2021 NFL Draft Preview: NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles

By Aaron Silverstein

When the birds won the Super Bowl four seasons ago, their front office was viewed as one of the most elite in all of professional football, as General Manager Howie Roseman and company hit on free agent signing after free agent signing and built a champion over the course of a couple off-seasons. Now, that idea feels like an absolute joke, especially to fans like me who aren’t so sure Roseman can clean up the mess he made in the few years since that dreamlike season. The Eagles have drafted only one Pro Bowler since 2013 … a guy by the name of Carson Wentz.  He’s gone, and Roseman ought to be as well if he can’t hit on the twelfth overall pick; he already raised some eyebrows this offseason by trading the sixth pick to the Dolphins in exchange for the twelfth and a first next year. Expect the birds to give it another shot at drafting a wideout if Alabama stud and Heisman winner Devonta Smith is available, or give Darius Slay some help on the outside with the likes of corners Jaycee Horn or Patrick Surtain, depending on which players are still left on the board.   

New York Giants

By Jeff Leyton

With the NFL Draft only two weeks away, the New York Giants look to solidify a roster that has seen major alterations over the past few months. After their blockbuster free-agent acquisitions of wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, the Giants hope to add further improvements throughout the draft. While the G-Men are certainly on the right track to compete for an NFC East title, they have far from a perfect roster. With that being said, here are several needs the Giants can look to address with their draft picks:

Perhaps the most dire need for the Giants is an edge rusher. The team lost Kyler Fackrell (4.5 Sacks in 2020) in free agency and other edge rushers such as Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines only had limited roles last season. Gregory Rousseau could be the answer for the Giants at pick number 11, as the tall and athletic edge defender possesses rare length and closing speed for a defensive edge. A possible selection in the later rounds could be Joseph Ossai, a stout off-ball linebacker from the University of Texas who plays with incredible energy and tenacity. 

While the Giants signed a bonafide number one wideout in Kenny Golladay during the off-season, there has been speculation that they may be looking to add another player to the wide receiver corps during the draft. Despite suffering an ankle fracture that cost him the latter half of his 2020 season, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle is a shifty receiver that could be the big-play threat the Giants have lacked since the departure of Odell Beckham Jr. Speaking of players that can break games open with their breath-taking speed, Waddle’s Heisman award-winning teammate Devonta Smith has natural playmaking abilities that could bolster the Giant’s passing attack. While many are concerned with Smith’s worrying lack of bulk, with the receiver only being listed at 175 lbs, his combination of body control, strong hands and blinding speed could make him a valuable asset.

Washington Football Team

By Ethan Marchetti

Coming off a playoff berth in 2020 fueled by the emergence of several key players, namely defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat, running back Antonio Gibson and wideout Terry McLaurin, Washington is in a prime position to continue to fill areas of need around its encouraging young talent.

With the 19th overall pick in the first round, Washington could go a couple of different routes. The most obvious move would probably be to go after one of the highly-ranked wide receivers. That said, having signed former Carolina Panther Curtis Samuel earlier this offseason, Rivera now has some flexibility to look elsewhere with this pick. Offensive linemen like Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw or Oklahoma State product Teven Jenkins are both viable options and would hopefully help fill the void left after trading superstar tackle Trent Williams to the 49ers a season ago. Bolstering the line with a strong rookie should create space for Gibson to be productive in his sophomore season as well as provide Fitzpatrick with enough time and protection to get the ball out to playmakers like McLaurin and Samuel. Washington may also opt to add an athletic, versatile linebacker here to strengthen an already dominant defensive squad. Players like Notre Dame product Jeremiah Owusu-Koramaoh or Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis would be optimal fits for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s scheme.

Outside of the first round, the Football Team should really aim to create serviceable depth as it waits to find its quarterback of the future. The risky move would be to take a flyer on one of the second tier quarterbacks, such as Florida’s Kyle Trask and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. That said, it would be more realistic for Washington to try to take a pass catcher with one of its three picks in the second and third rounds. Notre Dame tight end Tommy Tremble’s size and athleticism would be an immediate upgrade from current tight end Logan Thomas. Similarly, Oklahoma State wideout Tylan Wallace or Florida product Kadarious Toney could be the necessary third option to fill out Washington’s revamped receiving core. All three of these players showed promise during their college football careers and could become integral pieces of Rivera’s offensive scheme going forward. Regardless, the Washington Football Team needs to be smart about which players it decides to take in this draft, as it is right on the cusp of transitioning from rebuild years to becoming legitimate NFC contenders.

Dallas Cowboys

By Edward Bass

With 10 draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys have plenty of opportunities to address problematic, underperforming areas of the team. However, Jerry Jones at the NFL Draft yields the unpredictable, as evident by their pick of wide receiver Ceedee Lamb in last year’s draft when defensive positions were the obvious area of need. Will we see Jerry finalize the pick on his yacht again? It’s quite probable, but let’s hope instead of taking the best player available, the Cowboys front office will add depth and quality to certain positions that need help. 

With the return of starting quarterback Dak Prescott from his season ending ankle injury that occured last year, the offensive side of the ball looks stacked. The Cowboys have one of the most exciting, dynamic offenses in the league, signaling that defensive reinforcements are needed in every position: defensive line, linebacker and secondary, with the stats showing it. The unit allowed 4.9 yards per run in the 2020 season, allowing ball carriers 2.3 yards before any contact, ranking 30th in the NFL. More defensive pressure up front should be an area focus. Starting linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch were plagued with injuries last season, forcing an aging Sean Lee to play a vital role in the Cowboy’s second level. The linebacking core should benefit from having an entire offseason learning the new defense scheme of new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Yet, a new linebacker implemented in the rotation could drastically lighten the load for the injury prone Smith and Vander Esch. Lee will go down as one of the best defensive players the Cowboys have had, but his age is continuing to show with every play. 

Dallas’ pass defense as a whole also did not have the most productive season, ranking 27th in the league. Entering the draft, the Cowboys could use two or three starting level players that fit Quinn’s scheme and mesh well with last year’s first round draft pick, cornerback Trevon Diggs and promising, hard hitting safety Donovan Wilson. The secondary has always been a problematic area for Jerry’s team, as his eyes love to wonder towards offensive skilled players. Nevertheless, with an already stacked offensive XI, the 2021 NFL Draft provides the Cowboys an opportunity to draft foundational defensive players that could transform the team’s defense for years to come.