NFL Draft Team Needs: NFC East

As the 2022 NFL Draft approaches, it is time to start preparing for one of the most important weekends of the year, with your favourite NFL team drafting their next generation of young talent out of college.

To help you prepare for and enjoy the draft more, I am putting together an in-depth look at the Team Needs of every team in the league. These articles will be coming thick and fast throughout the month of April, so you can read them all to fully understand who needs what and which picks they have to address it, or you can keep an eye out for the division that your team is in.

This time we’re talking about the NFC East, one of the most interesting divisions as we enter this draft. These four teams represent the 5th, 7th, 11th, 15th, 18th, and 24th overall picks in the draft. Yeah, this breakdown is going to be fun.

Let’s get into it.

Philadelphia Eagles

Record: 9-8

Needs: S, CB, LB, WR

Draft Picks: 1st (15th, 18th), 2nd (51st), 3rd (83rd, 101st), 4th (124th) 5th (154th, 162nd, 166th), 7th (237th)

How often do you see a team who made the playoffs and had a winning record head into an offseason with three first-round draft picks? To say not very often would be an understatement. They only have two first-rounders now, thanks to an interesting deal with the Saints that sent their 16th and 19th pick in the first round, as well as the 194th pick in the sixth round (all in 2022) to New Orleans. In return, they received the 18th pick in the first round, the 101st pick in the third round, the 237th pick in the seventh round in 2022, as well as the Saints’ first-round pick in 2023 and a second-round pick in 2024.

This is smart business for the Eagles. A trade like this is brilliant for balancing the urgency to improve with the longer-term draft capital. They still have two first-rounders to improve the team immediately, but they used the third to plan for the future. With that said, the team needs to make good use of these picks. Yes, they were a playoff team, but one destined for a rapid exit. In the next couple of years, they want to try to make themselves a more dangerous postseason opponent, and I think that is a pretty reasonable objective, with the draft capital they’ve amassed. Three picks in the first 51 as well as two third-rounders, not to mention the extra picks over the next two years.

So, what do they need to use the picks for?

Well first things first, I want to see them address their secondary. Their depth chart at cornerback is basically Darius Slay and then a group of replacement-level players, mostly who were picked up later in the draft. I’d love to see a pick within the first two days of the draft that brings in a young cornerback to the group. The Safety position isn’t any better. At least at CB they have the post-prime veteran. At safety, they have no standouts. Since Malcolm Jenkins left just two seasons ago, they have been unable to settle on their safety pairing, and I think that drafting a standout DB relatively early – preferably even in the first round – would make a real difference.

Philadelphia won the Super Bowl with a tenacious defense and an offense that could do enough to make plays when it mattered. Returning to that isn’t an overnight job, but you can make a dent with a couple of well-made picks.

The final defensive position I would expect them to address is Linebacker. They acquired Haason Reddick, who is a solid addition, but realistically no matter who they added, this wasn’t a one-man issue. The linebacker room as a whole just needs more. Ideally, an athletic sideline-to-sideline Inside LB who is comfortable in the open field would be a perfect choice, as their 4-3 defense puts pressure on that Mike linebacker more than any other base defensive system.

Offensively, I’m just trying to use this year to get a definitive read on the future of Jalen Hurts with the organisation. This is the penultimate season of his rookie contract, meaning the value they’re getting right now for a solid dual-threat QB is great. But paying a quarterback their long-term extension can be expensive, so you want to know what you’re paying for. I would draft at least one solid wide receiver to add to the staff, alongside DeVonta Smith, who looked excellent in his rookie campaign. They’re in a good spot at TE and have multiple serviceable RB’s, so one more wideout and then a primary focus on defense is the move, in my opinion.

If the young Eagles offense can even just fractionally improve, an upgraded defense will make a world of difference, as they look to repeat their positive record and return to the postseason where they feel they belong.

Washington Commanders

Record: 7-10

Needs: OG, LB, CB, TE, QB (they don’t need to rush this, but they would be silly to ignore it)

Draft Picks: 1st (11th), 2nd (47th), 4th (113th), 6th (189th) 7th (230th, 240th)

The Washington Football Team has rebranded, so it’s time to see who the first-ever Washington Commanders draft picks will be. They enter this draft with a new QB in Carson Wentz and a genuinely dangerous roster, when they can actually stay healthy. The offense has multiple very talented individuals in Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and Curtis Samuel, with Dyami Brown showing potential. Even if we just see a version of Wentz that is able to do nothing more than getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers, this offense has more than enough talent on it to pick up what the defense puts down.

That defense, though, that’s serious. We’re talking about the type of defense that wants to win games for its team on its own. The defensive line is excellent, bookended by Chase Young and Montez Sweat, and they have a very promising looking young safety in Kamren Curl. I would love to see them invest more in the rest of the D and really lock in with that identity as a defensive team. The linebacker position isn’t on the same level as the players in front of them, so another startable LB would be an immediate boost. As they also play a 4-3, they may find themselves searching for a similar type of player to the one I described Philadelphia looking for, which could get very interesting during the draft. I would also add at least one more cornerback.

A version of the Commanders defense that looks better than it does now is a terrifying sight for the other teams around the league – and especially sharing the NFC East with them. It is often said to be the weakest division in the league, but that opinion is taking into consideration a banged-up Washington with key players missing throughout parts of the last two seasons.

Offensively, the only two notable holes I’d be hoping to fill would be that of an offensive guard and a young tight end. The former hopes to improve a line that lost a solid veteran starter in Brandon Scherff, ideally with someone who could step up sooner rather than later. Then the addition at tight end is half for depth and half for future-proofing. Logan Thomas is a QB-turned TE who will be 31 years old by preseason and played only six games last year due to injury. There isn’t anyone behind him worth being excited about, so looking for a high-upside tight end in the draft, knowing he hopefully won’t need to play too much this year would be beneficial.

