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NFL draft grades, NFC East: Eagles find spectacular value (again), while Cowboys confound

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 2024 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 NFC East report card.

Philadelphia Eagles
Draft picks: 9

Round 1: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo (No. 22 overall)

Round 2: Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa (40)

Round 3: Jalyx Hunt, OLB, Houston Christian University (94)

Round 4: Will Shipley, RB, Clemson (127)

Round 5: Ainias Smith, WR, Texas A&M (152) | Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB, Clemson (155) | Trevor Keegan, OG, Michigan (172)

Round 6: Johnny Wilson, WR, Florida State (185) | Dylan McMahon, IOL, N.C. State (190)

Oh, look: It's more breathless acclaim for Howie Roseman. We do this every draft, don’t we? I know it’s on Around The NFL Podcast maestro Dan Hanzus’ cryptic radar. The general manager is held in such high regard these days that he’s largely become a mononym: Madonna, Prince, Beyoncé ... Howie. What a world. Promise I didn’t set out to pander, but HOWIE gave me no choice. Allow me to explain ...

Roster-wise last season, what was the Eagles’ biggest problem area? A horrendous secondary. Well, after bringing back C.J. Gardner-Johnson in free agency, HOWIE (OK, I’ll stop) doubled down on DB with his first two picks. I can’t tell you what surprised me more: Quinyon Mitchell still being available at No. 22 or Cooper DeJean still being available at No. 40. Philadelphia happily scooped up both. While Mitchell figures to significantly upgrade the Eagles’ traditional CB corps on the outside, DeJean looks like the kind of do-everything cover man new DC Vic Fangio cherishes in his variable scheme. The 2023 Eagles ranked 31st in passing yards allowed (252.7 ypg) and opponent touchdown-to-interception ratio (35:9). The 2024 Eagles won’t be nearly as quarterback-friendly. (Take note, fellow fantasy nerds.)

Beyond addressing the pass funnel in the back end of the defense, Roseman and Co. added needed depth elsewhere in a variety of manners, from the fun (hyper-athletic safety-turned-developmental-edge Jalyx Hunt) to the funky (towering wideout Johnny Wilson) to the familial (linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Son of Axe Man). They added some extra spice to the Saquon Barkley-led backfield with a versatile playmaker in Will Shipley. And don’t be surprised if late-fifth-rounder Trevor Keegan winds up a steal, given the guard’s 37 starts over the last three seasons as a key cog on Michigan’s dominant offensive line.

When all was said and done, Philly had tied the record for most trades in a seven-round draft with eight. Now that is how you general manage! Alright, I’m pandering. Let’s move on.

New York Giants
Draft picks: 6

Round 1: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU (No. 6 overall)

Round 2: Tyler Nubin, S, Minnesota (47)

Round 3: Andru Phillips, CB, Kentucky (70)

Round 4: Theo Johnson, TE, Penn State (107)

Round 5: Tyrone Tracy Jr., RB, Purdue (166)

Round 6: Darius Muasau, LB, UCLA (183)

Entering the draft, one question loomed over all Giants discussion: Would they dive back into the quarterback pool? NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported during first-round coverage that New York did indeed try to move up into New England’s No. 3 draft slot to take Drake Maye. But after the Patriots kept the North Carolina signal-caller for themselves, the Giants moved forward with a plan to continue building up the roster around Daniel Jones, efficiently addressing their biggest non-QB needs. This, of course, began with the selection of electric wideout Malik Nabers. New York hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver -- shoot, no one’s even reached 800 yards in a season -- since 2018, when Odell Beckham Jr. hit the mark in his final year with the franchise. So, it made plenty of sense to go back to the fruitful LSU receiver well for a prolific playmaker whose explosive game, frame and toughness garner comparisons to OBJ. Brian Daboll and Jones are going to have a lot of fun with this new toy, which adds a necessary jolt to the league’s 30th-ranked scoring offense. 

On Day 2, Big Blue shifted from pass catcher to pass defense, filling a couple of big needs in the secondary. In the wake of Xavier McKinney’s departure in free agency, the G-Men scooped up Tyler Nubin, the top-rated safety according to all three of our resident prospect rankers (Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Eric Edholm). Meanwhile, following Adoree' Jackson’s disappointing season, New York allowed the veteran cornerback’s contract to expire this offseason, leaving the Giants light at the position beyond promising 2023 first-rounder Deonte Banks. Insert Andru Phillips, a physical cover man with inside/outside versatility who became a buzzy name late in the pre-draft process. 

With Darren Waller still considering retirement, GM Joe Schoen targeted an athletic freak at tight end early in Day 3: Theo Johnson, whose eye-popping combine numbers far exceeded his production at Penn State. A bet on traits, yes, but at an NFL position where traits often pay out. Lastly, I liked the fifth-round selection of running back Tyrone Tracy Jr., whose dynamic skill set could make him a nice complement to free-agent addition Devin Singletary in New York's Saquon-less backfield. The former wide receiver just needs more refinement to his traditional RB game.

