NFC East: 2013 nfl draft

On the topic of super-early roster projections, we take a look at the Philadelphia Eagles and the cornerback position, with the help of our friend Sheil Kapadia. He's got newcomers Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and holdover Brandon Boykin as sure things to make the roster, with two spots left for a group that includes Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley, Eddie Whitley and 2013 seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer, who's an interesting wild card who could threaten Boykin's nickel corner spot if he comes quickly:
Poyer has a really good shot of sticking because of his wide array of skills. Poyer has experience playing inside, outside, safety and special teams (returner and coverage). Of course, if Chip Kelly and the coaches determine that Poyer is not particularly good at any of those skills, he could be let go. But at this point, he’s got a good chance of making the team.

Also working in Poyer's favor is that the current staff is the one that drafted him, where a few of these other guys are holdovers who might not impress Kelly's staff the way they impressed Andy Reid's once upon a time. You have to figure free-agent signings Williams and Fletcher are the projected starters right now, with Boykin penciled in for the nickel role. But minicamps and the summer program will help sort out Boykin's chances of a larger role, and the chances of someone like Poyer -- who in the end is a seventh-round flyer for a reason -- to make an impact on this year's team.
The offseason train chugs along here in the NFC East. Link by link.

Washington Redskins

David Amerson's college position coach tells Rich Campbell that the Redskins' second-round pick is only going to get better, and that he likes the pairing of him with Washington secondary coach Raheem Morris.

The latest in the Redskins name controversy is a D.C. city council member who's trying to get them to change the name to "Redtails." But not much has changed on this. The team still doesn't want to change it and the NFL couldn't care less, and this isn't the first government effort to make it happen.

Dallas Cowboys

You know Jerry Jones has a soft spot for Jay Ratliff, and the Cowboys' owner is now on record as saying Ratliff will "flourish" as the 3-technique defensive tackle in the team's new 4-3 alignment. That is one of the things to like about the move to the 4-3 in Dallas -- the number of players, including Ratliff, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Jason Hatcher, who seem as though they could improve due to their new positions.

With the Cowboys likely to use a lot more two-tight end looks this year, Todd Archer and Mike Reiss chatted about the way the New England Patriots use their "12" personnel package and what that might look like in Dallas.

New York Giants

Ohm takes a look at seventh-round pick Michael Cox, who has less of a college production record than the Giants tend to like but could factor into the picture at running back this year.

Speaking of which, the Giants' interest in former Redskins running back Tim Hightower didn't vanish into thin air. They're still talking about bringing in the veteran, who was Washington's starter in 2011 before a knee injury derailed him.

Philadelphia Eagles

Third-rounder Bennie Logan doesn't mind if he's the overlooked member of the Eagles' draft class. He's used to it. He was one of eight children in his family.

Sheil Kapadia writes that Eagles fans shouldn't worry about Lane Johnson just because the last offensive lineman the Eagles took in the first round, Danny Watkins, hasn't worked out. The main difference, Sheil writes, is experience.
Justin Pugh played tackle at Syracuse, and the spot on the New York Giants' offensive line that seems most open right now is right tackle. So it's easy to presume that Pugh, who was their first-round draft pick last week, will challenge for the starting right tackle spot in Giants training camp. David Diehl and James Brewer don't appear to pose an insurmountable challenge for the highly regarded rookie, and if he shows he can handle the job, there seems to be no reason not to give it to him.

However, prior to the draft most scouts were projecting Pugh as an NFL guard because his arms had measured short at the combine. And as Art Stapleton of The Record explained in a recent blog entry, the Giants' offensive line picture is fluid:
The overlooked domino here is Brewer, of whom Reese has said “we expect [him] to come on and contribute this year.”

Brewer worked at guard last season when Snee and Baas were banged up, and I could see one of the three (Pugh, Brewer, Diehl) having more of an impact at guard if someone should win the job at RT outright. Down the line, if Brewer proves he could handle RT, then in 2014 it would not surprise me if Pugh lands the starting job at LG with Boothe on a one-year deal.

