The Washington Redskins did a good job of taking care of business inside their own division last year. They went 4-2 against the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles on their way to securing the NFC East crown. However, it's a new year, each of those 2015 also-rans have changed (and upgraded, they hope) through free agency and will continue to add pieces through the draft, beginning Thursday night. All in the name of dethroning the reigning Redskins. Here is what those teams will focus on.
Dallas' choice at No. 4 overall seems to be down to two players: Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot. That is the read Scout's Mike Fisher is getting. He wrote Wednesday about the Cowboys' first pick, "I'm told it's Ramsey/Zeke. And I'll trust that."
The Cowboys definitely need help in their defensive backfield. 2015 first-rounder Byron Jones looks like a keeper at safety, but cornerback Morris Claiborne has been an overwhelming disappointment through four seasons, Brandon Carr wasn't much better in coverage last year, and Orlando Scandrick tore up his right knee nine months ago. Ramsey needs time to reach his ceiling as a cover corner, but he can play out of the slot and chip in at safety right now. That adaptability gives Ramsey extra value and a higher floor.
Running back isn't the greatest position of need for the 'Boys, but Elliot has the skills to be a true three-down runner and a long-term star. Darren McFadden played well last year, and Dallas may decide it's comfortable with him and Alfred Morris handling the early-down carries. Yet, two years removed from when DeMarco Murray basically meant everything to this offense, can the Cowboys pass up such a talented, do-it-all RB? Maybe not.
Regardless if the Cowboys draft Ramsey or Elliot in the first round, neither player will address the team's greatness weakness: defensive line. Dallas registered only 31 sacks last season, tied for the sixth-fewest in the league. Their sack leader, Demarcus Lawrence, has been suspended for the first four games after violating the league's substance abuse policy. The same goes for defensive end Randy Gregory. And Greg Hardy and his six sacks are looooong gone. Dallas needed to add to its pass rush before all of those things happened. Now, they are positively toothless up front. There's a chance Dallas will buck expectations and take Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa at No. 4. But more likely, Jerry Jones and Co. will use some of their eight remaining picks to shore the D-line.
Dallas should also prefer landing a wide receiver who can take some of the burden off of Dez Bryant, another quality linebacker to pair with Sean Lee and perhaps a developmental quarterback in the late rounds. Tony Romo is 36 years old, but he has the collarbones of a octogenarian.
New York Giants
The Giants don't have the best draft track record under general manager Jerry Reese, to put it lightly. Jason Pierre-Paul is present, but the Giants' 21 other picks from 2010-2012 have moved on or are currently not under contract. They wasted valuable mid-round selections on Damontre Moore and Andre Williams in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh has been completely average. But hey, Reese did take Odell Beckham Jr. He will always have that.
New York needs assistance at just about every spot on the field. Even after unloading more than $90 million in guaranteed money on three defensive players this offseason, plenty of room for improvement on that side of the ball remains. The franchise's two Super Bowl winners in the past decade were led by an unrelenting front seven, and it's been at least five years since the Giants have had an effective pass-rushing linebacker. That's why you could see someone such as Georgia's Leonard Floyd hear his name called at No. 10. Something to keep in mind: The Giants haven't chosen a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984.
The Giants might use an early pick to further improve its defensive line, already with Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison. The Giants know a successful team can never have enough pass-rushers in the NFL, so Clemson's Shaq Lawson seems like a first-round candidate. New York could use another cornerback, even with the signing of Janoris Jenkins, and that's why Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III has been a popular name for the Giants in mock drafts.
The offense has its share of red flags as well. Reese has drafted an offensive lineman in either the first or second round in each of the past three seasons. Still, the right side of the offensive line, currently home to guard John Jerry and tackle Marshall Newhouse, must get better if the Giants want to contend. The running game is quite bland, and between Victor Cruz and Dwayne Harris, the Giants don't possess a dependable No. 2 wideout. Maybe they will reach for Mississippi WR Laquon Treadwell at No. 10. That scenario played out during a recent mock draft among Scout.com's 32 NFL publishers.
This is a draft where Eagles fans don't need to get too comfortable as their team has only two of the first 152 picks. Three picks they did have were sent to Cleveland in order to hold the second overall selection. The Eagles will certainly draft a quarterback there and with all of the reports that have stated how infatuated the Rams are with California's Jared Goff, that will leave North Dakota State's Carson Wentz for Philly. Wentz has the blend of size, strength, smarts and athleticism that GMs crave in their starting quarterback. The biggest negative against Wentz is that his collegiate numbers came versus FCS defenses. Thus, he is seen as more of a developmental project than Goff, but a project the Eagles hope they can mold into a frontline franchise QB.
If you want to talk about glaring needs for the Eagles, you have to mention the offensive line. Philadelphia needs to make for a football world without Jason Peters, who turned 34 in January. Bringing in another guard would be wise as well. The Eagles signed Stefen Wisniewski and Brandon Brooks in free agency to play guard, but they shouldn't make anyone thinking about this O-line rest easy.
Assuming the Eagles follow up the Wentz selection by taking an offensive lineman next (No. 79 overall), they will have five picks remaining with which to fill the voids on the roster. However, those picks are all fifth-rounders or later, meaning that general manager Howie Roseman and the team's scouting staff have their work cut out for them if they want this draft to be remembered for anything more than the QB for whom they surrendered a heavy price to acquire. In those Saturday rounds, Philadelphia will be searching for a cornerback to deepen a questionable crew led by Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe, a running back to help carry the load alongside Ryan Mathews and an outside rusher who fits in the team's new 4-3 scheme.
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