NFC East: 2012 nfl draft
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
The Giants are coming off a mess of a preseason, undermanned and overwhelmed, with the offensive line still a mess and the new offense not clicking at all. No one will pick them to win this game. Except me. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
This one's a comedown off the Week 1 surprise, as Arizona's banged-up defense still manages to flummox Eli Manning and collect a few interceptions. It's a bummer of a home opener as reality begins to set in. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Houston Texans
Houston's defense is as liable as Arizona's to make life miserable for Manning and the offensive line. But Houston has bigger questions on offense than even the Giants, and this is a win for the New York defense against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Prediction: Win
Week 4: at Washington Redskins
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
The pattern continues, and the Giants overcome two Osi Umenyiora sacks to outscore the Falcons with a furious Manning comeback in the final minutes. The Giants poke their heads over the .500 mark as they make the turn into the most brutal stretch of their schedule. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants don't have Matt Barkley to kick around this time when they visit the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly and the Eagles show them what a truly innovative offense looks like. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at Dallas Cowboys
The season-long debate about what gives when an anemic Giants offense meets a pathetic Cowboys defense tilts in Dallas' favor in the first meeting. Tony Romo & Co. have more than enough weapons to outscore Manning and his bunch, and the Giants hit the bye with a 3-4 record. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
After a long break before the Monday night home game, the Giants get taken apart by Andrew Luck, Hakeem Nicks & Co. at MetLife Stadium for a third straight loss. The offense is starting to run more smoothly, but it still doesn't have enough playmakers to outscore one of the league's better offenses. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
You're kidding, right? Prediction: Loss
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
The Giants have obviously handled the Niners in recent years and in some high-profile situations. But by this point in the season, San Francisco's defense is back to full strength, and the 49ers can't afford to lose ground to the Seahawks by failing to beat the team Seattle just beat the week before. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
A sixth straight loss is by no means out of the question here, as Romo and his crew still have the potential to outscore anyone in a given week. But from this far out, I'll forecast that something goes wrong for Romo late in this game, and the Giants get a gift. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where the schedule starts to soften up, when the Giants start playing teams that insist on not starting their best quarterback. It's unfortunate they're 4-7 at this point and just about out of the playoff hunt, but they will get it going against the bottom-feeders. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans are going to be dreadful this year, and by December they won't be very difficult for anyone to beat, even at home. A third straight victory keeps the Giants' hopes alive. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Washington Redskins
Have to be honest: The NFC East is so unpredictable that, when doing these predictions, I just decided to give the Giants a 3-3 division record with victories in all three home games and losses in all three road games. It's as fair a way as any to do it, I believe. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at St. Louis Rams
After moving back to .500 with four straight wins, the season falls apart at the hands of the St. Louis pass rush. An offensive line that has once again been the Giants' biggest problem all year can't protect Manning in a must-win game. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Coughlin's teams can always find a way to play for pride. The Giants' playoff hopes are extinguished, but they still manage to end the season on a high note and with a .500 record. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
The case for: Tyler Polumbus is not the long-term answer and, in fact, his contract is up after this season. Though he improved last season, it's clear the organization would like an upgrade. They could find a future starter -- whether Day 1 or not remains to be seen -- at 34. Or they could find a guy who might take a year or so after the second round.
The case against: Tough to make a case against drafting a right tackle, especially because there are some good ones available at that spot. That, combined with a need for the position -- even if Polumbus starts they need his eventual replacement.
Names to watch: Cyrus Kouandjio. The main reason he's available is because of questions surrounding his knees. But he was also inconsistent in pass protection (much better against the run), another reason he fell. Some teams have definitely been scared off because of his knees -- he has a degenerative issue with his knees, according to ESPN's Stephanie Bell. But he's also had no problems since his 2011 ACL surgery and, in fact, never missed a practice, had pain or swelling. So there's a risk-reward here and some positive signs mixed with concerns. And the Redskins' relationship with Dr. James Andrews, whose office performed the surgery on Kouandjio, is important and helpful here. If he can't play tackle, Nevada's Joel Bitonio, could move easily to guard. They also showed interest in Jack Mewhort, Morgan Moses and Antonio Richardson. I would not draft Mewhort or Richardson at 34; Moses' ability suggests he should go the highest of these three. We'll see.
