Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Optimist/Pessimist – NFC East Draft Class


New York Giants:

OPTIMIST
Well, nobody can accuse Jerry Reese of not recognizing his team’s flaws. After essentially alienating his number one receiver (and one of three players on that team who can claim a personal responsibility for the 2007 Super Bowl) by releasing him in the midst of legal troubles, Reese used three of his five picks in the first three rounds on potential replacements for Plaxico Burress. WR Hakeem Nicks may have the best hands in this draft class, and has the strength and route running to win battles for position. TE Travis Beckum is speedy enough to challenge linebackers and big enough to manhandle corners. And then there is Ramses Barden, the 6’6”, 229 pound genius monster out of Cal Poly, who, despite being a step slower, is probably the most natural replacement for Burress as a target for Manning. Combined with the addition of a big OLB to confuse blockers and an OT who will benefit from the experienced linemen around him, Reese may have another impressive draft haul on his hands.

PESSIMIST
This may seem unfair in a draft analysis, but why didn’t Reese just keep Plaxico Burress? Wouldn’t that be easier than drafting a crew of pass catchers who are either smaller (Nicks), less polished (Beckum), or slower (Barden) than the man himself? Indeed, this seems to be a recurring theme with Reese for the last two years, dropping mildly troublesome talents and justifying the move by drafting pseudo replacements. He pulled it with Shockey last year, and the team lost a target that would have come in handy when Burress was unavailable. Similar results this season could leave the Giants lagging behind division rivals who are actively improving rather than simply plugging holes.

Philadelphia Eagles:

OPTIMIST
I love, love, love, LOVE the first round seletion of WRJeremy Maclin. A big play threat as soon as he hits the league, Maclin won’t be asked to do too much in an offense that already boasts downfield burners Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson, which will allow Maclin to develop his route running underneath en route to becoming yet another deadly variable in mad passing scientist Andy Reid’s arsenal. Also, don’t sleep on the selection of RB LeSean McCoy in the second round, who could be an immediate improvement over the so-so Buckhalter as a backup and could eventually compete with Westbrook for the starter’s gig. Perfect example of becoming great at what you’re already good at here.

PESSIMIST
The only thing keeping me from falling in love with the Eagles draft is that they clearly lost important pieces of their pass defense in Dawkins and Shepherd, and I’m not sure they took any steps to fill the holes. While there might not be a defense that can keep up with their offense, the Eagles’ defense showed that varied pass attacks could hurt them last season, and the loss of two talented secondary players needed to be addressed.

Washington Redskins:

OPTIMIST
Thank goodness for Mark Sanchez being off the board when the 13th pick rolled around, because the Redskins dodged that land mine and instead got to pick a player they actually needed in DE Brian Orakpo. The only team with an obvious, glaring weakness in the NFC East going into last year (pass rushing), the Redskins suffered as a result, with teams eventually finding the time to tear apart an otherwise solid defense with patient attacks. Orakpo changes that immediately, creating pressure and allowing a smart LB corps and secondary take advantage of the mistakes that will inevitable result.

PESSIMIST
Again, not a beef with the actual draft, but at this point Dan Snyder might as well whisper discouraging things into Jason Campbell’s ear while he sleeps. Am I the only one who has noticed that Campbell improved in a major way last year, and did so while learning his seventh offensive system in seven years? With an improving defense that should allow the offense some variety in attack, Campbell has all the physical gifts to make Zorn’s developing pass monstrosity (remember, these guys got THREE potential top receivers last year) function like the hydra it was meant to be, as opposed to a one dimensional deep strike offense or hard nosed ground game. Yes, Dan, Mark Sanchez is a handsome dude, but seeing as you already let the Colt Brennan hype (/stifles giggles) build to insane confidence crushing proportions last year, and you were in play for Jay Cutler in the offseason (who has had his own struggles reaching the postseason in a weaker division), maybe you should give Campbell a hug in public or something, because if he’s pissed, this is going to be another wasted year in his development.

Dallas Cowboys:

OPTIMIST
The rare draft in which I’m hard pressed to find something I liked, I’m going to go with the selection of kickoff specialist David Buehler in the 5th round. No, it’s not a sexy choice, but considering the new rules against wedge blocking which will make long returns tougher and how often the Cowboys offense will score points, picking up an extra 40 or more yards of field position per game is nothing to laugh at.

PESSIMIST
Okay, I’m done being nice. What the hell was ANYONE thinking with this draft? Let’s forget for a minute how stupid it was to trade a first rounder for Roy Williams, who never managed to elevate Detroit’s offense until Calvin Johnson showed up. Outside of one quick linebacker, the Cowboys picked up a lineman who didn’t produce, a quarterback who couldn’t start in college, and a slew of flawed pass rushers. Oh, and all Michael Hamlin needs to do is invent his own cheating tactic and he’ll be on pace to become former SS Roy Williams faster than Roy Williams became Roy Williams. It’s like they hate improvement in Dallas. No amount of field position bonus is going to fix that.

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