As the dust settles following the 2013 NFL Draft, Bucky Brooks is taking a division-by-division look at how each team fared, handing out grades and highlighting notable picks. He tackles the NFC East below. Click here for other divisions.
The NFC East is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, with three star quarterbacks (Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III) and an intriguing situation in Philadelphia (Michael Vick, Nick Foles or Matt Barkley). Of course, it's imperative to have solid pass protectors on the edges to protect these franchise quarterbacks. Given the importance of the passing game in this division, the 2013 NFL Draft was all about adding firepower on both sides of the ball to earn an advantage in the arms race.
NFC East notables
Chip Kelly is a masterful schemer with an innovative system that creates mismatches all over the field. Ertz is a dynamic tight end with exceptional hands and route-running ability. He is a tough guard for linebackers and safeties over the middle of the field, which will make him nearly impossible to defend in the Eagles' "12" personnel packages. He could make an immediate impact as a "move" tight end in Kelly's up-tempo offense.
To say that Cowboys fans were shocked by this selection would be a major understatement, but the pick is a sensible one on the surface. The Cowboys' interior offensive line was horrible last season, engendering an inconsistent running game and leaky pass protection. Frederick is a beast at the point of attack, with a nasty demeanor that will set the tone for the offensive line. If he emerges as a long-time starter at the pivot for Dallas, the pick will be applauded when analysts grade the draft a few years down the line.
There's no way Kelly could've predicted a quarterback of Barkley's caliber falling to him on Day 3, but that's how the draft board played out this year. Barkley, who was widely regarded as a solid second-round prospect by most observers in the run-up to the draft, was still on the board at the beginning of the fourth round, leading the Eagles to trade up and grab him. While the pairing of Barkley and Kelly doesn't appear to be a great fit at first blush, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's version of the West Coast Offense could make it a match made in heaven. Barkley thrived in a quick-rhythm passing game at USC, and his superb football IQ will allow him to handle the pressure of directing an up-tempo attack in Philadelphia. Factor in that the 22-year-old could spend a year or two developing behind Michael Vick, and Barkley could turn into the Eagles' version of Tom Brady down the road.
Note: Click on team names to see complete draft classes.
DALLAS COWBOYS: The key to any successful draft is landing impact players in the first three rounds. The Cowboys certainly accomplished that feat with the additions of Frederick, Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams to an offense that needed a little more punch to compete with the NFC's elite. Although the Frederick pick has been categorized as a reach by some, the former Wisconsin center was the best prospect at his position, making it a worthwhile selection at the bottom of the first round. Initially, Escobar and Williams will fill key roles as backups, but both are standout performers with big-time potential to take over as starters down the road. The Cowboys improved their secondary with the additions of small-school studs J.J. Wilcox and B.W. Webb. If the NFL stage isn't too bright for those two, they can make immediate contributions as sub-package players. GRADE: B-
NEW YORK GIANTS: General manager Jerry Reese is notorious for sticking to his premise of taking the best available player, based on the Giants' big board. Big Blue's latest draft haul further showcases Reese's remarkable patience and knowledge of his team and the talent available. Justin Pugh was regarded as one of the top swing linemen in this class, and his versatility will allow the Giants to plug him into the lineup at a position of need. Damontre Moore is a productive pass rusher, but questions about his work ethic and immaturity caused his draft stock to plummet. If Moore falls in line with the Giants' blue-collar approach, he could be the sack artist this team needs to complement Jason Pierre-Paul. Quarterback Ryan Nassib was an excellent value pick in Round 4, based on his impeccable intangibles and work ethic. He will get an opportunity to develop behind Eli Manning without facing pressure to perform before he is acclimated to the pro game. GRADE: B
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Nobody knows exactly how Kelly will attack the pro game, causing many to incorrectly assume he'd overwhelmingly target players ideally suited for a spread offense (like the one he ran at Oregon). Kelly actually employed a very simple approach last week, selecting talented players with blue-chip characteristics. Lane Johnson is a prime example of that premise, based on his athleticism, footwork and length. He is a natural left tackle prospect, but Jason Peters' presence could force him to start out on the right side. Ertz is a playmaking tight end with the speed and athleticism to stretch the field down the middle. Barkley might be the future at the quarterback position, despite his status as a fourth-round pick. He is a cerebral signal-caller with the ability to make quick decisions in a fast-paced offense. Earl Wolff and Jordan Poyer are sleeper prospects capable of upgrading the Eagles' secondary. GRADE: B+
WASHINGTON REDSKINS: The lack of a first-round pick prevented the Redskins from grabbing an elite player, but that didn't stop Mike Shanahan from grabbing a pair of promising defensive backs in David Amerson and Phillip Thomas. Both are natural ballhawks with outstanding instincts, awareness and hands. Collectively, they could help the Redskins' secondary climb back to the ranks of the elite. Jordan Reed is a hybrid tight end with the capacity to create mismatches on the perimeter; this will generate easy throws for Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. Keep an eye on Brandon Jenkins as a pass-rush specialist. He could earn a key role in the Redskins' nickel package as a designated disruptor off the edge. GRADE: B
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