmaker who would thrive in a lot of offenses, but Dallas failed to utilize Tavon Austin properly last season, and new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore needs to show that he can get Pollard involved. In the fifth round, the team drafted two Jacksons from Miami: Michael Jackson, a corner who provides depth and may be a future starter, and Joe Jackson, a powerful defensive end that should at least be a rotational player in the NFL. Safety Donovan Wilson (sixth round) finally addresses the safety issue, but he’s nothing more than a reserve player. Running back Mike Weber in the seventh round could be a steal, as he’s a polished running back that was very productive at Ohio State, and should be an excellent backup for Ezekial Elliot. To wrap up the draft, Dallas drafted lengthy defensive end Jalen Jelks, who is worth a flyer in the seventh round based on his frame and athleticism, though he lacks refinement.

The Cowboys added depth to their roster with solid value selections, but they did not add safety or a tight end, two positions they needed to look at. The few remaining holes on the roster went unresolved, so although this was a nice draft, it definitely could have been better.

New York Giants

daniel jones
Photo Cred: slate.com

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 6: QB Daniel Jones, Duke (D)

Round 1, Pick 17: DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson (D-)

Round 1, Pick 30: CB Deandre Baker, Georgia (C-)

Round 3, Pick 95: EDGE Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion (A)

Round 4, Pick 108: CB Julian Love, Notre Dame (A)

Round 5, Pick 143: LB Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin (C)

Round 5, Pick 171: WR Darius Slayton, Auburn (B+)

Round 6, Pick 180: CB Corey Balentine, Washburn (B+)

Round 7, Pick 243: T George Asafo-Adjei, Kentucky (B)

Round 7, Pick 245: DL Chris Slayton, Syracuse (B)

Grade: D+

The Giants were one of the most interesting teams heading into the draft, and they did not disappoint. Despite the high-end defensive talent on the board and the consensus better quarterback available in Dwayne Haskins, New York opted for Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth overall selection. Jones has solid fundamentals and athletic ability, but he lacks the arm talent to be an impact quarterback that would warrant this selection. He looks to be an Andy Dalton or Ryan Tannehill type starter at best, and could easily wind up being more of a high quality backup. Even worse, had they passed on Jones at #6 for a blue-chip defensive prospect such as Houston’s Ed Oliver or Kentucky’s Josh Allen, there is still an overwhelming chance that Jones would have been available with their second first-round pick at #17 overall, which the Giants used to select Clemson nose tackle, Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence is an excellent run defender, but he’s not an impact pass rusher, and big body, one-dimensional run stuffers like him are outdated in today’s NFL. Furthermore, New York already had two quality interior defensive lineman on the roster with Dalvin Tomlinson and PJ Hill, so this selection was incredibly unnecessary, especially with tackle Andre Dillard still available. At least the team finally recognized a need by trading up to select cornerback Deandre Baker with the 30th overall selection, but even he was considered by most to be the third-ranked cornerback; they probably could have still drafted Baker with the 37th overall pick.

With their only day-two selection, the Giants selected Old Dominion pass rusher Oshane Ximines. Unlike their day-one picks, they actually nailed this selection; Ximines fills a huge need and fits defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s aggressive 3-4 scheme. Julian Love, considered a round-two prospect by most experts, was a steal in the fourth round and should replace Janoris Jenkins as the starting nickel corner. The rest of the draft was fine but mediocre. Linebacker Ryan Connelly doesn’t produce much intrigue and looks to be a special team contributor. Receiver Darius Slayton (5th round) and cornerback Corey Balentine (6th round) have athletic upside, but both are still unrefined. George Asafo-Adjei in the seventh round should add some depth at tackle, but he’s not much more than a depth piece, and defensive lineman Chris Slayton clogs up the defensive tackle depth chart further.

This draft was a disaster for the Giants; they missed the opportunity to address significant long-term needs and add franchise players. Instead, they walked away with a mediocre quarterback, a nose tackle, and a starting-caliber, yet often too aggressive cornerback they had to trade up for. That’s not ideal, and it could hamper the team’s rebuild significantly.

Philadelphia Eagles

dillardd
Photo Cred: Philly Voice

Round 1, Pick 22: T Andre Dillard, Washington State (A)

Round 2, Pick 53: RB Miles Sanders, Penn State (A)

Round 2, Pick 57: WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford (B-)

Round 4, Pick 138: DE Shareef Miller, Penn State (B+)

Round 5, Pick 167: QB Clayton Thorson, Northwestern (B)

Grade: A-

Unlike the other teams in the division, the Eagles have a relatively complete roster, which allowed them to be flexible in the draft and pounce at the opportunity to add an impact player at any position. The opportunity presented itself when Washington State tackle Andre Dillard slipped to the 22nd overall selection; they traded up, surrounding only a fourth and sixth round pick, and selected him. This addressed a long-term need, as starter Jason Peters is already 37-years-old. It also is an excellent fit for Dillard, who lacks some polish as a run blocker; he can learn from Peters this season and take over for him next season without much of a drop-off in talent at all.

With a pair of second-round selections, Philadelphia added playmakers to the offense. Running back Miles Sanders, drafted with the 53rd overall pick, is a quality outside runner and a receiver, and is the complete running back that the team lacked last season. He could take the offense to another level next season, and take immense pressure off of Carson Wentz. JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s skills as a receiver are redundant with Alshon Jeffrey already serving as a big-body/red zone threat, and a more polished route runner and slot receiver would have fit better, but he still adds much-needed talent to the receiver position.

Another selection that may help fix a long-term need, edge defender Shareef Miller has tremendous upside given his athletic traits, and could ultimately work his way into a starting spot if Brandon Graham regresses or the team eventually cuts ties with Derek Barnett if he becomes too expensive. Quarterback Clayton Thorson has the arm talent and athletic ability to be at least a solid backup quarterback, which Philadelphia needed, given Wentz’s injury history and Nick Foles leaving in free agency.

Despite having limited selections, the Eagles added a franchise left tackle, two offensive playmakers, and two solid depth pieces. This was a very productive draft for the team, and it adds to what is an excellent resume for executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman.

Washington Redskins

Redskins
Photo Cred: The Athletic

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 15: QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State (A-)

Round 1, Pick 26: EDGE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State (B+)

Round 3, Pick 76: WR Terry McLaurin, Ohio State (B)

Round 4, Pick 112: RB Bryce Love, Stanford (B)

Round 4, Pick 131: OL Wes Martin, Indiana (C)

Round 5, Pick 153: OL Ross Piershbacher, Alabama (B+)

Round 5, Pick 173: LB Cole Holcomb, North Carolina (B-)

Round 6, Pick 206: WR Kelvin Harmon, NC State (A+)

Round 7, Pick 227: CB Jimmy Moreland, James Madison (A)

Round 7, Pick 253: EDGE Jordan Branford, Oklahoma State (B)

Grade: A-

Heading into the draft, the Redskins looked like a complete mess. There were rumors that owner Dan Snyder had “taken over” the draft, and that the team would make an aggressive and puzzling move to trade up and select a quarterback. In the end, Washington got the player they wanted all along, and drafted Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall selection. It seemed as though Haskins would never be available at that pick, but as a result of the Giants taking Daniel Jones and no team trading up, the Redskins pounced on the opportunity to get their franchise quarterback. Though it’s no sure thing Haskins will be a star, he’s got great arm talent and a quick release, and should be a competent NFL starter at the very least. Washington wasn’t done; they traded up from their second-round pick, giving up a 2020 second-round pick in addition, in order to select Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat. Sweat may have the most upside out of any player in this entire draft class thanks to his incredible athleticism and tremendous length, but lacks polish and has some “character” concerns. Still, if coached properly, he could turn into an absolute star, so to risk two second-round picks on his upside makes sense, especially since the team needed to acquire another pass rusher.

With their third-round pick, the Redskins added another Ohio State player in receiver Terry McLaurin. McLaurin is an excellent fit for a team that needed to add speed and a vertical threat to their receiving corps, and his experience with Haskins in college can only help the transition for both players into the NFL. Adding more players with tremendous upside, the Redskins may have gotten as steal in the fourth round with Stanford running back Bryce Love, who would have been a coveted prospect had he not tore his ACL. If healthy, he could form a lethal pairing with Darius Guice in the backfield for the future. It’s unclear what the team saw in guard Wes Martin in the fourth round, but they made up by selecting guard Ross Piershbacher, an accomplished and polishing offensive lineman from Alabama, in the fifth round. Linebacker Cole Holcomb is a rangy linebacker, which also is decent value with their other fifth-round pick. Then, they may have gotten the steal of the daft when they selected receiver Kelvin Harmon in the sixth round. Harmon reminds many of Michael Thomas, who proved that a lack of top-end speed doesn’t prevent a receiver from being a top-end player in the NFL. He is an excellent catch in traffic receiver with solid route running, and could be a starter right away. Cornerback Jimmy Moreland was another steal for the Redskins in the seventh round, with excellent ball skills and a fine athletic profile, and could also emerge as a potential future starter. To wrap up the draft, edge defender Jordan Branford adds needed depth the edge rush.

The Redskins draft can be seen as a “boom or bust” type draft class, especially with their early picks. However, it’s their work at the back-end of the draft that stands out, and if Haskins and Sweat pans out, this will be a tremendous haul for the franchise.

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