Mel Kiper takes a look ahead to the needs of the NFC East for the upcoming draft.
Wide receiver is the No. 1 need of the Dallas Cowboys. Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens aren’t getting any younger and Patrick Crayton is not a No. 1 receiver. Their second need is at cornerback because the Cowboys had trouble matching up in coverage late in the season. Terence Newman is a very good cornerback, but Anthony Henry has been up and down and Jacques Reeves has struggled. Another need is an offensive lineman with some versatility since Flozell Adams is a free agent. Dallas drafted tackle James Marten last year, but Jerry Jones could address that position again. Running back is another area where depth would help. Julius Jones is a free agent and the Cowboys like having that backfield tandem. Marion Barber dishes out a lot of hits, but he also takes his fair share.
Certainly, as a Cowboys fan, that’s pretty much my take as well. Obviously, what happens in free agency — including decisions on our own free agents — will factor in heavily. If Dallas can sign a Marcus Trufant or make a deal for a top free agent wideout, then obviously the draft needs change. My druthers, though, would be to draft the best available athletes, focusing on wide receiver and defensive back. I’d also love to grab a good quarterback prospect on Day 2 to groom as the eventual backup.
The Cowboys have two number one picks. Sadly, their gamble of trading last year’s #22 overall to Cleveland in hopes of getting a top five pick this year didn’t pay off; Cleveland picks 22nd this year. (Dallas did get an additional #2 last year and traded back up to the 1st to get Anthony Spencer, whom they’d have taken with the 22nd pick, so they still come out ahead. But still.) My druthers would be to either take the best player on the board twice or trade one of them down to get more picks. Knowing Jerry Jones, though, he’ll likely try to package them and make a splash.
The New York Giants‘ primary need is at outside linebacker. Mathias Kiwanuka — who missed six games with a broken leg — is transitioning from defensive end in college to outside linebacker. Kawika Mitchell could leave in free agency and Reggie Torbor is average. At safety, Gibril Wilson is a free agent and they don’t have a standout at the position. In a league where more teams have tight ends who can stretch the field, teams need that cornerstone safety. Offensive line help on the left side is an area they could address in terms of depth, although it isn’t a huge need. Cornerback Aaron Ross was a very good pick last year and he’s done a very good job, but he’s just one player. Sam Madison is 33 and Corey Webster has been up and down.
The Philadelphia Eagles need to look at taking a cornerback fairly early in draft. Lito Sheppard has been banged up and Sheldon Brown is a solid No. 2 corner, but with more teams putting three and four wide receivers on the field, depth at that position is necessary. Defensive end Trent Cole is good, but he could use some help on the opposite side. The Eagles like to draft defensive and offensive linemen early, so look for them to do both. At wide receiver, the Eagles have two No. 2 wide receivers (Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown) but they don’t have a true No. 1. Offensive tackle Tra Thomas is 33 years old and you have to wonder how much confidence the Eagles have in Winston Justice. Brian Dawkins is a great player, but he’s getting up there in age (34), so they could draft a safety to develop for the future. L.J. Smith has had injury issues and is a free agent, so the tight end position could be addressed, although last year’s fifth-round pick, Brent Celek, has shown some ability.
The Washington Redskins could first use an effective pass-rusher and a No. 1 wide receiver — Brandon Lloyd has been a bust. They like Anthony Mix, who played with QB Jason Campbell at Auburn, but he’s a developmental receiver. In addition to a pass-rusher, Washington could also use a defensive tackle who can collapse the pocket and get penetration. The cornerback position could be an area of need, especially if former first-round pick Carlos Rogers starts the season on the physically unable to perform list. Also look for them to pick up a versatile offensive lineman, someone who could play either center or guard. Safety isn’t a pressing need, but an area they could address. LaRon Landry played free safety but Washington would like to move him back to strong safety, and Reed Doughty held his own late in the season at strong safety.
I know the other teams much less well than the Cowboys but that sounds right. The NFC East is, in my opinion, once again the deepest division in football.
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