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Thursday, April 14, 2011
Draft Watch: NFC East

By Mike Sando

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft philosophy.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have used five of 10 first-round picks on defensive linemen since Andy Reid arrived as coach and top personnel man in 1999. Two more went for wide receivers. The team has taken one quarterback (Donovan McNabb), one defensive back (Lito Sheppard) and one offensive lineman (Shawn Andrews) in the first round during that time.

Reid and the Eagles like to stockpile draft choices. They have used 105 choices since 1999, tied for the fourth-highest total in the league. The figure is 31 over the past three drafts, tied with New England for most in the league.

Philadelphia moved up in the first round in each of the last two drafts. The Eagles traded up to take receiver Jeremy Maclin with the 19th pick in 2009. They traded up to the 13th spot last year, selecting defensive end Brandon Graham.


Dallas Cowboys

Obvious needs on the offensive line will test the Cowboys’ draft philosophy.

The team hasn’t used a first-round choice for the position since 1981. Dallas hasn’t used even a second-round selection for an offensive lineman since selecting Jacob Rogers in 2004.

Owner Jerry Jones has selected skill-position players twice in the past three drafts, landing receiver Dez White and running back Felix Jones.

Overall, however, Dallas has used eight of its last 10 first-round selections for defense.

The Cowboys aren’t afraid to wheel and deal. They’ve traded up or down five times in the last nine first rounds, generally coming out OK. Bryant, cornerback Mike Jenkins (2008), Jones (2008) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (2007) came to the Cowboys with first-round picks acquired from other teams.

Dallas could use help in its secondary, a position the team has periodically addressed early with Jenkins, Terence Newman (2003) and Roy Williams (2002).

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan’s personnel decisions in Denver were largely his undoing, clearing the way for him to join the Redskins beginning in 2010.

His last few drafts in Denver did produce some big hits, however. Ryan Clady, Peyton Hillis, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Elvis Dumervil became quality starters.

Shanahan has been known to focus on draft prospects at their very best, putting less weight into their struggles in the belief that a good coach should be able to realize max potential.

New York Giants

The Giants seem like one of the more methodical teams when it comes to the draft. They haven’t traded up or down in the first round since 2006.

A longtime former league executive told me he thought the Giants were more apt than most teams to target the players they brought in for pre-draft workouts.

Conventional wisdom says the Giants need to address their offensive line and linebacker situations in this draft. It’s easy to see why when looking at recent draft history.

The team has used four of its last five first-round choices for defense -- but none for linebackers -- since using the 2004 draft to select Philip Rivers and trade for Eli Manning.

The Giants have drafted only one offensive lineman and no running backs in the first three rounds since 2005. They’ve remained productive on the ground, but their veteran line could use some reinforcements. The Giants have selected a league-low four offensive linemen in the draft since 2005, a trend that might need to change.