“The Amateur Ward”: Is There No Such Thing as an NFC East Defense?
Continuing the theme of Draft recaps and such, this week we’ll look at the NFC East. With so many NFC East fans on this site, now would be a great time to get an NFC East article up. Personally, I love the NFC East and seeing all the trash talking going on in the division, but it is also a division with some very suspect secondaries and defensive lines. The underbelly of the NFC East teams truly is the inability to defend against more physical offensive lines, and the propensity with which they are exposed in the secondary. Throw in the fact that the division winner is a revolving door pretty much every season (can the Eagles repeat their division title this season?), and you know that the division is going to be a battle royale. Now that we briefly touched on the NFC East overview, before I start spewing my opinions too much, let’s look at the drafts by the NFC East.
Best Pick: Jordan Matthews (WR) – With the departing of DeSean Jackson, the Eagles need a reliable receiver to step up opposite Riley Cooper. Jeremy Maclin is penciled in as the WR2 in Philly, but it remains to be seen whether he is recovered from his torn ACL. All signs point to Maclin being ready to contribute once again in an explosive Eagles offense, but there will still be opportunities for Matthews to contribute right away out of the slot. At 6’3″ with a 4.46 40 time, corners will have a tough time covering him, as he has true breakaway speed. The all-around package this season for Matthews could give fantasy owners an 800 receiving yard/6 TD campaign. Target him early in Dynasty drafts and enjoy the production (Photo courtesy al.com)
Worst Pick: Marcus Smith (OLB/DE) – Truth be told, the Eagles need a pass rush, as they finished dead last against the pass last season. Some see the Eagles as a complete team, but if you look at their defense, they were among the worst NFL defenses last season (29th). They accumulated only 37 sacks; 20th in the league. While Smith might have been a bit of a reach (the Eagles could have likely nabbed him in the 2nd or 3rd round), he should help shore up an anemic pass rush. He will likely be thrown into the fire from the beginning of the season, however, so he could be exposed early. He’s more of a potential deeper league dynasty option as the jury is out on whether or not he will be worth the 26th pick the Eagles spent on him. While not a bad pick by the Eagles, it’s a pick that will be scrutinized very harshly by most if he doesn’t pan out.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Josh Huff (WR) – Huff was an excellent pick by the Eagles, as they need help in the return game. Likely to open the season as the Eagles 4th receiver, Huff could see some adequate time on pass plays, and in 3rd downs when the Eagles need another receiver on the field. A bit undersized at 5’11”, Huff won’t be able to go up against bigger corners, but given his speed, could break a few passes out for a score. Look for his main contribution to be in the return game, but he is also a nice sleeper option at receiver in Philly, especially if a receiver ahead of him goes down.
Best Pick: Morgan Moses (OT) – With Tyler Polumbus a free agent after this season, the Redskins went ahead and grabbed one of the better offensive tackles in the draft in Morgan Moses. Expected to potentially start later in the season, Moses should help protect Robert Griffin and open some holes for Alfred Morris to run through. The concern here, though, is that Moses will need a little seasoning before being thrown into the fire, and some view him as the answer going into the 2015 season. If you look at Moses’s body of work at Virginia, however, you’ll see a smart football player who knows how to block, but can sometimes be slow getting to the block. Will he start in 2014? At some point, but he will have a bit of a learning curve as well, especially given the task of protecting RGIII (Photo courtesy of csnphilly.com).
Worst Pick: Bashaud Breeland (CB) – Breeland isn’t ready to start, nor will he start behind DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson. Breeland needs to work on becoming more effective in covering receivers, and coming up more in the pass rush. He will contribute more in the special teams game this season, and with the team’s top three corners signed through 2015 (Hall, Amerson, and Porter), Breeland will be given the opportunity to study and become better in the passing game, where if all goes as planned he could be the team’s future 3rd cornerback. He’s a risky pick, but the Redskins secondary needs help, and if one of their other three corners goes down, Breeland might be forced into action.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Lache Seastrunk (RB) – The Redskins nabbed Alfred Morris in the 6th round of the 2012 draft, and the Redskins nabbed another good RB in the 6th round again, in Seastrunk. A good low runner with great breakaway speed, he brings shades of a more raw version of LeSean McCoy to mind. He’s a good bet to be the backup to Morris this season and be a sleeper in the passing game, due to his pass-catching ability. The concern with Seastrunk is that he tries to do too much sometimes, and doesn’t always let the play develop for him to run. In other words, he tries to force the issue some, leading to negative plays. If you are looking for a sleeper rookie RB, and a good Morris cuff, look no further than Seastrunk and you could reap some rewards as early as this season, with this tough runner.
Best Pick: Zack Martin (OG) – Drafted as a tackle out of Notre dame, the Cowboys will move Martin to right guard in hopes of creating more holes for the run game, and to provide Romo with better protection. The hope here is that Martin will team up with Travis Frederick (2013 1st round pick) and Tyron Smith (2011) to bolster the line and seal more games late with the run game, keeping the defense on the sidelines. Martin is agile, quick off the snap, and keeps his own against defenders as long as he stays low, but also lacks length and lateral range, limiting him to the guard spot in the NFL. With Romo coming off his second back surgery, Martin will be relied upon to step in immediately and bolster the line.
