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2013 NFL DRAFT TOP NEEDS: NFC EAST

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (10-6)

2013 Draft Picks: 51 (2nd), 85 (3rd), 119 (4th), 154 (5th), 162 (5th), 191 (6th), 228 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: QB Robert Griffin III, BAY (2, 1st), OG Josh LiRibeus, SMU (71, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Bruce Allen, Head Coach Mike Shanahan

The Redskins not only stepped up to plate and swung for the fences in last year’s draft, but they crushed it out of the park when they ponied up multiple draft picks to land the second overall choice from St. Louis to select Robert Griffin III to be their franchise quarterback. Griffin completely turned around the franchise and led them into the playoffs bringing some respect back to Washington for the first time in a long while.  Although he will always be a major injury risk, the Redskins are a legitimate playoff contender with Griffin on the field.

1.   Cornerback – Washington finished 30th in the league in defending the pass in 2012. The return of pass-rusher Brian Orakpo for a full season will help to improve it, but the Redskins need to focus on making upgrades across the secondary and adding some young talent. Josh Wilson is a decent starter, while free agent pickup E.J. Biggers will compete for the other spot. DeAngelo Hall was cut, then resigned, but he is a major liability when he’s on the field. The Redskins will have the chance to land a talented corner with their second round pick to compete with Biggers for a spot in the starting lineup. Cedric Griffin is a free agent as well.

2.   Safety – Madieu Williams is a below-average  free agent that needed to be upgraded and won’t likely be brought back leaving a hole in the starting lineup at free safety, while there isn’t much at strong safety either other than the injury-prone Brandon Meriweather. Luckily for the Redskins this is a deep safety class so they should land at least one talented prospect.

3.   Inside Linebacker – As good as he still is London Fletcher cannot play forever so adding a young inside linebacker to learn behind him for a year or two to eventually lineup next to Perry Riley would be a great move for this team. The reliable, versatile Lorenzo Alexander was lost in free agency to the Cardinals so some depth is needed anyways.

NEW YORK GIANTS (9-7)

2013 Draft Picks: 19 (1st), 49 (2nd), 81 (3rd), 116 (4th), 152 (5th), 187 (6th), 225 (7th), 253 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: RB David Wilson, VTCH (32, 1st), WR Reuben Randle, LSU (63, 2nd), CB Jayron Hosley, VTCH (94, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Jerry Reese, Head Coach Tom Coughlin

The Giants finished as one of the more disappointing teams of 2012 after failing to make the playoffs just a year removed from a Super Bowl victory despite starting the season 6-2. A number of the team’s top players had down years and they only missed the postseason by one game. If they can avoid the constant let downs in games they should win then expect the Giants to be back to being the top contender for the AFC East crown. 

1.   Linebacker – The Giants haven’t spent a first round pick on a linebacker since Carl Banks in 1984, but if they were to do it, this would be the year. This unit has to be upgraded with immediate help.  They resigned veteran backup Keith Rivers and added some depth and toughness with former Cowboy Dan Connor. While they needed to be upgraded, they now need to be replace them as well as the Giants saw starting middle linebacker Chase Blackburn leave as a free agent, while they cut weakside linebacker Michael Boley themselves. Strongside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka is being moved back to defensive end also. New York probably needs to add a pair of linebackers in the draft.

2.   Offensive Line – The starting offensive line still remains a solid unit as they allowed just 20 sacks last season. However, this is an aging group that won’t last much longer and could be in for a major drop off at any point. The left side of the line is very good with left tackle Will Beatty resigned to a new long term contract and Kevin Boothe brought back for another year at left guard. The rest of the line could stand to be upgraded. Veteran right tackle David Diehl is probably the weakest link on the starting unit, while interior linemen David Baas and Chris Snee are decent players now in their thirties. There isn’t much behind any of these guys so young depth will need to be added in the draft for sure.

3.   Defensive End – Jerry Reese loves to draft pass-rushers and this year seems like a good time to take one if one of the top prospects drops down the board. Justin Tuck has produced only nine sacks over the past two seasons and just turned 30, while Jason Pierre-Paul also had a down year recording just 6.5 sacks after putting up 16.5 in 2011. Long time Giant Osi Umenyiora was allowed to leave for Atlanta in free agency. Mathias Kiwanuka will be moved back to defensive end this season after playing linebacker last year and he should help improve the pass rush. A third guy that can bring some heat is needed.

DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8)

2013 Draft Picks: 18 (1st), 47 (2nd), 80 (3rd), 114 (4th), 151 (5th), 185 (6th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU (6, 1st), DE Tyrone Crawford, BSST (81, 3rd)

Decision Makers: Owner/GM Jerry Jones, Head Coach Jason Garrett

It was another disappointing season for the Cowboys as they finished with an 8-8 record for the second straight year and haven’t made the postseason since 2009. Jerry Jones won’t sit idle for very long and Jason Garrett will be on the hot seat this season, although Tony Romo won’t as he was just signed to a new, massive contract. The one major change Jones did make was to replace Rob Ryan and his 3-4 defensive scheme with Monte Kiffin and his famous Tampa-2 defense that features a 4-3 alignment. Numerous changes to the defensive personnel could be coming. The offensive line needs to desperately be upgraded as well.

1.   Offensive Line – This unit is in need of an infusion of talent where four of the five spots with the exception of left tackle Tyron Smith have to be upgraded, especially with the money they just invested in Tony Romo. Right tackle Doug Free has been bad the past two years and makes a good chunk of change, while they have tried to patchwork the interior of the offensive line with cheap, veteran talent that hasn’t worked out. Center Phil Costa is decent in the middle and was resigned, but is coming off foot surgery and may be slow to return to full health. This was also a unit that was a major reason the Cowboys ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing last year.

2.   Safety – This has been a problem area for Dallas the past few years. Gerald Sensabaugh was cut this off-season, while backups Charlie Peprah and Eric Frampton won’t be back either. Backups Barry Church and Matt Johnson are currently slated to be the new starters, while Danny McCray was resigned and free agent veteran pickup Will Allen will be in the mix as well. None of those guys should be starting in an ideal scenario, especially in Kiffin’s Tampa-2 defense that requires the safeties to possess great range, cover skills and above-average open space tackling ability.

3.   Defensive Tackle – The Cowboys defensive line has quietly become an older unit with three starters, Demarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher all in their thirties and Anthony Spencer approaching it at 29. These are also players who have been in a 4-3 defense for a number of years and may struggle to transition to the new scheme. They also saw Kenyon Coleman head to the Saints as a free agent, while Marcus Spears was released. The defensive tackles in particular may need to change or be upgraded where Ratliff hasn’t been the same player since signing a big contact. None of the tackles on the roster can penetrate or get into opposing back fields on a consistent basis which is the type of player Kiffin likes to have in the middle of his defensive front.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-12)

2013 Draft Picks: 4 (1st), 35 (2nd), 67 (3rd), 101 (4th), 136 (5th), 210 (7th), 212 (7th), 218 (7th), 239 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: DL Fletcher Cox, MSST (12, 1st), LB Mychal Kendricks, CAL (46, 2nd), DE Vinny Curry, MARSH (59, 2nd), QB Nick Foles, ARIZ (88, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Howie Roseman, Head Coach Chip Kelly

It’s a new era in Philadelphia as talented Oregon Ducks Head Coach Chip Kelly makes the jump from college to take over for longtime Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid. Expect the Eagles to look completely different as Kelly’s personality and offensive/defensive schemes take over this roster, which includes a switch to a 3-4 defense. They’ve already done a nice job in free agency adding a lot of talent at multiple positions that fit what they want to do on both sides of the ball. They are one of the most intriguing teams to watch at the 2013 NFL Draft.

1.   Offensive Line – The Eagles are expected to take the up tempo offense to another level this season under Chip Kelly so expect some athletic offensive linemen with good gas tanks that can stay on the field to be added to this roster. Left tackle Jason Peters is one of the most talented tackles in the league, but is coming off his second straight season-ending torn Achilles and can’t be counted upon to stay healthy for a full season anymore. Todd Herremans is also coming off a season-ending injury. He played well at right tackle, but is better suited at guard and would help bolster the interior of their line. OT Demetress Bell was horrible trying to fill in for Peters and was released, while King Dunlap wasn’t much better and was allowed to leave as a free agent. 2011 first round pick Danny Watkins has been a major disappointment at guard. Adding some young, athletic prospects to provide depth with the potential to step into the starting lineup are expected.

2.   Cornerback – Philadelphia will have two new starting corners when the 2013 regular season gets rolling. Nnamdi Asomugha was a massive disappointment after coming over as a free agent and was released this offseason, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was allowed to leave as a free agent. They signed Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher in free agency, but neither one is a top corner with the ability to cover opposing no.1 receivers. The hunt for a new no.1 corner is on. Dee Milliner could be an option with the fourth overall pick.

3.   Quarterback – Who Chip Kelly’s signal-caller will be in 2013 remains unclear. Michael Vick looks like he may get the first chance at the job, but whether he can stay healthy or even handle Kelly’s offense is still up in the air. Nick Foles showed some promise last year, but doesn’t appear to be a fit at all for the new system and could be a trade target for a team that might miss out on one of the quarterbacks in the draft. Former Oregon Duck and Pittsburgh Steeler Dennis Dixon was added for depth. If Kelly doesn’t like Vick or Foles to run his offense then they could add a quarterback with one of their top three picks.

Written By: Mark Scott

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