NFL Draft Class Recaps - NFC East
Written by: Aaron Ussery
Round 1, Pick 24 - Tyler Smith, IOL, Tulsa
Smith was a surprise to some, less so to others. Many pundits had him ranked as the draft's OT4 behind Ekwonu, Neal, and Cross. However, departure of Connor Williams in free agency left a job at left guard for Smith, where his natural strength and ferocious playstyle will be better highlighted.
Round 2, Pick 56 - Sam Williams, EDGE, Ole Miss
Williams was a player many had taken off their boards entirely due to some disturbing allegations of sexual assault. The Cowboys clearly weren't one of those teams, as they snagged Williams several rounds ahead of where I expected him to go. The base defensive end role opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence is up for grabs in the wake of Randy Gregory's departure, and Williams has the tools to claim that job.
Round 3, Pick 88 - Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Tolbert landed in a good spot with the Cowboys. Amari Cooper was traded away for a sack of peanuts, and Michael Gallup likely won't be back to 100% until midway through the upcoming season. Somebody needs to produce opposite of CeeDee Lamb, and Tolbert offers a "ball-winner" skillset that could help him stand out from the likes of James Washington and Noah Brown.
Round 4, Pick 129 - Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
This one feels like a classic insurance policy. Dalton Schultz was given the franchise tag this offseason, and with the suddenly explosive tight end market there's a good chance he plays elsewhere come 2023. Ferguson possesses a similar skillset to fifth-year vet as a big, tall possession target and a capable blocker.
Round 5, Pick 155 - Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota
A similar "project" to last year's fifth round pick Josh Ball, Waletzko has a very high ceiling if he can be properly groomed. Tyron Smith and Terence Steele are the likely starters in 2022, but both Ball and Waletzko offer some really intriguing traits and could surprise if they wind up being forced into action for whatever reason.
Round 5, Pick 167 - DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State
A textbook Dan Quinn style of corner, Bland struggles with stiffness in his hips but has exceptional length and improved his ball production each year at Fresno State. He should have no trouble sticking on the roster as a depth piece and could find his way onto the field as Quinn shuffles things around in order to find that capable outside starter opposite of Trevon Diggs.
Round 5, Pick 176 - Damone Clark, LB, LSU
Clark continues the Cowboys history of drafting linebackers with medical red flags. He underwent a spinal fusion surgery in the offseason that will cost him his rookie year. But the future at middle linebacker beyond Micah Parsons is far from settled for this team. Leighton Vander Esch returned to the team on a one-year deal, and if he isn't retained then there's a chance for open competition at the WILL spot come 2023 should Clark be physically up for it.
Round 5, Pick 178 - John Ridgeway, IDL, Arkansas
Yes, Jerry Jones took an Arkansas guy -- but there's more to this pick than alma mater pride. Ridgeway is an oak tree in the middle of the defensive line, standing 6'5" and weighing in at 320 lbs. He projects best as a two-gapping nose tackle -- where the team currently has Trysten Hill (who has struggled to stay on the field) and Quinton Bohanna (who has just simply struggled). I wouldn't be shocked if Ridgeway ends up taking the majority of snaps at NT this upcoming season.
Round 6, Pick 193 - Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State
Harper is the type of guy you take in the sixth round for sub-package and special teams value. He doesn't currently have the instincts to start for you on defense, but possesses the straight line speed and hair-on-fire playstyle that you want from a gunner or kick coverage specialist.
New York Giants
Round 1, Pick 5 - Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Possibly the draft's most exciting pass rusher, if not the outright best. Thibodeaux is a great fit for Wink Martindale's scheme, which loves to manufacture pressure with creative and devastating blitz packages. KT's first step is elite, and he wins primarily by converting speed to power and barreling over offensive tackles. He starts immediately opposite of Azeez Ojulari, and I think has a great chance to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Round 1, Pick 7 - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
New GM Joe Schoen continues the Buffalo mentality by building through the trenches. Neal was the draft's best tackle in my opinion, having the best blend of pass blocking and run blocking prowess. The early assumption is Neal will start at right tackle opposite of 2020 first round pick Andrew Thomas, finally giving Daniel Jones a reliable pair of bookend tackles. Whether or not that's enough to help him take the next step remains to be seen, but this was the correct pick regardless of what happens next.
Round 2, Pick 43 - Wan'dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
A bit of a head scratcher in terms of value and fit, Robinson is less of a true wide receiver and more of a "satellite" weapon. He has a skillset similar to that of Kadarius Toney, who may well be on the way out via trade. I think Robinson likely reminded new coach Brian Daboll of Bills weapon Isaiah McKenzie, a player with excellent YAC ability whom he can utilize both out of the slot and on jet sweeps and screens.
Round 3, Pick 67 - Joshua Ezeudu, IOL, North Carolina
One of the more underrated guard prospects in this year's draft, Ezeudu has the upside of a starter and could very well push Shane Lemieux for the left guard spot. Even if he doesn't, he offers a much cheaper backup option than either Max Garcia or Jamil Douglas.
Round 3, Pick 81 - Cor'dale Flott, CB, LSU
The first thing you notice about Flott is his frame. He's a very long player with the potential to add on a lot more muscle. He'll need to if he wants to be able to hold up outside, but even if he doesn't he has some potential to earn reps in the slot. With James Bradberry no longer in the fold, I think Flott's best chance to get on the field will come from competing with Aaron Robinson for the other outside job opposite Adoree Jackson.
Round 4, Pick 112 - Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State
Bellinger is a plus-level athlete at the tight end spot, and the position is a bit thin for the Giants right now. Ricky Seals-Jones is the projected starter, and Jordan Akins figures to be a factor as well. But Bellinger has size and blocking upside that could allow him to earn reps as the team's TE2 early on.
Round 4, Pick 114 - Dane Belton, S, Iowa
Belton has a great chance to see the field as a rookie. The players in front of him, Julian Love and Xavier McKinney, were picks made by the previous regime. McKinney has been a good player, but Love has hardly done anything that makes you think he'll have a stranglehold on the other starting safety spot. Belton was an emerging player who really starting trusting his instincts during his final year at Iowa, and if that trend follows he could nudge out Julian Love for starting reps sooner rather than later.
Round 5, Pick 146 - Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana
McFadden is a thumper against the run, in a similar mould to Malik Harrison from Martindale's time in Baltimore. He likes employing this kind of linebacker, particularly in blitz packages. McFadden likely would struggle if asked to be an every down player due to his limited coverage instincts and stiff hips when tackling in space, but the spot next to Blake Martinez is still wide open. He could see a lot of starting snaps as a rookie out of necessity.
Round 5, Pick 147 - DJ Davidson, IDL, Arizona State
Davidson is a consumate nose tackle, and likely slides in directly behind Justin Ellis as the team's backup at the position. For all the love that's deservedly given to the starting combination of Ellis, Leonard Williams, and Dexter Lawrence -- the IDL was lacking in depth prior to the draft. Davidson will help remedy that.
Round 5, Pick 173 - Marcus McKethan, IOL, North Carolina
Ezeudu's teammate at North Carolina, McKethan doesn't play with the same bounce in his feet but does possess more power at the point of attack. Ezeudu's OT flexibility may cause the team to look at him as more of a swing tackle option, opening up more room for McKethan to make the roster as a backup guard over the likes of Jamil Douglas and Ben Bredeson.
Round 6, Pick 182 - Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati
Beavers, similar to McFadden, is a plus-level player against the run. Unlike McFadden, however, Beavers is a true giant (no pun intended). He's 6'3" and nearly 250 lbs, with great instincts and good athleticism for his size. He could wind up being a steal in the sixth round, as I believe he possesses starting level talent and also has some flexibility to rush off the EDGE as well (similar to Kyle Van Noy).
Round 1, Pick 13 - Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
Jordan Davis is, simply put, unique. Men his size who move the way he does don't come around often. His presence in the Georgia defense made everyone around him better because he simply commands so much extra attention. He's just too big and too strong for offenses to avoid needing to scheme around. Howie Roseman, for all his faults, correctly believes in building his teams from front to back -- and adding a player like Davis certainly accomplishes that. Everyone else's job on Philly's defense will be easier because of him.
Round 2, Pick 51 - Cameron Jurgens, IOL, Nebraska
A very easy fit to try and project, Jurgens was the draft's consensus number two center behind Tyler Linderbaum. Jason Kelce is back for one last go around, but come 2023 he'll likely bow out. And apparently, he personally signed off on the Jurgens pick as the player he believes could effectively replace him. With an all-time great center 100% invested in overseeing his development, I think Jurgens has a great chance to step right in as a plus-level starting center a year down the road.
Round 3, Pick 83 - Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Certainly one of, if not the best value picks in the entire draft. Nakobe Dean may be undersized, and may have had some medical issues that scared teams off, but to me his tape was the absolute best of any linebacker in this class. He was the heart and soul of the Georgia defense, making every on field call and getting people lined up correctly even back when he was a true freshman. If he stays healthy, he will not only start for Philadelphia but could be their best middle linebacker since DeMeco Ryans back in the early 2010s.
