The Eastern Front: NFC East Draft Moves

The Eastern Front 05.04.06--While the Redskins had a fairly dull draft day, the rest of the NFC East made plenty of moves, including some that were considered rather odd.

Philadelphia Eagles

Inside Slant--Draft Review

Andy Reid proved to be a man of his word this weekend. The Eagles coach has been saying for weeks that fortifying the offensive and defensive lines would again be a high priority in the draft. And sure enough, that's what the Eagles did.

Five of the Eagles' eight selections, including their first four, were spent on offensive and defensive linemen.

"I've made it pretty clear how important I think it is to be strong up front on both sides of the line," Reid said. "It all starts there."

After notching just 29 sacks last season, it was particularly important for the Eagles to improve their defensive line. They landed one of the draft's top two defensive tackles, Brodrick Bunkley of Florida State, with the 14th overall pick, then added defensive end Chris Gocong of Division 1-AA Cal Poly early in the third round. In between, they took USC offensive tackle Winston Justice with their second-round pick. Ironically, Justice had been the Eagles' Plan B in the first round if they couldn't get Bunkley. As it turned out, he fell to them a round later.

"All in all, I'm very comfortable with our draft," Reid said. "I'm looking forward to bringing the guys in and seeing them play and see what they can do."

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson thinks Bunkley can help address the Eagles' biggest pass-rush shortcoming last season -- inside push from the tackle position.

"We wanted a guy to push the pile more and we think he can do that," Johnson said. "He was one of the strongest tackles in college. He's got unbelievable strength and quickness. He and (defensive tackle Mike) Patterson (the club's 2005 first-round pick) will complement each other well."

Johnson is intrigued by Gocong, who notched a remarkable 42 sacks the past two seasons at Cal Poly. They are going to see if the 6-2, 263-pounder can make the switch to linebacker and give him a chance to win the starting strong-side linebacker job from incumbent Dhani Jones.

"It'll be interesting to see how he adapts to the linebacker position," Johnson said. "He's a smart kid. He's an engineering major. His test scores were really high. He's got the speed (to play linebacker). It's just a matter of learning the (technique) and making all the coverage checks and playing man coverage and stuff like that. That'll be the hardest thing for him."

The Eagles added yet another eventual starting candidate for their offensive line with the fourth-round selection of 355-pound Georgia guard Max Jean-Gilles. With starting right guard Shawn Andrews eventually ticketed for right tackle when 32-year-old starter Jon Runyan leaves, that would open a spot for Gilles.

The Eagles think their search for a punt returner finally may have ended with the fifth-round selection of Colorado's Jeremy Bloom.

"He'll be in the mix," Reid said. "Reno (Mahe) is pretty good, too. We'll just see how (Bloom) works in there."

A closer look at the Eagles' picks:

Round 1/14 -- Brodrick Bunkley, DT, 6-2, 300, Florida State

The Eagles love his unique combination of strength and speed and feel he can be the pocket-collapsing tackle they lacked last season. He'll likely be a part of their season-opening four-man tackle rotation.

Round 2/39 -- Winston Justice, T, 6-6, 319, USC

Assuming Tra Thomas' surgically-repaired back holds up, Justice isn't expected to play much as a rookie. Played on the right side in college, but the Eagles will move him to the left side where he'll eventually replace Thomas. Athletic player with quick feet who can stay with speedy edge rushers.

Round 3/71 -- Chris Gocong, DE/LB, 6-2, 262, Cal Poly

Gocong had 42 sacks the last seasons at Division 1-AA Cal Poly. Eagles plan to see if the engineering major can make the switch to linebacker and give him an immediate crack at the starting strong-side job. If the transition is too difficult, they'll use him as a pass-rush specialist.

Round 4/99 -- Max Jean-Gilles, G, 6-3, 356, Georgia

Gilles is a massive drive blocker with excellent power and surprising quickness for a man this big. Eagles view him as a candidate for the starting RG job when current RG Shawn Andrews eventually moves outside to RT and replaces 32-year-old Jon Runyan, which could be in 2007 or '08.