Worst Pick: Anthony Hitchens (OLB) – The Cowboys reached for Hitchens in the 4th round, when they could have gotten the Iowa outside linebacker in the 6th round. The Cowboys need defensive line help, especially with the losses of DeMarcus Ware (Broncos) and Jason Hatcher (Redskins), but Hitchens may not fit the bill. It appears as if the Cowboys will try Hitchens at inside linebacker. They should, however, give him some time to adjust to the NFL, as he can be lured the wrong way in plays, reacts to plays instead of anticipating plays, and has trouble with misdirection. For now, he profiles as a backup and a linebacker who should be utilized in situations where his deficiencies won’t hurt a team, and he can run to the ball to make the tackle.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Demarcus Lawrence (OLB) – One of the better edge-rushers from the draft, out of Boise State, Lawrence could challenge to open the season at defensive end or strongside linebacker. Lawrence is very quick off the line, agile and rangy, and can slip past offensive linemen with ease to sack the quarterback. His weaknesses are that he can sometimes get over aggressive and miss the tackle, and can be controlled by tight ends or larger linemen. Lawrence will be a contributor on the Dallas defensive line this season and is a sleeper to post 7.5 sacks. He has all the makings of a potential beast at OLB or DE and his rookie season could be the beginning of a very productive NFL career (Photo courtesy of trendspig.com).
New York Giants
Best Pick: Odell Beckham Jr. (WR) – With the departure of Hakeem Nicks (Colts), the Giants needed another receiver who could make downfield plays, and Beckham should be able to step in immediately. Touted as the best route runner in the draft, Beckham is quick, elusive, and can break the defender’s jams with his shiftiness. The trouble he is going to face at the next level is going up against more physical defenses (Alabama and Florida held him in check), as he can be over-matched by more physical defenders and sometimes has a tendency to drop the ball, as he doesn’t see the ball into his hands. Beckham is on the short list for potential rookie of the year candidates, and should he be able to quickly establish chemistry with Eli Manning, could easily emerge as the Giants WR2 behind Victor Cruz. Grab him while ya’ can in dynasty leagues as your WR3 or flex. Leagues counting return yards should nab him earlier than you normally would, as he is dangerous in the return game and will return one or two to the house.
Worst PIck: Jay Bromley (DT) – His defensive prowess is great, as he flat-out dominated at Syracuse (10 sacks in 2013, and 121 tackles in 50 games at the ‘Cuse). He was slated as a late round pick, but the Giants reached for him in the 3rd round. Part of the reason the Giants reached for Bromley was because they lost their best DT Linval Jospeh (MINN) and are thin on the defensive line, other than Jason Pierre-Paul. Bromley is expected to enter the tackle rotation in New York to help in the run defense and pass rush (Giants had a mere 34 sacks last season), and has nice playmaking ability, as he gets off the line quickly, penetrates gaps, and has shown the ability to meet the quarterback or stuff the running back. Where he lags is the ability to shed tacklers when he’s engaged; doesn’t always keep consistent pad level, limiting his ability to shake defenders and get off the block; and could use some more pop in his game. He’s a solid tackler and will be useful in the run game, but he must work on pad level and shaking defenders.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Andre Williams (RB) – Williams will be the Giants starting running back by season’s end. Ya’ heard it here first. Slated starter Rashad Jennings is 29, and while he seems like he’ll be a serviceable RB with a respectable 4.3 yards/carry average for his career and very respectable receiving numbers (47/292 last season), he’s never seen above 163 carries in a season (had 163 last season in Oakland). It remains to be seen whether he can be a full-time back. David Wilson, the Giants RB2, was supposed to be the starter of the future starting last season, but he got injured in week 5 and continued to have fumbling and blocking issues for the Giants. Peyton Hillis is essentially a 3rd down back/short yardage back but will be utilized as more, as he can move for his size (6’2″, 250 RB with 4.1 career average yards per carry). Enter Williams into the equation (355 carries for 2177 rusting yards, 6.1 average yards per carry, and 18 scores) and you see why the Giants took him in the 4th round. He may not be that useful in the pass game, but his speed and explosiveness should enable him to break a few long runs off and be the RB the Giants have been looking for since Brandon Jacobs. Question – Do you feel lucky drafting a Giants RB these days? If so, grab Williams and Jennings, and leave Wilson on the wire. I got Williams down for 600/4 this season with upside for more, as he’ll be starter by mid-season.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the picks of all the NFC East teams, let’s see how the NFC East fans react. Maybe I was being nicer than I should have in some of the analyses, but I was trying to stick with the facts, and the fact of the matter is most of the NFC East secondaries are bad. The same can be said about some of the pass rushes (Dallas, NY, PHI). The division is trying to rebuild itself around defenses, and while defense may never be first and foremost with Chip Kelly in Philly, those who see the Eagles as a “complete” team are blinded by how bad they were against the pass last season. I don’t think the NFC East teams had as good of a draft as the NFC South or the NFC West (next week), but they definitely did a good job addressing needs and finding some steals in the draft (Redskins got Moses as a steal). As always, feel free to comment, doodle on, throw in the trash, like, rate, or even hang this on your wall for all I care, and tune in next week for the continued analyses. Suggestions for future topics are also welcomed, and will be considered.