This is why the Pugh pick makes sense as a Giants first-round pick. Not because he fits an immediate need. The Giants don't draft that way. Pugh made sense for the Giants because they don't know what their needs are going to be on the offensive line a year from now. They're thinking about a 2014 version of Pugh, who's had some NFL experience and a chance to show a bit of what he can and can't handle in terms of position. If he shows he's a tackle, then they know they're set at the tackle spots with him and Will Beatty. If he shows he's not, then maybe he replaces Boothe (or, down the line, Chris Snee) and they know they need to find a right tackle unless Brewer shows he's the answer over there.

The Giants like Pugh as a player and believe he's going to be able to handle the NFL, regardless of where and when he's asked to be a full-time contributor. The "need" he fills is "long-range offensive line puzzle piece," and they believe he's a good enough player to succeed wherever and whenever he ends up fitting.

Todd McShay's NFC East review

April, 30, 2013
Still sorting out what went down last week in the NFL draft, Todd McShay has selected Insider a "Best pick" and a "Questionable pick" for each team in the league. Here's what he came up with for the NFC East's teams:

Dallas Cowboys

Best: Gavin Escobar

Questionable: Travis Frederick

Todd says Escobar has the best hands of any tight end he evaluated for this draft. As for Frederick, as has been the case many places, Todd's issue is not with the player but rather how high he was picked. But I still don't know what any team saw Thursday night that would have made them comfortable with waiting a round or two for the offensive lineman they wanted.

New York Giants

Best: Justin Pugh

Questionable: Johnathan Hankins

Todd's opinion of the players is at the root of this evaluation. He likes Pugh a lot -- thinks he projects as a guard, but doesn't rule out tackle. He's less high on Hankins, saying he struggles with technique and offers little in the pass rush.

Philadelphia Eagles

Best: Lane Johnson

Questionable: Bennie Logan

Todd likes Johnson as a fit for the up-tempo offense Chip Kelly plans to run, because of his athleticism. He questions Logan as a guy who took plays off.

Washington Redskins

Best: Phillip Thomas

Questionable: David Amerson

Todd believes Thomas was undervalued and that Washington did well to find a potential 2013 starter in Round 4. He had a fourth-round grade on Amerson, and says the Redskins could have made a safer choice at 51. I agree, but safe doesn't appear to be what the Redskins were after. They were trying to hit home runs with their early picks, and they like Amerson's raw ability.
The way you feel about the Dallas Cowboys' 2013 draft seems to depend on the way you feel about how they handled the first round. Ashley Fox, feels they bungled it badly, and theorizes that they did so because Jerry Jones was distracted by his attendance at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library earlier in the day.

[+] EnlargeTravis Frederick
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsCowboys first-round pick Travis Frederick projects as an immediate starter.
Now, I understand that Jerry excels at making himself an easy target. And I like Ashley's work. But on this point, I couldn't disagree with her more strongly. The way the Cowboys handled the first round has all the hallmarks of a coherent plan. A distracted decision-maker would have stayed put and taken the highest player on the board at No. 18, even if he didn't think that player was worth such a high pick. What the Cowboys did made sense on a number of levels.

First of all, they trade down with the 49ers, getting the 31st pick of the first round and the 12th pick of the third in exchange for that No. 18 pick. The biggest criticism we've heard is that they should have been able to get more from the 49ers, but different draft-value charts say different things on that and it takes two sides to make a deal. If they didn't have a player they liked at 18 and they saw a chance to get two that they did, then there's nothing wrong with taking that deal.

The player they ended up taking at 31, Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, projects as both an immediate and long-term starter for the Cowboys at either center or one of the guard spots. The second criticism is that they reached for him -- that they could have had him in the second or maybe even the third round. But (a) no one knows that for sure and (b) the 31st pick is practically the second round anyway. It's not as though they took Frederick 10th overall (or even 18th, for that matter). The Cowboys absolutely, 100 percent, more than any team needed anything in this entire draft, needed to come out of the first round with a new starter on the offensive line. They did. And they got an extra third-round pick out of the deal and used it on Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams, a new vertical threat for Tony Romo in the passing game.

Along the way, they added second-round tight end Gavin Escobar, who also offers the opportunity to expand their options in the passing game and represents the successor to Jason Witten down the road. With their original third-rounder, they added physical safety J.J. Wilcox, who could push for a starting spot this year. In the fourth they added a cornerback, B.W. Webb, deepening a position at which there's no such thing as too many bodies. In the fifth they took a running back, Joseph Randle, who didn't miss a game in college, to back up the injury-prone DeMarco Murray. And in the sixth they took project linebacker DeVonte Holloman.

