NFL

2015 NFL Draft – NFC East Grades

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The 2015 NFL Draft saw the four NFC East teams enter in various states of the building process with picks scattered across the board, from the Top 5 to the end of the first round, on down the line. It also saw each team take a different approach to their weekend. The Eagles, Giants, and to some degree the Redskins, were aggressive in their pursuit of players they coveted at positions they needed. Meanwhile the division champion Cowboys abandoned their normally aggressive strategy and let the draft come to them. For three of the teams, their strategy worked out. But for one team, the draft ended with more questions than answers. Below if a full analysis of the 2015 Draft for each team in the NFC East.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Selections:

Round 1 (27) Byron Jones, CB, UConn
Round 2 (60) Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Round 3 (91) Chaz Green, OT, Florida
Round 4 (127) Damien Wilson, LB, Minnesota
Round 5 (163) Ryan Russell, DE, Purdue
Round 7 (236) Mark Nzeocha, LB, Wyoming
Round 7 (243) Laurence Gibson, OT, Virginia Tech
Round 7 (246) Geoff Swaim, TE, Texas

Pick Value Grade Day 1 (A), Day 2 (A-), Day 3 (C-)
Addressed Needs (B)

Best Value Pick: Randy Gregory

Worst Value Pick: Chaz Green

Day 1 thoughts: Once it became clear that the Cowboys weren’t going to be anywhere near getting the top tier running back they wanted in Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon, defense was the first round plan and Byron Jones was on the short list of choices. That list dwindled when Bud Dupree and Shane Ray came off the board in the lead up to their pick, making the Jones pick almost a no-brainer. Jones’s size, speed and athletic ability at the cornerback spot, a big-time position of need in Dallas, make this an ideal fit, and his versatility to move over to free safety should Morris Claiborne return healthy and Brandon Carr remain with the team also make this a great value.

Day 2 thoughts: The second day of the draft was an up and down one for the Cowboys. There’s no doubting that, provided they can keep Randy Gregory’s mind right, they got an absolute steal in picking one of the best pass rushers in the class at No. 60 overall. I don’t have the belief in Gregory that they do, but I also haven’t spend the time with Gregory they have, so I can’t begrudge them for taking a chance on him. However, my hope was that they’d use one of their day two picks to solidify the running back position. Green might end up being an important piece should injuries befall the vaunted Dallas front, and depth is important, but this was a bit of a luxury pick when the Cowboys still had needs.

Day 3 thoughts: As the final day of the draft went on, it became even more clear that the idea Dallas wasn’t prioritizing the running back position wasn’t just a smokescreen and was instead part of the plan. I can’t help but look at each pick throughout the day and weigh the chances of that player sticking on the roster vs. what running backs were available and the dynamic they could have brought to the backfield. Putting aside the fact that they weren’t running backs, I liked the early Day 3 picks of Wilson and Russell, two guys that have the size and makeup to succeed at the next level and simply need the tools and technique, they’re both guys that Rod Marinelli and his staff can mold. As for the seventh rounders, I don’t see where any of them fits on the 53, but at worst they’re camp bodies who could surprise.

Overall thoughts: As recently as last year, I would have been blown away by this draft from the Cowboys. I’d personally been begging for them to turn the keys to the draft over to the defensive side of the ball. But the departure of DeMarco Murray and the uninspiring options on the roster behind him, combined with the depth at running back in this draft, made taking a back in one of the first few rounds a notable need. Tevin Coleman and Duke Johnson were still available when they picked in the second round, but I can’t argue with taking Gregory instead. Where I have an issue is taking a depth tackle in Green over the likes of Jeremy Langford, Buck Allen, David Cobb and Jay Ajayi who all would’ve been good fits in the Cowboys backfield. Heck Cobb and Ajayi were still there on Day 3 when they took Wilson. Just willful ignorance toward an area of need, and a lot of misplaced trust in guys like Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden. We’ll see how that works out.

Long term outlook: Though I think the Cowboys will regret not taking a running back in this draft for the next 12 months before they are forced to address that need in next year’s draft, long term this could go down as one of Dallas’ best draft classes ever, particularly by way of refreshing the defense with first round talents up front and on the backend. Add in the addition of La’el Collins as an undrafted free agent and the Cowboys managed to grab three first round talents in the 2015 class. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Overall Grade: A-

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Selections:

Round 1 (20) Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Round 2 (47) Eric Rowe, DB, Utah
Round 3 (84) Jordan Hicks, OLB, Texas
Round 6 (191) JaCorey Shepherd, CB, Kansas
Round 6 (196) Randall Evans, CB, Kansas State
Round 7 (237) Brian Mihalik, DE, Boston College

Pick Value Grade Day 1 (B), Day 2 (B+), Day 3 (C+)
Addressed Needs (B-)

Best Value Pick: JaCorey Shepherd

Worst Value Pick: Nelson Agholor

Day 1 thoughts: It was no secret that the Eagles needed a wide receiver early in this draft and once Amari Cooper, Kevin White and DeVante Parker were off the board, it was kind of a toss up between the guys in the next tier. Still I think they missed a little bit with Agholor. I get that he’s a Maclin clone in a lot of ways, which makes him a good fit, but I think Breshad Perriman was the more talented overall receiver and could’ve been their No. 1 for a long time, and for the fit they’re looking for with Agholor, Phillip Dorsett is just a better player to me. It may not matter in Chip’s system, they’ll probably get exactly what they’re looking for from Agholor, but to me they didn’t maximize the value at No. 20 with this pick.

