Welcome to the SECOND edition of my NFL Off-Season and Draft Review! I will be taking a look at each division in the NFL and analyzing each team’s off-season and draft picks. You can follow along with this series on my blog Don’t Listen To Us Sports as well. Thanks and I hope you enjoy!
|4||133||Ryan Switzer||WR||North Carolina|
|6||191||Xavier Woods||S||Louisiana Tech|
|6||216||Marquez White||CB||Florida State|
|7||239||Noah Brown||WR||Ohio State|
Notable Losses: Barry Church-S (Jaguars), Morris Claiborne-CB (Jets), J.J. Wilcox-S (Ravens), Brandon Carr-CB (Ravens), Rolando McClain-LB (FA), Terrell McClain-DT (Redskins), Ronald Leary-G (Broncos), Jack Crawford-DE (Falcons), Ryan Davis-DE (Bills).
Notable Acquisitions: Stephen Paea-DT (FA), Nolan Carroll-CB (FA), Damontre Moore-DE (FA), Byron Bell-OT/OG (FA), Robert Blanton-S (FA).
Losing as the number one seed in the NFC divisional round can never sit well for a team all off-season. The loss revealed some holes on the Cowboys roster, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. But also confirmed that the offense is as strong as ever.
Even with the loss of Ronald Leary, the core of the league’s best offensive line is still mostly intact. In addition, the Cowboys found their cornerstone quarterback and running back in Prescott and Elliot. With all of this in mind, the Cowboy’s brass has established a great foundation for years to come.
No team is immune to free agency though. The Boy’s free agency period was marked by several losses on the defensive side of the ball. The loss of what seems like the entire defensive backfield will certainly not be easy to overcome.
Long time starters Barry Church and Brandon Carr’s leadership will be missed, and so will the improved play of Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox. The addition of Nolan Carroll and Robert Blanton will ease the blow, but won’t replace the consistent production from those positions.
The defensive line and pass rush were a glaring weakness for the Cowboy’s during the regular season. That was compounded upon with the loss of McClain and Crawford to the Redskins and Falcons respectively. The addition of Paea and Moore are a short term fix to and serve more as Band-Aids than anything else.
The Cowboy’s didn’t make any flashy moves in free agency but some of these signings are exactly what team required while it filled the rest of their needs in the draft.
Meet the Rookies
Drafting Taco Charlton at 28th out of Michigan was a tasty treat for the Cowboys and all of their fans. In desperate need of a pass rusher since the beginning of last season the Cowboys pounced upon the best one left on the board.
With a 6’6 lean frame and long arms, Charlton is the prototypical pass rusher that NFL coaches love to mold. He used his extension, strength, and quick burst to harass opposing college offensive linemen with his plethora of pass rushing moves. Expectedly, Charlton does have his weaknesses. He was prone to having a high pad level at times and was caught guessing the play in the backfield on many occasions.
Taco fills an immediate need for the Cowboys on the defensive line and as a pass rusher. With some development under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and time to grow into his frame, Charlton has the potential to develop into an above average defender.
Awuzie out of Colorado is a tall, experienced, physical corner who can also slide over to safety in a pinch. While he does have his deficiencies, the Cowboy’s thin defensive backfield and Awuzie’s versatility will allow the former Bison to compete for a starting job this upcoming season.
Although, Lewis lack of ideal size at the position is what kept him out of the earlier rounds. The reigning Big 10 defensive back of the year, is a great cover corner who figures to make his mark in the slot at the pro level. He could prove to be a steal for Dallas in the 3rd round.
The slew of defenders being picked was briefly interrupted at 133rd overall by Ryan Switzer, a wide receiver out of North Carolina. The best punt returner in the class will make his mark by usurping Lucky Whitehead as the team’s primary return specialist and figures to make an impact in other facets of special teams as well.
Sticking to their plan the Cowboys took defensive players with the next 4 out of their 5 picks. With 191 and 216 the Boys chose to further bolster their defensive backfield with safety Xavier Woods and corner back Marquez White. Both fit Rod Marinelli’s cover 2 scheme and figure to compete for starting roles.
