Now that the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft is in the books, let's take a look at how each of the four teams in the NFC East fared with their draft results. The Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles all made first-round selections, and since it's never too early to do so, let's hand out some preliminary NFL Draft grades. The key word here is "preliminary," because there are six rounds to go and much of the team's performance depends on those six rounds. But still, we're a culture of immediacy, so let's grade 'em!
Dallas Cowboys: A-. The Cowboys desperately needed help up front to make things easier on all those talented skill players they love to say they have. What good is having Dez Bryant and Miles Austin on the outside and Jason WItten in the middle when you can't give Tony Romo enough time to find them? What good is having a good running game when you can't block for them? In this way, picking Tyron Smith out of USC with the No. 9 overall pick was a very smart move. Smith was the No. 1 offensive tackle on most draft projection boards, and getting him at No. 9 was nice value. He's a natural right tackle that will likely have to switch to left tackle to replace
Marc Colombo Doug Free, which could hold him back a bit. But he's also just 20 and has plenty of room for growth. I hate to admit it, but the prospect of all those offensive weapons behind a decent offensive line does scare me a bit.
New York Giants: A. Getting Prince Amukamara out of Nebraska with the No. 19 pick is a huge steal, and the pressure is now on Ryan Kerrigan to live up to being picked over him. Ironically, the Redskins probably need a cornerback more than the Giants, because it's looking more and more like Carlos Rogers is leaving the team. This isn't to put down Kerrigan at all, because he's a good pick, but it remains to be seen whether passing on Amukamara is going to haunt the Redskins. The Giants have bigger needs than cornerback, but the value is too much to pass up, and the Giants could use some more help preventing big plays anyway.
Philadelphia Eagles: C+. The Eagles needed another offensive lineman, and Danny Watkins out of Baylor will fill that void. Watkins will certainly be able to play right away, but that's kind of the rub. At age 26, how much upside does he really have? Isn't there a concern that he was only good in college because he was most physically developed than many of the players he went against? That's my concern with this pick.
Washington Redskins: A-. Maybe I'm grading on a curve here, because the Redskins have disappointed us so much over the years and because there was a legitimate concern they would waste the No. 10 pick on a quarterback. But if you could have scripted the perfect draft for the Redskins, it would involve them trading down and picking up additional picks while still solving their defensive problems. In that sense, mission accomplished.
The trade with the Jaguars was a very good trade. It remains to be seen whether they may have passed up a franchise quarterback in Blaine Gabbert, but so much of a quarterback's success is due to their surrounding environment. A rookie quarterback picked high in the draft would never have developed well with the Redskins' poor offensive line, lack of skill-position players and poor defense. He would have gotten pounded every game, and his defense would have given him large deficits to overcome. Building the rest of the foundation is much more important than hoping a young quarterback can overcome all of that, no matter who it is. Getting an additional second-round pick to do so is huge. The Redskins need quantity, not quality.
As for Kerrigan, it's tough to judge him because he will need to make a transition to the 3-4. He certainly has the work ethic to do so, which is a plus, but even the hardest workers can struggle. Nevertheless, besides Amukamara, I have trouble seeing another defensive player that was available who can make as much of an immediate impact as Kerrigan. I think it's a safe pick, and the Redskins need safe picks right now.