Round 4/109 -- Jason Avant, WR, 6-0, 209, Michigan

Avant isn't particularly fast, but has a knack for making plays and is an outstanding route-runner. The only wide receiving job on the roster not up for grabs is Reggie Brown's No. 1 spot. So if Avant can pick up the offense quickly and flash in training camp and the preseason, anything's possible.

Round 5/147 -- Jeremy Bloom, WR/KR, 5-9, 173, Colorado

Bloom hasn't played football in two years after the NCAA took away his eligibility for accepting endorsement money as a freestyle skier. Was one of the best return men in the nation when he played, which is why the Eagles are interested.

Round 5/168 -- Omar Gaither, OLB, 6-1, 233, Tennessee

Was an outstanding special teams player early in his career at Tennessee before becoming a starter at strong-side linebacker. Eagles see a lot of Ike Reese in Gaither.

Round 6/204 -- LaJuan Ramsey, DT, 6-3, 290, USC

Started 11 games for the Trojans last season. Has some quickness and explosiveness off the snap, but lacks ideal strength and power. Probably will wind up on the practice squad.

Quotes and Notes

--The Eagles were hopeful of getting one of two players with their first-round pick Saturday -- Florida State defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley or USC offensive tackle Winston Justice. As it turned out, they got both. Bunkley, who they thought they would have to trade up for, slid to them at No. 14. If Bunkley had been off the board, they were prepared to take Justice at the same spot. But Justice ended up going unclaimed into the second round, at which point the Eagles traded up six spots to get him. "We feel very fortunate," coach Andy Reid said. Several teams said Justice slid because of concerns over a degenerative shoulder. Asked whether he was concerned about Justice's shoulder, Reid said, "No, we are fine with his shoulder."

--Bunkley, the Eagles' first-round pick, almost had his final year of college eligibility wiped out because of academic problems. He had to take correspondence courses last summer to regain his eligibility for the fall. "I remember when I found out (about being academically ineligible), I broke down crying," Bunkley said. "I remember sitting in the car and I broke down in tears. When I talked to my mother, she burst out in tears. Just to hear your mother crying, man, that was one of the worst feelings in the world. I knew I had to turn it around."

--The Eagles traded away two longtime veterans Sunday, sending guard Artis Hicks to Minnesota and defensive tackle Hollis Thomas to New Orleans. Hicks was the club's starting left guard last year. But he didn't play very well and the Eagles have penciled in second-year man Todd Herremans at that spot. The 33-year-old Thomas has been unhappy with his contract situation for a couple of years now.

"It's the toughest part of the job," Reid said. "I called both guys and thanked them for being the class acts that they were and for all that they gave this team. I know the situations that we sent them to, and both are good places for them. They will have an opportunity to play. Artis will probably start for Brad (Childress) at right guard and Hollis will work into their rotation in New Orleans." Childress, the new Vikings coach, had been the Eagles' offensive coordinator for the last five years.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I only have one child, but he eats enough for five." -- Patrice Lewis, mother of 300-pound Eagles first-round pick Brodrick Bunkley.


New York Giants 

Inside Slant--Draft Review

If this is really the final year for Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi before retires, he will be remembered for some of the most puzzling draft selections in team history.

While it is far too early to make any judgment on the players chosen, it is safe to say that few of them were expected and some were downright startling.

On the other hand, perhaps this is the way to manage a draft. Accorsi readily admits he models his style and philosophy after his mentor, the late George Young.

"You don't pick a player out of need but for value," Accorsi said, "and that is probably the one crucial thing to learn about drafting in this league."

Another of Young's famous formulas boils down to a list of the three most difficult positions to fill -- quarterback, pass-rushing defensive end and left tackle. It is a reminder of what to do no matter what else is dangling out there.

"Patience was his virtue," Accorsi said of Young. "He was a very patient man. He liked to build in small increments and make sure he picked the right players."

DRAFT REVIEW

Despite sending both of their starting defensive ends (Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora) to the Pro Bowl, and despite the fact that pair had more combined sacks than any other two players on any team in the league last season, and despite the fact that a good-looking rookie, Justin Tuck, impressed the coaches with his limited performance last season, what did the Giants do?