With the next 3 picks all in the seventh round the Cowboys decided to mix up their strategy a bit. Instead of bolstering their team with edge rushers and defensive backs they selected to run pluggers in Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell. Both are one technique defensive tackles who could earn some playing time. But both figure to be projects who are more destined for future rather than immediate contributions.
With their second to last pick the Cowboys finally addressed the offensive side of the ball again with a wide receiver. Noah Brown, a tall, physical receiver out of Ohio State will make his mark on special teams. He may become a contributor on offense but that seems like a long shot.
While the Cowboys did lose a lot of starters on the defensive side of the ball, they were able to draft and sign competent replacements. That coupled with their consistency on the offensive side of the ball should not only make this team a NFC East favorite, but a conference favorite this upcoming season as well.
New York Giants
|1||23||Evan Engram||TE||Mississippi State|
|5||167||Avery Moss||DE||Youngstown State|
Notable Losses: Jonathan Hankins-DT (Colts), Larry Donnell-TE (FA), Rashad Jennings-RB (FA), Victor Cruz-WR (FA), Robbie Gould-K (49ers).
Notable Acquisitions: Brandon Marshall-WR (FA), D.J. Fluker-OT (FA), Geno Smith-QB (FA), Shaun Draughn-RB (FA).
After spending a staggering $106.3 million in guaranteed money on free agents in 2016, the Giants brass decided to spend more frugally in 2017.
Deciding to part ways with longtime receiver Victor Cruz was quickly made an afterthought after the G-men signed perennial pro-bowl receiver Brandon Marshall. Adding Marshall to the roster gives Eli Manning another weapon in his already dangerous wide receiving core of Beckham and Shepard.
Next, the Giants attempted to patch up their horrendous offensive line from a year ago with the signing of D.J Fluker. The poor play of Ereck Flowers and most other offensive linemen forced the Giant’s hand in this signing. Hopefully, the inconsistent Fluker can change his ways at either guard or tackle and help out this team’s biggest need.
The most impactful loss came in the form of defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins. The pair of Damon Harrison and Hankins helped anchor the front line of 2016’s 9th ranked defense. Although replacing Hankins will be tough, the combination of rookies and consistency at all other positions on the defense will hopefully make it a much easier transition.
After not making much noise in signing free agents and not losing many key cogs to free agency the Giants look poised to build off of their recent playoff appearance. With a defense that is relatively set and an offense that seemingly only has holes in the trenches and at the RB position where did this leave the Giants going into the Draft?
Meet the Rookies
The Giants were going to have a hard time addressing their biggest need along the offensive line in one of the weakest draft for o-linemen in years.
So instead of addressing the trenches with their first round pick the Giants bolstered their receiving core even further. At 23rd overall the G-Men selected Mississippi State TE Evan Engram. The former Bulldog will worry opposing linebackers and safeties all over the field with his elite athleticism. Engram is not much of a blocker which makes this pick baffling. With 3 legitimate starting caliber receivers on the roster it will hard to find a place on the field for Engram,a TE who can’t block, without taking one of those guys off. While I do think Engram is a going to be a great pro, this seems like more of a luxury pick than a logical one.
In the 2nd round at 55th overall Dalvin Tomlinson out of Alabama was selected. He is a primarily a run-stopper and will be the principal contender to replace Jonathan Hankins along the d-line. The senior defensive tackle suffered two ACL injuries in his college career, but the Giants obviously saw enough that they liked to still take him. The Blue acquired one of the best run defenders in the draft while also filling a need, a great pick for GM for Jerry Reese.
Eli Manning is no Spring chicken and Reese’s next pick confirms. At 87th overall, the Giants selected California quarterback Davis Webb.
“The Giants believe they lucked out with getting Webb in the third round, a player whom vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross opined has a talent level compatible with the quarterbacks drafted during the first round after their teams traded up to get them.” (Frank Cooney-NFLDraftScout.com).
Reese believes it is better to draft a QB early and have them learn behind the current starter, and I couldn’t agree more.
Running back has been a need for the Giants for what seems like years. They either sign older running backs like Rashad Jennings or draft ineffective ones like Andre Williams, both of whom are no longer on the roster. Insert national champion Wayne Gallman. While Paul Perkins was recently named the starter, Gallman’s punishing run style and pedigree will bring some competition to a position that has been sorely lacking it.
