Monday, May 19, 2008

OPTIMIST/PESSIMIST - The NFC East Draft Class


Dallas Cowboys:

Optimist:

Jerry Jones is a little older, but he’s not yet on Al Davis watch. So there was never a chance he was going to make the absurd move of trading two first rounders to get into Darren McFadden territory. It’s a good thing too, because there’s a reason why people have said McFadden might not have been the best running back on his own team at Arkansas, and that reason was RB Felix Jones. Jones might be a step slower, but he’s shown the ability to forego a lot of the dancing that made McFadden great, embracing a one cut and GO style that made him an ideal punt returner and a change of pace back with starting back numbers. End result: As soon as teams get used to bracing for impact against Marion Barber, Felix Jones will be the one step quicker that throws a defense’s rhythm off. Less sexy (though perhaps more important), Mike Jenkins tightens up a pass defense that seemed vulnerable when games turned into shootouts, meaning that there could be a little less pressure on the offense…particularly if a certain strip club aficionado is allowed to play ball…

Pessimist:

The trouble with getting older is that you get stuck on things, and Jerry Jones’s thing this year was Arkansas. So while there was no chance of Jones making the extremely dumb move of trading up for McFadden, he may have made the mildly dumb move of picking up Felix Jones ahead of two running backs who actually started for their respective teams in Chris Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall. Either one of those two could have been faster, stronger, and certainly more battle tested than Jones, who had about as many carries as I did in college. It’s also worth wondering why the team passed up the opportunity to turn an already special pass offense (4th best in the league) into something potentially amazing by picking up one of the tragically unloved receiving prospects available in the first round.

New York Giants:

Optimist:

S Kenny Phillips is going to tighten up a defensive secondary that wound up being held together by pleasant thoughts and children clapping. Still, the most interesting move for this team, and potentially the entire draft, is picking up QB Andre Woodson late on the second day. With Eli Manning well established as the starter under center, Woodson will have plenty of time to correct the quirks and hitches that kept his tremendous physical and mental upside from being drafted sooner.

Pessimist:

One of the things that made this team so scary last season was their ability, when Manning was on target, to move the ball offensively in a number of ways. The trouble is that next year, this receiving corps starts to look a lot more ordinary outside of Plaximum Power. Steve Smith is best as a third option, David Tyree really needs to ponder the phrase “quit while you’re ahead,” Sinorice Moss is less talented than older brother Santana (just writing that made me feel bad), Jeremy Shockey is subtraction by addition, and Amani Toomer is only good for entertaining the kids with his stories about the Cold War. Picking up WR Mario Manningham, a slow, undersized WR with inflated college stats and a rep for being a nightmare with the media (gee, that’ll work well in New York…) was not the best option available a position of impending need.

Philadelphia Eagles:

Optimist:

In a West Coast offense, with plenty of targets around, WR DeSean Jackson is a potential steal in the second round thanks to his ability to dramatically change Philly’s return game. Also, thanks to the emphasis on quick passes and multiple WR sets, Jackson’s size may be less of a factor working against him, and his ability to burn one on one matchups consistently could shine through. While I didn’t like Jackson as a prospect, he may have inadvertently fallen to the perfect place.

Pessimist:

And he’d better have, because otherwise he’ll wind up being the unquestionable bust of his draft class. With his speed and his stats in college, everyone seemed to forget that while a 5’9” stud can make for a great story in college, in the NFL it usually makes for a vanishing act, with tiny receivers being swallowed up by bigger backs who are fast enough to not get embarrassed by speed that made college corners look stupid. Of all the teams that passed on a WR in the first round, this is the one that needed one more than ever, especially with an elite QB on the brink of entering the downhill part of his career. Unless Jackson is Steve Smith (and last I checked there was only one of those), Andy Reid is going to have to develop one hell of a passing scheme to get him favorable matchups, and if last season’s “Reids of Hazzard” saga taught us anything, it’s that maybe the coach is a little distracted these days.

Washington Redskins:

Optimist:

Make jokes all you want, but if you’re a believer in value, the Redskins were the big winners on draft day. Second round steal WR Devin Thomas could probably start this season, and has legitimate number one WR potential. WR Malcom Kelly brings size and great hands to the receiving game as a potential slot receiver, and could make up for that time when Dan Snyder gave eleventy-bajillion dollars to Antwaan Randle El for making one trick play in the Super Bowl for Pittsburgh (with escalators, Randle El is earning an extra private jet and Snyder’s next son at the end of this season). TE Fred Davis gives the team the option of running two TE sets without losing any speed or versatility in the passing game. Finally, QB Colt Brennan is a great project pick late in the draft, and, with a little more muscle and some work on his form under former QB coach turned head coach Jim Zorn, could compete with starter Jason Campbell down the road. All in all, an admirable value draft for a franchise known for anything but understanding that concept.

Pessimist:

So…at what point was the team planning on fixing the ACTUAL problems they had instead of just drafting the best player available regardless of position? This pass rush is still bad, and with drastic changes in the coaching staff there’s no reason to think that inaction was a good idea. Furthermore, as great a value as some of those picks seem, there’s a reason they fell. Fred Davis and Malcom Kelly could easily wind up being a slower, less gifted, more CFL bound version of Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. Even worse, Colt Brennan still has Sugar Bowl nightmares where he wets the bed. Considering how much overhaul is going on in the play calling (new coach, new offense, new defensive schemes), one has to wonder why more emphasis wasn’t placed on making sure that the trenches on both sides of the ball would stay functioning.

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