They filled needs at good value in rounds two through six, and their second and third picks of the draft will help them add layers to their offense, offering Romo more options from play to play and game to game as his receiving threats become more numerous and varied. If it weren't for the weird way the first round went down, people would be hailing this as a fine draft for the Cowboys. And frankly, too many people are overreacting too strongly to the way the first round went down.

This was a lousy draft class, people. A bad year. Very little, if any, top-level talent, and if you're picking 18th that puts you in a tough spot. Considering that, and the fact that they needed to get an offensive lineman in the first round, I think the Cowboys acquitted themselves rather coolly. I certainly don't think the way they operated their first round indicates distraction or the lack of a plan. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Fans might be happier today had they gone offensive line again in the second or third round, or if they'd found a defensive tackle early. They could have stayed put at 18 and taken Sharrif Floyd, and perhaps that would have been hailed as a coup, since Floyd had been projected to go much earlier. But this is the part I never get. All we hear going into the draft is how useless all of these projections are, and then while the draft is going on everybody wants to use them to critique the picks. There was some good reason Floyd fell all the way to 23, and Dallas was hardly the only team to pass on him.

If Frederick never starts a game, or turns out to be a bust, then obviously it'll be easy to look back and say the Cowboys bungled this. But in a bad draft year, why not take the players you like instead of the ones the mock-drafters told you to like? I think the Cowboys got five players who could contribute right away, and Frederick could start on their line for the next eight years. I honestly don't see what's to rip.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s draft grades Insider are in. Let's take a look at his assessments of the NFC East's teams.

Philadelphia Eagles: B+

Mel gives the Eagles a B for needs and an A for value, especially liking top pick Lane Johnson and second-rounder Zach Ertz.

New York Giants: C+

They get a C for needs and a B for value, with Mel downgrading them for failing to address cornerback or linebacker.

Dallas Cowboys: C+

He gave them a B for needs and a C-minus for value. He's consistent with the popular opinion that they could have had first-rounder Travis Frederick much later, but he likes the middle- and late-round picks, especially running back Joseph Randle and safety J.J. Wilcox.

Washington Redskins: C+

They got a B-minus for needs and a C for value, and Mel says he bumped them up a bit because last year's Robert Griffin III trade included this year's first-round pick.

My take: I might have graded the Cowboys and Redskins a bit better -- Dallas because I'm not as down on the Frederick pick as a lot of people are. But I agree on the Eagles and Giants. We'll discuss these in much greater depth in the coming days.
Death, taxes and Mike Shanahan taking a running back in the late rounds of the NFL draft. These are things you can take to the bank, and with the first of their two fifth-round picks Saturday (No. 154 overall), Shanahan and the Washington Redskins selected Florida State running back Chris Thompson.

You'll recall the Redskins drafting Alfred Morris in the sixth round last year, and even if you don't you'll certainly recall Morris finishing second in the NFL in rushing yards in his rookie season. So while the Redskins don't have a need for a starting running back, Shanahan believes there's no such thing as too much depth at that position. He also believes you can find starting-caliber running backs late in the draft.

Thompson is a big-play running back who's not built for early-down, between-the-tackles work but is the kind of back who's a threat to score from anywhere on the field. The reason he was there in the fifth round is a history of major injuries that include a season-ending broken back in 2011 and a torn ACL last year. So he's a long shot, but if he can get/stay healthy, he could be an exciting new weapon for their Robert Griffin III-led offense.

The Redskins had a second fifth-round pick (No. 162 overall) as a result of the Albert Haynesworth trade to New England, and they used it on another injured Florida State guy with upside -- pass-rusher Brandon Jenkins. He was a defensive end in college who profiles as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL and could help augment the Redskins' outside pass rush. A foot injury ended his 2012 season early, but he was extremely productive in the years prior to that. He's a pure pass-rusher with good instincts, and if he factors in this year it'll likely be as a situational guy.

Basically, the Redskins spent their fifth-round picks on depth at positions where they already look good but believe you can never be deep enough.
New York Giants fans seem to understand, for 362 days a year, the way the Giants operate the draft. That doesn't mean it can't feel frustrating, during the draft, when the team isn't working to fill obvious needs like cornerback and linebacker. But the Giants run their draft and their organization a certain way, picking value guys they believe can develop and help them long-term. And it tends to work out. They contend every year, and every now and then they win a Super Bowl.