With their 5th round pick, the Giant’s shored up their depth on the defensive line. Troubled yet productive defensive end Avery Moss out of Youngstown State was selected to help provide depth behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. He’ll ideally be limited to pass rush duties in his first year with a chance to contribute more down the road.
In an ideal world a team’s most glaring need is addressed earlier than their last pick. Tackle Adam Bisnowaty out of Pitt was selected at 200 to shore up this thin positional unit. New York sent their Seventh round pick in order to move up and secure the Tackle whom the Giants obviously valued.
Overall, the Giants had a very average off season. They did address some needs through free agency and the draft but came up short to address some major ones. While the team as a whole got better and could challenge the Cowboys for the division title, it seems very unlikely.
|3||99||Rasul Douglas||CB||West Virginia|
|4||118||Mack Hollins||WR||North Carolina|
|4||132||Donnel Pumphrey||RB||San Diego State|
|5||166||Shelton Gibson||WR||West Virginia|
Notable Losses: Stephen Tulloch-LB (Retired), Leodis MCKelvin-CB (FA), Nolan Carroll-CB (Cowboys), Connor Barwin-DE (Rams), Chase Daniel-QB (Saints), Bennie Logan-DT(Chiefs).
Notable Acquisitions: Alshon Jeffery-WR (FA), Torey Smith WR (FA), Chance Warmack-G (FA), Timmy Jernigan-DT (Trade), Chris Long-DE (FA), Patrick Robinson-CB (FA), Nick Foles-QB (FA).
It’s nice going into an off-season knowing you have a franchise quarterback under contract. It’s even nicer to have the cap space to build around him. Knowing they had the cushion of a high cap ceiling the Eagles approached the off-season with the mission to get their young quarterback help and get better on both sides of the ball. They did just that.
Getting below average production from almost all of your starting wide receivers all season will hinder a rookie quarterback’s development immensely. Which is why signing Alshon Jeffery (1YR-$9.5 M) and Torrey Smith (3YR-$15 M) made too much sense for the Eagles. They now have a speedster on the outside, and a big body wide receiver to pair with Jordan Matthews in the slot. Not to mention former top 10 pick Chance Warmack (1YR-$1.51M) adding depth to the trenches. Carson Wentz must be drooling.
Howie Roseman didn’t forget about his defense either. He signed Super Bowl champion DE Chris Long (5YR-$12.75) to replace Connor Barwin and added CB Patrick Robinson (1YR-$775K) to help alleviate the loss of both Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll. And when Bennie Logan left for Kansas City and Eagles fans thought their front seven was doomed, Roseman traded for Baltimore defensive tackle Timmy Jerningan and filled yet another need.
Looking at Roseman’s moves in free agency, Eagles fans should be delighted with the outcome. He filled a lot of glaring needs without getting locked into any ridiculous contracts.
Now let’s see if he filled the rest of those needs in this year’s draft.
Meet the Rookies
When Eagles fans hear the name of the late great Reggie White they perk up. So when the Eagle’s selected Derek Barnett in the first round, the same Derek Barnett who broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee, fans were understandably excited.
The team’s philosophy for years has been to build through the trenches, even more so now with Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. The 20 year old defensive end was extremely productive in college, despite his build and athletic shortcomings. He recorded 28 of his 33 career sacks against SEC competition and did so in only 3 years. Barnett may or may not be a day one starter, but either way he figures to strengthen the birds pass rush. Which in turn, Philadelphia hopes will help mask an ailing defensive secondary.
That ailing secondary will seemingly be assisted by the addition of two rookie corner backs. At 43rd overall the Eagles took a gamble on defensive back Sidney Jones out of Washington. Jones was considered a top 15 pick before injuring his Achilles at his pro day. The productive Jones will not be ready for the start of the season but if he does get healthy and pan out, the birds may have gotten a steal in the second round.
Unlike Jones, West Virginia corner back Rasul Douglas will be able to compete for time immediately. The 3rd round pick is a long, physical corner back who fits well into Schwartz system. His great ball skills and anticipation helped him lead the FBS in interceptions last season (8). The Eagles are hoping he can crack the starting line-up and aid a very prominent weakness.
