Every year the draft comes and goes with analysts and draftniks alike rushing to put a letter grade on each teams draft, despite the overwhelming fact that it will take years to determine their level of success. Instead of attempting to predict the future, the goal is to analyze various aspects of each divisions draft class. Focusing on which players are in the most advantageous positions and which players could be looking at struggles. Next up, the NFC East:
Top Contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year
Zach Ertz – TE, Philadelphia Eagles #35 Overall
While Ertz is entering a crowded situation at tight end for the Eagles, he has the size, athleticism, and receiving skills to make an immediate impact in the passing game. With a 6’6 frame, the former Stanford Cardinal excels in the red zone and is in line to receive plenty of looks in Chip Kelly’s wide open attack. He is a perfect fit as a move tight end and can be lined up anywhere on the field. The level of impact for Ertz is directly correlated to the success of the Eagles quarterback play, but regardless of who wins the job Ertz will factor heavily into the offensive game plan. The Redskins Jordan Reed and the Cowboys Terrance Williams, both 3rd round picks, are also in line to make an early offensive impact.
Top Contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year
David Amerson – CB, Washington Redskins #51 Overall
David Amerson is the type of ball hawking defender that Jim Haslett’s aggressive 3-4 defense has been missing. With the healthy return of Brian Orakpo to pair with Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins will be putting plenty of heat on opposing quarterbacks. Amerson recorded 18 interceptions between his sophomore and junior seasons at NC State and his skills are being put into a very advantageous situation in Haslett’s defense. Amerson will likely enter training camp as the 3rd cornerback but will push veterans Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall for their starting positions very early.
Best Schematic Fit
Lane Johnson – OT, Philadelphia Eagles #4 Overall
Lane Johnson set the combine on fire with an athletic display rarely seen from a player of his size, which vaulted Johnson up the draft boards and into top 10 consideration. The former JUCO quarterback started at left and right tackle for the Oklahoma Sooners and could see time in both spots this season in Philadelphia due to health concerns for left tackle Jason Peters. Johnson is a perfect fit for the fast paced and wide open Chip Kelly system, an offense which places an emphasis on the same athleticism which got him drafted in the top 5. Lane Johnson will start at either left or right tackle as a rookie, but long term should become the Eagles franchise left tackle once Jason Peters moves on.
Justin Pugh – OT, New York Giants #19 Overall
After playing left tackle for the past three seasons at Syracuse, the Giants are asking Justin Pugh to swing over to the right side and bookend with left tackle Will Beatty. It is never an easy task for a rookie to come in and start from day 1 while re-learning technique from a different side, but to do so while stepping into one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL takes the challenge to a whole new level. Pre-Draft concerns over his arm length and athleticism translating to tackle in the NFL were not shared by GM Jerry Reese and HC Tom Coughlin, who think Pugh is a clean and NFL ready prospect and expect him to contribute from day 1. If he fails to secure the starting right tackle job, he could be moved inside to guard.
Under the Radar Impact Player
J.J. Wilcox – S, Dallas Cowboys #80 Overall
J.J. Wilcox is an explosive safety out of Georgia Southern that is a strong contender for a starting safety position in Monte Kiffin’s “Tampa 2” defense. Wilcox plays the game at 100 miles an hour and could be a tremendous weapon for Dallas in their new 4-3 defense. With DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer pressuring quarterbacks and Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne locking down opposing receivers, Wilcox will be there to make plays on the back-end of the Cowboys defense that has been void of safety talent for years. Wilcox should win a job early in camp as he battles with 2012 4th round pick Matt Johnson, Barry Church, Danny McCray, and journeyman Will Allen.
Biggest Reach and Highest Bust Potential
Travis Frederick – C, Dallas Cowboys #31 Overall
One of the biggest surprises on the first day of the 2013 NFL Draft was the Cowboys selection of Wisconsin center Travis Frederick at the end of round 1. Frederick was widely considered a mid 2nd day to early day 3 prospect by the media and draftnik community, but Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys wanted him to be their starting center and did not want to risk waiting. He is as strong of an interior lineman as you could ask for, but his limited athleticism could present a problem with quicker defenders. Frederick will be the starting center in Dallas this season and while Tony Romo is happy, DeMarco Murray and the running game should be the primary beneficiaries. Dallas claimed to be looking to get offensive line help and better protect their franchise quarterback, but selected a throwback style bruiser at center who has serious limitations in pass protection. While Frederick is a nice prospect who comes from a great program, he simply was not good enough athletically or on tape to be selected as high as he was.
