NFC EAST TEAMS MAKE NOISE FOR HEADLINE SELECTIONS AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES


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Another NFL draft has concluded.  While grades were posted immediately after the card for Mr. Irrelevant was handed in, a draft truly can’t be evaluated until 2-3 years later when we really find out whether these former college stars will sink or swim in this league.

Here is a quick look at some of the big takeaways from this weekend.

A New Scherff in D.C.

A lot of people were surprised that the Washington Redskins went with Iowa’s Brandon Scherff with the No. 5 overall pick.  Leonard Williams was still on the board and while he might not be the best fit Washington’s 3-4 scheme, it could have been a good trade opportunity with another team.

In retrospect this pick looks great.  The Skins have added a guy to their roster that can play multiple positions on the offensive line.  This move also says a lot about Scot McCloughan’s philosophy when it comes to team building.  When he was with San Francisco and Seattle he was part of front offices that put heavy emphasis on putting together powerful offensive and defensive lines.  McCloughan addressed much of the needs on the defensive line via free agency this off-season.  His selection of Scherff confirms his commitment to upgrading the big boys on the other side of the ball.

Byron Jones Gives Cowboys Breathing Room with Uncertainty at Corner

Even though Dallas has three potential starters at corner under contract the reality is a lot different than it is on paper.  It is still unknown if Brandon Carr will take a pay cut and if he won’t his days in Big D might be numbered.  Morris Claiborne (in the last year of his rookie deal) is coming back from injury and his play thus far for his career has been nothing short of disappointing considering where the Cowboys traded up to get him in the 2012 draft.  The Cowboys best corner Orlando Scandrick, is scheduled to make chump change this season and has chosen to skip team voluntary workouts displaying his displeasure when it comes to his earnings.

Combine workout wonder Byron Jones could be a big sigh of relief for the front office and coaching staff.  The consensus is Dallas made a solid selection with the No. 27 overall pick which could light a fire under the veteran corners with contract quandaries.  The former UConn Husky’s  unique athleticism also gives him the ability to play safety as well.

Oh Yeah that Randy Gregory Guy 

Randy Gregory became a household name Friday night not because where he was drafted, but because of where he wasn’t drafted.  Gregory’s bad timing of off the field issues took a huge toll on his draft status.  The likely otherwise top 10 selection dropped to No. 60 overall when Dallas scooped him up.

The Cowboys got a gift and a lot of fans on social media were stunned that he wasn’t taken any earlier in second round.  Gregory was a ferocious pass rusher at Nebraska, but fans and spectators need to be patient because this product still needs some polishing.  Gregory is 6’6″, but only weighs 235 lbs.  That is 20 lbs below the league’s average defensive end.  This kid probably needs a little time to really grow into his body.  He did put up 24 reps on the bench press at the combine and when you consider his long arms and low weight that is pretty impressive.  Can you imagine the power gains he could accumulate if he is able to bulk up?

Running Back Not Selected by Cowboys Despite Deep Class

Jerry Jones said running back wasn’t a “must” for the Cowboys heading into the draft.  He wasn’t bluffing as Dallas did not feel it was a huge area of concern despite losing the league’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray via free agency to the rival Eagles.

There are a couple of theories as to why the Boys did not draft a running back.  For one it could be they like the running backs they have.  Even if they don’t have one that can be the workhorse Murray was they have guys that do different things well and possibly think they can replace the production with multiple backs instead of finding a Murray clone.  The second reason being is that the Cowboys are truly sticking to their draft board and found more pressing needs with offensive line depth and defense.  Many of the players selected on Saturday they will likely count on to improve their special teams units which played below expectations last season.

No Mariota for Philly

It’s no secret that Chip Kelly wanted Marcus Mariota so bad he would have almost traded the Liberty Bell for him.  Keyword “almost”.  Kelly offered a lot, but at the end of the day he stuck to his word saying he would not mortgage the organization’s future which is what the Titans wanted him to do for that No. 2 pick.

