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2015 NFL Draft Grades: NFC East

May 8, 2015

New York Giants

Pre-draft analysis: The Giants are a team with a few elite players on both sides of the ball (Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) but with a number of major holes to fill. On offense they have a gaping hole at RT and it will need to be addressed as Justin Pugh is a solid OG miscast as a RT so drafting a RT would improve two spots with Pugh moving inside where he belongs. TE is also a need area but it should only be addressed in the early rounds as Larry Donnell would be a great #2 TE but is mediocre as a starter. On defense, linebacker continues to be an area of concern, something draft pundits have pointed out probably the past 10 years with the Giants yet it never seems to be addressed. Also Prince Amukamara is only a mediocre starter at CB yet will probably have to do as Nat Berhle and Cooper Taylor are probably the least talented starting safeties in the NFL and one must be replaced.

Best Impact Pick: Landon Collins-He will start from Day 1 as he is a big time talent and only has to beat out former mid rounder Cooper Taylor at SS.

Best Value Pick: Landon Collins-The Giants biggest need was at safety so it must have been shocking to them when Collins dropped out of the 1st round entirely. I had a Top 10 grade on him and didn’t discount him as much as others due to his mediocre speed and coverage range. To get him in the early 2nd round is an absolute steal.

Worst Value Pick: Ereck Flowers-I liked Flowers as an early 2nd round talent but to me he wasn’t anything special. To take him in the Top 10 was an obvious reach, especially considering everyone was talking about how the Giants were taking the #1 offensive lineman on their board, no matter how the draft played out in front of them. I hate when teams pre-select a position as it rarely works for them long term. The last time I remember it happening was when the Dolphins reached for Ja’Wuan James last year. Both were 2nd round talents taken way too early and I suspect Flowers will settle in as an average starting OT just like James has. Poor value for a Top 10 pick.

Overall: I didn’t like the Giants draft as even when you flip the Collins and Flowers picks which, per my board, makes more sense I still don’t see the Giants getting anything from this draft other than a starting SS and a starting RT. It was the team’s two biggest needs but again gives me the feeling that they reached for need and were very short sighted in their goals for this draft. The Giants are not one player away from contending, no matter how good Odell Beckham is, and they should have been more patient in when they addressed their needs. Also I think they will look back and regret passing on Andrus Peat for Ereck Flowers. C

Philadelphia Eagles

Pre-draft analysis: What a crazy offseason for the Eagles as they lost Jeremy Maclin in free agency, cut team leader Trent Cole, traded Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy, almost signed then lost Frank Gore, signed Ryan Matthews and DeMarco Murray, signed Byron Maxwell, signed Tim Tebow and traded for Sam Bradford and Kiko Alonso. Whew did I get everything? After an offseason like this one it is obvious that coach Chip Kelly embraces change and isn’t set on one specific way of how to build a team as one minute he had one of the best WR corps in the league with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and suddenly he is down to one of the weakest. Drafting with Chip Kelly should always be about the best player available as who knows what trade, signing or release is around the next corner so a team weakness one day will be a strength the next and vice versa. That being said I thought on offense the WR position was the lone weakness as Cooper is more of a #3 WR than a #1 and Jordan Matthews to me is still a questionable player. On defense the Eagles have one very good 3-4 OLB in Connor Barwin and two former 1st rounders battling to start across from him in Marcus Smith and Brandon Graham. Neither showed a lot in 2014 so additional competition might make sense. Also cornerback in the early rounds would be helpful as Byron Maxwell is a bit overrated to me after his time with the legion of boom and Walter Thurmond III appears to be more of a #3 type CB while Brandon Boykin is an elite slot cornerback but lacks the height to play outside.

Best Impact Pick: Nelson Agholar-He was neck and neck with DeVante Parker on my board for the #3 WR in this class as I thought he was vastly underrated. He has the same kind of sneaky athleticism that Jeremy Maclin did but is a bit faster and stronger to me so I actually see him as the #1 WR in Philadelphia and superior to Jordan Matthews.

Best Value Pick: Eric Rowe-He was a 1st rounder on my board as his size and athleticism are rare at CB or S. I also think he is the rare prospect that could succeed at either spot as he has the agility and hips to play press corner if they want to play that scheme.

