Skip to main content

NFC East draft grades: Cowboys clean up; Eagles create a stir

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2020 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone -- picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is Gennaro's review of the NFC East.


BEST PICK: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Dallas Cowboys, Round 1, No. 17 overall

From late January through last Thursday, 11 different writers published a grand total of 31 mock drafts. And in this glut of simulated selections, Lamb fell into the second half of the first round just three times. He was the third receiver off the board once. So, naturally, both of those scenarios played out on draft night, as Jerry Jones had the consensus All-American fall right into his lap at No. 17. And despite the fact that Dallas entered this draft with more pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball, Jerrah made the wise (i.e., obvious) decision to snap up the best player available. According to the Cowboys owner, Lamb was the No. 6 overall player on Dallas' big board. Now he joins a pair of 1,100-yard receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Too much of a good thing? Nope. Like most NFL offenses nowadays, the Cowboys mainly operate with 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). The 'Boys did so on two-thirds of their offensive snaps in 2019, with Randall Cobb typically manning the slot. But Cobb parlayed a bounce-back season into a lucrative free-agent deal with the Texans, meaning Dallas had an opening in its primary offensive set. Will the rookie spend time in the slot? It's certainly not a bad idea, as Lamb led the nation in yards per route run from the slot last season (6.11, per Evan Silva). But you have to figure Cooper, who struggles at times against press coverage on the outside, will make his way inside for a fair share of snaps, as well. No matter how Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore choose to deploy their receivers, Dallas suddenly boasts one of the best receiving trios in the league (if not the best). Somewhere, Dak Prescott's bank account smiles.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Philadelphia Eagles, Round 2, No. 53 overall

The Packers sent a shockwave through the football world by selecting QB Jordan Love on Thursday night. Less than 24 hours later, it was the Eagles creating a stir with a completely unexpected dip into the quarterback pool. Carson Wentz is squarely in his prime at age 27 -- and technically hasn't even begun the four-year extension that put $128 million on Philly's tab last offseason. Wentz is locked in through 2024, meaning he's already on the books for one season beyond the span of Hurts' four-year rookie deal. So, what's the rationale behind this high-value second-round pick? Well, anyone who tells you Hurts is "the Eagles' Taysom Hill" is spouting a lazy narrative. Not to take away from Hurts' established dual-threat ability, but he's just not the same kind of explosive all-around athlete as Hill. Can I imagine Doug Pederson cooking up some kind of side package to take advantage of the Heisman runner-up's mobility? Sure. Can I envision Hurts lining up all over the offensive formation, covering/returning kicks and blocking punts? Not so much. For the most part, the Hurts pick appears to be Wentz insurance -- a cheap backup for a quarterback who's been injured in each of the past three seasons. But while Hurts' rookie contract is quite palatable, Philly spent valuable draft currency to land him. Was this the best use of the No. 53 overall pick for a roster that revealed some serious holes last season?

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Bradlee Anae, Edge, Utah
Dallas Cowboys, Round 5, No. 179 overall

Ranked as Daniel Jeremiah's No. 75 overall player, Anae didn't come off the board until the final pick of the fifth round, 105 slots lower than DJ's perceived value. If you're looking for a combine freak, look elsewhere. Anae did nothing in Indianapolis to knock your socks off. But there's another part of prospect evaluation: the actual playing of football. And in that scope, Anae was quite impressive. A consensus All-American in 2019 and two-time first-team All-Pac-12er, Anae racked up 21 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss over the last two seasons. He was a team captain on a very talented Utah defense that ranked second in total D this past season and produced six draft picks last week. His relentless, edgy, technically sound game should transition well into the NFL. And with Robert Quinn's free agency departure, the Cowboys entered this draft needing edge-rushing juice opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. Could Anae be this year's Maxx Crosby, as a Day 3 edge who provides Day 1 value? I'm not gonna bet against a man who pets sharks -- or "water dogs," as Anae calls the apex predators.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

Dallas Cowboys
RANK: 1 · 2019 RECORD: 8-8-0

» Round 1: (No. 17 overall) CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma.
» Round 2: (51) Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama.
» Round 3: (82) Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma.
» Round 4: (123) Reggie Robinson II, CB, Tulsa; (146) Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin.
» Round 5: (179) Bradlee Anae, Edge, Utah.
» Round 7: (231) Ben DiNucci, QB, James Madison.