Many names of veteran players were rumored to be part of a possible trade package in order to acquire Mariota.  With these players staying on the roster it makes one wonder if there will be any kind of repercussions for this?  Perhaps a rift between Kelly and these guys?  The mysteries of Chip Kelly’s master plan continue.

Finally a Receiver for the Birds

DeSean Jackson was let go and Jeremy Maclin opted for Kansas City meaning the Eagles lost two Pro Bowl receivers in back to back years.  Chip Kelly has taken some criticism for letting so much production walk out the door with no sense of urgency for a suitable replacement.

Unable to land Mariota, Eagle fans got an answer at wide out with the selection of Nelson Agholor.  Agholor was the fourth receiver in selected in the first round Thursday night.  He might not have the superstar potential that the three taken before him do, but he could turn out to be a solid No. 1 receiver for years to come in a system in which Jackson, Maclin, and Riley Cooper all experienced career highs in receiving yards.

Kelly Stocking the Pantry for Defense

We’ve seen offensive minded head coaches, especially those with strong philosophies (or big egos) invest heavy on that particular side of the ball.  After selecting USC’s Nelson Agholor, the remaining five of the Eagles draft picks all were used on defensive players.  As crazy as we think that mad offensive scientist of a coach Chip Kelly might be, at least he is not ignoring the defense in his new role as GM.  Kelly knows he can’t afford to have his defense give up the plays they did last season down the stretch that cost them a playoff spot.

Giants Had No Choice but to Reach for Flowers

When the Giants drafted University Miami OT Ereck Flowers with the ninth overall pick many experts considered it somewhat of a desperation move.  Well it was.  But can you blame them?  The Giants offensive line was putrid last year and former first round selection Justin Pugh has yet to live up to where he was selected a couple years ago.

Flowers has all the tools to be a very good tackle in this league.  If he his coachable at the next level then he could very well be worthy of his selection after all.  His presence may also give the Giants the luxury of moving Pugh inside to guard.  Is Flowers the next Tyron Smith or Alex Barron?  Bet that he’ll never be as good as Smith, but never as bad as Barron.  If he can at least be an adequate starter in his rookie season the Giants will be satisfied.

G-Men’s Day 2 Picks Already Reminiscent of Championship Stars

When the Giants did not re-sign two-time All-Pro safety Antrel Rolle it made an already suspect secondary that much weaker.  The Giants took an aggressive approach in finding Rolle’s replacement by trading up to the first spot of the second round to grab Landon Collins.  Collins is the same height as Rolle and unlike other Alabama safeties he’s got incredible ball instincts.  Collins also outweighs Rolle by about 20 lbs which means he has the potential to be a much more physical player that can be an immediate impact starter.

Collins isn’t the only Giants draft pick drawing similarities to a former Big Blue All-Pro.  UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa name may be harder to pronounce than Osi Umenyiora, but he is already being compared to Justin Tuck who was also a third round selection.  Like Tuck, Odighizuwa also has the size to play both defensive end and defensive tackle.  Steve Spagnuolo, who was the defensive coordinator during Tuck’s best seasons, is back with the Giants in the same role.  Think he didn’t have any influence on that pick?

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Expectations Entering Tonight’s First Round

NFL-Draft-logo-gold-03-22-15The 2015 NFL Draft kicks off in the great city of Chicago this evening.  As awesome of a venue as Radio City is in NYC, I think a lot of people are welcoming the change of scenery.

There is no mystery as to what will take place with the No. 1 overall pick when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston.  After that who knows what will transpire?  This draft isn’t exactly full of star power which isn’t always a bad thing because it usually means you can anticipate more spontaneity creating a lot of excitement.

Here are some thoughts on each team heading into the first round on what should be a memorable night in the Windy City.