The case for: The Redskins need depth with Leonard Hankerson still uncertain following ACL surgery. Aldrick Robinson is entering the last year of his contract, too. Both have shown flashes but for one reason or another (yes, injuries a part) haven't put it together. Also, if the receiver they pick can return punts and kicks, that's even better.
The case against: They have three starting receivers -- and all are under contract for the next three seasons. Whoever they get, barring injuries, would end up being a No. 3 at best.
Names to watch: Marqise Lee is still available. But this is a deep draft at receiver so finding one after the second round is a distinct possibility. They also expressed interest in receiver Cody Latimer before the draft. He's an interesting player, faster than realized given how he was used at Indiana and because of injuries.
The case for: Washington can use another pass catcher opposite Jordan Reed. Logan Paulsen is a blocker and an occasional pass threat, but they could use more given Reed's durability issues. Niles Paul remains on the roster, but is a free agent after this season.
The case against: Tough to make a strong case against adding another one at some point. At 34? Seems a big stretch considering Reed would still be the primary target if healthy. But in the third or fourth round? Sure.
Name to watch: Jace Amaro. More of a guy who would line up wide, but has definite receiving skills.
The case for: They clearly would like another pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Alfred Morris is set as the full-time ballcarrier, but Roy Helu is not set as the third-down back.
The case against: The second round is too high for this position given the needs elsewhere. But if they pick up another third? Then this spot becomes one worth watching (though the fourth round is fine here as well).
Names to watch: De'Anthony Thomas, Dri Archer, Charles Sims, George Atkinson III.
The case for: Though the Redskins signed Shawn Lauvao, they still have questions inside. Chris Chester, who struggled last year, returns. The Redskins could opt to draft another player here and plug them in immediately. Chester would then be in jeopardy of losing his job (releasing him would save the Redskins $2.7 million against the salary cap.
The case against: They did invest inside during free agency and still need a right tackle. For them to take a guard in the second round, it would have to be someone who was head and shoulders above.
Names to watch: Xavier Su'a-Filo. The UCLA guard is No. 1 on Mel Kiper's list at this position. Some tackles, such as Bitonio, might eventually end up at guard. Cyril Richardson has the size to play tackle, but his game might translate more to guard. He's a third-round guy.
"We'll see how it goes. We're good with young guys and we'll see how that works out. With Dion Lewis, I would have liked to have gotten him a little more time last year as we went on. I didn't end up doing that, and I probably overplayed LeSean McCoy a little bit, even though he doesn't want to hear that. As he continues to get older and have the number of reps under his belt that he does, you'll want to back off the number of reps that he does."
So... does that mean Reid wants to cut back on McCoy's carries in 2012? Are the Eagles gong to a running back committee? Is McCoy's fantasy draft stock about to plummet?
Unlikely. Please take into account a couple of things when reading into Reid's comments:
First, the Eagles are currently in the midst of contract negotiations with McCoy. Surely, a large part of McCoy's argument is the significance of the role he plays in the Eagles' offense. He had 60.9 percent of the team's rush attempts last year (the eighth-highest such figure in the league), and while his 48 catches ranked fifth on the team in 2011, he did lead the team in receptions in 2010 with 78. McCoy gets a lot of work, and this part of his argument is a strong one. Publicly hinting that the plan might be to give him less of a percentage of the overall offense could be a bit of a negotiating tactic on the part of Reid.
Second, Reid's comment about overusing McCoy in 2011 probably says more about the disappointment that was veteran backup Ronnie Brown than it does about any future plans for McCoy. The Eagles likely wanted to give more reps to their backup running back in 2011, but couldn't because Brown wasn't playing well enough to justify them.
