Now that it’s been over a week and we’ve had time to let the 2016 NFL Draft digest – it’s time to dig in and dissect each and every team’s respective draft haul. While grades are rather meaningless as no one can predict what will happen, they’re still fun to do and quite necessary as the dullest phase of the offseason approaches.
The NFC East always seems to be one of the most polarizing divisions in the NFL year in and year out, and it’s shaping up to be very much of the same this season. While the division has failed to produce any of the NFL’s elite teams as of late, it always provides us with one of the most competitive divisions in all of football. Led by the breakout of Kirk Cousins, the Redskins took the division last season. However, it could go in any direction this season. The Cowboys will have a healthy Tony Romo along with an extra offensive weapon. The Giants made a huge impact in free agency and looked to build on that through the draft. The Eagles are entering a rebuilding transition, but that doesn’t mean they won’t compete.
In a division as close as the NFC East, the draft pays dividends as teams look to get the upperhand. With half the teams in the division selecting in the top 4, and three of the four in the top 10, this division acquired even more star power. The Redskins needed a good draft if they want to repeat as NFC East champions. Whose draft will propel them supreme in this divison?
Dallas Cowboys: A-
Best pick: LB Jaylon Smith (2nd round, 34th overall)
Worst pick: QB Dak Prescott (4th round, 135th overall)
As an Eagles fan, it pains me to say this, but the Cowboys had one of the best drafts of any teams in the NFC. There was a lot of debate at 4 whether or not they would go with Jalen Ramsey or Ezekiel Elliott. The clock ticked down as they used nearly every second to make their decision. Ultimately, Elliott was the choice. For the longest time I didn’t view Elliott worthy of a top 10 pick, however, the fit in Dallas is well worth the selection at 4. As DeMarco Murray proved in 2014, a franchise tailback does leaps and bounds for that offense. Elliott will have the luxury of running behind that offensive line which makes him a lethal threat in fantasy football. Elliott’s production will prove to be well worth it for Dallas.
The Cowboys followed up with a tremendous selection in the 2nd round. Before his devastating knee injury, Jaylon Smith was a consensus top 5 player in the draft and is comparable to the likes of Luke Kuechly. While he won’t play in 2016, when he finally does make a full recovery, he can be a franchise player on defense and prove to be well worth the investment. Following their pick of an LB, they continued to build their front 7 with consecutive defensive line selections. Maliek Collins out of Nebraska provides a great 4-3 fit on the interior. The type of player who plays with a motor and brings high upside for Rod Marinelli to untap. At the very least will develop into a solid rotational guy. There was a lot of rumbling about them drafting Joey Bosa to address their pass rusher need – they finally did so in the 4th round. Charles Tapper is a strong, physical edge setter who can be a good situational pass rusher. He very well could start the season opener with Lawrence and Gregory sitting out due to suspensions.
We all knew the Cowboys were going to address QB, and Dak Prescott was a guy they thought highly of leading up to the draft. While I don’t think he’ll ever be groomed into a starter, he brings a flashy QB off the bench – something they lacked last season during Romo’s absence. At least now they have someone they can focus on developing in with the hopes of him taking the reigns one day.
The Cowboys finished their draft with four 6th round picks. With a big need at CB, Anthony Brown was great value that late on day three. His 4.35 40 time was the 2nd fastest among corners at the combine. A great athlete who will provide good depth. They continued to address the secondary with Central Michigan’s Kavon Frazier. A typical box safety who can lay down big hits and provide a game-changer off the bench. With all the depth at RB, Darius Jackson likely won’t see the field, but he’ll have a chance to make an impact on special teams with his exceptional athleticism. Then Rico Gathers came off the board. Just a couple months removed from playing in the NCAA basketball tournament, Gathers was selected by the Cowboys in the 6th round. While he’s surely a developmental project at the tight end position, his size and athleticism can prove to be a huge mismatch in the NFL. Guys like Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham have opened the door for converted basketball players. I love the idea of going for high upside guys this late in the draft.
Jerry Jones and co. did a phenomenal job in the draft. They now have a dynamic RB who can post DeMarco Murray-esque production for the next five seasons or so. Jaylon Smith can be a difference maker on their defense, assuming he raches full health. Collins and Tapper were both solid additions to the defense. Even though I’m not too high on Prescott, the Cowboys filled a need for a backup/developmental QB. Rico Gathers was an intriguing pick who could prove to be well worth it in the 6th round. Great job by the Dallas front office. They don’t care about the risk, but instead try and go after good football players who can make an impact, maybe not at first, but down the line.
New York Giants: B
Best pick: TE Jerell Adams (6th round, 184th overall)
Worst pick: CB Eli Apple (1st round, 10th overall)
Coming into the draft, the Giants were targeting two guys, Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd; both of whom went off the board in the two picks ahead of New York as the Bears traded up to jump ahead. This led to a big question as the Giants were set to round out the top 10, who would they take? It ended up being Eli Apple, the corner out of Ohio State. A projected late 1st round pick, Apple had no business in the top 10, let alone over guys like Vernon Hargreaves or even William Jackson. While he’s a big, speedy corner on the outside, he’s still very raw. Apple was one of the biggest reaches on day one.