After helping out the defense with their first 3 picks, Roseman decided to give his young signal caller some assistance on his side of the ball. Mack Hollins is a big body wide receiver out of North Carolina who was known for his even bigger plays. He averaged over 20 yards per reception and caught a touchdown on 20 of his 81 career catches. The 118th pick is also believed to be a great special team’s gunner which should help him contribute instantly.
The Eagles then traded up to 132nd to select San Diego States Donnel Pumphrey. The diminutive back was extremely productive in college and figures to be a great weapon for Wentz. Nevertheless, Pumphrey does not fit the mold of traditional three down back that the Eagles needed. Which makes this pick very peculiar.
The second wide receiver taken by the Eagles at 166 was Rasul Douglas’ teammate, Shelton Gibson. Gibson, a deep threat, provided big plays for the mountaineers last year to the tune of 22.6 yards per reception. The young wide-out will be used sparingly early on as a receiver, but figures to secure his roster spot as a kick returner on special teams.
The last two picks of the Eagles draft addressed the lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball. At 184 the Eagles selected Nebraska Safety Nathan Gerry. Gerry will add some much needed depth to the Safety position. He could also get some time at linebacker and spell the underachieving Mychal Kendricks at the position. The speedy defender will also get some time on special teams, so be ready to see a lot of Gerry this year.
The last pick and most certainly not “least” was Washington’s Elijah Qualls. The 6-1, 313 pound defensive tackle will become a rotational run-stuffer behind starting tackles Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan. With the chance to become a starter down the road. A solid depth pick for Roseman’s Eagles.
The Eagles are seemingly in a good place after free agency and this year’s draft. They managed to acquire talent to surround their young quarterback with, and filled many holes on the defensive side of the ball. While their defensive backfield still looks shaky, a combination of rookies, free agents, and developing talent could potentially fill the void. If Carson Wentz takes a step forward this year the chance of making the playoffs could be in the cards for Philadelphia.
|4||123||Montae Nicholson||S||Michigan State|
|6||209||Robert Davis||WR||Georgia State|
Notable Losses: DeSean Jackson-WR (Bucs), Pierre Garçon-WR (49ers), Kory Lichtensteiger-C (Retired), Chris Baker-DT (Bucs), Ricky Jean-Francois-DE (GB), Cullen Jenkins-DT (FA).
Notable Acquisitions: Terrelle Pryor-WR (FA), Stacy McGee-DT (FA), Terrell McClain-DE (FA), D.J. Swearinger-S (FA), Zach Brown-LB (FA).
Finishing a season 8-7-1 while also firing your GM on the opening day of the free agency period isn’t typically a confidence evoking move by an NFL team. This would usually signal a turbulent and unfruitful off-season for any franchise, especially the Redskins, but the team handled player losses and signings atypically well.
The loss of veterans DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon put a huge dent in the wide receiving depth for the Skins. They were luckily able to sign breakout wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to a one year deal worth $8 million. The combination of Pryor, Crowder, and last year’s first round pick Josh Doctson should infuse some youth into a receiving core that was previously long in the tooth.
Building within the defensive trenches is one of the major keys to rebuilding a team from the bottom up. Losing both Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Francois on the starting front line will not help that initiative. Luckily, the signing of Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain will be perfect fill-ins for both of these losses while the team has time to draft and develop their replacements. A great move by the organization.
The last of the team’s major signings came at the next two levels of the defense in the form of Zach Brown and D.J. Swearinger.
Brown, a former Bill, had a very productive season in Buffalo last year recording 149 tackles to go along with a pro bowl berth. Brown will provide a reliable and cheap (1 yr.-$2.3 Million) option in the middle of the field that the Redskins have been missing since the retirement of London Fletcher.
The choice to let go safety Duke Ihenacho after his poor 2016 was probably the right move for the Skins. No team has signed Ihenacho signaling that the Redskins may not be the only ones who do not view him as a promising talent. His replacement, D.J. Swearinger, will provide the team with a starting caliber big hitting safety who will start for the team immediately. Swearinger is a veteran in this league and a proven starter.
With all things being considered, the Redskins made some really great moves to fill some pressing needs on both sides of the ball. Despite this, there were still holes across the roster that the team did not address in free agency.