As brilliant as McCoy is, there's little doubt that Reid and the Eagles would like him to take on fewer than 60 percent of the team's carries in future seasons. That's a big workload, and McCoy isn't just some mule you ride until he's done and then replace. He's a dynamic, exciting, multi-talented playmaker who matters to their passing game, and is a big part of helping their offense work the way it's supposed to work. To maximize McCoy's value to the team in this and future seasons, it would be wise to keep an eye on his workload. The young running backs the Eagles picked up Saturday evening could represent fresh-legged options for keeping McCoy himself fresh. I think that's all Reid was saying there.
Philadelphia Eagles: A
Dallas Cowboys: C+
New York Giants: C+
Washington Redskins: C+
Yeah, other than the Eagles, whom he put at the very top of his list, Mel didn't think much of the NFC East's draft. The other three teams all rank in the bottom 11 of Mel's list.
I agree on the Eagles, who seemed to have one of those drafts in which everything fell their way. They didn't even need to pay too heavy a price in their first-round trade up for Fletcher Cox, as the Cowboys and Redskins did in their first-round trades. Mel calls this "One of the best drafts in terms of lining up needs and getting guys at spots where I didn't think they'd still be around."
Mel's Cowboys grade, along with everyone else's Cowboys grade, is inflated by the fact that they secured the best defensive player in the draft in Morris Claiborne with their first-round move up. But the Cowboys entered this draft with a lot of needs, and they really didn't fill any in ways that are likely to help them in 2012: "Really thought Dallas would get a player along the offensive line and improve the run game. I also don't see any immediate help for the pass rush. But the Cowboys can feel pretty good about landing Claiborne."
I liked the Giants' draft better than Mel did, but he seems to think they reached for David Wilson at No. 32 after their top choice, Doug Martin, went one pick earlier, and he may have a point. All in all, Mel says the Giants got "some helpful pieces, but Wilson needs to provide impact," and there is some question about whether he will.
The Redskins' draft will forever be the Robert Griffin III draft, for good or for ill. Mel's grade is kept down, he says, but the extraordinary price the team paid to move up to draft their new quarterback: "I think RG3 will be a very good player, and I think he can be pretty good right out of the gate, but he's this draft for Washington, and he came at the cost of (likely) three future starters."
So, as usual, they waited, went with the dynamic playmaker types early in the draft and have spent part of Saturday picking offensive linemen they like as developmental prospects. Their sixth-round pick is tackle Matt McCants of UAB, a long-armed, quick-footed lineman who possesses the kind of tools the Giants like in their tackles.
He missed his 2008 season due to academic issues but played and started every game in the three years after that. He's a guy the Giants will hope can learn and take a few steps forward in their program and perhaps ultimately help down the road.
As we wrote when the Eagles picked tackle Dennis Kelly in the fifth round, the Eagles allow Mudd to have some say in deciding who they pick at the offensive line spots, and he tends to like a certain kind of player with which he believes he can work. Under Mudd, the Eagles' offensive linemen have to be quick and athletic to get out and block from a position upfield from the one in which they start, and maybe they saw something on tape with Washington that made him think he'd take to it.
McNutt isn't a typical Eagles receiver pick, because he's not a super-explosive player with off-the-charts speed. But he was a productive college player and shows good receiver skills. He can get open, can locate the ball in the air in traffic before the defender does. He has good body control and makes adjustments mid-route. So, he has some things with which the Eagles can work as they develop him into what they hope is a future contributor to their offense. I don't know if he'll be good enough to make an impact as a receiver this year, but he's a good enough football player that he'll have a chance to get himself into the mix.
Compton is a tough player with good size for his position who was a durable and reliable performer in college, albeit not at a major program. The questions are mainly about the level of competition he faced while playing for South Dakota, so it remains to be seen if his physical traits and impressive tape can translate to the NFL level. If they can, he could be a candidate for immediate playing time at right tackle in Washington if Jammal Brown continues to have physical problems. If they can't, the Redskins will take a chance in the sixth round that they can develop him into a useful player.
