The NFC East is, as it has been for the past decade, wide open. Last year the Giants were one game away from missing the playoffs altogether, while the Eagles and Cowboys were one from making it. In a division where the Super Bowl-winning Giants managed to lose to the 5-11 Redskins twice it's clear while all four teams are dangerous, work is needed. Lets take a look at who the NFC East teams may look at in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Washington Redskins (5-11) Draft Needs: QB, CB, OL, WR, S. Draft Picks: 2, 69, 102, 109, 141, 173, 213. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="227" caption="By all accounts RG3 will be a Redskin. Heaven help him."][/caption] In the 2011 Draft the Redskins' needs were as long as my arm, but smart moves by Shanahan & Co. found the 'Skins drafting in volume and successfully plugging some holes. However the biggest hole Washington did not address was the quaterback position, with disastrous results. It's obvious the Redskins' biggest need going into the draft is at QB and equally obvious that they are addressing the need immediately by trading away a bounty of picks for the 2nd overall. RG3, welcome to Washington. Luckily while the 'Skins gave up plenty for the move they still have some solid mid-round selections, during which they should address the offensive line. Their OL has been a major concern in recent years, and rightly so. The franchise's once-celebrated OL has been flimsy at best. While it's true they got great performances out of LT Trent Williams, he has two strikes for drug use. A third and he is suspended for a full year. Expect the 'Skins to draft another OT and G in the mid-to-late rounds. Most recently there has been news that Washington will probably draft some more receivers too, to compete with the current incumbents. Chances are some already on the roster (Gaffney, Moss) will be cut to make space as the Redskins continue to go young. I could see the them grabbing a few late-round speedsters. Finally, the secondary has been a major concern. In 2012, despite having a terrific pass-rush and solid run defense, the 'Skins are still getting beaten deep. While they addressed some of these concerns in free agency and have some talent developing (Gomes) I wouldn't be surprised if they grabbed another CB or S in the late rounds.
Philadelphia Eagles (8-8) Needs: DT, S, LB, QB (backup), OL. Draft Picks: 15, 46, 51, 88, 114, 153, 172, 194, 200, 229. The Eagles made headlines last season with some bold moves in free agency and some bolder talk from their backup QB. Sadly it didn't translate into anything worth celebrating and while they managed to salvage the season with some solid late performances, the Eagles were bitterly disappointed with 2011. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="328" caption="Michael Brockers could have a major impact on the Eagle's DL."][/caption] This year they'll continue to develop the talent they picked up in 2011 and have already made strides to improve their defence, particularly against the run by trading with the Texans for DeMeco Ryans. Expect the Eagles to look towards their defensive line in this year's draft first. They'll want to add some depth and somebody who can help stop the run. Last year Philly struggled terribly against the run and a big athletic DT like Dontari Poe or Michael Brockers might be exactly what they're after. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles might look for help to keep Michael Vick healthy. Some depth on the OL to help them cope with injuries would be well received. The Eagles will also look for a capable OLB this year. While they didn't struggle rushing the passer in 2011 they certainly need a versatile LB on the outside. Somebody who can cover as well as rush and make key tackles. The Eagles would be very happy if Luke Kuechly fell to them at 16th, but it's more likely that they snatch up a DE/OLB hybrid such as Coples, Merciless or even Dont'a Hightower. A lot of talk has gone into their need at strong safety and I'm inclined to agree. I'd like them to look at Jarret in the second round. While Mark Barron would be ideal it's unlikely he gets past the Cowboys at 14th. Finally it should be mentioned that the Eagles have shown some interest in trading up to get Ryan Tannehill. While it's an unlikely move from a team that's usually pretty astute in the draft it's also very clear that the Eagles need a capable backup to the often-injured Michael Vick. Best case scenario? They train their backup up for a few years and then flip him for some nice draft picks, much like they did with Kolb last year.
Dallas Cowboys (8-8) Draft Needs: CB, S, DE, DT. Draft Picks: 14, 35, 81, 113, 135, 152, 186, 222. The Cowboys defence had its flaws deeply exposed in the 2011 season and for the most part it appears the team got the message: their pass defence was awful. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="263" caption="Mark Barron is a reliable and instinctual tackler."][/caption] To help fix the issue the 'Boys appear to be drafting for their needs and have displayed a genuine interest in strong safety Mark Barron. Barron's stock has recently been on the rise and while there's a chance the Cowboys might have to trade up to grab him in most mocks they manage to land the Alabama standout with their 15th overall. The Cowboys should not be content at drafting a safety because their entire secondary needs an overhaul - to their credit they clearly began the process in free agency. If Barron is already gone they would be very interested in Dre Kirkpatrick, or perhaps Janoris Jenkins in the second round. Defensive end has recently been an under-productive position for the Cowboys too, offering little help for their premier pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware. If they are content with their FA moves they may certainly take a hard look at Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers. From all the draft talk one think is clear: they are happy with their offence. With Romo putting up career numbers, two big play receivers in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant and the emergence of RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas is clearly confident they can put up points. Expect this draft to be defender heavy for the 'Boys.
New York Giants (9-7) Draft Needs: TE, RB, CB, WR (depth). Draft Picks: 32, 63, 94, 127, 131, 201, 239. The Giants had the worst pass defence in the NFC East in 2011, obviously due to the major injuries they suffered to their secondary early in the year. While they should be healthier at the position the Giants understand the value of having quality depth. While they never draft by need, if a quality CB was available in the mid-to-late rounds the Giants would snatch him up. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="328" caption="David Wilson would be an amazing addition to the Giants' backfield."][/caption] Perhaps the most pressing need for the Giants is at the tight end position, again plagued by injuries. There's a very good chance they'll take Coby Fleener if he falls to them with the 32nd overall. Don't be put off by their signing of Martellus Bennett in free agency either. If the Giants' coaches cannot get better production out of him than the Cowboys managed they would be more than happy to move Fleener in. Another position the Giants will look at adding depth to is at running back. The Giants love depth at the RB position and prefer to always have a starting tandem of backs. With Brandon Jacobs finding a new home in San Francisco the Giants would be more than happy with the talent available to them in the mid rounds. Don't forget Bradshaw recently received treatment for an injury to his foot, and while it looks like he'll be ready for camp the Giants will be wise enough to make plans. I fully expect the Giants to stay true to their ability-based philosophy throughout the majority of the draft as it has certainly worked for them in the past. This may mean the drafting of another mid-to-late round gem at the WR position to fill the Mario Manningham-shaped hole as well.
That's it! Have any thoughts or feelings? Let us know in the comments!