What a difference drafting on a $250 million mega yacht makes! Jerry Jones spent the virtual draft aboard the Bravo Eugenia, a predictably glitzy setting for the league's ultimate showman owner. But separated from COO Stephen Jones, vice president of player personnel Will McClay and new head coach Mike McCarthy, Jerrah was flying without a parachute. Nobody was there to snatch the draft card out of the boss' hand, should he have been tempted to do something like drafting Johnny Manziel over Zack Martin. No matter. The Star King absolutely crushed this draft, logging immense value in each of his first six picks while simultaneously filling roster needs. Lamb was a gift from the Draft Gods. It's a player you just have to pick in the second half of Round 1, regardless of how your draft needs stack up. But the real brilliance of the Cowboys' draft is how they found ways to fill holes after making the quasi-luxury pick at wide receiver. Diggs was a cornerback many mocked to Dallas at No. 17 -- instead, the Cowboys landed him 34 slots later. Gallimore received some first-round buzz during the pre-draft process -- Dallas nabbed him midway through the third. And then on Day 3, the 'Boys made a number of need-based selections who could significantly outproduce their respective draft slots. Robinson's a long, strong cover man who excelled in multiple coverages at Tulsa and posted some enticing numbers in Indy. Biadasz took a step back last season at Wisconsin due to injuries, or else he would've been long gone by the time Dallas came on the clock at No. 146. Now he's tossed into the center battle with veteran Joe Looney and 2019 third-rounder Connor McGovern. If Biadasz can get right again, the Cowboys could end up replacing one Badgers pivot (the recently retired Travis Frederick) with another. And Anae enters the NFL with a pretty refined pass-rushing arsenal, which should help Dallas replace the 11.5 sacks and 13 TFLs that left with Robert Quinn in free agency.

New York Giants
RANK: 2 · 2019 RECORD: 4-12

» Round 1: (No. 4 overall) Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia.
» Round 2: (36) Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama.
» Round 3: (99) Matt Peart, OT, Connecticut.
» Round 4: (110) Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA.
» Round 5: (150) Shane Lemieux, C/OG, Oregon.
» Round 6: (183) Cameron Brown, LB, Penn State.
» Round 7: (218) Carter Coughlin, Edge, Minnesota; (238) T.J. Brunson, LB, South Carolina; (247) Chris Williamson, CB, Minnesota; (255) Tae Crowder, LB, Georgia.

After beginning each of the previous two drafts with a bold pick -- Saquon Barkley at No. 2 in 2018 and Daniel Jones at No. 6 in '19 -- Dave Gettleman played it safe this time around, taking the high-floor offensive tackle who should help maximize those audacious actions of yesteryear. Thomas didn't put on the kind of attention-grabbing combine spectacle of some of the other Big Four tackles, but he was a highly decorated starter on a talented Georgia team during each of his three years in Athens. And hey: He was Pro Football Focus' top-rated offensive tackle in this class. Dave Gettleman ... analytics acolyte?! New York rightfully continued to pour resources into the offensive line with the third-round pick of Peart (a developmental tackle with promising raw traits) and the fifth-round selection of Lemieux (who could make a push to start at center in Year 1). And the Giants backed up the free-agent signing of CB James Bradberry with two more intriguing additions to the secondary. After hitting on a hybrid safety out of Alabama early in the second round five years ago (Landon Collins), the Giants went back to that same Tuscaloosa well for McKinney. And he might not be the only rookie starter in Big Blue's defensive backfield. Nickel cornerback is essentially a starting position in today's NFL, and many evaluators -- NFL Media's Bucky Brooks included -- think Holmes has the physical profile to excel in that role on Sundays.