Worst Value Pick: Jordan Hicks-If healthy I would have seen this as an okay pick so obviously I consider it a reach with Hicks medical dossier. I just didn’t see enough of Hicks as he was always injured and I suspect Chip Kelly will be tired of his off the field antics and injury prone nature by 2016.

Overall: I thought the Cowboys probably had the best first two picks of the draft and the Eagles would be in the running for second with Agholar and Rowe. Both were clear cut 1st rounders, fit obvious needs and look like long term starters for the club. It’s great when value and fit come together so seamlessly and this was an obvious example. Unfortunately I didn’t like their 3rd rounder (Hicks) and their other three picks were 6th and 7th rounders so it was a limited draft for them. B

Washington Redskins

Pre-draft analysis: On offense the Redskins have no glaring hole other than RT but continue to project as just a mediocre offense due to their poor QB play. On defense they need to fill the gap left by Brian Orakpo at 3-4 OLB and could stand to get an upgrade at ILB or CB where mediocre starters Perry Riley Jr. and Chris Culliver man those respective positions.

Best Impact Pick: Brandon Scherff-I wasn’t a huge fan of the pick value wise but I still understood it as Gruden sees an offense with no major holes but with no great chance to be successful unless RGIII improves. That obviously will be the story of the season but by adding a powerful run grader in Scherff he added maybe the one guy that could change that dynamic as Scherff could possibly take the Redskins running game to another level. One caveat though is I still think Scherff fits best at OG not RT.

Best Value Pick: Jamison Crowder-I had a late 3rd on Crowder as I saw a polished slot receiver with punt return skills. With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon manning the outside spots Crowder fits perfectly as a quicker than fast slot receiver with sure hands. I suspect he will be a solid part time starter for them. Good value in the 4th round.

Worst Value Pick: Matt Jones-I honestly don’t get the pick but I didn’t get the Alfred Morris pick in 2012 or the Chris Thompson pick in 2013, both of whom are still on the roster, while I loved the Lache Seastrunk pick in 2014 and he didn’t make the roster last year so obviously I don’t see the same things in running backs that they do. Jones is a bruising one cut back so he fits well in their scheme but I seriously question whether he was a better pick than Jay Ajayi, Mike Davis or David Cobb all of whom were still on the board. Jones to me looks like a 3 yards and a pile of dust type that will never give much competition to Alfred Morris.

Overall: It was a strange draft as I didn’t think Scherff or Matt Jones were good values but collectively it made some sense as Scherff at RT, Arie Kouandjio at RG and Matt Jones as a bruising tailback off the bench all improve the running game and make the Redskins bigger and tougher. Clearly Gruden wants that as he knows he is stuck with RGIII for at least one more season and realizes that the only way to possibly win with him is to become an elite running team and improve his turnover ratio as well as his deep ball which as a rookie was one of the best in the league. A counter argument though is that RGIII is just a place holder so Gruden should still have just taken the best player available at each pick and Brandon Scherff at #5 was not it. He could have taken DT Leonard Williams or WR Kevin White to really maximize the value of the pick and a year from now when RGIII isn’t on the team anymore he’d have had more talented building blocks to work with than he will with Scherff as the pick. I see both sides but probably lean more to argument #2. C+

Dallas Cowboys

Pre-draft analysis: Going into the Draft I saw the Cowboys as one of the more covered teams in the NFL as they technically could have skipped the entire draft and at least had a serviceable starter at every position on offense and defense. That being said there were two positions that had weak starters at them, cornerback and running back, which I was sure would be addressed. Also defensive tackle and defensive end seemed to be areas of concern as each position had impending free agents (Tyrone Crawford at DT and Greg Hardy at DE) which could leave the team barren if they bolted. Finally I thought WR, OG and S were areas where depth could be addressed in the later rounds.

Best Impact Pick: Randy Gregory-For the 4th time in 16 write ups I’m skipping the 1st pick as I like Byron Jones but think Gregory could have a bigger impact. Both are boom/bust types with incredibly high ceilings but Gregory comes in with a chip on his shoulder and will only have to beat out DeMarcus Lawrence or Jeremy Mincey to be a starter from Day 1. Even if he isn’t a starter he almost surely will be on the field for 3rd downs as his speed, length and agility make him a potential havoc maker on the outside.

Best Value Pick: Randy Gregory-He went #60 to the Cowboys and I felt like I was in the minority by giving him only a late 1st round grade. He has issues on the field (lack of weight, limited production vs. top tackles) and off the field (failed drug test at the Combine, anxiety issues) but I don’t think it’d surprise anyone if he became a Pro Bowl pass rusher that consistently netted double digit sacks a year. He has that type of talent and the only other guy I can think of that had his kind of talent as a pass rusher but fell on draft day is Justin Houston who just came off a season in which he led the NFL in sacks with 22. Gregory was a steal in the late 2nd round.

Worst Value Pick: Chaz Green-I had a late 5th round grade on him (I actually didn’t have a grade on him at all but went back and graded the last 6 picks of the Cowboys to determine their value-full write ups at the bottom of the page) and consider him a good backup or mediocre starter. To use a 3rd round pick on a player like that is questionable enough but to do so at a position like OG or OT that isn’t nearly as high on your team’s list of needs as RB or DT makes it even more dubious. I bet Green would have been still available in the 4th or even 5th round when the Cowboys were on the clock as I consider the pick to be a serious reach.

Overall: The Cowboys started off with a bang as they had arguably the best 1st/2nd round duo of any team in the league. A case can be made that Jones and Gregory have two of the ten highest ceilings of any players in the draft as Jones had a historic Combine and Gregory has the burst, agility and length that is comparable to a Jason Pierre Paul. I wouldn’t be shocked if either of them ended up becoming Pro Bowl talents. Things went sour quickly though in the 3rd round as Chaz Green was a serious reach to me and others and then I became disinterested as LB Damien Wilson, DE Ryan Russell, LB Mark Nzeocha, OT Laurence Gibson and TE Geoff Swaim were all guys I had never heard of. Doing research on them though improved my spirits as Damien Wilson and Laurence Gibson were two picks that really intrigued me. Wilson projects as a starting MLB with good strength and athleticism while Gibson is a TJ Clemmings starter kit with ’35 1/8 arms and a 5.04 40. Both could easily be starting for the Cowboys in 2016 and continues the Cowboys drafting strategy of rolling the dice on elite athletes that they can mold into quality football players. Overall I really like the Cowboys draft as they got two immediate starters in Byron Jones and Randy Gregory who have elite potential. They also added a talented but raw linebacker in Damien Wilson who has a higher ceiling than current starter Anthony Hitchens, especially as a two down run stopper. Finally they added two offensive lineman, one in Chaz Green that can be an immediate help to them as a 6th OL due to his technique and versatility and another in Laurence Gibson who is incredibly raw but has the tools to eventually develop into an upper echelon starting OT. Not every pick was one I came around on though as I still see Chaz Green as a huge reach, consider Ryan Russell a late round type at best (taken in the 5th round), am not a fan of Mark Nzeocha (though he does fill a need as a nickel linebacker) and have no idea what they were thinking when they drafted TE Geoff Swaim (his career cumulative production would be a solid game’s worth for Jason Witten). Overall the Cowboys really helped themselves by adding three upper echelon athletes (Jones, Gregory, Gibson) as well as two good backups in Chaz Green and Damien Wilson. I’m still going to dock them for not adding a RB at any point in the draft as well as the reaching for Green and some very dubious late round selections but in the end it was a good draft that could look great down the road if they hit on their three guys with elite upside. B+

*La’el Collins signed this afternoon with the Cowboys. This will not affect their draft grade as I only grade each team’s picks and not their undrafted free agent signings but obviously this improves Dallas as a club. I had an early 2nd round grade on him and, ironically enough, said he’d fit best at LG where he could pull and use his mobility to its best effectiveness. Hopefully that is what Dallas does as Ronald Leary, per, was the worst of the 5 OL last year and is a free agent in 2016. Moving Collins there would be an upgrade in 2015 for the OL and would allow Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick to immediately begin gelling as each would be under contract at least through 2017. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the Collins signing as numerous times in my Day 3 Draft Blog I ripped a team for taking a mediocre OL with Collins still on the board. Below is my write up of Collins:

La’el Collins LSU 6’4 ½ 305 Jr. His Combine was confusing as he’s a big, long, strong guy on film but he had a very good 40 (5.12), a poor amount of reps (21) and below average arm length (’33 ¼)? It made me go back to the film and I realized that the measurements were right and I had him pegged incorrectly in my head. The more I watched him the more I realized that he could play RT but his best fit was clearly OG. At OG he’ll be a perfect fit as a mobile LG that has enough athleticism to pull but can also make holes in the run game in the trenches. He drops out of the first round mix due to the position change, and the fact that his tape is inconsistent, but I’m confident he’ll become a quality starting guard. Early 2nd round 4/27/15.

