Wednesday, February 22, 2012
NFC East combine primer
By Dan Graziano
With the NFL scouting combine kicking off, let's take a look at some of the story lines involving NFC East teams in Indianapolis this week. We'll do them in draft-pick order:
Biggest need: Well, it's quarterback, as everyone within 500 miles of the beltway knows. But the Redskins will also be talking to wide receivers, defensive backs and offensive linemen at this year's combine. They have a number of needs, and a number of different things they can do with the No. 6 overall pick. The key question is whether they'll stay at No. 6. A big part of the combine is the after-hours interaction between team executives, agents, etc. By the end of this week, if they don't already, the Redskins might have some idea about what it would cost them to trade up to No. 2 overall and ensure they could draft Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Once they have some idea of that price, they can decide whether Griffin is their answer at quarterback or whether they need to find one in free agency and use the No. 6 pick on a receiver or a defensive back.
Interview targets: The Redskins will surely want to talk to Griffin, along with other, lower-ranked quarterback prospects such as Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler and Brandon Weeden. At other positions, it makes sense for them to be keeping an eye on wide receiver Justin Blackmon, cornerback Morris Claiborne and maybe an offensive tackle such as Riley Reiff.
Later-round sleepers: Boise State safety George Iloka is a second-day type of player on whom the Redskins could have their eye if the chips fall correctly. LaRon Landry looks like he may be a goner in Washington, and they could use some help at safety. And there's some buzz right now about Midwestern State tackle Amini Silatolu, who projects as a guard in the NFL and might look nice on the left side of the line next to Trent Williams.
Biggest need: They have several, but none so glaring as cornerback. When one of your starters gets hurdled by two fullbacks in the division title game, you know you have a problem at the position. The Cowboys pick 14th in the first round, and if they've addressed cornerback in free agency they could use the pick on a pass rusher, a safety or even an interior offensive lineman like Stanford's David DeCastro. But even if they pick up a big-name free-agent corner, it's not out of the question they could draft another in the first round. Their need at the position is that desperate.
Interview targets: With Claiborne almost certain to be gone by 14, the two corners on which the Cowboys have their eye are Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick. But they'll surely check in on DeCastro as well as pass rushers such as Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw. Mel Kiper had the Cowboys taking Alabama safety Mark Barron in his most recent mock draft, and with Abram Elam's 2012 status in doubt, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see them take the top available safety at 14.
Later-round sleepers: Todd McShay's recent post on possible combine sleepers mentions Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson and McNeese State safety Janzen Jackson as guys who could be there for the Cowboys at need positions after the first round.
Biggest need: The Eagles need linebackers — at least two of them. The issue is whether there is value at that position in the first round. If Boston College's Luke Kuechly is still there at No. 15, it would make a ton of sense for the Eagles to take him. But Andy Reid's draft history doesn't indicate that he likes taking linebackers that high. In spite of their disappointing 2011 season, the Eagles don't look, on paper, like a team with a lot of obvious needs. If they don't take a linebacker at 15, I'd expect them to either move down or pick a big defensive tackle such as Fletcher Cox, Devon Still or Dontari Poe. And if DeSean Jackson is traded or leaves via free agency, they could target a wide receiver such as Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright.
Interview targets: All of those names above, but I'm going to throw the two cornerbacks in here as well Kirkpatrick and Jenkins. The Eagles obviously love to stock up on cornerbacks, and if they trade Asante Samuel for salary/overcrowding reasons, it's not crazy to imagine them deciding one of those corners has too much value to pass up. As for their troubled pasts... hey, this is Andy Reid we're talking about here.
Later-round sleepers: Michael Vick's not going to be around forever, so don't be surprised to see the Eagles spend an early-round or mid-round pick on a quarterback such as Osweiler or Nick Foles. But those guys aren't really sleepers, because you've heard of them. Nebraska's Lavonte David is a well-regarded, if undersized, linebacker prospect. At wide receiver, remember the name Tim Benford from Tennessee Tech.
New York Giants
Biggest need: Offensive line. The champs patched it together in January with a line that wasn't very good in the first half of the season but played big when it needed to. But Kareem McKenzie looks set to leave as a free agent, David Diehl won't play forever and the Giants need to be thinking about what their offensive line will look like in the future. They haven't taken an offensive lineman in the first round since Luke Petitgout in 1999, but at No. 32, their pick is barely in the first round, and they'll take the best player available, as they always do. Don't be surprised if that player is a tight end such as Clemson's Dwayne Allen. The Giants did lose two tight ends to knee injuries in the Super Bowl. Oh, and if they lose both Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas in free agency, they may need a cornerback.
Interview targets: Allen and Stanford's Coby Fleener at tight end. Mike Adams and Bobby Massie at tackle. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them look at a versatile rush linebacker like Marshall's Vinny Curry. I always think the Giants need help at linebacker, though they never seem to agree.
Later-round sleepers: Louisiana-Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green could fill a need for them in the middle rounds if his knees check out this week. And the Giants like to take late-round running backs, so keep an eye on Senior Bowl star Doug Martin from Boise State.