New York Giants

Record: 4-13

Needs: Offensive Line, LB, EDGE, S, QB (However, this might not be the year to do so)

Draft Picks: 1st (5th, 7th), 2nd (36th), 3rd (67th, 81st), 4th (112th), 5th (147th, 173rd), 6th (182nd)

You may remember me noting how it’s pretty damn rare to see a team enter an offseason with three first-round picks, especially not a team with a winning record. The Giants’ record definitely doesn’t have a positive win/loss ratio, but they do still have a unique situation. They enter the draft with two top-seven picks. They “earned” the 5th pick for themselves and the 7th is via the Bears, from the trade-up that secured them Justin Fields in last year’s draft.

Two picks in the first seven total – and then the 36th pick shortly after – mean they have the ability to really shift their franchise forward this year. They have a new general manager and head coach, too, so this is a big opportunity. The main decision here, in my opinion: do you stick or twist with the Quarterback position? Daniel Jones is not a great quarterback. However, does a team in rebuild mode want to upgrade their QB or put the pieces in place around him so that the team is as good as possible when they find his replacement? Plus, you never know, he might step up with better help.

In my personal opinion, they should strongly consider taking a QB they like. For example, if they were to draft Malik Willis, they could redshirt him behind Daniel Jones this year, let him develop some of that raw talent and prepare for the future, while Jones nurses them to another high draft pick. They may well just use their first two picks on the most talented players they can get their hands on, with the position being less of a factor, and focus on QB later – they’ve been known to do that before.

They also need to upgrade the offensive line, that is a change that can’t be delayed. Whether they go aggressive and start strong, at the top of the pile within the first round (probably after a trade down if so) or wait until day two and try to find some value there. No matter what, though, I want to see at least one, ideally, two offensive linemen starting for the Giants by the end of the season that aren’t on that roster right now. A couple of veteran additions this year will help short-term, but that isn’t helpful for a rebuilding team. The weapons for New York are legitimately good, when healthy, so bolstering the O Line and looking for the future QB is the priority above all else, on offense.  

Defensively, the Giants actually have the core of a very solid unit. They have some very talented defensive backs, including James Bradbury and Xavier McKinney, as well as a fantastic MLB in Blake Martinez. However, there are still improvements to be made. First things first they need to get more out of their front-seven. Having a good secondary means next to nothing if they can’t force the other team to make plays that get those talented guys involved. Having Martinez fills arguably the most difficult spot in that group, but they need another linebacker or two and a 3-4 EDGE, preferably all athletic enough and skilled enough to elevate the run defense, without making themselves too easy of a target for the passing game.

An extra safety also wouldn’t help, because despite having McKinney and Julian Love back there doing a reasonable job, the depth behind them is near enough non-existent. They will want to add another safety, even if they aren’t a starter over the existing pair.

I will say this as far as strategy goes. If they choose a QB in the top 10 and miss, they’re delaying this rebuild pretty notably. Taking two defensive studs – based on looking at the available talent, they’d probably be looking at an EDGE and a Safety – or one defensive stud and then trading down, is 100% a safer move. The QB class isn’t insane this year and realistically, you’re much more likely to hit if you go elsewhere with your first pick, or in the Giants’ case, first two picks.

Dallas Cowboys

Record: 12-5

Needs: Defensive Line, OG, LB, S

Draft Picks: 1st (24th), 2nd (56th), 3rd (88th), 4th (129th), 5th (155th, 167th, 176th, 178th), 6th (193rd)

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most difficult teams in the league to analyse. They look brilliant when they’re playing well, but they can also be legitimately laughable, at times. While you may rightfully suggest it’s easier to go 12-5 if you’re in the NFC East than many other divisions, they do have some real talent on this team. But, if they want to actually have an impact on the postseason, they need more.

Their offense is already in a solid spot for the most part, with a good quarterback, a solid WR room and a good offensive line, with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard providing a one-two punch at RB. Their TE position doesn’t have a superstar, but Dalton Schultz has impressed in the role. You might have noticed that I didn’t leave any position unmentioned, there. That’s because on paper they do have every position covered. However, the good offensive line note is operating on the assumption that sixth-year veteran Connor McGovern slots right in and does a great job at guard and that Zack Martin and co can all stay healthy. When the Dallas OL gets injured, Dallas gets hit hard.

With Martin, one of the best guards in football over the last decade, turning 32 during this season, it feels pretty reasonable to say that having offensive line depth doesn’t only have to be insurance for if there is injury. Having an interior lineman who is learning from the best and getting better over time not only represents depth, but potentially also a replacement as Martin gets older, or if McGovern isn’t up to scratch. Instead of just throwing a late pick at the position I would like to see them invest a little more, whether it’s a day two pick or early on day three.

On defense, it gets a little bit more open. The defensive line could use multiple additions, with both the EDGE and defensive tackle positions needing a boost, especially the DT spot. Superstar rookie linebacker Micah Parsons added some much-needed firepower to the front-seven, but they need more. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing them draft another linebacker again, as they improve the young core of this defense. Once they’re happy with their front seven, a free safety wouldn’t go amiss either.

They have a lot of draft picks, so there are numerous opportunities, at all different periods of the draft to address their needs. I am almost certain that at some point in this draft, the Cowboys will surely trade up. They have four picks in the fifth round, which screams trade package to me. Assuming, however, they make use of at least the majority of their 9 total picks, I’d hope to see at least five picks spent on the defensive side of the ball. They’re the best team in their division, which gives them a huge advantage in terms of making the playoffs, but their goal isn’t just to make it. Improve their defense and acquire depth at the lighter parts of the offense, and prepare for a more successful postseason than last year.