The Redskins got this pick from the Steelers in exchange for moving back 10 spots in the fourth round earlier in the day Saturday.
But I kind of like their sixth-round pick, Oklahoma tight end James Hanna. I don't know if he can replace Martellus Bennett as their second tight end behind Jason Witten, but he looks the part (6-4, 252) and he has the physical tools, speed and athleticism to succeed in the NFL if he puts in the work and learns what he needs to learn to make the transition. He wasn't a big-time producer at Oklahoma in spite of those skills, however, which makes you wonder, but at this point in the draft the Cowboys could do a lot worse than to find a guy with those kinds of tools at a position of need. Plus, he's a local kid from Flower Mound, Texas, so if he hits it big that's a cool story.
The Cowboys have one more pick -- the 15th one in the seventh round.
Morris is a strong, compact power runner who's only about 5-foot-9, and I have no idea how he'll factor into the Redskins' 2012 season because he's a sixth-round pick. But he's a different kind of back than the two they drafted last year -- Roy Helu and Evan Royster -- and he gets added to the offseason and training camp mix with them. The Redskins still want to bring back free agent Tim Hightower or, if he leaves, another veteran back or two because they believe it's important to have depth and they're not sold on Helu or Royster as a full-time starter at this point.
I just found it interesting because it was the McNabb pick. Couple of other notes of mild interest:
With the seventh pick in this round, Arizona took cornerback Justin Bethel from Presbyterian. That was the pick the Redskins traded to Arizona, along with Vonnie Holliday, last summer for Hightower.
The Redskins also hold the 23rd pick in this round (No. 194 overall) as a result of the trade with Pittsburgh that moved them down 10 spots in the fourth round earlier today.
With Grossman re-signed to a one-year contract and the Redskins having drafted Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins so far in this draft, there was no more room for Beck, a nice guy who didn't have what it took and likely will live as a sad punchline in the memory of Redskins fans.
Kelly is a project lineman, but the project lineman that offensive line coach Howard Mudd got in the sixth round last year was Jason Kelce, who emerged as the Eagles' starting center last summer and held that position all year. So Kelly becomes Mudd's next developmental guy, and the speed with which he picks up Mudd's blocking schemes will determine how quickly he can be a contributor on the line for the Eagles.
Coale was a very good playmaker in college and has lots of fun-looking wide receiver skills. He knows how to get separation from defenders. He has good hands and can make tough catches. His lack of size is going to cause him problems against bigger, stronger defensive players at the NFL level, however, and the key to his development will be his ability to overcome that issue. But he's known as a smart, high-character guy who makes the most of his ability, and there's nothing to say he can't learn what he needs to learn to become successful. In the meantime, as with everyone they've picked this week after Claiborne, he can help out on special teams.
As for that Robinson replacement, sure, maybe Coale gets into the mix. But I'd still bet on the Cowboys finding a bargain-bin veteran for that spot. You know, like they did last year with Robinson. And if whoever it is doesn't make the same kind of splash Robinson makes, they can just go back to throwing it to their other great receiving options more. Which was the plan going into training camp last year, because they found out what they had in Robinson.
Gettis' issue (i.e., the thing that drops him into the fifth round) is size. He's 6-foot-2 and 293 pounds, and he played at around 280 in 2010 at Iowa before bulking up last year and prior to the combine. But he's extremely quick, fast and athletic, with the kind of nimble feet and sound on-the-move blocking technique the Redskins need for their zone-blocking run scheme.
If Kory Lichtensteiger isn't fully recovered from last year's injury, and if Gettis picks up the offense and its terminology quickly, there's a chance he could emerge as a challenger for a starting guard spot in 2012. If not, he could pick up playing time as the year goes on and certainly beyond this year as a blocker for new quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Redskins' ideal offensive guard would be a guy who's exactly like Gettis but a little bit bigger.