NFC East biggest needs in the 2017 NFL Draft
The Cowboys look like they have long-term stability, while the other three teams in the division are looking for an identity
The Dallas Cowboys returned to on-field relevance in 2016 on the back of two outstanding rookies and elite offensive line play. Suffice to say, the 2016 NFL Draft was kind to them. The other three teams in their division would all love to have the same luck in this year’s draft – and all three need it. The Eagles are in the middle of a rebuild, the Giants are still looking for parts to make everything work and the Redskins appear to be a soap opera gone wrong. There is plenty of talent available in the 2017 NFL Draft, and all four NFC East squads will be in position to acquire players on April 27th who can change the fortunes – both long- and short-term – of their franchises.
Dallas knew what they were getting when they drafted Ezekiel Elliott. What they didn’t know was what would happen when Tony Romo went down with a back injury during the preseason. Enter Dak Prescott, and as we all found out, the Cowboys had caught lightning in a bottle. Prescott was the spot on combination of athletic player and cautious game-manager. He led Dallas to the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs. Unfortunately, Dallas’ dream season ended in a shootout against a red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
The Cowboys are in the very fortunate position of not really needing anything. The could be helped by a productive edge rusher, another solid cornerback or the addition of some depth and a possible future starter at offensive tackle. They also could look for a capable heir to Jason Witten at tight end. They’ll have plenty of options – even picking as late as they do in the first round – to land a prospect who will fit one of those roles.
First-round pick: No. 28 overall
Potential picks: It all depends on the direction they go. If they are looking for a pass-rushing defensive end, Auburn’s Carl Lawson could be their guy. At corner, UCLA’s Fabian Moreau makes sense. Miami tight end David Njoku also is an intriguing choice.
New York Giants
The Giants have made it to the playoffs after a roller-coaster season of early drama, late injuries and an inability to get into the end zone. Eli Manning topped 4,000 yards passing again, but it was not one of the more impressive campaigns of his career. On defense, the Giants looked to be without a true leader or playmaker. That cost them against some of the league’s higher-octane offenses.
The Giants had a hard time scoring in 2016, never hanging more than 28 points on the board in any one game. You simply are not going to be able to consistently contend with the likes of Green Bay, Dallas or Atlanta with an offense that cannot finish. They brought in Brandon Marshall in free agency, and he’ll make a fine No. 2 option to Odell Beckham Jr., What this offense is missing, however, is a reliable tight end. A serious threat over the middle would open a lot of other options up for the Giants. Unfortunately, the all-important left tackle position also is somewhat unresolved.
First-round pick: No. 23 overall
Potential picks: If the Giants want to gamble, they can probably get their tight end in the second round. In that case, they would likely go left tackle and select either Utah’s Garrett Boles or Alabama’s Cam Robinson. If they choose to reach for a tight end early, Ole Miss’ Evan Engram would be a nice addition to the offense.
The season began with promise for the Eagles, led by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. After Week 3 however, it quickly became apparent how far the team still had to go to become realistic contenders in its own division. Wentz had no consistent receiver to target and a revolving door at running back. Defensively, the Eagle defense had a hard time matching up with the better passing attacks in the league. The receiver problem was addressed in free agency, so now the Eagles need to focus on shoring up the running back position and solidifying their secondary. Adding some depth to the interior of the defensive line also is on the list of things to do.
First-round pick: No. 14 overall
Potential picks: The smart move would be to select the best corner available – likely Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey or Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzi. That said, it will be tough for the Eagle brass to fight the urge to take Florida State running back Dalvin Cook or LSU’s Leonard Fournette if either on falls to them.
Washington was nothing short of dysfunctional down the stretch, losing four of its last six games. The problem with looking back to last season is that, perhaps more than any other team in the league, the Redskins of 2017 are going to be a completely different version of what we saw last year. Between a polarizing owner, the firing of a general manager and the saga of Kirk Cousins and his desire to leave town, the Redskins are quite simply a mess. The Redskins need to be proactive in the Cousins situation and hedge their bets with a long-term option at quarterback at some point. Additionally, they’ll need targets for that quarterback to throw to. Linebacker and guard also are two positions of need going forward, regardless of who is taking the snaps.
First-round pick: No. 17 overall
Potential picks: If it’s going to be a quarterback, I don’t see any way it’s not Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. He’s the most reliable option at the position in the draft. If they decide to go receiver, Washington’s John Ross is a guy who might remind some Redskin fans of Santana Moss. If they are looking for a bigger, more traditional No. 1 receiver, they are better off waiting until the second round and potentially grabbing Penn State’s Curtis Godwin. Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp also is in play.
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