NFC East: Weighing The Eagles & Giants' First Round Options

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I think we've done just about all we can to preview the Cowboys' possible options with their No. 16 overall pick, and we're finally, mercifully getting close to decision time.

With all the attention paid to the eventual pick in Dallas, though, I realized I'd hardly spent any time considering the options of their rivals in the NFC East. As tightly contested as the division was last year, you'd imagine the right first-round draft pick can make a world of difference – just consider the impact Robert Griffin III made as a rookie in 2012.

Washington will of course miss out on a chance at the No. 2 overall pick this year, thanks to the trade that brought Griffin to D.C. Aside from that glaring omission, it's pretty remarkable how many similar needs the other three teams in the division have with each other.

The Giants, Cowboys and Eagles all pick within 10 spots of each other – No. 12, No. 16 and No. 22, respectively. [embedded_ad]

The Eagles rallied to the division title over a strong second half, largely thanks to one of the best offenses in the league. Like the rest of the East, though, their defense struggled – largely thanks to an atrocious pass defense. Philly added Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll in free agency, but that defense could still use some help – possible a pass rusher or two.

The release of DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant also creates questions about wide receiver depth behind Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.

New York's biggest strength is probably its secondary after a busy free agency period saw the Giants re-sign Stevie Brown and add Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as well as Walter Thurmond. The defensive line looks like a glaring weakness, however, after the losses of Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph in free agency.

The Giants' offensive line is also in transition. They've brought in several new faces to help improve what was an awful unit last year, but few of those look like guarantees to start – especially if they spend the No. 12 pick on a top-notch blocker.

Big Blue could stand to gain a few more receiving options, as well, as the loss of Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Myers leaves few targets behind Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle.

So, to recap: the Giants and Eagles are dealing with a dearth of pass rushers, shaky secondaries and depth issues for the offensive line and receiver corps.

These all sound like similar talking points to what we've been discussing in Dallas, do they not?

Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. both released their latest mock drafts on ESPN.com on Tuesday. I'll get into what they selected for Dallas later this week, but they both addressed the above needs for New York and Philadelphia.

Kiper has the Giants picking coveted Cowboys target Aaron Donald, while he has Philly opting for offense with towering receiver Kelvin Benjamin. McShay reversed those two decisions, with New York taking LSU speedster Odell Beckham Jr. to help the receiving corps, and athletic cornerback Justin Gilbert joining up with Cary Williams in the Eagles' secondary.


They're both logical picks, but I'm going another direction with it. It'd be good theater if the Giants took one of the Cowboys' top targets just four spots ahead of them, but New York might opt to have faith in last year's draft. They did lose Joseph to Minnesota, but they return Cullen Jenkins. They also spent a second round pick on defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and a third round pick on defensive end Damontre Moore.

With the offensive line ravaged by injuries and departures, and Eli Manning being the key to the offense's success, I'm guessing they opt for the offensive line. Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews will be long gone by the No. 12 pick, but Zack Martin and Taylor Lewan shouldn't be. My best guess is one of those two – probably Lewan.

The Eagles' secondary could definitely use some help, but I think I'd be surprised to see Philadelphia spend a first round pick on a defensive back after signing two starter-caliber free agents in Carroll and Jenkins. I think Anthony Barr would be perfect for the Eagles defense – a quick pass rusher who could play outside linebacker. Unfortunately for Philly, I highly doubt he'll be available at No. 22. Instead, I agree with Kiper that the Eagles nab a receiver to bolster the depth there.

Mike Evans and Beckham are probably off the board by No. 22, as well, but that seems a bit high for Benjamin. How about Southern Cal standout Marqise Lee? He doesn't possess the straight-line speed of Beckham, but he's a great route runner who could compliment the speediness already present on Philadelphia's roster.

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