Day 2 thoughts: Everyone expected trader Chip to make his mark early on day one of the draft to move up to get Marcus Mariota, and was shocked when the Eagles actually just picked for themselves at No. 20. But Chip made his move on Day 2 and landed perhaps his best pick of the draft with Eric Rowe at No. 47. The cost was a chunk of their day three haul, but they filled a big need in the process. The defensive backfield was arguably Philly’s biggest area of need entering the offseason, and though the team’s offensive maneuverings have grabbed headlines, the additions of Byron Maxwell and now Rowe make the Eagles much better on the backend. I liked Jordan Hicks pick, an extremely talented player when healthy. But I’m not sure Philly needed another guy with a lengthy injury history. What they needed and didn’t get was some help on the offensive line.

Day 3 thoughts: Philadelphia’s third day took a hit with the trade of both of their fifth rounders to move up and get Rowe, but they still entered the day with a fourth rounder and still some glaring needs on their offensive line. However an early run on offensive lineman on Day 3 of the draft took out a few of their targets, including free-falling projected first rounder T.J. Clemmings, who would have been a perfect fit. When it came time for Philly to select, they shipped their pick to Detroit for a 2016 third rounder. That left the Eagles without picks until late in the day. They maximized those choices, particularly with the early sixth round selection of JaCorey Shepherd, a ball-hawking corner who could slot in immediately near the top of Philly’s depth chart at the position. They further added to their defensive backfield makeover with Randall Evans and I even like the Mihalik flyer in Round 7, based on his size alone, as a projectable pass rusher. But where are the offensive linemen? This was a key need for Philly that went totally unaddressed.

Overall thoughts: It’s hard to know what Philly’s plan was going into the draft and how that changed when they weren’t able to go up and get Marcus Mariota. While I applaud Kelly for not mortgaging half his draft and some of his most productive defensive players to get Mariota, instead choosing to use the picks he had to fill major needs, the lack of an offensive line pick at any point is a glaring mis-step. Each other team in the NFC East continued to make winning in the trenches a priority, something that has already proven beneficial for Philadelphia’s chief divisional rival Dallas. Falling so far behind in this area could cost the Eagles dearly in the future.

Long term outlook: The picks the Eagles hit on: Agholor, Rowe and Shepherd, fill immediate needs, but I don’t see much long term vision here. Kelly has already loaded his eggs into one basket for this season and if this thing doesn’t work out the way he’s planned, he might not see much of the franchise’s future, so I respect his tact here, but with Rowe has the only guy that projects as a long-term potential star out of this class, this class is suspect and could be one we look back on shaking our heads in a few years.

Overall Grade: B-

NEW YORK GIANTS

Selections:

Round 1 (9) Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
Round 2 (33) Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
Round 3 (74) Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Round 5 (144) Mykkele Thompson, FS, Kansas
Round 6 (186) Geremy Davis, WR, UCONN
Round 7 (226) Bobby Hart, OG, Florida State

Pick Value Grade Day 1 (B), Day 2 (A), Day 3 (B-)
Addressed Needs (A)

Best Value Pick: Owamagbe Odighizuwa

Worst Value Pick: Ereck Flowers

Day 1 thoughts: It seemed like everyone assumed going into the draft that Brandon Scherff and the Giants were a perfect match. Perhaps even New York had this assumption because when the Redskins made Scherff their pick at No. 5, the Giants were left in scramble mode. I’d hope they at least did their due diligence and attempted to trade down and it simply didn’t work out. If not, the reach for Ereck Flowers here is inexcusable. Flowers was projected a mid-late first round talent that very well could have dropped into the second, so to pick him at No. 9 was quite the shock. That said, he fills a needs and projects as a good building block for the line. He also has the size teams covet at tackle and if the Giants can work on the technique, he can be a cornerstone piece.

Day 2 thoughts: The Giants made up for their day one value blunder by having a hell of a day two and picking up a pair of defensive players that were projected first round picks as well. New York’s need at safety was dire and to the shock of many they were aggressive in filling that need, moving to the top of round two to select Landon Collins, the most physical and arguably the best pure safety in the class. The move cost them a couple day three picks, but is well worth it to get a talent like Collins on the backend of their defense. He’ll work particularly well in helping to stop the running and short passing games of their divisional rivals. The Giants got even better value in Round 3, staying put and letting the draft present them with one of the best value picks of the weekend in UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa. There were some injury concerns surrounding Odighizuwa, but he’s an absolute steal in the third, and should be a long-term bookend with Jason Pierre-Paul.

