NFC East Draft Grades
Our newest writer, Aaron Aloysius, gives you the official Draft Breakdown grades for the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys: C
Master showman Jerry Jones must have been very disappointed when his ’09 draft ended up being a rather dull exercise. After forking over multiple draft picks for Roy Williams, the Cowboys didn’t end up picking until the 3rd round and only managed to add a mixed multitude of linebackers, safeties, and special teamers.
In many ways, the Cowboys’ draft this year’s draft was a corrective to last year’s boredom, with the ‘boys adding a couple high upside prospects, albeit ones with considerable risk. This year’s draft addressed the same positions as last year’s effort, leaving the Cowboys’ needs on both sides of the line virtually unaddressed.
In the 1st round, the Cowboys traded up to select the free-falling Dez Bryant. Bryant slid because of concerns regarding his maturity and work ethic, which could prove to be damning for a big-bodied wide receivers with less than elite long speed. Nevertheless, Bryant was a worthwhile risk/reward pick for the Cowboys, who had him as the 11th best player on their draft board (Bryant was the #12 prospect on our Top 100 Board). While a smart move in its own right, the Bryant pick has to be seen as an indictment of the Cowboys’ major investment in Roy Williams. As such, even the excitement of adding Bryant must be tinged by a little bit of regret in Dallas’s front office.
The Cowboys had Penn State linebacker Sean Lee rated three spots below Bryant on their draft board, yet they managed to get him thirty one picks later. The instinctive linebacker should fit in well in Dallas, serving as Keith Brooking’s understudy and eventual replacement. However, Lee also comes with some significant durability concerns. After tearing an ACL tear in ’08, Lee injured the other knee in ’09, forcing him to sit out three games. But the pick again doubled up on a position addressed last year, when the Cowboys used a 3rd round pick on athletic small school LB Jason Williams. One wonders whether Lee will end up blocking Williams’ path to anything more than a special teams role.
In the 4th round, the Cowboys took another injury/upside gamble with Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. At one point, the small school cornerback was projected by some to be the next Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but inconsistent play as a senior and a shoulder injury dropped him all the way to the 4th round. This pick could end up being a huge steal for Dallas, but it’s unclear what the position the big, athletic defensive back will play. If he’s moved to safety, his surgically-repaired shoulder could impair his tackling ability, as well as pose a long-term durability issue.
The Cowboys finally addressed their need at offensive tackle in the 6th round, drafting the once highly-touted Sam Young. But as a pure right tackle prospect, Young doesn’t appear to be capable of providing competition for left tackle Doug Free, nor does he offer the versatility to effectively kick inside to guard. Though the Cowboys did trade for Alex Barron after the draft, that move probably eliminated any chance Young had at making the 53 man roster.
Dallas finally addressed their need for added d-line depth with 7th round pick Sean Lissemore. The organization has had some success grooming late round developmental defensive lineman, most notably Jay Ratliff, and Lissemore posted workout numbers nearly as impressive as the Cowboy’s Pro Bowl nose tackle. But in a draft class full of talented five techniques, the Boys could have done a better job of addressing the position. Instead, they opted for positions that had already been prioritized in last year’s draft.
Round 1 (pick 24) Dez Bryant — WR — Oklahoma State
Round 2 (pick 55) Sean Lee — LB — Penn State
Round 4 (pick 126) Akwasi Owusu-Ansah — DB — Indiana (PA)
Round 6 (pick 179) Sam Young — OT — Notre Dame
Round 6 (pick 196) Jamar Wall — CB — Texas Tech
Round 7 (pick 234) Sean Lissemore — DT — William & Mary
New York Giants: B
In 2009, the Giants’ defense descended to a level of mediocrity not seen since the pre-Spagnuolo years. The team responded by bringing in new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and immediately bought him a pricey new playmaker in Antrel Rolle. In addition, the Giants’ draft almost exclusively addressed the defensive side of the ball, though it’s unclear whether their additions will have the immediate impact the team is hoping for.