They took a defensive end, a pure pass-rusher from Boston College named Mathias Kiwanuka. They took the 6-5, 265-pounder, whose roots stretch to Uganda, with the final pick in the first round after trading down into Pittsburgh's No. 32 overall spot. The Giants gave up their 25th spot for the Steelers' first-, third- and fourth-round picks.

"We had a list of seven players when we made the trade," said Accorsi, "and there were five we would have been happy to get and we would have lived with the other two. Some of them went, but Kiwanuka was at the top of our list. We didn't lose a thing."

Kiwanuka was variously projected as a low first-round to middle second-round talent, and while that's where he went, it remains to be seen how he much on-the-field time he will get.

"There are ways to use pass rushers," Accorsi said.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin agreed.

"Scheme-wise, we can arrange on-field time for him," he said. "You know, there are lots of second-and-long and third-and-long situations."

While Accorsi admitted there were other needs at the time he picked the pass-rusher, he also said that Kiwanuka was the highest remaining player on his value board.

Then the Giants, who passed up cornerback Kelly Jennings and defensive tackle John McCargo, reversed their field and instead of trading down, they traded up in the second round. This involved a swap with Baltimore to get into the 12th slot in the round. They gave the Ravens their third-round choice, 87th overall, and took Miami wide receiver Sinorice Moss.

"He was," Accorsi predictably said, "our top-rated wide receiver."

Still, a defensive end and a wide receiver weren't exactly urgent priorities, nor was the Giants' third-round selection -- linebacker Gerris Wilkinson of Georgia Tech.

It wasn't until the second day that the Giants began to fit needs into action. They had two fourth-round picks and took a defensive tackle (Barry Cofield of Northwestern) and an offensive tackle (Guy Whimper of East Carolina).

It was important to find a defensive tackle after the defection via free agency of Kendrick Clancy to Arizona, and Accorsi says the Giants plan to stock the position with their own young veterans and undrafted rookie free agents. Prior to this change of heart, Brentson Buckner (Carolina) and Grady Jackson (Green Bay) appeared to be the two major candidates.

The Giants' fifth-round pick was Charlie Peprah, a safety/cornerback from Alabama, and, without a sixth-round pick, they finished the draft with the seventh round selection of Maryland cornerback Gerrick McPhearson.

A closer look at the Giants' picks:

Round 1/32 -- Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, 6-5, 265, Boston College

Kiwanuka's grandfather, Benedicto, was Uganda's first prime minister, elected in 1961 and assassinated by the Idi Amin regime in 1972). Kiwanuka is a pure pass-rusher. On the surface, that isn't what the Giants needed, not with their two DEs having combined for 26 sacks last season. "You cannot have enough pass rushers," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He was the best athlete on our board when we made the pick."

Round 2/44 -- Sinorice Moss, WR, 5-8, 185, Miami

He's small, but he's tough. That's the mantra the Giants will spin all summer. They'll also say he was the top-ranked wideout on their list. He has great speed and separation ability and should provide yet another deep threat for the offensively powerful Giants.

Round 3/96 -- Gerris Wilkinson, LB, 6-3, 233, Georgia Tech

He's a man with at least three positions -- weak-side, middle and strong-side linebacker. He has played four positions in four years at Tech and will contribute on special teams. He might be the LB the team is looking for, someone who can be plugged in as needed.

Round 4/124 -- Barry Cofield, DT, 6-4, 305, Northwestern

Cofield was drafted for his defensive line versatility. He can play the traditional tackle position in a 4-3 defense and shift to end in the 3-4, which the Giants plan to employ to a greater extent this season. He was the Wildcats' right defensive tackle in 2004 and the left tackle last year. He started 36 of the 49 games in his career.

Round 4/129 -- Guy Whimper, T, 6-4, 300, East Carolina

He's a project and everyone involved readily admits it. "This kid is a great athlete," Giants personnel chief Jerry Reese said, "and he doesn't have a clue about how to play tackle. We think with his size, speed and athleticism we can make him a left tackle, and he is so athletically gifted he is going to help us on special teams, too."

