NFC East: 2012 nfl draft

Most of the Philadelphia Eagles' draft was focused on defense, as we kind of assumed it would be. But some interesting things happened after the draft at running back. The Eagles picked Kansas State's Bryce Brown in the seventh round, and signed Washington's Chris Polk as an undrafted free agent. Both are highly regarded talents whose draft stock fell because of other concerns -- attitude issues in Brown's case, and injury issues in Polk's. It's entirely possible that neither one ever sniffs a real NFL game, but given their skills the Eagles felt it was worth taking the chance to add quality depth and options to their backfield. Eagles coach Andy Reid was speaking specifically about Brown when he had this to say about the team's running back situation, according to the team's web site:
"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.

Mel Kiper Jr.'s draft grades are in

April, 29, 2012
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With the required disclaimer about not being able to grade a draft based on performance the day after it ends, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has issued his immediate post-draft grades based on how well teams addressed their needs. His NFC East grades:

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."

Video: Redskins introduce RG3

April, 28, 2012
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Robert Griffin III addresses the media as the new quarterback for the Washington Redskins.
The New York Giants needed offensive line help, but they generally believe there's better value in the middle and late rounds at those positions than there is early.

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.
The Philadelphia Eagles used their second pick of the sixth round (No. 30 in the round, No. 200 overall) to select Miami offensive lineman Brandon Washington. He played tackle last year at Miami but guard the two years prior to that, and the Eagles announced him as a guard, which is where he projects to play in the NFL. At 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, he feels a little big for a Howard Mudd guard. But perhaps his experience at guard and tackle is part of the appeal for a team that was looking to add bench depth behind its offensive line starters.

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.

Eagles add WR Marvin McNutt

April, 28, 2012
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The top of the Philadelphia Eagles' wide receiver depth chart appears to be in good hands with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. But the Eagles do need to add depth at some of their offensive skill positions, and that appears to be the reasoning behind selecting Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt with the 24th pick in the sixth round (No. 194 overall) in the draft.

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.
South Dakota tackle Tom Compton was the 11th-rated offensive tackle in this draft, according to Scouts Inc. The Washington Redskins just took him with the 23rd pick in the sixth round (193rd overall) as they continue to use the latter part of this draft to added needed depth to their offensive line 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.
If you've been following along on Twitter (@ESPN_NFCEast), then you know I'm not in love with the Dallas Cowboys' draft to this point. I do not think they have done a good job of maximizing the value of their picks. Obviously, we can't predict how, when or how much any of these guys is going to play, so it remains to be seen whether the guys they're taking are impact guys in the NFL or not. But I don't think their draft, through the first five rounds, shows a strong understanding of the value of the picks. They've also been taking nothing but project guys (other than Morris Claiborne), and for a team that needed a lot of immediate help, I'm not agreeing with that strategy.

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.
With the third pick in the sixth round of the NFL draft -- the pick they got from Minnesota last summer in return for quarterback Donovan McNabb -- the Redskins selected running back Alfred Morris from Florida Atlantic.

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.

The John Beck era comes to an end

April, 28, 2012
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Once the Washington Redskins used two of their first four picks in this year's NFL draft on quarterbacks, you had to figure ol' John Beck was in trouble, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Beck has indeed been released.

Beck
Beck
Beck was a competitor for the Redskins' starting quarterback job last summer in training camp, losing out to Rex Grossman. He started three games in the middle of the 2011 season due to Grossman's interception problems, but the Redskins lost those three games by a combined score of 75-31, and Beck lost the job to Grossman once again.

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.
We have reached the add-depth portion of the NFL draft, and the Philadelphia Eagles have added some depth -- not to mention height -- at a position of need. With the 18th pick in the fifth round (No. 153 overall), the Eagles took Purdue tackle Dennis Kelly, who is 6-foot-8 and 304 pounds. Kelly moves into the backup offensive line mix following the injury to starting left tackle Jason Peters and the signing of new starter Demetress Bell and the re-signing of backup tackle King Dunlap.

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.
After using their first four picks of this year's draft on defense (wisely, I believe), the Dallas Cowboys used their fifth-round pick (No. 152 overall) on Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale. Nice pick and a recognizable name, but don't everybody get all excited thinking the Cowboys just nabbed their Laurent Robinson replacement in the fifth round. As is the case with every pick the Cowboys have made after first-rounder Morris Claiborne, Coale is a developmental pick whose talent and coachability appeals to a coaching staff that clearly plans to be around for a long time.

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.
Offensive line is where the Washington Redskins' focus needs to be at this point, and with the sixth pick in the fifth round of the draft (No. 141 overall), they just took Iowa guard Adam Gettis, who fits in very nicely with what they look for on the offensive line.

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.
The one thing I'll say is I thought the Dallas Cowboys had to make this just about a defense-only draft, and so far they have. They have made four picks, all have been defensive players, and they just wrapped up the fourth round by taking strong safety Matt Johnson from Eastern Washington. I'd love to tell you something interesting about Johnson, but I just don't have anything. Our Scouts Inc. rating service ranked him the No. 72 safety available in this year's draft, and his scouting report page on our site is blank. I found him on Draft Scout, which ranked him the No. 16 strong safety in this draft and says he's been rising on boards this spring. Kid ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, which I'm sure opened some eyes. He's 6-foot-1, 212 and made the Big Sky's preseason all-conference team. He was a very productive college player, with 17 interceptions in his career.

So I don't know. The Cowboys have scouts and they have coaches and those guys know what kinds of players they like and look for. There's no reason to take a guy in the fifth round that everybody else likes if you find something you like about a guy much further down the list. Perhaps Rob Ryan sees something in Johnson that he believes will ultimately make an impact.

My issue is that the Cowboys have drafted three straight head-scratchers. Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilber and now Johnson are all guys who appear to be long-range projects if not (in Johnson's case) outright fliers. And they used their first-round and second-round picks on one player, albeit the best defensive player in the draft in cornerback Morris Claiborne. For a team that had as many needs at as many positions as the Cowboys did going into the draft, I'm just not sure they've done anything since early Thursday night to make their 2012 team better. We may look a few years down the road here and say they built a monster championship defense with their quirky picks in this year's draft, but in the instant-analysis period, it's hard to understand what they're up to.
Our man Matt Williamson tells me that Brandon Mosley, whom the New York Giants just picked with the 131st overall pick in the draft (36th in the fourth round), is a right tackle prospect, not a left tackle prospect. That's certainly fine in the short term, as the Giants' most pressing need on the offensive line is at right tackle. It remains to be seen whether Mosley becomes a candidate to start at that spot, or if they'd prefer to use veteran David Diehl there while Mosley develops. But Mosley is known as a tough player who doesn't mind doing the dirty work on the offensive line, and if he's a backup at both tackle positions then the Giants could use that as well.

Mosley's history is a bit checkered, as academic issues forced him to stop at military school and junior college in between high school and his ultimate arrival at Auburn. But once he got the grades in order, he became a valuable starter on Cam Newton's national championship team and earned a reputation as a hard worker.

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