Did the Redskins use their NFC East high 10 draft picks correctly to fill those needs?
Let’s take a look!
Meet the Rookies
Jonathan Allen was considered by some to be a top 5 pick coming out of Alabama. Concerns over the defensive end’s arthritic shoulders caused him to drop out of the top 15 and down to the Redskins at 17. The D.C. native dominated SEC competition all year with his elite athleticism and versatility. The senior can use his speed to play on the outside the line as well as move to the inside and use his strength as a penetrating tackle.
If Allen can put his injury concerns behind him, the Redskins may have filled a huge position of need while getting a very versatile and proven top 5 talent in this year’s draft. An absolute steal for the organization.
Deciding to continue the trend of bobbing for defensive players in this year’s draft pool, the Skins selected both an outside linebacker and corner back with their 2nd and 3rd round picks.
Ryan Anderson, another player out of Tuscaloosa, was selected 49th by Washington. Anderson is not a combine warrior by any means, but he always found ways to make play after play for the Crimson Tide to the tune of 9 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last year. His lack of athleticism is what caused teams to pass on him until the second round, but don’t be mistaken, Anderson can ball. The OLB will learn from and provide depth behind Ryan Kerrigan while getting time as the ROLB in 3-4 defensive sets.
Due to a tear to his pectoral muscle at his pro day, UCLA’s Fabian Moureau, fell to the Redskins in third round. Had the talented corner been able to compete immediately he would have gone a round earlier, but due to the possibility of being out the first few games of the year he was selected in the third.
The fast (4.34 40 yd. dash) and physical corner is a high upside guy who provides depth behind Norman and Breeland in the defensive backfield. Fortunately for both sides, the former Bruin will not have to contribute immediately and is the perfect player to take a chance on in the third. Depending on how he heals, Moureau could develop in to a starting corner in the coming years.
The first of their two 4th round picks saw Washington taking running back Samaje Perine of Oklahoma. Joe Mixon’s back up was able to use his bruising running style to rush for at least 1,000 yards in three straight years. This selection signals the end for volatile runner Matt Jones, and with reports coming out of camp that Perine could challenge for the position of lead back it could potentially result in the end of Rob Kelley as the starter as well. Keep an eye on Samaje this summer.
While the Redskins did sign Swearinger to start at Safety, they still lack young depth at the position. Will Blackmon and Deangelo Hall aren’t getting any younger, but luckily for Washington Montae Nicholson is only 21 years old. Nicholson, another injured defensive back, will not need to contribute immediately and can learn from these veterans. In the meantime he can concentrate on healing and use his speed to contribute on special teams.
With their only 5th round pick the Redskins took a player with quite possibly the best name in the draft, Arkansas’ Jeremy Sprinkle. The blocking tight end will have trouble cracking the starting line up with Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis cemented as the 1 and 2, but could see some time if any of those guys get injured.
In the 6th round the Redskins brass decided to concentrate on the offense. Chase Roullier at 199 will fill a hole at back-up center caused by Spencer Long taking over as starter for the retired Lichtensteiger.
10 picks later WR Robert Davis out of Georgia State was selected. The cousin of the Panther’s Thomas Davis is a big body receiver that may have to fight for a roster spot on an already crowded WR depth chart. Davis is not a lock to make the roster.
To close out their draft two defensive backs were selected in the 7th round by Washington. Safety Josh Harvey –Clemons and cornerback Joshua Holsey.
The troubled Clemons will have to make a positional switch to linebacker if he intends on making the roster. This shouldn’t be an issue for Harvey-Clemons, he played all over the field at Louisville including linebacker.
Holsey, who was not invited to the draft, battled ACL injuries his entire career at Auburn but was still able to be productive when he was on the field. The senior cornerback is making noise at the Redskins rookie mini-camp and could make the roster as a depth/special teams player despite being a 7th rounder.
In a nutshell, Washington uncharacteristically handled their off-season very well. They did not break the bank in free agency and were able to fill huge needs with those additions. The Redskins used their draft picks effectively to gather “value” picks while filling needs at the same time. They were able to let the draft come to them and acquire instant contributors as well as future contributors all across the draft board. Overall, Dan Snyder and squad ought to be happy with the results and should be excited to have a chance to compete for the NFC East title this year.