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NFC East draft grades: Cowboys enjoy fruitful weekend in Dallas

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 Nick Shook attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2018 NFL Draft. Below is Gennaro's review of the NFC East.


BEST PICK: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
New York Giants, Round 2, No. 34 overall

Had a major internal struggle with the Giants' selection at No. 2 (more on that below), but with Saquon Barkley in the fold, I absolutely loved this pick at the outset of Day 2. How do you ensure return on that high-priced RB investment? By paving the way with a 327-pound mauler. Evaluators fawn over Hernandez's functional mean streak. Guy's a beast, as evidenced by Bullet Point No. 17 in his draft profile: "Joined boxing and powerlifting gyms just for fun." Scouting! Hernandez was the No. 21 overall player (No. 2 offensive lineman) in Daniel Jeremiah's rankings, and guard value continues to increase with modern defenses hell-bent on generating inside pressure.

Washington Redskins, Round 2, No. 59 overall

The surprise was Guice still being available near the end of Round 2. Although, if you read Tom Pelissero's pre-draft reporting on the LSU back, the slide didn't come out of left field. Guice apparently has maturity issues, and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that some meetings with teams didn't exactly go swimmingly. Here's what I know: Guice runs with an inspired fury that reminds many of Marshawn Lynch. And while there are questions about his pass-catching prowess, Washington already boasts one of the NFL's better third-down backs in Chris Thompson.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
Dallas Cowboys, Round 3, No. 81 overall

At a hair under 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds with a 4.51 40-yard dash to his name, Gallup is not exactly a physical specimen who jumps off the page. But his production does. Over two seasons at Colorado State, Gallup racked up 176 catches for 2,690 yards and 21 touchdowns. Pro Football Focus loves him unconditionally, grading the Mountain West terror as the top receiver in college football last season. Joining a Cowboys team that must replace Dez Bryant and (apparently)Jason Witten, this well-rounded rookie with sure hands and contested-catch ability will have the opportunity to contribute early.


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

Rank 1
Dallas Cowboys

» Round 1: (No. 19 overall) Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State.

» Round 2: (50) Connor Williams, OL, Texas.

» Round 3: (81) Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State.

» Round 4: (116) Dorance Armstrong, Edge, Kansas; (137) Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford.

» Round 5: (171) Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky.

» Round 6: (193) Chris Covington, LB, Indiana; (208) Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State.

» Round 7: (236) Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama.

Good hosts enjoy their own parties, and the Cowboys certainly did that. (Well, maybe besides all the trolling.) Dallas did a fine job collecting talent at the JerryWorld Jamboree of 2018. Vander Esch is a large, freakish athlete who flies to the football and is quite comfortable in coverage. He'll slot right into the starting lineup, alongside Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith at linebacker. Williams, who grew up in the Dallas suburbs and played his college ball at Texas, apparently is poised to compete for the starting left guard spot, keeping La'el Collins at right tackle. (Though the 'Boys can swap those two if they so desire, as Williams spent his entire stay in Austin as the Longhorns' starting left tackle.) This O-line remains one of the league's deepest and very best. Pro Football Focus darling Michael Gallup can't fill the pass-catching vacuum by himself, but don't be surprised if he contributes steady returns in Year 1. Cedrick Wilson, another PFF favorite, carries some sleeper potential of his own. The cherry on top: Bo Scarbrough in Round 7. Spelling Ezekiel Elliott is a fine role for a 228-pound hammer who needs the kind of runway to get going that Dallas' O-line will provide.

Rank 2
Washington Redskins

» Round 1: (No. 13 overall) Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama.

» Round 2: (59) Derrius Guice, RB, LSU.

» Round 3: (74) Geron Christian, OT, Louisville.

» Round 4: (109) Troy Apke, S, Penn State.

» Round 5: (163) Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech.

» Round 6: (197) Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB, Alabama.

» Round 7: (241) Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech; (256) Trey Quinn, WR, SMU.

Despite spending last year's first-round pick on defensive lineman Jonathan Allen -- who, by the way, showed plenty of promise early in 2017 before missing the final 11 games with a Lisfranc injury -- the Redskins still needed more oomph up front. And they went right back to that fruitful football well in Tuscaloosa, snatching up Allen's former teammate. Payne's a force of nature against the rush -- no small thing for the 'Skins, who ranked dead last in run defense last season -- and anyone who watched the College Football Playoff saw his enticing inside-rush potential. Guice might have some growing up to do, but from a pure on-field standpoint, he's a highly productive, violent, bell-cow back who should've been long gone by the 59th pick. Speaking of potential steals, Settle brings a whole lot of disruption and versatility in a 6-3, 329-pound package.

Rank T-3
New York Giants

» Round 1: (No. 2 overall) Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State.

» Round 2: (34) Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP.

» Round 3: (66) Lorenzo Carter, Edge, Georgia; (69) B.J. Hill, DT, N.C. State.

» Round 4: (108) Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond.

» Round 5: (139) R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami.

So conflicted with the Giants' decision at No. 2 ... The devil on my shoulder says, Flame them! Everyone knows Eli's cooked. How in MY hell can you pass up a golden opportunity to snag his replacement? Angel on the other shoulder counters with, Praise them! They didn't get caught up in the quarterback hysteria and TRULY took the best player available -- the best player in this entire draft! I'm a tad partial to the angelic side here, but that devil's gonna be barking at the first sight of #EliFace. One pick I had absolutely no qualms about: Hernandez in Round 2. The nasty, neck-roll-wearing, defense-obliterating guard out of UTEP is a first-round value. What does Lauletta's selection say about Davis Webb? New GM, new halfhearted swing at the QB succession plan.

Rank T-3
Philadelphia Eagles

» Round 2: (No. 49 overall) Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State.

» Round 4: (125) Avonte Maddox, CB, Pittsburgh; (130) Josh Sweat, Edge, Florida State.

» Round 6: (206) Matt Pryor, OT, TCU.

» Round 7: (233) Jordan Mailata, OT, N/A.

The Eagles only made five picks in this draft, but the first three of them make the grade here. Philadelphia actually moved out of the No. 32 slot -- allowing Baltimore to take Lamar Jackson -- but earned a 2019 second-round pick for their generosity. The Eagles then proceeded to jump right in front of the TE-needy Cowboys and nab Goedert. Doug Pederson's a fan of 12 personnel (one RB, two TE), and I'm a fan of Goedert joining Zach Ertz. In the fourth round, Philly scooped up a slot corner replacement for Patrick Robinson (Maddox) and a high-upside edge rusher (Sweat) to further enrich that terrifying front. The Eagles are loaded for bear, fully prepared for a title defense. Remember three years ago, in the Chip Kelly era, when Howie Roseman was essentially forced to take a GM sabbatical? Weird league.

Follow Gennaro Filice on Twitter @GennaroFilice.

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