Indeed, if there’s one word that sums up the Giants’ early round picks, it would be “upside”. Unfortunately, those high-upside prospects require some more seasoning. In the 1st round, the Giants passed on Derrick Morgan’s polished game in favor for the athletic, back-flipping specimen that is Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul may be able to contribute immediately as a pass rusher, but he’ll need to expand his repertoire of rush moves, as well as become a better run defender. For that to happen, he’ll need to stay motivated, which was a concern that during the draft process.
In the 2nd round, the team drafted ECU defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who possesses an intriguing combination of size and athleticism. However, the big man needs to learn to play with better leverage if he’s ever going to be a dominant run defender. As a result, he may not be a major contributor until 2011, possibly replacing pending free agent Barry Cofield.
The 3rd round brought the Giants another high upside prospect in Chad Jones. At one point considered a fringe first round prospect, Jones slid after posting underwhelming workout numbers and disappointing in team interviews. If he can keep his weight down, Jones could earn a starting role with the club, especially if Kenny Phillips’ injury woes persist.
While the team did bolster its safety depth, one wonders whether they could have done a better job of addressing their need at inside linebacker. Unfortunately for them, possible target Rolando McClain came off the board before they could nab him in the first round, but the ILB prospect they ended up picking up in the 4th round, Nebraska’s Phillip Dillard, actually had more success in college as a weakside backer. As such, it’s unlikely that the team came out of the draft with a long-term replacement for Antonio Pierce; instead, Dillard should provide decent depth at linebacker, much like 6th round hybrid Adrian Tracy.
The Giants may have begun the long-term retooling of its defense, but it will be leaning heavily on its new defensive coaching staff: both to develop these high upside prospects and deliver a very good defense while these guys still are getting up to speed.
Round 1 (pick 15) Jason Pierre-Paul — DE — USF
Round 2 (pick 46) Linval Joseph — DT — East Carolina
Round 3 (pick 76) Chad Jones — S — LSU
Round 4 (pick 115) Phillip Dillard — LB — Nebraska
Round 5 (pick 147) Mitch Petrus — OG — Arkansas
Round 6 (pick 184) Adrian Tracy — DE/LB — William & Mary
Round 7 (pick 221) Matt Dodge — P — East Carolina
Philadelphia Eagles: B+
It’s not often that a team trades up eleven spots in the first round yet still amasses an impressive twelve-man draft class. But due to the McNabb and Sheldon Brown trades, as well as a series of draft trade downs, the Eagles were able to get their man in Brandon Graham without sacrificing the opportunity to address other needs.
While some questioned whether the Eagles would have been better off trading up to select Texas safety Earl Thomas, the team managed to address their need at the position by drafting Nate Allen. Though Allen’s not a ballhawk on the level of Thomas, the USF product is better in run support and a strong candidate to earn a starting job this year.
The Eagles then worked the phones, trading down three times before selecting high motor defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. The trade down strategy worked out masterfully for the club, as it netted them a group of promising prospects, among them defensive end/linebacker Ricky Sapp and receiver Riley Cooper. Though those two prospects slid deep in the draft because of injury and effort concerns, the two prospects could end up being just as productive as Te’o-Nesheim.
However, the trade down strategy also had some negative consequences. Because of it, the Eagles missed out on some of the more promising second-tier cornerbacks in this year’s class.
Indeed, one could question whether the Eagles would have only traded down twice if they could have secured Jerome Murphy, Amari Spievey, or Myron Lewis; unfortunately, all of those defensive backs were already off the board before the Eagles could nab one of them.
Instead, the Eagles ended up securing Kentucky corner Trevard Lindley, who didn’t impress during his down senior season and disappointed at the Senior Bowl. Though it’s possible that Lindley will return to his junior season form, the prospect of him becoming a solid replacement for Sheldon Brown doesn’t appear too likely. ’09 5th round pick Macho Harris may bolster the team’s cornerback by moving back to corner, but the team didn’t come out of the draft with the starting-caliber corner many expected them to bring in.
Still, the Eagles managed to put together an impressive draft class, rounded out well by a group of late rounders who could carve out large enough niches to make the team. Charles Scott could give the team a power back complement to LeSean McCoy, and 7th rounders Jamar Chaney and Kurt Coleman could make squad as special teamers. As a result, it’s hard not to like the Eagles’ deep draft class.
Round 1 (pick 13) Brandon Graham — DE — Michigan
Round 2 (pick 37) Nate Allen — S — USF
Round 3 (pick 86) Daniel Te’o-Nesheim — DE — Washington
Round 4 (pick 105) Trevard Lindley — CB — Kentucky
Round 4 (pick 121) Keenan Clayton — OLB — Oklahoma
Round 4 (pick 125) Mike Kafka — QB — Northwestern
Round 5 (pick 134) Ricky Sapp — DE — Clemson
Round 5 (pick 159) Riley Cooper — WR — Florida
Round 6 (pick 200) Charles Scott — RB — LSU
Round 7 (pick 220) Jamar Chaney — LB — Mississippi State
Round 7 (pick 243) Jeff Owens — DT — Georgia
Round 7 (pick 244) Kurt Coleman — S — Ohio State
Washington Redskins: C
With the new Shanahan/Allen regime firmly in charge in DC, some things drastically changed, yet other things remained the same. Unlike previous years, the team didn’t make a big splash in free agency, adding a few veteran backs and line help but not breaking the bank to sign any high-price free agents.
However, the team also continued its tradition of shipping away high draft pick, with the team forking over an early 2nd round pick for Donovan McNabb. Though the trade in and of itself makes sense, the loss of a 2nd round pick left Washington particularly poor on draft day; the team had already forfeited their 3rd round pick in order to select Jeremy Jarmon in last year’s supplemental draft.
In order to protect McNabb, the Redskins used their first pick on offensive tackle Trent Williams. The athletic offensive lineman is a good fit for Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme, but one wonders whether the team would have been better off selecting Russell Okung, who’s a more polished left tackle and – at this point – a superior pass blocker. With McNabb’s history of having trouble staying healthy, Williams’ inconsistent play could lead to a rocky first season for Shanahan.
In the 4th round, the Redskins drafted LSU outside linebacker Perry Riley, who likely will move inside in Washington’s new 3-4 defense. Though a solid pick, Riley was the only draft day addition Washington made to bolster their new base defense. Brian Orakpo should excel as one of the team’s outside linebackers, but it’s unclear whether Jeremy Jarmon possesses the athleticism to become the long-term solution at the other spot. And while the team did add some veteran defensive lineman, it’s unfortunate that the Redskins were unable to come out of this year’s draft with a development five-technique or two. With guys like Arthur Jones, Clifton Geathers, and Brandon Deaderick coming off the board in rounds 5-7, the Redskins would have been wise to bring at least one into the fold.
Instead, the team added a return specialist and two offensive linemen, most notably West Virginia offensive tackle Selvish Capers. The athletic lineman is another good fit for Shanahan’s ZBS; with some refinement, he could develop into a starting tackle, though his inconsistent footwork and struggles anchoring against the bull rush pose major stumbling blocks to that happening.
The Redskins didn’t come into the draft with a lot of ammo, so it’s hard to be overly critical about their unimpressive draft class. However, they didn’t do a great job of making the most of their limited resources; for that reason, they received a less than impressive grade.
Round 1 (pick 4) Trent Williams — OT — Oklahoma
Round 4 (pick 103) Perry Riley — LB — LSU
Round 6 (pick 174) Dennis Morris — FB — Louisiana Tech
Round 7 (pick 219) Terrence Austin — WR — UCLA
Round 7 (pick 229) Erik Cook — C — New Mexico
Round 7 (pick 231) Selvish Capers — OT — West Virginia
Check back soon to see draft grades for the rest of the NFL teams.