Written by: David Parks – Staff Writing Intern (@_Parskie)
Over the next two weeks we’ll be releasing a division by division rundown of the biggest needs for each team and how each of those needs could be addressed with first round picks.
Our preview starts with the division that got perhaps the most out of last year’s rookie class, the NFC East.
Philadelphia made the headlines in the months leading up to the draft after they decided to trade up for Carson Wentz with the second pick. But little did everyone know he would be the second-most talked about rookie quarterback in the division.
For as good as Ezekiel Elliott was for Dallas, Dak Prescott was the team’s MVP. Dallas rode the two to a division title and coupled with that offensive line and Dez Bryant, look poised to seize control of the East for the near future.
Philadelphia Eagles: 2016 record: 7-9
First round selection: 15 (from Minnesota)
Offseason needs: CB, WR, OT
The Eagles surpassed expectations this year thanks to the surprisingly good play of Wentz. Now that the Eagles have done the hard part (find a QB), they must put him in a position to succeed.
The offensive line isn’t terrible, but it can also be improved. Getting Lane Johnson back for 16 games will be a huge boost, but Jason Peters just turned 35 and is always a health liability.
In addition to bolstering the line to protect Wentz, the Eagles need to improve his cast of skill players. Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Dorial Green-Beckham and Bryce Treggs aren’t going to cut it. Look for receiver to be in play at 15.
Having said all of the above, the position that needs to be upgraded the most on this team is corner. Leodis McKelvin, Noah Carroll and Jalen Mills have been burnt toast all season – an upgrade there has to happen for this team to complete for the division next season.
I love this spot for several corners. Schwartz prides his defense on being able to get to the quarterback rushing only four and playing tight man coverage downfield. Any of Cordrea Tankersley, Sidney Jones or Marshon Lattimore would excel in this spot.
Sidney Jones, CB – Washington
Corey Davis, WR – Western Michigan
Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Wisconsin
Washington Redskins: 2016 record: 8-7-1
First round selection: 17
Offseason needs: S, ILB, DT
Perhaps no team in the league ended their season with more disappointment than the Redskins. All they had to do was beat a Giants team that had nothing to play for, but yet their usually potent offense mustered a mere ten points in the loss that would end their season.
The situation with Cousins will be worth monitoring. Doesn’t feel like Washington wants to give him $100 million contract, which could mean yet another franchise tag. Another scenario? A trade with San Francisco for the second overall pick. Mike Shanahan was the coach in Washington when Cousins was drafted and loved him. The offensive coordinator of that team? Kyle Shanahan, who has all but locked up the Niners job. Not saying it will happen, just something to keep in mind.
De’Sean Jackson isn’t likely to be back, but I just can’t see the Skins taking a wide receiver in the first round two consecutive years.
If there’s a weakness to this team it’s the middle of their defense. Washington would do anything for one of Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker to fall here but there’s no way that happens. 17 feels a little high for Budda Baker, but depending on if they could trade down, I’d love that fit to take Donte Whitner’s place.
Assuming they stay pat, an impact linebacker in the middle could really elevate this defense. Cunningham is one of the draft’s best athletes – won’t be at all surprised if he shoots up draft boards after the combine. Davis is in the mold of Keanu Neal, another Gator who is paying big dividends for the Falcons this season.
Zach Cunningham, LB – Vanderbilt
Jarrad Davis, LB – Florida
Malik McDowell, DT – Michigan State
New York Giants: 2016 record: 10-6
First round selection: 23
Offseason needs: LB, OT, DE
Despite their playoff appearance, the Giants roster has some notable holes in it.
The linebacker spot has been a point of weakness for several years now. Devon Kennard, Kelvin Sheppard and Jonathan Casillas aren’t exactly a murderer’s row. I see this as another potential landing spot for one of Cunningham and Davis.
The Ereck Flowers experiment is getting dangerously close to “failure” levels. Flowers tied for the league lead amongst tackles in holding penalties and just looks lost at times. If Ramcyzk or Garrett Boiles is on the board here the Giants would have to think long and hard about it.
And then of course, there’s Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s reportedly not keen on another one-year deal and it seems unlike the team is going to give him the years he desires. If there’s one thing the Giants do well, it’s pass rushers. Takkarist McKinley, Taco Charlton and Carl Lawson should be in play here.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Wisconsin
Jarrad Davis, LB – Florida
Garrett Boiles, OT – Utah
Dallas Cowboys: 2016 record: 13-3
First round selection: 28
Offseason needs: DE, DT, TE
The Cowboys took the league by storm led by the best offensive line in football, a stud rookie quarterback and one of the best young running backs in the league.
Rod Marinelli does not get the credit he deserves for what he does with this defense. For as undermanned as they are along the defensive front, he continually dials up great gameplans to keep them in games.
Randy Gregory has undoubtedly played his last game as a Cowboy meaning they once again need help at pass rusher. McKinley, Charlton and Lawson could all be in play here as well.
I originally had LB here but remembered Jaylon Smith will be returning after missing all of 2016 recovering from his knee injury. Jason Witten is 35 and seems likely to hang it up after 2017 meaning it could provide the perfect year to bridge the gap with a rookie tight end. O.J. Howard would be too good for Jerruhhhh to pass up.
Takkarist McKinley, Edge – UCLA
O.J. Howard, TE – Alabama
Taco Charton, DE – Michigan