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2014 NFL Draft Preview: NFC East
By Matt Horkman

Dallas Cowboys

Recent Selections: CB Morris Claiborne, C Travis Frederick, RB DeMarco Murray, & OT Tyron Smith

Recap: When Dallas traded up in the 2012 draft for Claiborne, they were primarily a man-coverage team. Last year they switched to a Tampa 2 defense, altering their coverage philosophy in the process. In other words, Jerry Jones trades into the top 10 to select Claiborne only to change his defense a year later to a philosophy not suited for Claiborne’s skill set. The team likes what they have in their 2013 class. Many criticized the selection of Frederick, but Dallas needed to do something about their offensive line, and Frederick had a fine rookie year. In addition, the team likes what they have in Terrance Williams, Gavin Escobar and J.J. Wilcox, though the jury remains out on all three. Dallas selected 23 players over the last three drafts. While 16 of them remain with the team, just four have emerged as starters. For every Murray Jones has plucked, there’s a Bruce Carter right around the corner.

Best Scenario: DT Aaron Donald, S Deone Bucannon, & OLB Telvin Smith

Draft Preview: Despite signing defensive tackle Henry Melton in free agency, Dallas should look to upgrade their defensive line in round one. Admittedly, the odds of Donald lasting until pick No. 16 are slim, so the Cowboys could trade up to secure his rights. Other first-round options include Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy. The Cowboys may look to upgrade the other levels of their defense in rounds two and three. As many as five safeties could hear their name called in the first two rounds of the draft. Buchanan, who tested off the charts at the combine, will likely be among them. The undersized Smith (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) is an ideal fit for the Tampa 2 defense. He could unseat the disappointing Carter on the weak side.

Philadelphia Eagles

Recent Selections: CB Brandon Boykin, DT Fletcher Cox, QB Nick Foles, OT Lane Johnson, & LB Mychal Kendricks

Recap: The 2011 draft is among the many reasons why Andy Reid no longer coaches the Eagles. Reid selected 11 players in 2011, none emerging as impact players. Their first-round pick Danny Watkins is currently a free agent and second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett plays for the New York Jets. Nevertheless, Reid didn’t leave an empty cupboard for Chip Kelly, as the 2012 class is trending upward. Boykin and Kendricks have entrenched themselves as solid contributors on defense, with Boykin emerging as an excellent slot cornerback. The team also received breakout campaigns from Cox and Foles in 2013. Inconsistency plagued Johnson during his rookie year, but he improved as the season went on, starting every game.

Best Scenario: S Calvin Pryor, OLB Marcus Smith, & WR Jarvis Landry

Draft Preview: After parting ways with receiver DeSean Jackson, conventional wisdom has Philadelphia targeting a receiver early in the draft. They could target Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks in the first round, but there is an outside chance Pryor falls to them at pick No. 22. Given the strength of their offense, the Eagles should pounce on Pryor and target a receiver on day two. Landry would be an ideal fit. His combine and pro day were underwhelming, but he stands out on tape more than teammate Odell Beckham, who is likely to go on day one. Finally, Philadelphia needs to upgrade their pass rush. They could package together their first and second-round picks and attempt to trade up for UCLA’s Anthony Barr, but this class is deep with rush linebackers, with Smith being a potential day two steal.

N.Y. Giants

Recent Selections: CB Prince Amukamara, OT Justin Pugh, WR Rueben Randle, & RB David Wilson

Recap: The Giants failed to land a single impact player through the last three drafts. Amukamara is more of a No. 2 corner than a No. 1, and Wilson has been a colossal bust through two seasons. Randle could provide a spark next year, as he likely settles in as the team’s No. 2 receiver, and Pugh is coming off a decent season at right tackle. Along with Wilson, former North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin has been general manager Jerry Reese’s biggest draft blunder. Austin was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft. Baltimore selected wide receiver Torrey Smith six choices later and Green Bay selected receiver Randall Cobb six choices after that.

Best Scenario: OT Taylor Lewan, & TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Draft Preview: Many hold Lewan in the same regard as they did Eric Fisher, who the Chiefs selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. It’s unlikely (though not impossible) Lewan lasts until the No. 12 pick, so the Giants may need to move up to secure his rights. They could probably reach as high as No. 8 by packaging together their first and third-round picks. Selecting Lewan would allow them to kick Pugh or current left tackle William Beatty inside to guard, filling another major need. Because of a foot injury, Seferian-Jenkins didn’t generate any buzz during the pre-draft process, but his measurables compare with New England’s Rob Gronkowski, who was a second-round pick himself. The Giants could also opt to go linebacker on day two, with Wisconsin’s Chris Borland being an ideal fit for Tom Coughlin’s style. 

Washington

Recent Selections: OLB Ryan Kerrigan, QB Robert Griffin III, RB Alfred Morris, & TE Jordan Reed

Recap: In 2012, Washington traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 overall pick in that year’s draft. They selected Griffin III with that choice. RG3 had a monster rookie season, leading Washington to their first division title since 1999, but he injured his knee in a wild card playoff game against Seattle. This affected his ability to train for his sophomore campaign, causing his level of play to dip in 2013. Whether or not he bounces back in 2014 under new head coach Jay Gruden will have a huge barring on how history judges the trade. He’ll have no shortage of weapons, as the team drafted a 1,000-yard rusher in Morris later in that draft. They added a promising tight end (Reed) in 2013.

Best Scenario: S Lamarcus Joyner, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, & OT Joel Bitonio

Draft Preview: Holding an early second-round pick (No. 34 overall) gives Washington a valuable commodity at the start of day two. Given the low number of picks they possess, Washington should strongly consider trading down. The San Francisco 49ers have an abundance of day two picks and could matchup well by offering Washington picks No. 56 and No. 77. In other words, trading back 22 spots in round two would net Washington an extra third-round pick in a deep draft. It’ll take a willing partner, but Washington needs to inject youth into their defense. They could use two of their day two picks on defensive backs. Height is the only thing holding Joyner back. One of the most instinctive players of his class, Joyner could become a Bob Sanders or Eric Weddle type of player in the secondary. In addition, Washington could add Jean-Baptiste in round three. His size (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) could prove intriguing given Dez Bryant’s presence in the division. Finally, Bitonio could push for a starting role at right tackle or kick inside and play guard.

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