Round 5/158 -- Charlie Peprah, S/CB, 5-10, 205, Alabama

Another player with versatility and athleticism, Peprah played cornerback his first two years with the Crimson Tide and then moved to safety. He is a strong hitter and has a knack for finding the ball. His grandfather, I.G. Achampong, was head of state of Ghana in West Africa in the 1970s.

Round 7/232 -- Gerrick McPhearson, CB, 5-10, 196, Maryland

Listed as one of the fastest CBs at the combine at 4.42 seconds in the 40, McPhearson had one interception in his four collegiate seasons. He can help on special teams as well.

Quotes and Notes

--General manager Ernie Accorsi said the Giants will not seek a veteran free-agent defensive tackle, preferring, he said, to use "our young guys on the roster and the ones we drafted or will sign as rookie free agents." That rules out Brentson Buckner or Grady Jackson signing with the team this season.

--Veteran WLB Nick Greisen finally reached an agreement with the Tennessee Titans and signed the third contract offer, officially leaving the Giants. He will be replaced at WLB by veteran Carlos Emmons, who will move from SLB to make room for recently-signed LaVar Arrington.

--The Giants draft machine -- general manager Ernie Accorsi, coach Tom Coughlin and personnel director Jerry Reese -- was quick to announce that the team drafted leadership and character in addition to athletes. "Our first-, third- and fifth-round picks were team captains," Coughlin said, referring to DE Mathias Kiwanuka, LB Gerris Wilkinson and S/CB Charlie Peprah.

--Accorsi noted that No. 2 pick Sinorice Moss "will be the fastest wide receiver this team has had since Homer Jones (1964-1969)," perhaps forgetting Johnny Perkins (1977-1983) and Earnest Gray (1979-1984), not to mention Stephen Baker (1987-1992).

--Coughlin said that veteran DT Jonas Seawright has added 15-20 pounds add now weighs 340, "and he's in better shape than ever before." Seawright seems to have impressed the hard-to-please coach, who calls him "almost impossible to block these days."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Let's just put them all on the field and rush the passer." -- Giants director of personnel Jerry Reese, commenting on an accusation that the team drafted too many pass-rushers


Dallas Cowboys

Inside Slant--Draft Review

By all accounts, there was nothing exciting or compelling about the Cowboys' draft. Though they made a few trades to add picks, it was devoid of fireworks.

The best word to describe the Cowboys' draft is solid, which is good news for them.

With no obvious needs, the Cowboys had myriad options before them. But they resisted all temptation and took the best available players and best fits for next season and the future.

Early on, the Cowboys relied on a familiar formula, choosing Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter with the 18th overall pick.

No surprise there. The Cowboys have only taken two offensive players in the first round since 1990 and none since tight end David LaFleur in 1997.

In choosing Carpenter, who will play opposite 2005 top pick DeMarcus Ware at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense, the Cowboys also relied on familiarity.

Carpenter is the son of Rob Carpenter, who played for coach Bill Parcells with the Giants. Parcells likes players with NFL bloodlines. Bobby Carpenter said he already knows what to expect from Parcells.

"My dad told me he's brutally honest and that he will get the most out of you as a player," Bobby Carpenter said. "It's something that excites me. Growing up, I was always a fan of teams he coached for. To have a chance to play for him, it's almost like a dream come true."

Parcells was unavailable for comment. But there was no doubting the influence he had on the pick and on the Cowboys' draft.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the addition of Carpenter was evidence of his long-term commitment to the 3-4 defense that the Cowboys went to last season, at Parcells' urging.

Though the Cowboys considered North Carolina State's Manny Lawson, Jones said Carpenter was the best fit for the Cowboys because of his experience at Ohio State. Carpenter played strong-side linebacker in college and is already adept at rushing the passer, playing the run and dropping into coverage. Lawson would have had to learn a new position after playing defensive end in college.

"Carpenter lets us continue down that road with the 3-4," Jones said.

The choice of Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano in the second round also had Parcells' fingerprints on it.

Parcells has long been fascinated with the tight end position, going back to his Giants days with Mark Bavaro. Now he has two starting-quality tight ends with the Cowboys. Fasano will pair with Pro Bowler Jason Witten in a two-tight end, one-back offense.