Best 2nd Round Pick
Gavin Escobar – TE, Dallas Cowboys #47 Overall
With the NFL trending towards multiple tight end formations to create mismatches in the passing game, the Cowboys landed a tight end some consider to be the most complete prospect in the 2013 Draft. Gavin Escobar is a younger version of Jason Witten, a complete tight end who is a capable inline blocker as well as an outside receiving threat. Escobar can get down the seam in a hurry and should provide another solid option for Tony Romoin the Passing game.
Best 3rd Round Pick
DaMontre Moore – DE/OLB, New York Giants #81 Overall
DaMontre Moore is a man without a true position. He is not quite athletic enough to be an every down outside linebacker and he is not strong enough in the trenches to be an every down defensive end, but the one thing Moore does bring to the table is his ability to rush the passer. Moore will reportedly start his career out at outside linebacker and as a situational pass rusher, where he should thrive in the Giants system. Lining up across from Jason Pierre-Paul and next to Justin Tuck will create plenty of one on one opportunities for the former Aggie star. How his body responds to an NFL strength and conditioning regiment will directly affect what position he ends up at, but his impact in passing situations should be immediate.
Best 4th Round Pick
Matt Barkley – QB, Philadelphia Eagles #98 Overall
Matt Barkley took a beating during the pre-draft process, perhaps more so than any other prospect in the draft. Entering the year as a likely first round pick, Barkley fell all the way to 3rd and final day of the draft. Chip Kelly knows Barkley well from their PAC 12 days and wasted no time in moving up to #98 to select Barkley at the top of round 4. Barkley is an unlikely option to start at quarterback early on, but he will push Michael Vick and Nick Foles in training camp and could ultimately supplant one of them as the Eagles top back-up before the year is over. Barkley is an excellent fit in Kelly’s up tempo offense which relies on accuracy and quick decision making. Barkley could prove to be a steal for Howie Roseman and the Eagles.
Best 5th Round Pick
Joseph Randle – RB, Dallas Cowboys #151 Overall
Joseph Randle left Oklahoma State a year early and had the production and tape to warrant a much higher selection. The Cowboys gladly broke his fall and are counting on Randle to be their top back up to DeMarco Murray. Murray and Randle are both slashing big play threats capable of making plays in passing game as well. The Cowboys needed to bolster their running back depth with the loss of Felix Jones and are counting heavily on Randle to factor into the 2013 offense.
Best 6th Round Pick
Bacarri Rambo – S, Washington Redskins #191 Overall
Bacarri Rambo was a 3 year starter and a very productive player at the University of Georgia. One of the better pure free safety prospects available, Rambo fell in the draft due to a lack of elite measurable and character concerns. The Redskins added Phillip Thomas from Fresno State in the 4th round to bolster their safety group alongside Brandon Meriweather, but Rambo is the true wildcard in the Redskins safety battle. Rambo is a strong candidate to win the 3rd safety job and could very well wind up teaming with Phillip Thomas as the Redskins starting safety duo.
Best 7th Round Pick
Jordan Poyer – CB, Philadelphia Eagles #218 Overall
Jordan Poyer is entering a crowded cornerback group in Philadelphia, but the lack of true difference makers make it very possible for Poyer to make an early impact as a 3rd or 4th corner. Poyer is an instinctive ball hawk who is always around the football, with Philadelphia shifting to an aggressive 3-4 scheme his playmaking skills will be a welcomed addition. Poyer fell from a possible day 2 pick to the 7th round due to a sub par 40 time and some minor off the field issues, but could make a serious run at a key role for the Eagles.
UDFA Most Likely to Earn a Roster Spot
Xavier Nixon – OT, Washington Redskins
Despite going undrafted, Nixon could not have asked for a better situation for himself. The Redskins are light on depth and talent at offensive tackle, and Nixon’s athleticism is a perfect fit for the zone blocking offense that Mike and Kyle Shannahan have designed around RG3. After Trent Williams at left tackle, Nixon’s main competition will be Incumbant Tyler Polumbus and journeyman tackles Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos.