A high-impact NFC East draft column
|Getty Images/Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE|
|Brian Orakpo (Washington), Hakeem Nicks (N.Y. Giants) and Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia) drew complimentary marks from our panel.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Something tells me you've just about had it with draft grades, so let's go in a different direction today. I've spent the last 24 hours on the phone with national draft gurus, college scouting directors and two assistant coaches in an effort to determine which draft class in the Beast will make the most immediate impact.
I avoided talking to NFC East scouts, in part, because it's rare to find a scout who says something like, "Well, we pretty much blew it" four days after the draft. The consensus is that the Eagles scored highest in our High-Impact rankings. I granted our experts anonymity in exchange for their honesty -- and job security. They were asked to provide a number between 1-10, with 1 representing an "incredibly low impact" and 10 being a "stunningly high impact."
If you disagree with something that's said in this column, feel free to utilize the "comments" section. We discourage foul language in most cases:
Philadelphia Eagles: Score: 8.9
Explanation: Trading up two spots to secure Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has been widely praised. One scout said Maclin "will be a more complete receiver than DeSean Jackson." And by at least midseason, the consensus is that Jackson and Maclin will be starting. You don't draft a kid at No. 19 overall to put behind Kevin Curtis. The odd man out in the Eagles' receiving corps might be Reggie Brown. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Eagles try to land a fifth-round pick in exchange for Brown. At this point, Curtis, Jackson, Maclin, Jason Avant and Hank Baskett are all more valuable to the Eagles than Brown. That might be hard for some of you to stomach, but it's the truth.
The Eagles also received high marks for waiting on Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy. In the past, they've tried to get by on lesser-known players such as Tony Hunt and Ryan Moats in the draft. That didn't work, so the Eagles went after a player that may have gone in the first round in past years. McCoy is an instinctive runner with excellent vision and quickness. In the Eagles' offense, you can't have a player lumbering around looking for a seam. McCoy can also catch the ball out of the backfield on third down. I think he'll make Brian Westbrook a much more effective back because he won't spend every week recovering from an awful pounding.
The Eagles could've mortgaged part of their future by going after veteran players such as Anquan Boldin and Tony Gonzalez, but they took a bigger-picture approach last Saturday and Sunday. When the Donovan McNabb era comes to a close, Maclin, McCoy and fifth-round pick Cornelius Ingram should just be hitting their stride. According to one of my noted draft gurus, Ingram may have been "the best value pick" in the fifth round. (Have I mentioned that the Cowboys picked a kickoff specialist in that round?). Ingram, a tight end, was available on Day 2 because he picked an awful time to tear his ACL. But if he comes back strong, he could be an excellent complement to the promising Brent Celek. The Eagles did what most teams set out to do heading into the draft: They provided some foundation pieces for the future while getting better in the present. Throw in the elite left tackle they landed in a trade and you have the makings of an NFC East favorite. One longtime NFC scout told me that he had a "third-round grade" on both Ingram and Virginia Tech cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris, which bodes well for the Eagles since both players were taken in the fifth.
New York Giants: Score: 8.3
Explanation: The NFC scout I referenced earlier thought the Giants had the best draft. He said he gave a first-round grade to Hakeem Nicks and then he had second-round grades on Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim, UConn offensive tackle William Beatty and Cal Poly wide receiver R
amses Barden. I'm not sold on Barden because of the inferior competition he faced, but everyone I talked to is intrigued with the player and thought it was wise for the Giants to trade up from No. 90 to No. 85 to take him. The cornerbacks taken late in the draft didn't score big with my panel.
But Giants general manager Jerry Reese certainly doesn't need to defend himself on the Rhett Bomar pick. All three scouts I talked to preferred Bomar over Texas A&M's Stephen McGee, the Cowboys' pick at the top of the fourth. The thought is that Bomar's a lot closer to NFL-ready than McGee, who languished in Texas A&M's one-dimensional offense for a couple seasons before suffering an injury his senior season. Taking North Carolina State running back Andre Brown in the fourth round earned the Giants rave reviews from my distinguished panel. There's a thought that he could pose a serious threat to Ahmad Bradshaw as the Giants' replacement for Derrick Ward.
Dallas Cowboys: Grade: 5.8
Explanation: OK, I'll admit it. This draft's not as bad as I made it out to be -- based on my discussion with personnel types across the league. Taking a kicker in the fifth round is still somewhat of a head-scratcher to me, but three different scouts and one draft guru (Rick "Goose" Gosselin) told me that USC's David Buehler actually represented excellent value in the fifth round.
Gosselin explained to me that Buehler could be flipped for a fourth-round pick when someone needs a kicker in training camp. But if the Cowboys keep him, Buehler may emerge as one of the best kickoff specialists of our time -- if there is such a thing. After extensive research (thanks, Mike Sando), I've determined that only two teams deployed the two-kicker approach for at least half the '08 season (Ravens and Panthers).
The league leader in touchbacks finished with 33. The Cowboys think Buehler could eventually surpass that mark, and the extra 10 yards or so in field position might come in handy. Still I don't totally agree with it, but some of the explanations make a little sense. Scouts and coaches are divided on Western Illinois outside linebacker Jason Williams as the No. 69 player overall. One scout said he had a seventh-round grade on Williams. But an NFC scout told me that Williams would have an immediate impact as a pass-rushing specialist. And even though some early reports had Williams eventually replacing Keith Brooking at inside linebacker, I'm told the plan is to keep him on the outside. There's also some thought that he could be a special teams demon. In other news, I'm hearing that Cincinnati cornerback Mike Mickens had excellent value in the seventh round. The Cowboys may be as excited about Mickens as anyone they took. Not sure what that says about them.
Washington Redskins: Grade: 5.1
Explanation: Don't take this the wrong way. Honestly, the Redskins didn't have enough picks to warrant a higher grade. The Dolphins took some of the steam out of this draft when they sent the Redskins Jason Taylor last summer, but enough about that. I can't find anyone who thinks the Redskins did the wrong thing in taking Brian Orakpo. He was a highly productive player in the Big 12 and I've watched him overpower some of the best offensive tackles in the nation.
Unfortunately, the Jason Smith-Orakpo matchup never materialized because Orakpo missed the Baylor game with an injury. Redskins fans will absolutely love the kid, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he finished with 10 sacks in his rookie campaign. Solid, solid pick. And thank goodness they didn't go after Mark Sanchez. I'm interested to see what Jason Campbell does in his second season with Jim Zorn.
One of the NFC scouts I talked to had a second-round grade on Kevin Barnes, whom the Redskins took in the third round (No. 80 overall). Barnes is one of those rangy corners who plays a lot quicker than he looks -- if that makes any sense at all. I don't watch a lot of ACC football, but everyone seems to think Barnes can help immediately in some of the Redskins' nickel packages. Orakpo will start immediately and I think Barnes is a starter two years from now. That's a decent impact for a draft in which the Redskins didn't have a lot of ammo.
Now, I'm curious to hear from you guys.