Washington Commanders
Draft picks: 9

Round 1: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU (No. 2 overall)

Round 2: Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois (36) | Mike Sainristil, CB, Michigan (50) | Ben Sinnott, TE, Kansas State (53)

Round 3: Brandon Coleman, OG, TCU (67) | Luke McCaffrey, WR, Rice (100)

Round 5: Jordan Magee, LB, Temple (139) | Dominique Hampton, S, Washington (161)

Round 7: Javontae Jean-Baptiste, DE, Notre Dame (222)

From the conclusion of the 2023 draft to the start of the 2024 event, Caleb Williams essentially went wire-to-wire as the no-brainer No. 1 pick. This draft really began at No. 2, with Washington seemingly choosing between quarterbacks Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye. Personally, I ride with colleagues Daniel Jeremiah and Eric Edholm in ranking Maye ahead of Daniels. Clearly, Adam Peters and Co. felt differently -- and that’s OK! I’m not here to disparage the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, who enters the NFL with the kind of dual-threat ability that gives defensive coordinators cold sweats. But I’m already getting cold sweats myself thinking about Daniels’ protection -- or lack thereof -- in DC. Anyone who watched Jayden’s magical season at LSU is well aware of a disconcerting aspect of his game: He plays with the kind of reckless abandon that belies his rail-thin frame. The man took a frightening amount of gigantic hits. Now, to be clear, Daniels must learn to protect himself better, first and foremost. But I would not have minded if the Commanders had made a more concerted effort to surround him with a fortress. Instead, they waited until their fifth pick to add an offensive lineman -- Brandon Coleman, who’s viewed as a guard by some and a tackle by others -- and then didn’t address the wanting position group again. I don’t love this, especially considering what happened to the last dual-threat dynamo Washington took at No. 2 overall.

On the plus side, Peters gave his defensive-minded head coach, Dan Quinn, two highly enticing pieces to deploy. Jer'Zhan Newton would’ve been long gone by pick No. 36 had a Jones fracture in his foot not significantly abbreviated his pre-draft process. And that’s why I don’t entirely mind Washington adding another defensive tackle to a group that already includes two players making serious loot (Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne): The value was just too good to pass up. And then there’s Mike Sainristil. I contend that no other prospect in this draft cycle was as universally adored as the Michigan nickelback. To wit, Nick Saban absolutely gushed over Sainristil on the ABC broadcast: “I LOVE -- there’s a difference between love and LOVE -- I LOVE this guy. This guy may be the best football player, pound for pound, in the draft.” HIGH praise, especially considering Sainristil’s Wolverines handed Saban a loss in the iconic coach's final game at Alabama.

Dallas Cowboys
Draft picks: 8

Round 1: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma (No. 29 overall)

Round 2: Marshawn Kneeland, DE, Western Michigan (56)

Round 3: Cooper Beebe, IOL, Kansas State (73) | Marist Liufau, LB, Notre Dame (87)

Round 5: Caelen Carson, CB, Wake Forest (174)

Round 6: Ryan Flournoy, WR, Southeast Missouri State (216)

Round 7: Nathan Thomas, OT, Louisiana (233) | Justin Rogers, DT, Auburn (244)

Jerry Jones is absolutely fantastic for the entertainment value of this league. Why is that? Well, frankly, it’s largely because he overshares. No other owner is as accessible and open as the quirky Cowboys boss. Of course, sometimes the transparency leaves him open to receipts. Back in January, Jones told reporters at the Senior Bowl that the Cowboys were “all in” on the 2024 season. Consequently, Dallas’ quiet approach to free agency brought loud complaints from Cowboys fans. Regardless, just prior to this draft, the owner/president/general manager doubled down on his increasingly infamous mantra for the coming campaign: “All in. All in. All in.” So ... how exactly does this jibe with trading down in the first round before selecting a developmental offensive tackle? Don’t get me wrong: Tyler Guyton is an enchanting prospect, with the prototypical frame and plus athleticism to become a stud NFL bookend, but he’s raw, having made just 14 college starts at tackle. This leads us to the next adventure in oversharing. Late on Thursday night, after the conclusion of Round 1, Jones took part in the Cowboys’ press conference to recap Day 1 and look ahead to Day 2. Asked for his thoughts on running back prospect Jonathon Brooks -- the University of Texas star EVERYONE had connected to the RB-needy Cowboys -- Jones gushed in stunningly candid fashion: “In my 30 years, I thought it was the best interview that I’ve ever interviewed with a player. He’s outstanding. He’s just outstanding. And he’s a great football player -- we got him high, high, high.” Jump-cut to Friday night, and the Panthers aggressively pounced on Brooks 10 picks before the Cowboys would be on the clock. Shockingly, Dallas never even addressed the position in the draft, ultimately bringing back old friend Ezekiel Elliott in an uninspiring move that feels ALL IN ... the family. What have the Cowboys done this offseason to truly boost an offense that was overly reliant on CeeDee Lamb in 2023? Where are the invigorating new weapons?

Dallas did address two needs in the trenches on Day 2, drafting defensive end Marshawn Kneeland and interior offensive lineman Cooper Beebe. Beebe, taken with the third-round pick received in the first-round trade-down, could be the most pro-ready member of this draft class, with 48 college starts under his belt. If he can slide right into the center spot vacated by free-agent departure Tyler Biadasz, that’ll give this grade a bump.

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