Day 3 thoughts: The trade up to get Landon Collins left the Giants a little light in picks on Saturday, but I like what they did with what they had. The addition of Mykkele Thompson addresses another clear need at the backend of the defense and while there are questions if he’ll be ready to play with Collins right away, if the Giants do need to put a placeholder at the free safety position, it shouldn’t be needed for too long. The Geremy Davis pick was underwhelming to me, as the Giants have a lot of players with similar skillset and more talent and if New York wanted a late-round receiver I would’ve gone with more of a speed type. But they seventh round pick of Bobby Hart was another solid value. Hart got somewhat overlooked in the shadow of some of the more talented linemen he played with at FSU, but he’s a guy who could stick at guard for a Giants team with needs there.

Overall thoughts: No NFC East team did a better job of filling their plethora of needs than the Giants, starting with making the offensive line a priority, even if they had to reach for Flowers to do it and then addressing their wide open situation at safety with two talented prospects, at least one of which can step in immediately. The only thing the Giants weren’t able to get much of is depth and they could have used it, particularly on the defensive side of the ball where they’ve been bitten by the injury bug the past few seasons. But going from eight picks to six and filling so many needs has consequences. This is one I think New York can live with.

Long term outlook: The way this draft looks will always be reflected in the performance of Flowers, New York’s first Top 10 pick since they swapped Philip Rivers for Eli Manning in 2004. But the mid-round defensive players have the potential to refresh the New York defense in short order and give them some pieces to build around on that side of the ball for the long haul.

Overall Grade: A-

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Selections:

Round 1 (5) Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Round 2 (38) Preston Smith, OLB, Mississippi State
Round 3 (95) Matt Jones, RB, Florida
Round 4 (105) Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke
Round 4 (112) Arie Kouandijo, OG, Alabama
Round 5 (141) Martell Spaight, ILB, Arkansas
Round 6 (181) Kyshoen Jarrett, SS, Virginia Tech
Round 6 (182) Tevin Mitchel, CB, Arkansas
Round 6 (187) Evan Spencer, WR, Ohio State
Round 7 (222) Austin Reiter, C, South Florida

Pick Value Grade Day 1 (B-), Day 2 (C-), Day 3 (B)
Addressed Needs (B)

Best Value Pick: Arie Kouandijo

Worst Value Pick: Matt Jones

Day 1 thoughts: High marks to the Redskins simply for the troll move of filling a need early with a player that a divisional rival absolutely coveted a few picks. That alone is almost enough for me to forgive the fact that Scherff in the Top 5 was also bit of a reach. With concerns around La’el Collins causing him to tumble out of the draft entirely, Scherff was the top lineman in the draft and he’ll be a strong piece on their line for a long time, but he’s more likely a guard than a tackle. No. 5 overall is awfully high for a guard, especially when the best player in the draft at another position of need, defensive tackle Leonard Williams, was there for the taking,

Day 2 thoughts: The Redskins addressed their needs in the front seven in round two, but in doing so they reached a little bit again. I actually liked the Preston Smith pick more than a lot of others. I see a guy with size and length who pursues the ball with an almost reckless abandon, then uses his physical gifts to take down the ball carrier. That said, Washington’s need was a pass rusher and Smith has a long way to go in that department. The Redskins started round three with a solid move, obtaining four picks from Seattle to move from the top of the round to the bottom. For a team with so little talent, those extra picks were important. But when it came time for the Redskins to select at the end of day two, the pick itself was puzzling. Certainly Washington needed to add depth to their backfield after the departure of Roy Helu, but I thought they learned with the selections of Alfred Morris and Helu that those type of players are available in the late rounds. Heck, Jones might have been available in the later rounds. He was far from the best back available when they picked him.

Day 3 thoughts: The trade with Seattle set the Redskins up for a big final day of the draft and their first two picks of the day were really good. Duke receiver Jamison Crowder gives Robert Griffin a potential big play weapon in the slot and adding one of the draft’s most talented interior linemen, Arie Kouandijo, my top value pick of day three, to the day one pick of Scherff has the Redskins front five looking a lot better coming out of the draft than it did going in. But I felt like after the fourth round, Washington spent most of their picks on fringe guys with no real value added or risk taken. Of their final five picks, Kyshoen Jarrett has the highest ceiling, but it’s doubtful he has the size to succeed at the next level.

Overall thoughts: The Redskins certainly got quantity out of this draft class, with 10 players added to their roster, but the lack of high-end quality is a bit of a concern. Most notably, there is no sure bet stud in this class, which is something that can’t be said by other teams in the division. Even Philadelphia, picking No. 20 in the first round and with just six total picks got a stud in second rounder Eric Rowe. The Giants got three of them and so did Dallas if you count La’el Collins. The Redskins got a few steady players and a bunch of projects. Kind of rough for a team that picked Top 5.

Long term outlook: The Redskins have clearly made it a priority to improve their offense by protecting quarterback Robert Griffin and emphasizing the running game. They’re hoping Bill Callahan can do for them what he did for Dallas and the additions of Scherff and Kouandijo will help greatly in that regard, but the Redskins also have to get better on defense and I’m not sure this class helps them do that much in the short or long term.

Overall Grade: C+


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys