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A thorough assessment of a team’s draft can’t truly be reached for another three years or so. That said, with tighter rosters and larger rookie contracts, a successful draft must yield at least some immediate help. With that in mind, here’s a look at how NFC East teams fared over the weekend—both from a big-picture NFL standpoint as well as a fantasy perspective—taking into account how key needs were (or weren’t) addressed and the impact potential of the players acquired.
The Cowboys opted for a quantity-over-quality approach, trading out of Day One completely and loading up with multiple selections in every round on the second day. Waiting until 68 players are off the board makes it difficult to find immediate help, but they did acquire some developmental pieces—and those who stick will likely contribute on special teams if not elsewhere. The Cowboys’ first selection, third-round LB Jason Williams, can play inside or outside, while fourth-rounders Victor Butler and Brandon Williams is converting from DE to OLB; sixth-rounder Stephen Hodge played safety at TCU but projects to ILB in the NFL. The secondary also added depth, including both University of Cincinnati cornerbacks DeAngelo Smith (Round 5) and Mike Mickens (Round 7) as well as S Mike Hamlin, who was expected to go much earlier than the fifth round in which the Cowboys grabbed him. All of the picks on the offensive side of the ball are developmental in nature—from third-round OT Robert Brewster, who at 6-4 and 325 may slide inside a la Leonard Davis; to fourth-round QB Stephen McGee, just the second quarterback the Cowboys have drafted in the past 15 years; to sixth-round TE John Phillips and seventh-round WR Manual Johnson.
Fantasy nugget: If any Dallas rookie is to make a splash this year it will most likely be K David Buehler. Not that there’s anything wrong with Nick Folk, as Buehler is more likely to be a kickoff specialist and brings a linebacker background to his coverage; there’s just nothing else here worth keeping an eye on.
New York Giants
Perhaps the biggest draft-day surprise for the Giants was their inability to get a deal done for either Braylon Edwards or Anquan Boldin. Instead, Big Blue used its first-round selection on Hakeem Nicks to fill the void left by the departure of Plaxico Burress. The Giants added an even bigger wideout, 6-6 Ramses Barden, in the third round, but he’s a bit more of a developmental project; they also addressed a need at tight end by stealing Travis Beckum at the end of round three. In fact, the Giants had tremendous success letting the draft come to them, filling needs with highly-regarded players in rounds two (pass-rushing LB Clint Sintim and OT William Beatty, both of whom had been projected as potential first-rounders) and four (RB Andre Brown, who at minimum provides Ahmad Bradshaw insurance) as well. QB Rhett Bomar is a developmental project behind Eli Manning, and the Giants used their final two picks to add depth at the cornerback position with DeAndrew Wright and Stoney Woodson.
Fantasy nugget: Domenik Hixon is the only one of the Giants’ top five wideouts who stands taller than 6-0, so you can expect Nicks (6-1) and Barden to get an opportunity to provide Eli with the larger target he seems to crave. Nicks has more short-term fantasy upside, but if Barden is successful in making the step up from Cal Poly to the NFL quickly he may provide a bigger long-term benefit.
Addressing its tackle issues via free agency and trade freed Philly up to add impact players at the “skill” positions on Draft Day. With playmaking WR Jeremy Maclin sliding down the board the Eagles didn’t hesitate to move up, providing Donovan McNabb with another weapon and potentially the No. 1 receiver he’s craved since Terrell Owens’ departure. Second-round RB LeSean McCoy is more of an heir to Brian Westbrook than a complementary player, but his skills and style mean Philly won’t have to adjust its approach should McCoy need to step in for the perpetually nicked-up Westbrook. After taking a couple of rounds off mid-draft the Eagles found solid value in the fifth round: TE Cornelius Ingram will provide Philly’s West Coast offense with a playmaking tight end once he’s recovered from the knee injury suffered early last season; Victor “Macho” Harris is a tough corner who may project to safety in the Eagles’ scheme; and OT Fenuki Tupou is a 6-5, 314-pound prospect Philly can develop behind Stacy Andrews and Jason Peters. The same can be said for seventh-round OG Paul Fanaka, another big (6-5 and 327) lineman—just the way the Eagles like ‘em. Fellow seventh-rounder Moise Fokou is a speedy linebacker Philly can develop.
Fantasy nugget: Maclin will understandably get most of the attention in Philly’s draft class, but don’t overlook sixth-round sleeper WR Brandon Gibson. The Washington State product may not crack the receiver rotation right away, but he flashed plenty of skills as a junior before a shaky quarterback situation sabotaged his stats—and his draft stock—as a senior. He has good speed and could eventually develop into a complementary role alongside Maclin.
The Redskins aren’t exactly known for their draft acumen—Danny Snyder seems to view picks as throw-ins in trades for high-priced veterans—but they certainly struck gold when DE Brian Orakpo slid to them with the 13th overall selection. Lining Orakpo up next to Albert Haynesworth would mean one-on-one blocking and could allow him to lead all rookies in sacks. Washington sat out rounds two and four and used its third-, fifth-, and sixth-round picks to address depth issues in the secondary (CB Kevin Barnes, who could move quickly into the nickel and dime packages) and linebacking corps (LBs Cody Glenn and Robert Henson, who project as special teams help).
Fantasy nugget: The Redskins didn’t get around to selecting an offensive player until Round Seven; TE-FB Eddie Williams will be an understudy for H-back Mike Sellers once he’s recovered from a torn ACL suffered last season, while WR Marko Mitchell has size (6-4) and speed but questionable hands—kind of a poor man’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, only six rounds later.