Bacarri Rambo has one of the coolest names in the NFL Draft, and the talent to match (Credit)
Last season, the NFC East was a hotly contested division. The top three teams finished .500 or better and within two games of each other. The division came down to a Week 17 winner-take-all match up between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, with the Redskins claiming the crown.
Compared to the rest of the league, though, the NFC East has some ways to go. Despite having three solid teams, the division put just one of them in the postseason. It was also the only division in the NFL not represented in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
So, the NFC East still needs to improve to compete with the rest of the NFL. The easiest way to do that, of course, is through the draft. Below are recaps of each team’s draft picks, projected starters, and an impact player taken later in the draft.
The Eagles had a lot of holes on defense, but they used their first two picks to address their biggest needs on the other side of the ball: offensive line and tight end. Lane Johnson should be able to come in and help one of the league’s weakest lines, and Zach Ertz should push incumbent Brent Celek from day one.
Hearing those first two picks announced must’ve been music to Michael Vick’s ears, knowing he’s going to have another pass protector and another downfield weapon. However, the Eagles threw a wrench into the equation by drafting Matt Barkley, who, along with Nick Foles, will only add more pressure on Vick to succeed.
I’m a little concerned that the Eagles didn’t draft anyone in the defensive secondary until the fifth round, and didn’t draft a single linebacker. Although, getting Bennie Logan and Joe Kruger on the defensive line partly makes up for it, making this a strong draft for them overall.
Projected Starter: T Lane Johnson
Surprising Impact Player: QB Matt Barkley – Despite a disappointing 2012 campaign that saw his draft stock fall dramatically, Barkley was still a potential top-5 pick in the 2012 draft and early on in this year’s draft for a reason. Once the Eagles move on from Vick, Barkley could be their franchise quarterback.
The Cowboys drafted inconsistently, sometimes going for need, other times for value. For instance, Travis Frederick fills a big hole in the middle of the offensive line, but he probably wasn’t worth a first round pick. On the other hand, Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams will help the passing game, but it already ranked third in the league last year. Besides, Jason Witten still has a few good years left before Escobar takes over, and Williams won’t be challenging Dez Bryant or Miles Austin for either of the top two receiver spots.
Had they been more steady with their approach, the Cowboys may have come away happier with their picks. The biggest surprise of all was that they didn’t draft a defensive lineman to assuage to transition from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3.
Projected Starter: C Travis Frederick
Surprising Impact Player: S JJ Wilcox – Wilcox is a physical safety with decent speed, and has the potential to help Dallas’ poor safety situation. If he adjusts quickly to playing at the pro level, he could challenge Barry Church for the starting spot at strong safety.
New York Giants
The Giants certainly got value out of their draft picks. Defensive linemen Jonathan Hankins and Damontre Moore both fell from their early projections, and could end up being steals in the second and third rounds, respectively. Even Ryan Nassib, who can learn a lot as Eli Manning’s backup, fell to them in the fourth round. Justin Pugh was also a solid pick in the first round, as he can fill in at either guard or tackle for a solid but aging offensive line.
Where the Giants went wrong was failing to draft a linebacker or cornerback. Their 25th ranked run defense has only one true starting linebacker in Keith Rivers, and their 28th ranked pass defense has no depth at corner and lost free safety Kenny Phillips to the Eagles. If the line can’t pressure opposing quarterbacks, this defense will continue to struggle in 2013.
Projected Starter: G Justin Pugh
Surprising Impact Player: S Cooper Taylor – At 6’4” 229 lbs, Taylor is a bit of tweener: too small to play linebacker, not agile enough to play safety. However, his abilities make him an ideal candidate as a special teamer and an option for dime packages.
The Redskins did a good job of drafting players where they needed help, but without a first round pick, getting value was always going to be a problem. They nearly got an entire secondary out of this draft, which should help last year’s third worst pass defense. Corner David Amerson may have be a slight reach in the second round, but he's still a good pick. Also, if safety Phillip Thomas can stay healthy, he could even start right away.
Another thing to keep an eye on are the running backs Washington drafted, which tend to be a specialty of head coach Mike Shanahan. Fourth round selection Chris Thompson out of Florida State has drawn comparisons to fellow pint-sized Seminole Warrick Dunn, but he’ll need to stay healthy. Jawan Jamison, another smaller back, isn’t as quick, but has some power. Don’t be surprised if one of them turns out alongside current starter Alfred Morris, a fellow late round pick himself.
Projected Starter: S Phillip Thomas
Surprising Impact Player: S Bacarri Rambo – Washington’s third draft pick in the secondary, Rambo could one day play safety opposite Thomas. Besides having one of the coolest names in the draft (even if it isn’t his given name), Rambo is well rounded and likes to dish out hard hits. If he can get past his off-field problems (failed drug test) he’ll end up a being a bargain as a sixth round choice.
By: Joe Diglio