After their poor selection in the 1st round, I really like what the Giants managed to do to finish their draft. In the 2nd round Sterling Shepard was the pick. The reliable, crisp route runner out of Oklahoma will provide an instant boost to the offense and be a solid play in the fantasy scene. The Giants added other weapons to the offense later on. In the 5th UCLA tailback Paul Perkins was picked to provide competition in that deep stable of running backs. Perkins was one of my favorite RBs in the draft, his slashing style will provide a spark. Jerell Adams was a tremendous pickup in the 6th round. The tight end brings a great combination of size and athleticism – has the potential to be a force one day.
Along with Apple, the Giants selected two more defensive players. In the 3rd round they took Darian Thompson, the productive ballhawking safety out of Boise State. While he has great ball skills, that’s just about all he brings to the table – you don’t want him trying to tackle anyone as the last line of defense. B.J. Goodson provides good depth to the LB corps and will even compete for legitimate playing time this season. A thumper who does a little bit of everything.
I give the Giants a solid B. Despite their whiff on Apple in the top 10, they did a great job in the succeeding rounds to make up for it. I especially love the additions of Perkins, Shepard and Adams on offense – the trio can develop into solid producers going forward.
Philadelphia Eagles: C
Best pick: QB Carson Wentz (1st round, 2nd overall)
Worst pick: G Isaac Seumalo (3rd round, 79th overall)
After the Eagles made the move from 8 to 2 where they gave up a king’s ransom in the process, we all knew who they were going to select. While the move set the franchise back a few years, we’ll look back five years from now and know the team made a good move. Wentz and the Eagles are a great match for each other. They acquired their franchise QB of the future, but they didn’t quite do a good job of building around him in the later rounds.
They were without a 2nd round pick, but in the 3rd they followed up their Wentz selection with interior linemen, Isaac Seumalo out of Oregon State. A solid, physical football player, but could’ve likely been picked a couple rounds later. Their next two picks came on the offensive side of the ball as well. Wendall Smallwood adds much needed depth to the backfield. The Mountaineer led the Big 12 in rushing and brings a well-rounded skillset to Doug Pederson’s offense. Halapoulivaati Vaitai (copy and pasted) is another needed offensive linemen. His intimidating 6’6”/320 pound frame makes him a solid reserve linemen, but I don’t see him developing into anything more.
After four offensive picks, the Eagles targeted defensive with their last four picks. Blake Countess started it off. The versatile defensive back can do a variety of things and will likely start off on special teams and add depth in the secondary. Jalen Mills was tremendous value in the 7th round. He has good instincts and versatility – he can make big plays. Alex McCalister out of Florida adds good depth on the edge, his athleticism and length makes him a nice developmental piece. Joe Walker rounded out the Eagles draft. Out of Oregon, you would’ve thought Chip Kelly was still the head coach. A rangy linebacker in the middle who can play solid in coverage and against the run – a great depth guy.
Whenever you acquire your future franchise QB, you’ve done something right. However, I’m not big on what the Eagles did in attempts to build around him later on. While they brought in some solid pieces, they could’ve done a better job and gotten better value. No wide receiver in the draft was also surprising.
Washington Redskins: B+
Best pick: LB/S Su’a Cravens (2nd round, 53rd overall)
Worst pick: None
While many thought the ‘Skins would focus on defense in the 1st round, they went the opposite way and addressed offense. Josh Docston was a nice luxury pick for Washington. This was a great representation of the franchise looking towards future needs as DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both set to become free agents. Docston is a complete receiver with good speed, a great pick by the Redskins.
My favorite pick of their class came in the 2nd round with their selection of Su’a Cravens. The versatile linebacker/safety hybrid brings a game-changer to their defense. Not to sound cliché, but he could be the Deonne Bucannon of the Redskins defense. Kendall Fuller was a good value pick in the 3rd. Had it not been for the knee injury, we would’ve heard his name called a bit sooner. Even with the signing of Josh Norman, the Redskins were still in need of depth at CB.
The Redskins were poor against the run last season, and did a good job addressing that on day 3. Matthew Ioannidis out of Temple provides a great run stopper up front and has the upside to develop into a 3-down linemen. Steven Daniels out of Boston College was among the best run defenders at LB in all of college football last season – well worth a 7th round pick.
With the departure of RGIII, the Redskins needed another QB. In the 6th round they drafted Indiana’s pocket passer Nate Sudfeld. A tough, physical QB who has solid developmental traits. With their last pick, Keith Marshall was the selection. The flyer out of Georgia ran the fastest 40 at the combine, and the Redskins need depth at the combine, so why not?
Like the Cowboys and Giants, the Redskins also put together a tremendous draft. Docston will boost the offense from day one while Cravens should do the same. Fuller was a good value pick and could develop into a starting CB within the next couple seasons. Ioaniddis and Daniels will provide a much needed boost against the run. Sudfeld provides a solid depth arm and Marshall brings speed and big play ability. The Redskins may have kept their NFC East title in 2016 with this draft and of course the acquisition of Josh Norman.