Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Draft 2008 [Print without images]

Sunday, April 27, 2008
NFC East: Giants might have a steal; Boys, Skins shrewd

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Three playoff teams, including the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, came from the NFC East in 2007. This weekend in the NFL draft, the division's four teams fortified themselves.

This was one of two divisions in football in which no team owned a losing record (the Philadelphia Eagles brought up the rear with an 8-8 slate).

All indications point to another brutal battle this year, making it imperative that each team drafted successfully to keep up the competitive balance.

Here is a breakdown of this weekend's draft within the NFC East:

Best move

DRAFT DIVISIONAL REVIEWS
• Walker: NFC East draft review
• Sando: NFC West draft review
• Willamson: NFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: NFC South draft review
• Sando: AFC East draft review
• Williamson: AFC West draft review
• Walker: AFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: AFC South draft review
After failing to land Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson in a trade last week, the Washington Redskins did a great job of upgrading the position by taking Michigan State's Devin Thomas and Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly in the second round.

Thomas and Kelly were considered among the top three receiving prospects, and the Redskins landed both by trading out of the first round to gain a pair of second-round picks.

Redskins rookie head coach Jim Zorn will implement a West Coast offense and needs big receiving targets who can make plays after the catch. Thomas (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) and Kelly (6-3¾, 224) fit the bill.

Drafting these two players puts the Johnson pursuit to rest, but it's a pretty good consolation.

Riskiest move

Mario Manningham
Michigan receiver Mario Manningham might prove to be the Giants' latest draft steal.

The Giants put themselves in position to hit a home run by taking Michigan receiver Mario Manningham in the third round. But they also can strike out with this pick.

There is no doubt that Manningham has first-round talent. He set a Michigan record with six consecutive 100-yard receiving games as a junior. Physically, he's one of the top receivers in the draft. Yet character concerns caused him to fall into the third round.

Coming off a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, the veteran-laden Giants might be the right team to get the most out of Manningham. Obviously, New York general manager Jerry Reese did enough homework to determine it was worth the risk.

If the Giants are correct, Manningham could be one of this year's biggest draft steals.

Most surprising move

The Dallas Cowboys, usually big risk-takers, surprised this weekend by playing it close to the vest and taking safe players to fill needs.

This is not a bad thing.

Usually it's difficult to guess what owner Jerry Jones will do in the draft, especially with two first-round picks at his disposal. Dallas drafted Arkansas running back Felix Jones and South Florida cornerback Mike Jenkins with those two first-round selections and grabbed Texas A&M tight end Martellus Bennett in the second round.

Those picks helped address needs.

Sure, the Cowboys made a rash of trades with their lower-round picks. But other than that, it was a safe and efficient weekend for Dallas.

Washington also surprised by taking USC tight end Fred Davis in the second round, considering the team has a Pro Bowl at the position in Chris Cooley. The Redskins could have used the pick on a higher-rated offensive or defensive lineman.

File it away

The Philadelphia Eagles selected Cal receiver Desean Jackson, a burner who has the ability to be a starter, especially with Philly's thin receiving group. But Jackson is recovering from a thumb injury that he suffered in college that scared some teams off. Size also is an issue: Jackson is just under 5-10 and weighs 170 pounds.

Despite the risky selection of Manningham, New York overall was solid.

The team is trying to build off the momentum of last year's tremendous draft that included cornerback Aaron Ross, tight end Kevin Boss, receiver Steve Smith, tailback Ahmad Bradshaw and defensive tackle Jay Alford. All the aforementioned players contributed to last season's Super Bowl run.

This year, Giants first-round pick Kenny Phillips will be expected to start right away at safety with the loss of Gibril Wilson in free agency. Phillips comes from a long list of University of Miami safeties playing in the NFL.

Also, the Giants earned solid value in the sixth round by grabbing former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson. Despite ideal size and mobility, his stock fell tremendously after poor performances in workouts and all-star games. He threw for 9,360 yards and 79 touchdowns in college and will have plenty of time to learn the NFL game behind starter Eli Manning.

James Walker covers the NFL for ESPN.com