The State of the NFC East following the 2014 NFL Draft
The most sought after event in football, aside from opening day and the Superbowl, is the NFL draft. How well teams do in the draft is a key factor in determining how well they will do that season and in future seasons. As a whole, the NFC East had very poor to average drafts this year. All the teams added some nice pieces, but most of them failed to address key positions during this yearâ€™s draft. Some teams did better than others, and some teams have set themselves up for a playoff run this year. Could the Dallas Cowboys be one of those teams?
New York Giants:
I personally believe the Giants had one of the better drafts in the NFC East. I donâ€™t like how they didnâ€™t properly address the O line or the D line, but they hit on a few nice pieces and did well in UDFA: possibly getting their best player as an UDFA. The one problem area that I felt wasnâ€™t properly addressed was their offensive line. Eli Manning showed that he isnâ€™t a capable QB if he doesnâ€™t have an offensive line blocking for him. Unless some drastic improvement is made within the organization, expect more of the same.
Round 1: Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham is an extremely fast WR who ran a 4.38 40 at his combine. He also has the footwork and acceleration to match his top end speed. More importantly, he looks fast on tape with the pads on. He has the ability to beat press coverage with his quickness, which is a huge boost to a rookie WR. He has decent height at 6â€™0â€. He has nice soft hands to catch the ball in stride and compete for contested balls. He has a good attitude and mean streak to his game. He doesnâ€™t possess great strength, which will hurt him going against bigger CB in the NFL. His route running is decent, but he needs to get better at that. Like Dez Bryant, he can make the insane catches, however, struggles to focus on the easy ones, and we’ll see those drops that make you scratch your head. I think he is similar to Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers.
Round 4: Andre Williams
Andre Williams is a hulking RB who the Giants took in Round 4 of this yearâ€™s draft. He comes in at 5â€™11â€ 230 lbs. He will be able to bulldoze over opponents quite easily with his size and overall strength. He had 2,177 rushing yards is 2013, showing he is more than capable of handling a heavy load of attempts. This pick shows me the Giants may be more willing to commit to the ground game this year: which should help take some pressure off of Eli Manning.
Williams is a willing blocker in pass protection; however, he isnâ€™t a natural at it. He didnâ€™t catch many passes in his career. He may be relegated to a short distance role his first year because of this.Â He is a smart player, who should be able to pick things up quickly. This pick doesnâ€™t bode well for the defenses of the NFC East. I think he is similar to Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins in that he is a more than capable runner, but needs to be a better pass catcher to develop into an every down and distance player.
UDFA: Eathyn Manumaleuna
Most people know Eathyn Manumaleuna if they have been paying attention to this site. He is somewhat of a household name already. The Giants were fortunate enough to grab a DT who will help anchor their D line for years to come. He is 6â€™2â€ 295 lbs, but he plays even bigger than that. He has excellent strength. His block shedding ability is unique, he is able to shed blocks and get into the backfield for TFLs. He isnâ€™t your typical big blob who just eats up blockers. At one point, Ezekiel Ansah was this guyâ€™s backup.
Kyle Van Noy was considered one of the top play-making LBs in the NCAA, but he doesnâ€™t come close to his numbers without this man eating up blocks. When looking at tape, I felt his ability as a player was on par with 2nd round pick Timmy Jernigan. He needs work as a pass rusher, but will make an impact in the ground game, which is important with guys like Lesean McCoy, Alfred Morris, and Demarco Murray literally running the division.
Other Notable Players: Kelcey Quarles DT, and Weston Richburg C.
Full Draft Grade B-
Of all the teams that reside in the NFC East, the Redskins had the worst draft of the group. They didnâ€™t have a 1st round pick, which isnâ€™t a big deal, but they failed to address their problems in the secondary a year ago, and they didnâ€™t give RG3 enough talent along the offensive line.
Lache Seastrunk is a nice little piece; however, I donâ€™t reward teams for drafting rotational or backup players. Time will tell how he compares to the dominant backs in the NFC East.
Round 2: Trent Murphy
Big Trent Murphy was one of my favorite players during the middle of the season; however, as I saw more games, I began to realize he is not a DE in the NFL. He would be better as a standup LB. Fortunately he went to a 3-4 team, the Washington Redskins.
He is not the fastest, strongest, or most athletic player; however, he has a relentless motor and plays smart. He plays with power. He has a variety of pass rush moves, and counter moves to be an effective pass rusher at the next level. He can also play the run quite well.
He was probably drafted to replace Brian Orakpo. The problem with Murphy isÂ he may be maxed out and may not get much better, but he will be far from a bust. He doesnâ€™t have elite quickness, and isnâ€™t capable in coverage. He was one of my favorites in the draft, it’s just a shame that he went to a NFC East division rival. I think he compares to a poor manâ€™s version of JJ Watt. He is around every play, and does a lot to impact the game.
Round 3: Morgan Moses
Mogan Moses is a solid prospect, who plays with technique. He plays with proper knee bend. He uses his hands well, and they are always active. He also can play with power, driving opponents off the ball, rather than just occupying them. He possesses enough athleticism to handle speed rushers off the edge. There are a lot of times where he will be seen looking at the ground, trying to overpower his opponent and this causes him to get off balance. He has decent athleticism, but not enough of it, to be able to readjust if he is caught in a bad spot. He could be a nice solid piece opposite Trent Williams; however, fans in the NFC East shouldnâ€™t lose any sleep over him. At least in his first year, he will struggle handling guys like Kerrigan and Lawrence.
Other Notable Players: Lache Seastrunk RB.
Full Draft Grade D
I actually believe the Eagles had a fairly average draft. I tend to give higher grades to teams who do well after round 3. They hit on 2 players in round 5. My biggest complaint with their draft is their 1st round pick, which was a significant reach, probably even bigger than the reach the Cowboys took on Frederick last year. The Eagles failed mightily in building up their defense which was horrid last year. Their offense should once again be spectacular, however, they are putting a lot of pressure on Nick Foles and Lesean McCoy to carry them through the NFC East.
Round 2: Jordan Matthews
Jordan Matthews was one of the top WRs in the draft this year. He performed well in a tough division. Matthews is a do it all WR, he can catch the short, mid-range, and long range passes. He can come up with jump balls. He has enough speed to stretch the field and put pressure on the backend of the defense. He possesses great awareness, and he has good route running skills. He is a very polished player, who has yet to hit his ceiling. It is tough to use negatives, but his speed can still be a question mark. He has good long speed, but doesnâ€™t accelerate fast enough. He will bring the much needed size that the Eagles have lacked for a while.
Round 5: Taylor Hart
Taylor Hart is a nice player, with good length and above average athletic ability. He has long arms that allow him to keep blockers at a distance. He plays with patience, is able to recognize screens and draws, and will not get drawn in on those plays. He has the ability to chase down plays to the outside having played OLB in college before. He may be limited however, because he isnâ€™t quick enough, and his body is too big to play DE. He is a tweener at the next level, but will have a role for the Eagles.
Round 5: Ed Reynolds
I tend to praise Stanford quite a bit, for their toughness and overall ability to find players that share the same philosophy. Stanford players donâ€™t always do well in the NFL; however, that is not the case with Ed Reynolds. I graded Reynolds as one of my top S in the draft. He is a violent hitter, with above average coverage skills. He isnâ€™t the most athletic guy, but he is a football guy, who takes good angles to the ball carrier. He is a good S when it comes to tackling, he will wrap up, instead of going for the highlight hit. He played on one of the best defenses in football last year, and he is a saavy player, who should adjust quickly to the NFL. While I think he can be a playmaker, he isnâ€™t a guy who is consistently making those crucial INTs a defense needs. He can lose his composure from time to time. He also draws penalties for targeting. He compares to Adrian Wilson.
Other Notable Players: Josh Huff WR and Beau Allen DT
Full Draft Grade C+
The Dallas Cowboys routinely fail in the draft. Ever since the departure of Bill Parcells, the drafts have been hit or miss. Our best draft since then came with the 2011 draft. The Cowboys actually had a solid draft this year; however, there is still room for a lot of improvement. They did address several positions of need, and were able to get an heir to future Hall of Famer Demarcus Ware. The Cowboys promoted Will McClay during the off season, and we can see he has a different philosophy than his predecessor. I am still not as impressed as some fans; however, I do see an improvement. The Cowboys were able to hit on their 1st, 2nd, and a couple of 7th rounders. And as usual did a solid job in UDFA. The biggest question mark, and the thing that ticks me off the most, is that we continue to squander 4th round picks on players (Anthony Hitchens).
Round 1: Zack Martin
If this draft has told us anything, it is that the Cowboys have a commitment to retooling the offensive line, having spent a 1st round pick in the last 3 of 4 years on offensive linemen. No they are not sexy picks, but the selection of the offensive line over the past few years, shows a commitment to winning, rather than selling tickets. Zack Martin possesses good footwork and hand placement. He has a mean streak. He drives defenders off the ball, and does well in pass protection. He is a smart player who routinely works on his technique, and is going to get better as the season progresses. He will join All Pro LT Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick on the offensive line. The problem with Martin, is that he will be an OG at the NFL level; he doesnâ€™t possess the size or arm length to move outside. Letâ€™s just hope he bulldozes opposing LB the way he did Lee. (Itâ€™s a joke) The offensive line is getting better, and in turn will help make the rest of the team better.
Last year Demarcus Ware kicked Tyron Smith around like a rag doll, and Tyron went on to have an All Pro season. This year Demarcus Lawrence, is going against the All Pro. Zack Martin, like Smith should be able to help these no name defensive linemen get better faster. The Cowboys of the 90â€™s won with a freakish and dominate O line, and the Cowboys are looking to replicate that. I think he has the potential to be a Logan Mankins type player for the Cowboys. Mankins had the same question marks. The lone problem I had with Martin, was where we took him. I felt that Xavier Sua Filo and Gabe Jackson were better players; however, I have no complaints, since we could have done far worse. (Johnny Manziel)
Round 2: Demarcus Lawrence
The era of Demarcus Ware is over in Dallas and he wonâ€™t be terrorizing QBs of the NFC East any longer. Even Eli Manning is glad Ware is gone. However, a new face will be terrorizing opposing QBs for the next 10 years. Demarcus Lawrence. Cas and Al believe that Lawrence is the best DE in this yearâ€™s draft, and I definitely agree. He isnâ€™t as athletic as Jadeveon Clowney, but he is more polished and has even more potential than the 1st overall pick. As most know, this site doesnâ€™t go by what analysts say, but rather scout based on their own observations.