Dallas Puts Peterson Trade Talk out to Pasture Opting for Younger Backs

Dallas is doing the right thing by not going after Adrian Peterson.  Unless Minnesota lowers their asking price and Peterson is willing to take a significant pay cut there is no need to pursue a 30 year-old running back when there is loads of talented backs in this draft.

Todd Gurley should be off the board by the time the Cowboys pick.  They might have a shot at Melvin Gordon, but don’t be shocked if they pass him up for Tevin Coleman who might be the most complete running back in this draft.  He’ll likely fall behind Gurley and Gordon which may give Dallas an option to address defense with their first pick.  Also don’t be surprised if the Cowboys have selected more than one running back when the draft concludes especially if they have found one that can also contribute on special teams.  If that is the case Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams, Lance Dunbar, and Darren McFadden will be put on notice.

Draft is Critical for Giants 2015 Success, Must Address O-Line

Did the New York Giants really get better in free agency?  It is questionable why they overpaid guys like Dwayne Harris and JT Thomas.  The signing of Shane Vereen should complement Rashad Jennings nicely, however outside of Danny Woodhead running backs that leave New England don’t have a good track record in their new landing spot.  The G-Men also brought back a lot of their own players and with the exception of Jason Pierre-Paul no one from that group is making anybody tremble.

The Giants have the skill positions to get back in the playoffs, but they need better blocking to compete as a top-tier offense.  New York has to find a blue chip offensive lineman and a couple of guys that can at least contribute (don’t have to be great, but can play a role or fill a void) on defense.  Brandon Scherff out of Iowa would make a ton of sense and from where the G-Men pick in the first round there is a good chance he’ll be wearing Big Blue.

Don’t Rule out Marcus Mariota in Philly

The Eagles are not out of the Mariota sweepstakes just yet.  While they probably won’t try to make a deal with Tennessee to move up to No. 2 there is the chance that if Mariota falls past No. 5 then the New York Jets with the No. 6 pick could be that trading partner the Eagles are looking for to land the former Oregon Duck.

It looks like the Titans are not in love with the idea of drafting Mariota.  The team that is a real threat to Philly in terms of acquiring the young signal caller is Cleveland.  Apparently the Browns are offering their two first round picks to the Titans for their No. 2 spot.  Word has it that the Browns might start drafting a quarterback every year until they get it right.  That sorry strategy is no surprise from an organization that repeatedly shoots themselves in the foot as if it were a bodily function.  It is no guarantee Tennessee will take Cleveland’s deal especially if they have their heart set one of the top pass rushers or receivers in the draft.  The Eagles don’t have the leverage to trade up that the Browns do, but don’t sell Chip Kelly short. Should the Titans reject Cleveland’s offer and Mariota drops, Kelly does have some young talented players he could package with draft picks to trade if he is so infatuated with the kid he once recruited.  Either way we’ll find out by Thursday night’s end if Sam Bradford is here to stay in the City of Brotherly Love or if he was merely brought in as a bargaining chip.

Skins Sitting Pretty at No. 5

The Washington Redskins have to be really excited about this draft.  Why not?  They actually have a first round pick this year!

The Skins are in a good spot at with the No. 5 pick.  While new GM Scot McCloughan has made some light smoke screens as to the possibilities of the team taking Marcus Mariota I wouldn’t buy it.  McCloughan is looking for his next Russell Wilson, but he knows he doesn’t have to take him at this spot.  Heck he might not even be in this draft!

If Amari Cooper is still there at No. 5 I don’t see Washington passing him up, although if they have Kevin White or DeVante Parker ranked higher on their draft board they could go with one of those guys as well.  It looks like Washington plans to retain a 3-4 flex defense for the coming years which might have them interested in Dante Fowler creating a bookend sack tandem with Ryan Kerrigan.

These all seem like good options, but if I had to bet I believe McCloughan is going to trade this pick to accumulate more draft selections and honestly that is the best move.  The Skins have a lot of needs and if they somehow become involved with a team that wants to trade up for Marcus Mariota this could pay big dividends for them.