Write Up of Cowboys Final 6 Draft Picks

(3rd round) OT Chaz Green Florida 6’4 5/8 314 Sr. Green is a versatile OL that can play OG, RT or possibly even LT in a pinch. He’d fit best as a 6th OL, swing tackle or OG/RT type due to his impressive versatility. He’s quick, tall and a good technician. He appears to be a smart player. He doesn’t have the athleticism or foot speed to be a permanent starter at LT though and lacks the strength or nastiness you prefer at RT. He looks to me to be a better fit inside at OG if forced into a role as a full timer but probably would be most valuable as a 6th OL since versatility is probably his best feature. He projects as a mediocre starter or very good backup. Late 5th round 5/7/15.

(4th round) LB Damien Wilson Minnesota 6’0 245 Sr. He had a good Combine with a slow 40 (4.77) but above average vertical (’37), broad (9’11) and shuttle (4.20). I didn’t watch a lot of Minnesota film this year so I didn’t know about him until the Cowboys drafted him. He was a JUCO kid who played 2 years at Minnesota and is the rare kid that played well both years as most are one year wonders. In 2013 he was mainly just a quality run stuffer (78 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 TFL) but in 2014 he had a more well rounded game with splash plays (119 tackles, 4 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF). He isn’t very instinctive as a linebacker as you see a lot of pause in reading his keys but once he figures things out he is a heat seeking missile and looks to be much faster than a 4.77 40 on film. He doesn’t use his hands well and I don’t see any talent as a pass defender but the physical skills are there for him to be a starting MLB in the NFL. Wilson projects as an above average starter who will excel as a downhill linebacker that isn’t required to diagnose plays but can just attack an offense. Late 3rd round 5/7/15.

(5th round) DE Ryan Russell Purdue 6’4 ¼ 269 Sr. A tall, thickly built DE that has limited athleticism and poor production which will force him to be a run stuffing SDE in a 4-3 or be bulked up into a 3-4 DE. His Combine was mediocre and his 4.5 sacks the past two seasons COMBINED are both red flags to me. I don’t see a lot of potential here and think he will be a backup DE for a few seasons before his career ends prematurely due to a lack of interest for a big DE with limited pass rush potential. Free Agent 5/7/15.

(5th round) LB Mark Nzeocha Wyoming 6’2 232 Sr. Born in Germany. He was hurt at the Combine and didn’t work out. There isn’t much film on a late round prospect out of Wyoming but from what I did see he projects as a WLB in a 4-3 and looks like a specialist that will be best used in passing situations. He is a tall, lanky linebacker that looks more like a safety than a linebacker and will be used on special teams and nickel packages. Free Agent 5/7/15.

(7th round) OT Laurence Gibson Virginia Tech 6’5 ¾ 304 Sr. He had an incredible Combine with a 5.04 40, ’35 1/8 arms and 4.56 shuttle. That shuttle time is elite as it was the 5th best time out of the 53 OL and the guys who beat it (Ali Marpet, Jake Fisher, Mitch Morse, TJ Clemmings) were all top rated guys who either went in the 2nd or 3rd round or fell due to injury concerns (Clemmings-4th round). He’s a raw player with elite athleticism and arm length that would be the perfect project type for a good OL coach to be given. He has LT tools to work with and could be a high level starter at a difficult position to fill. He will need time to develop though and probably isn’t even ready to start at RT as a rookie. Early 5th round project type with elite upside 5/7/15.

(7th round) TE Geoff Swaim Texas 6’4 250 Sr. Not invited to the Combine. He’s a JUCO kid and one that rarely was involved in the offense in either of his two seasons as he only had 13 catches for 84 yards and 1 TD in his career! Undraftable 5/7/15.

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