Jones said the Cowboys are phasing the fullback out of the offense and will go with the two-tight end set to get more production from the offense. He said it will help the blocking as well. Witten will line up next to receiver Terry Glenn and Fasano will line up next to receiver Terrell Owens.

Fasano is already familiar with the Cowboys offense because he ran a similar scheme last year under Parcells protege Charlie Weis.

Fasano caught 47 passes last season at Notre Dame.

The Cowboys chose Grambling State defensive end Jason Hatcher in the third round. Though he is raw, he is said to have a tremendous upside and reminds many scouts of Patriots star Richard Seymour.

The Cowboys got a much-needed kick returner in the fourth round with LSU receiver Skyler Green and filled a need at free safety with the selection of Pat Watkins of Florida State in the fifth.

A closer look at the Cowboys' picks:

Round 1/18 -- Bobby Carpenter, LB, 6-3, 255, Ohio State

The Cowboys have been eyeing Carpenter since the end of the season. He was a safe pick because Cowboys know they are getting a solid player, but he is an ideal pick because he fits what they want to do.

Round 2/53 -- Anthony Fasano, TE, 6-4, 258, Notre Dame

Will likely start in a two-tight end, one-back offense with Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. Caught 47 passes last season at Notre Dame but is versatile enough to be a huge factor in ground game.

Round 3/92 -- Jason Hatcher, DE, 6-6, 283, Grambling State

Adds depth behind starters Marcus Spears and Chris Canty. Needs development because of poor coaching, but could develop into dominant player.

Round 4/125 -- Skyler Green, WR, 5-9, 197, LSU

Gives the Cowboys an upgrade as a kick and punt returner. He returned four punts for touchdowns at LSU.

Round 5/138 -- Pat Watkins, FS, 6-4, 211, Florida State

A rangy player who should excel immediately on special teams. He's also good in coverage and could fill the team's need for a true free safety.

Round 6/182 -- Montavious Stanley, DT, 6-2, 313, Louisville

Fills a need of depth at nose tackle behind starter Jason Ferguson. Durability is a concern after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle last season.

Round 7/211 -- Pat McQuistan, T, 6-6, 315, Weber State

The Cowboys finally got some help for the offensive line. However, McQuistan is clearly a down-the-road project. His twin brother Paul was picked in the third round by the Raiders.

Round 7/224 -- E.J. Whitley, T, 6-5, 309, Texas Tech

Offers size and pass-blocking ability, but obviously needs work as a run blocker. Didn't get much experience doing it at pass-happy Texas Tech.

Quotes and Notes

--Trader Jerry Jones was at it again. There has been just one year since Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 that the Cowboys have not made a draft-day trade. He continued the trend in 2006. The Cowboys, always looking to trade down to acquire more picks, were bent on picking up a fourth-round pick after trading it away last year for a choice that became defensive end Chris Canty.

The Cowboys chose Anthony Fasano after trading down in the second round with the New York Jets from 49 to 53, adding a pick in the sixth round (189) and the seventh round (211). They traded down in the third round with Jacksonville from 80 to 92 to get Grambling State defensive end Jason Hatcher and picked up the fourth-round pick (125 overall) they wanted.

Sunday, they traded the sixth-round pick they got from the Jets, along with their fifth-rounder (150), to the Jets to choose safety Pat Watkins with the 138th overall choice.

--Defensive end Jason Hatcher is the first player the Cowboys have drafted from Grambling State since taking linebacker Walter Baisy in 1973. Hatcher is the earliest Grambling player drafted since Jake Reed was taken in the third round by Minnesota in 1991.

--Not only does Bobby Carpenter have a connection with Cowboys coach Bill Parcells through his father, Rob Carpenter, but they are also connected through Carpenter's agent, Jimmy Sexton. Sexton represents Parcells and several Cowboys players, including tight end Jason Witten, linebacker Bradie James, cornerback Aaron Glenn, safety Marcus Coleman, guard Marco Rivera and nose tackle Jason Ferguson.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They just live and breathe football." -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, on his top two draft picks, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Fasano.

 


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