Final Draft Grades: NFC East

The 2011 NFL Draft now is in the rearview mirror, and while the value of a draft class can not be assessed accurately for at least two or three years, but it's not impossible to identify which classes, or at least which individual players, make the most sense for their teams.

Dallas Cowboys
With an aging offensive line, the Cowboys added three linemen, including the best tackle in the draft, or at least the best athlete with the most chance for success to succeed. USC's Tyron Smith is an extraordinary athlete with the ability to lock down one of the tackle positions for a decade or more, like Flozell Smith or Erik Williams. The wild card in the Cowboys' draft is linebacker Bruce Carter. If he can return to the form he showed before tearing an ACL (he had surgery in December), then he'll be a second-round steal, but if the injury saps him of some of the rare quickness and overall athleticism he had, it becomes "that's too high a pick to risk on an injured player."

Running back DeMarco Murray of Oklahoma was a curious pick. There's no question about his talent, but he joins a crowded backfield with Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, so he certainly was not a "need" pick. Guard David Arkin and cornerback Josh Thomas played competition that was nowhere near what Smith faced at USC or Carter saw at UNC, so the jump they face to raise their game is massive. Do-everything wide receiver Dwayne Harris could end up being a steal who shakes up the receiver corps if he makes the final roster; Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are locks, but could a strong performance by Harris signal the end for Roy Williams or Kevin Ogletree or Jesse Holley?

The Cowboys made a considerable effort to shore up their offensive line — Dallas also chose Wisconsin center Bill Nagy with its last pick — but did nothing to fill a glaring need at safety.
Grade: C New York Giants
Snatching the cornerback some had rated as the second-best in this year's class, Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, wasn't necessarily a need pick, but he is a good athlete who should contribute immediately on defense and special teams. Defensive tackle Marvin Austin has first-round talent but slid because of character questions, including his decision to accept illegal benefits from an agent and miss the entire 2010 season. If taskmaster coach Tom Coughlin can help Austin commit to making the right decisions and doing the right things, the Giants have a steal.

Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan is a game-breaker with the ball in his hands, whether on offense or when returning kicks, and he should give the New York offense and special teams an immediate spark. Offensive tackle James Brewer is a solid, if unspectacular blocker who should be a serviceable backup with a chance to develop into a starter down the road. Linebacker Greg Jones of Michigan State was a tackling machine at Michigan State and should play, if not start, right away. Seventh-rounder Da'Rel Scott, a running back from Maryland, is the wild card because of his breakaway speed.

Grade: B
Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are one of those teams that seem to find immediate starters and value players, no matter where they pick. That was the case again this year as Philadelphia got an immediate starter in guard Danny Watkins of Baylor, who could be entrenched in the Eagles' starting lineup for years. With uncertainty at in the secondary, Philly grabbed a ferocious hitter in Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and a smooth, athletic cornerback in Utah State's Curtis Marsh.

With the injuries suffered in recent years by starting inside linebacker Stewart Bradley, the Eagles had a serious need for at least an insurance policy, if not an immediate starter, and filled that need with Oregon's Casey Matthews, the younger brother of Green Bay star Clay Matthews. Alex Henery starred as both a punter and kicker at Nebraska, and presumably will start out, at least as a punter for the Eagles, who still have one of the NFL's elite placekickers in David Akers. Philly also landed some probably offensive line depth in Iowa guard Julian Vandervelde and Cincinnati center Jason Kelce.
Grade B+

Washington Redskins
The Redskins entered the draft with more needs than any other team in the division, and general manager Bruce Allen broke with recent tradition by actually acquiring additional picks.

Washington started the draft by dropping down from the 10th pick to the 16th, where the Redskins added Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who will move to outside linebacker to team with Brian Orakpo to give the Redskins a pair of bookend pass rushers. In the second round, Washington grabbed another player who will move to another position: Jarvis Jenkins was an interior defensive lineman at Clemson, but will slide outside to defensive end in Washington. In the third round, the team with gaping holes at wide receiver found Miami's record-setting wideout, Leonard Hankerson, waiting to get chosen.

The Redskins stuck with skill position players for the next four picks, adding two running backs — Nebraska's Roy Helu and Penn State's Evan Royster — and two more receivers: Nebraska's Niles Paul and SMU's Aldrick Robinson. Washington collected a trio of developmental players in Boise State cornerback Brandyn Thompson, Florida guard Maurice Hurt and Florida State defensive end/linebacker Markus White, but found what could be a late-round gem in West Virginia nose tackle Chris Neild.
Grade: B-

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