So while this fifth-round pick of Richmond safety Cooper Taylor isn't what you wanted in this spot, it's important to remember what the Giants are about and why they likely liked him. He's 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, which is big for a safety and small for a linebacker and it's impossible to know from here exactly what kind of role he ends up filling in the NFL. He's someone who can make an impact on special teams right away, and the Giants like him as a physical specimen who may be able to fill a variety of different roles in the three-safety looks they like to use.

Maybe he never makes an impact beyond special teams, but this is the fifth round and it's the Giants, and that means he's worth a shot. Their coaching staff will work to turn him into an NFL safety, and that could take a while, but that's okay by them.
Here's the part of the Scouts Inc. scouting report on running back Joseph Randle, whom the Dallas Cowboys selected with the No. 151 pick (5th round) in this year's draft, that matters the most:
Durability is not a concern as he has suffered no significant injuries that we are currently aware of and has appeared in all 39 career games including starting 26 straight contests in his final two seasons.

Randle is a nice change-of-pace back who's likely to help more in the passing game than he is between the tackles. But one of the most important things about the running back or running backs the Cowboys get this offseason is that they come without injury or durability concerns. Not that there's ever a guarantee against injury, but because Cowboys starting running back DeMarco Murray has a well-established injury history and has missed significant time in each of his first two seasons with injuries, it's more important than ever that the Cowboys take durability into consideration when making these picks.

The Cowboys have, in recent years, liked to find guys who represented better value than their draft slot because they dropped due to injury concerns. The strategy has landed them key players such as Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Murray. But if you do that too much, you end up with too many guys who get hurt. Good for the Cowboys for prizing durability in their search for Murray's backup.
The Philadelphia Eagles waited until the fifth round of the NFL draft to address their biggest need on defense. But this is a year in which you can wait on safety, and North Carolina State's Earl Wolff is a guy the Eagles can feel good about snagging with the 136th overall pick.

Wolff is known as a tough and very intelligent player who was productive enough in college that he was an All-ACC first-teamer at safety last year. The Eagles signed Patrick Chung and former Giant Kenny Phillips at safety this offseason and still have Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. But the latter two have been disappointments as starters, Phillips comes with injury questions and Chung isn't enough of a sure thing. It's entirely possible that Wolff starts soon in Philadelphia if he plays as well this offseason as he did at NC State.
The Washington Redskins surprised people by picking a tight end and not a free safety in the third round of the draft Friday night, and some Redskins fans said they wished the team had taken safety Phillip Thomas in that spot. Well, it turns out the Redskins were right to wait, because Thomas was still there in the fourth round, where the Redskins selected him with the draft's 119th overall pick.

Thomas is a candidate to win the vacant starting free safety job for the Redskins this year. And while that may sound odd to say about a fourth-round rookie, the Redskins have no other strong candidates and this draft is deep at safety. Scouts Inc. rated Thomas the No. 7 safety in this year's draft, and he was the 12th one drafted.

The book on Thomas says he may be a bit undersized and has had some injury issues, but that he reads quarterbacks well and makes good decisions in coverage that help him make plays on the ball. Sounds a lot like what the Redskins need at that free safety spot, and the fact that they were able to get their kind of safety late in the fourth round has to be counted as a victory for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins as they work to fill the remaining holes on their roster without the benefit of cap space.
If ever the Dallas Cowboys were going to draft a quarterback and develop him behind Tony Romo, this year's fourth round would have been the time to do it. The Giants moved up to pick No. 110 to take Ryan Nassib. The Steelers took Landry Jones at No. 115. After only three quarterbacks went off the board in the first three rounds, four went in the first 18 picks Saturday.