Round 6, Pick 181 - Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas
A very different sort of linebacker than Dean, Johnson is more of a hybrid SAM/pass rush specialist who can play some off ball when needed. That's a unique position that DC Jonathan Gannon clearly wants to utilize, having drafted Patrick Johnson last season and signed Haason Reddick in free agency earlier this offseason. Johnson gives them another body in this rotation, and has a lot of promise (recall his senior bowl reps against Trevor Penning).
Round 6, Pick 198 - Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU
Nick Sirianni, as a Frank Reich disciple, definitely wants to run lots of12 personnel. Currently the team doesn't have an established TE2 behind Dallas Goedert. Calcaterra isn't a complete TE, but has a lot of potential as a "big slot" type. I think he's got a chance to earn reps in those packages, alongside AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert.
Round 1, Pick 16 - Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
The quest to find a reliable WR2 option alongside Terry McLaurin has been largely fruitless over the past few seasons. Neither Dyami Brown nor Curtis Samuel did much last season to make the Commanders feel comfortable about rolling with them another season. Dotson adds another body to the position, offering a crisp and savvy route running skillset and some elite ball tracking and body adjustment. McLaurin's future in Washington is also currently up in the air, as he is in the final year of his rookie deal and may well hold out for a new contract. So Dotson figures to get a lot of targets, one way or another.
Round 2, Pick 47 - Phidarian Mathis, IDL, Alabama
If Dotson is a potential contingency plan for Terry McLaurin, Mathis is a definite contingency plan for DaRon Payne. The 2018 first rounder is in the final year of his rookie deal, playing on his fifth year extension. The team seems reluctant to give him a long-term deal beyond that, likely thinking ahead about the money that will need to be paid to Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Mathis is a carbon copy of Payne, and would allow Washington to continue doing what it likes to do upfront while playing on a much cheaper deal.
Round 3, Pick 98 - Brian Robinson, RB, Alabama
Robinson is a powerful downhill runner with under-appreciated quickness and agility. He could push Antonio Gibson into more of a third down role, taking more of the true running down snaps and offering value in short yardage situations. Gibson is still a playmaker, especially catching the ball out of the backfield, but Robinson supplements the backfield with his power and toughness.
Round 4, Pick 113 - Percy Butler, S, Louisiana
Washington's secondary needs retooling after a disappointing season last year. Bobby McCain was a good player for them at free safety last season, and was rewarded with a new two-year deal. However, he's nearing age 30 and his current contract has an opt-out following the 2022 season. Percy Butler is a speedy, rangy player who could take over the starting job from McCain if he can hone his instincts a bit more.
Round 5, Pick 144 - Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Howell joins his NC teammate Dyami Brown in heading about 300 miles north to the nation's capital. Once thought of as a first round lock, Howell dropped all the way to the fifth round after a disappointing 2021 season. Carson Wentz is the likely starter in 2022, and there's little reason to think Taylor Heinicke won't be the primary backup. But Wentz's deal has an out after this year, and Heinicke will be a 2023 free agent. If neither player is retained, Howell's role with the team could expand significantly.
Round 5, Pick 149 - Cole Turner, TE, Nevada
Turner is a one dimensional player, projecting more as a "F" tight end than a true "Y" due to limited capabilities as a blocker. However, there's an easy to visualize spot for him in the team's future plans. Logan Thomas is 30 years old and coming off a season ending knee injury, meaning his future with the team could be limited. 2021 draft pick John Bates has starting capability due to his plus-level talent as a blocker and developing pass catching skills, but Turner could slot in behind him as a TE2 come 2023.
Round 7, Pick 230 - Chris Paul, OT, Tulsa
Paul was a teammate of first round pick Tyler Smith, and played with a similar nasty attitude. He lined up primarily at right tackle his last few seasons in college, and there's a backup spot up for grabs in Washington behind Sam Cosmi. I figure Paul sticks there early on, and has a chance to develop a career as a swing tackle.
Round 7, Pick 240 - Christian Holmes, CB, Oklahoma State
Washington's corners struggled with keeping things in front of them last season. Man-coverage specialists like William Jackson had a tough time staying sound in their assignments, and it led to a lot of big plays. Holmes is far from exciting in terms of athletic prowess, but his tape shows a very technically sound player who understood Oklahoma State's coverage assignments. I doubt he sees much starting time, but he's definitely the type of defensive back that Ron Rivera wants to bring into the fold.