NFL draft preview: East
The bad news for the Cowboys, who pick 27th, is a lot of teams ahead of them are looking for offensive tackles. The good news is there are plenty of capable tackles to go around. There’s a decent chance Dallas will focus on finding a replacement for Flozell Adams in the first round, though the team also has needs at safety, receiver and inside linebacker. A couple of USC players could figure into the mix: tackle Charles Brown and safety Taylor Mays. If the Cowboys want Texas safety Earl Thomas, they’re probably going to have to trade up.
The biggest change in Philadelphia this season is that Donovan McNabb is gone. That doesn’t mean the Eagles will be quarterback shopping in this draft, though, as the baton has been passed to Kevin Kolb. The team has pressing needs in the defensive backfield, both at cornerback and safety, and potentially could zero in on a center to replace Jamaal Jackson, who suffered a torn knee ligament at the end of last season. With the 24th pick, the Eagles could be in position to grab one of the upper-echelon corners such as Boise State’s Kyle Wilson or Florida State’s Patrick Robinson to replace Sheldon Brown.
The Giants need a middle linebacker to replace Antonio Pierce, and Alabama’s Rolando McClain, the 2009 Butkus Award winner, is the best of the bunch. There’s no telling whether he’ll still be on the board at that point, though. The Jaguars are believed to be eyeing him at 10. Don’t rule out New York taking a defensive end at 15, possibly South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s a freakish athlete but, scouts say, very raw.
The Redskins got their quarterback in McNabb, and, shrewdly, didn’t have to give up their fourth overall pick to get him. Now, they’re in prime position to get the blind-side protection they usually failed to provide Jason Campbell. Washington will get either the first or second crack at an offensive tackle (assuming the team stays where it is), because the only team ahead of the Redskins considering one of those big men is Detroit at two. The two top tackles in this class are Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung and Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, and opinions are split over who’s better.
There’s a good chance New England is thinking defense in the first round, and the Patriots could use a run-stuffing linebacker. Alabama’s McClain isn’t expected to be around when they pick at 22, but there still will be plenty of good players on the board. Some to consider could include Texas’ Sergio Kindle, Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon and Michigan’s Brandon Graham.
The New York Jets made a lot of headlines with their off-season moves, and it will be interesting to see how much those additions improve a franchise that’s clearly on the rise. One of the problems the Jets had last season was their inability to generate a consistent pass rush from any particular player, one reason they blitzed so frequently. A player such as Michigan’s Graham could really help in that department.
Miami satisfied its pressing need for a receiver by trading for Denver’s Brandon Marshall. Now that they’ve checked that off their list, the Dolphins could use a quality outside linebacker/defensive end who can pressure the passer. There are plenty of those in this draft class — Pierre-Paul, Graham, Weatherspoon, Kindle and Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan among them.
With the ninth pick, Buffalo is likely to fill a pressing need on offense. There’s a possibility the Bills could reach for a quarterback in Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, or they could take a left tackle, a position that absolutely devastated them last season. If they do take a tackle, they could find themselves at the end of an early run on the position. There’s a good chance Okung, Williams, Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga and Rutgers’ Anthony Davis will go in the top 10.