Washington Redskins
RANK: 3 · 2019 NFL RECORD: 3-13-0

» Round 1: (No. 2 overall) Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State.
» Round 3: (66) Antonio Gibson, RB/WR, Memphis.
» Round 4: (108) Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU; (142) Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty.
» Round 5: (156) Keith Ismael, C, San Diego State; (162) Khaleke Hudson, LB, Michigan.
» Round 7: (216) Kamren Curl, S, Arkansas; (229) James Smith-Williams, Edge, North Carolina State.

At the end of the day, Washington made the pick everyone anticipated at the beginning of the year. Young is widely considered the top overall player in this draft class. Tossing him into a defensive front that already includes a trio of recent first-round picks ( Montez Sweat, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen), the underrated Matt Ioannidis and four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan immediately gives Ron Rivera's Redskins an identity: QB NIGHTMARE FUEL. Bruce Allen left behind a roster that still has plenty of holes, but new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has a game-wrecking group to work with up front. Building strength on strength is underrated. But after the no-brainer pick at No. 2, Washington made three straight boom-or-bust selections. Gibson's a hybrid playmaker with 4.39 speed, but he only posted one year of serious production at Memphis (see: 12 touchdowns on just 71 touches). And how different is he from one of last year's pleasant surprises, Steven Sims Jr.? Are their skill sets redundant? Meanwhile, just minutes after Washington ended the Trent Williams saga by trading the disgruntled left tackle to the 49ers for a pair of mid-round picks -- man, Mr. Allen sure botched this ... -- the 'Skins drafted the left tackle from the 2019 national champion LSU Tigers. Charles is a talented prospect, no doubt, but there's a reason he was still available on Day 3. He missed six games in 2019 due to disciplinary issues and three in 2018 due to injury. Gandy-Golden's an intriguing physical specimen out wide at 6-4 and 223 pounds, but the former Liberty Flame is obviously taking a big step up in competition.

Philadelphia Eagles
RANK: 4 · 2019 RECORD: 9-7-0

» Round 1: (No. 21 overall) Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU.
» Round 2: (53) Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma.
» Round 3: (103) Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado.
» Round 4: (127) K'Von Wallace, S, Clemson; (145) Jack Driscoll, OT, Auburn.
» Round 5: (168) John Hightower, WR, Boise State.
» Round 6: (196) Shaun Bradley, LB, Temple; (200) Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Mississippi; (210) Prince Tega Wanogho, OL, Auburn.
» Round 7: (233) Casey Toohill, Edge, Stanford.

While the selection of Reagor over Justin Jefferson took some by surprise, the TCU wideout is more of the deep threat Philadelphia clearly needed. Remember how quickly the air came out of this offense once DeSean Jackson went down last season? The Eagles needed another (younger) home-run hitter, and that's exactly what Reagor is. (Don't fret about the somewhat-ordinary 4.47 40-yard dash in Indy; Reagor's play speed might be up there with any prospect not named Henry Ruggs III in this class.) While Philly's decision to take Reagor over Jefferson raised a few eyebrows, the Eagles' second-round pick left mouths agape across the country. Is No. 53 overall really the place to draft a backup quarterback who needs development as a thrower? Related question: If the Eagles are so worried about Wentz's long-term availability, why'd they hand him a nine-figure extension that included a record-setting $107.9 million in guarantees less than a year ago? Yes, we know: You want to be "a quarterback factory." That's a nice thing to aspire to, but this roster sprung leaks all over the place last season. Might wanna concentrate on plugging more of those -- like linebacker, a position that's befuddled this franchise in a post-Jeremiah Trotter world. Philadelphia took a swing at LB in the third round, but Taylor's still extremely raw, as religious commitments kept him from playing football games on the Sabbath until the past few years. Let's finish on a positive note, though: Wallace looks like a potential steal at No. 127, especially for a team that needs secondary help.

Follow Gennaro Filice on Twitter @GennaroFilice.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content