Lawrence has a quick first step that routinely gets the OT off balance. His arm length (33 Â¾ inches) is probably his best attribute. This creates problems for offensive tackles trying to get inside his frame. He has very active hands that scouts look for and will be key in his first year in Dallas. He is a solid open field tackler and is underrated in the run game. He hasn’t dropped into coverage much; however, he does a good enough job of dropping back and reading the QB. He has a wide variety of pass rush moves, and this alone makes me believe that Lawrence will be better than Clowney.
He uses his size to his advantage. The fact that he is only 6â€™2â€ prevents O linemen from getting their hands underneath his pads. He needs to do a better job of protecting his lower body, he is susceptible to cut blocks. He is a shorter DE, which can be a problem early on. He isnâ€™t that strong, but so far, that isnâ€™t a problem, he has given Tyron Smith problems early on, with some surprising strength. He was well coached at Boise, and his coaching will continue with Marinelli. He may not have that 10 sack or 12 sack season most are expecting his first year, but in time, he will. I think he is a DE version of Von Miller.
Round 7: Ken Bishop
Originally this pick had me scratching my head: I was like did we just get another bust? However, after watching some games, he is a lot better than I originally believed. Bryan Broddus over at DC.com vouched for him, during the scouting process. He wanted Bishop on the team. The thing about Bishop is his size 6â€™0â€ 300 lbs. The problem I had with Aaron Donald was his weight more so than his height. Bishops stout frame will prevent O linemen from getting leverage on him. He is a disruptive DT that fires off the snap. He has a relentless motor, and like Lawrence, is very active with his hands. He had 70 tackles last year, so he isnâ€™t a guy who just occupies blockers. He can shed blocks and make plays. He has the ability to change direction and chase down plays as well.
He will push O linemen back into the QB, not allowing the QB to have a clean pocket. Something to be wary of, is he didnâ€™t play against elite competition; however, he dominated his competition, which is very important. The problem with Bishop, is that he is a very average pass rusher, he doesnâ€™t have many sacks. Also, his tackles for loss last year is somewhat alarming. He only had 7 tackles for loss. (This may be a fluke, since he seems to be more active than this stat shows.) This shows that he is not making many plays behind the line of scrimmage, but rather meeting the ball carrier at the line. He will play tech which will be a nice spot for him. I am not saying he will be a beast or an All Pro, but he is an interesting player to watch, and should be a solid player for the Cowboys.
Round 7: Ben Gardner
Ben Gardner comes from Stanford, and so you should know he is well coached. He is a solid player and will be a good fit in Rod Marinelliâ€™s scheme as a LE. He displays impressive strength and is very aggressive off the snap. He tends to be around the ball a lot. Just like all of the players the Cowboys drafted, he plays with good hand placement. He doesnâ€™t possess elite length or speed, to be a true force as an every down pass rusher. He needs to continue to be coached up, and he should receive that with Marinelli. I think as a player, he is just a notch below Tyrone Crawford.
UDFA: JC Copeland
I personally love Copeland for the Cowboys. He brings a size that isnâ€™t normally seen for the FB position, and he plays very aggressive. He is currently 5â€™11â€ 270 lbs. He is a traditional FB, not this receiving threat that the NFL wants. However, he can run and catch which is an underrated part of his game. He will blow up LBs, and occasionally a DE. When he gets the ball in his hands look out, Jadeveon Clowney struggled to bring this guy down one on one. Right now his size is a hindrance, he looked slower this year. His weight has fluctuated over the course of his career. He has the ability to catch, but hasnâ€™t done it much throughout his career. If he lives up to expectations, he is going to be blowing up defenders for our RBs for a while. If he sticks around, then it could mean we are more committed to the running game this year, which was a disadvantage in the NFC East last year.
Other Notable Players: Lâ€™Damian Washington WR and Will Smith LB
Full Draft Grade B-
I fully believe that the Cowboys and Giants had the best drafts out of the NFC East this year. Now I am not saying everyone is going to be successful, and even though they did well in the NFC East, compared to the rest of the league, they didnâ€™t do all that well against teams like the 49ers and Raiders. The Cowboys did a better job of acquiring talent on the lines, however, they continue to struggle getting talent in round 4. The Eagles got some nice pieces, however, they didnâ€™t do enough defensively to counter the lines of the Cowboys or Redskins. They did get better on offense. The Giants successfully acquired a nice DT in Eathyn Manumaleuna, and got a solid C in round 2. The Redskins didnâ€™t really get any better than last year through the draft. Based on the draft alone, I feel that the Cowboys and Giants are the best teams in the division right now. But I give the edge to the Giants, simply because of coaching. I have seen Garrett give up on the run even when it was outstanding, I donâ€™t believe Coughlin will make the same mistakes.