But that's not part of the way the Cowboys operate, and so at No. 114 they decided not to join the quarterback run and instead took a cornerback -- B.W. Webb of William & Mary. Webb's a little undersized and may be best used as a nickel corner in the NFL, but that's OK because the Cowboys are set on the outside with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Webb can contribute right away on special teams and has enough smarts, toughness and playmaking ability to potentially make an impact on defense as early as his rookie year. He's the second straight defensive back the Cowboys have taken (following third-round safety J.J. Wilcox) after they started the draft with three straight offensive players. And while he's not the defensive tackle or the running back for which some fans may have been hoping, he represents good value at a premium position, and continues a strong draft for Dallas.
The New York Giants made an interesting and uncharacteristic move in the fourth round of the NFL draft, trading up six spots and picking Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib with the 110th overall selection. Nassib is the second Syracuse player the Giants and Syracuse-alum head coach Tom Coughlin have taken in this year's draft, joining first-round offensive lineman Justin Pugh.

The pick seems odd, of course, because the Giants are set at quarterback with Eli Manning, who hasn't missed a game since becoming the starter in 2004 and has two Super Bowl MVP trophies. Nassib is not someone they need. But the Giants don't like to draft for need. They like to draft for value. And a potential NFL starting quarterback in the fourth round is a value pick.

Manning is 32 years old, and while there's no indication that he's anywhere near done, drafting a quarterback whose talent you like and developing him behind your secure 32-year-old Pro Bowler isn't a bad play. (The Steelers took Oklahoma's Landry Jones five picks later, in a similar move.) Nassib could compete with David Carr for the backup job right away, but more likely the Giants are looking well down the road with him as a potential Manning successor or someone they can develop in a backup role and maybe someday trade for something of significant value in a league in which quarterbacks are valuable commodities.

The Giants have yet to draft a linebacker or a cornerback -- two positions that were obvious areas of need for them when the draft began. But again, this is the fourth round, and they're not likely to find a starting linebacker or cornerback here. Nassib is a commodity for them, adding depth at the most important position, and could turn out to be a more important piece down the road.

Plus, he went to Syracuse. And the Giants clearly dig that.

A year ago, USC quarterback Matt Barkley might have been a top-five pick in a quarterback-heavy first round. This year, he was still on the board at the start of Day 3. For the Philadelphia Eagles, who are looking for a long-term solution at the most important position on the field, he represented too much value to pass up. The Eagles began the day by trading up from the fourth pick of the fourth round to the first pick of the round to draft Barkley with the No. 98 overall pick in the draft.

The immediate reaction is all about "system" and the fact that Barkley's not a running quarterback and therefore might not be a fit for the kind of offense everybody expects new Eagles coach Chip Kelly to run. I think that's a bunch of garbage. Good coaches don't impose a rigid offensive "system" and find players they think fit into it. Good coaches find the best possible players and figure out a way to design plays and systems around them. That's how you win -- and how you last -- in the NFL.

[+] EnlargeBarkley
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillThe Eagles traded their fourth-round pick and one of their seventh-round picks to move up and draft quarterback Matt Barkley.
Besides, the most important thing for a quarterback in the kind of up-tempo offense Kelly ran at Oregon isn't foot speed. It's intelligence and decision-making speed. The knock on Barkley is insufficient arm strength for downfield accuracy, but where he grades out well is as a smart, thoughtful and effective decision-maker the likes of which Kelly needs if his goal ends up being to run as many plays as possible on offense in a game.

So yeah, it's a good pick. Getting a quarterback in the fourth round who was, not long ago, thought of as a potential No. 1 overall pick and played at a high level against top competition in college is a good pick. What does it mean for 2013? Hard to say. It's not crazy to think Barkley could outperform Nick Foles or even Michael Vick in preseason and be the Eagles' Week 1 starter, but the greater likelihood is that he's just added to the crowded quarterback mix and given time to learn the NFL game and the way Kelly wants to operate within it and ends up starting later in the season or in future seasons.

The point is that the Eagles think Barkley can be a good NFL quarterback, and whether he can run or not is completely irrelevant. If Barkley turns out to be an effective quarterback in the pros and Kelly can't run as much read-option as everybody seems to want to run at this particular moment in NFL history, Kelly's not going to care, because he's going to have a good quarterback. If Barkley turns out to be the kind of player we thought he was going to be a year ago, Eagles fans are going to forget all about the read-option craze and be very happy this happened at the start of this year's fourth round. And if not? It only cost them a fourth-round pick and one of their four seventh-round picks (No. 210 overall). Totally worthwhile move for a very good value, and it could pan out in a big way.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 4-7

April, 27, 2013
Join our NFL experts for Rounds 4-7 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. See you there.