NFL Draft Review: NFC East


How did your team do in the 2011 NFL draft? Lets take a look, beginning with the NFC East.

The Dallas Cowboys landed the elite blocker needed to round out their offensive line. USC tackle Tyron Smith is athletic and has the frame to add strength and weight. Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray adds youth to the backfield and may replace Marion Barber on the roster. Murray is yet another example of the Cowboys  landing bit time talent at running back in the middle rounds (Barber and Tashard Choice).  Dallas took a chance on UNC linebacker Bruce Carter, a first round talent that fell due to a major knee injury his senior season. The Cowboys may have landed a bargain late in the draft in East Carolina receiver Dwayne Harris. Harris was honored as Conference USA player of the year after 101 receptions last season. Harris fell on draft boards after a mediocre combine, but has the talent to contribute in the slot along with Roy Williams and Miles Austin. The Cowboys mined smaller schools in the mid-rounds, Buffalo corner Josh Thomas and Missouri State guard David Arkin were nice, under the radar picks.

The Washington Redskins entered the 2011 draft with far more holes than draft picks to fill them. It’s a quarterback driven sport and the ‘Skins certainly needed one. Unexpectedly, Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert slipped to the tenth spot, held by Washington. GM Bruce Allen opted to pass, or not to under the circumstances, and trade down with Jacksonville. The Redskins went defense at the top, getting Purdue DE/LB Ryan Kerrigan and Clemson DL Javris Jenkins. From a fantasy standpoint, Miami wideout Leonard Hankerson has the skills to start week one. The Skins took three receivers in all, the last, SMU’s Aldrick Robinson, who may be turn out their best late round value pick. Running back is also a huge area of need in the Nation’s Capital. Washington traded up in the 4th round to grab Nebraska I-back Roy Helu. Helu possesses great size and speed and the skills that fit Mike Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. Penn State running back Evan Royster, a hometown hero, may be late round value, dropping after a very disappointing senior season in happy valley. While ignoring the quarterback position was a surprise, waiting to address offensive line needs until the 7th round was as well. Look for QB to be addressed with a veteran free agent with Donovan McNabb shown the door.

Like the Redskins, the New York Giants addressed defense at the top of the draft. Elite Nebraska cover corner Prince Amukamara was not expected to be available when the G-Men picked, so they gladly gobbled him up when time came. Next to Patrick Peterson who is a freak of nature, Amukamara was the top corner in the draft. The Giants nabbed North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin in the second round. Austin, one of many Tar Heels that sat out the 2010 season due to off the field issues, is certainly first round talent. New York relies on depth, athleticism and versatility along the defensive line and Austin fits the bill perfectly. Linebacker depth was also addressed with Michigan State’s Greg Jones. Entering the 2010 season. Jones was mentioned as a potential first round pick, so landing him in the sixth is pennies from heaven. Troy State reciever Jerrel Jernigan isn’t a track guy, nor have prototype size, but he can play. Look for Jernigan to contribute immediately in the slot and become a favorite target of Eli Manning. While the Giants look to have acquired excellent late round value, getting Maryland running back Da’Rel Scott in the seventh has to be considered a steal. Productive as a Terrapin, Scott turned some heads with the fastest 40 times at the combine. He  should be an excellent change of pace and insurance to co-starters Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.

Of all the teams in the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles may have enjoyed the best draft across the board. Guard Danny Watkins is one of the more interesting stories in the draft. Watkins arriving as a 26 year old rookie, working as a firefighter for four years prior to his career at Baylor. Free agency may have created an opening at right guard, Watkins may slide right in to protect Michael Vick’s blind side. Staying with the offense, Philadelphia took a pair off running backs. Pittsburgh tailback Dion Lewis is undersized, but quick and could be an ideal development third back. In the seventh round, Philadelphia selected USC fullback Stanley Havili. Havili is an outstanding receiver and could develop into a third down back. Defensively, the Eagles address the defensive backfield with Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and Utah State corner Curtis Marsh. The high profile defensive selection was Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews. Obviously, if Casey can follow in the family footsteps at the pro level, Philly received a mid round steal. Matthews has the versatility to play inside and outside, and could impact immediately as a rusher on passing downs.  The most surprising pick was the mid-round selection of Nebraska kicker Alex Henery. The arrival of Henery probably means the end of kicker David Akers career wth the Eagles.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at the NFC North

NFL Draft: Quarterbacks


Have you grown as sick of hearing from ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr as I have? Since January, with increasing frequency, the dynamic duo have analysed the NFL draft every which way. They’ve rated the quarterbacks, they’ve done full 1st round mocks and the ole’ faithful top 10 list.

The favorite topic of their discussion is quarterback. Why not? It’s the sexiest position in football and the positions will sink or swim in this year’s draft. McShay and Kiper change their opinions like cheap suits. Cam was the best, then of late Gabbert seems to be the favorite flavor. Then there is my particular favorite, character. Why does Newton have bad character? Is it because schools wanted to buy him? Absolutely no proof exists that he entertained such discussion and even less that he actually took anything. Mallett’s stock, at least according to the ESPN experts, is in an absolute free fall. It seems somewhere along the testing process, Mallett acknowledged that he had smoked pot. At least he was honest, unlike some that denied ever doing so, I am  sure.

The winner in the character assault has been Gabbert. The golden boy that reminds me of Ryan Leaf has seen his ESPN stock skyrocket with the attacks on the SEC boys. Is this an attack on the Southeastern conference? Its us against the world, life  is tough I guess, when you are at the top. Gabbert ran almost strictly out of shotgun in a spread offense at Missouri. He lost most of the big games he played in and most importantly refused to take part in some aspects of the NFL combine. Where does Gabbert rank among the quarterbacks in Thursday’s draft? In my book, he should be either 2nd or 3rd quarterback taken. More specifically, despite the campaign from ESPN, he will be 2nd or 3rd quarterback taken…. not first.

Write it down, take it to the bank, Cam Newton is going first to the Carolina Panthers. Sure they took Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen last year, but you don’t pass on a once in a lifetime talent like Newton. Clausen was one of the most highly regarded high school quarterbacks in recent years and enjoyed great success in South Bend. Is Carolina even considering Gabbert? No. Why? Because they’re not sure he’s better than  what they already have. If Cam was gone and I was in dire need of a quarterback, I would consider Mallett instead of Gabbert. Maybe its the SEC in me.

What about the rest of the quarterbacks? Sure, if we’re talking late in the 2nd round and the franchise fate isn’t relying on the pick.  In my opinion, Jake Locker is the best of the rest. Reminds me somewhat of Heath Shuler, which is a bad thing, but we couldn’t have another one of him could we?  Taking Locker in the 2nd round isn’t as painful as the Redskins taking the Congressman with the 3rd overall pick in the 1994 draft. I am convinced that the Shuler pick and the subsequent Michael Westbrook selection with the 4th overall pick the following year put  Norv Turner in a hole too deep to ever recover from. Next Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin? Hardly.

What left? Andy Dalton from TCU? West Coast guy -which is code for- has a weak arm. Led the TCU look at me campaign. Again probably the SEC in me. Christian Ponder? Never delivered up to potential at Florida State. Why now? Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick? Small school competition leaves a big question mark in my mind. I know, it’s an SEC thing. I could see New England with one of its twenty picks, or whatever they have stockpiled, taking a chance, or Indianapolis. Need to start grooming the replacements for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning right? Since they are both going to play as long as Favre did, you have room to miss.

Next, we will review the running back candidates.