Defenses improve all around NFC East after NFL draft

Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram stiff arms a defender.

Take a look around the various spots grading the 2017 NFL draft and you’ll soon realize the Eagles have some company among the top ranked classes. Their division rivals are sitting a little too close for comfort. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find an NFC East team in the bottom half of rankings anywhere. Maybe it’s a reliance on defense? Among the 12 picks the teams had on the first two days of the draft they took a combined 10 defensive players, with the Giants contributing the lone two offensive selections.

The Eagles’ positive draft isn’t about to be cancelled out by the Cowboys, Giants and Washington turning in their own good hauls, but you may as well get acquainted with the talent you might soon see frustrating the Birds.

Dallas Cowboys

They had the latest pick in the first round, so they’ll go first here. Like the Eagles, the Cowboys biggest concern entering the draft was cornerback: They lost two starters, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and to this point had signed Nolan Carroll to replace them. Also like the Eagles, the Cowboys spent their first three picks on a pass rusher and back-to-back corners. 

Taco Charlton became an every-down player as a senior at Michigan and had 9.5 sacks. At an intimidating 6-foot-6, he was a nice grab at 28 overall. Their two cornerback picks, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis (a second Michigan selection) might be even better value, coming at 60 and 92, respectively. Awuzie was oft-connected to the Eagles and should be ready to step into a starting role from day one. Lewis’ size (5-foot-10) and traits has him projected to a nickel role, which he should be ready to fill pending the outcome of a domestic violence charge.

Receiver Ryan Switzer (pick 133) was new Eagle Mack Collins’ teammate at North Carolina, and you should get used to hearing Cole Beasley comparisons now.

New York Giants

The Giants’ passing game continues to get scarier on the back of their first round pick: Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram, taken 23rd. With 6-foot-3, 236 pound size and 4.4 40-yard-dash, Engram looks more like a wide receiver running routes than a tight end. A First-Team All-American last year, he racked up 926 yards and eight touchdowns. He’ll be their most dangerous weapon at the position since Jeremy Shockey. He’ll be intimidating playing next to Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard.

They didn’t waste any time replacing Johnathan Hankins at defensive tackle either. Their second pick, No. 55, went to the second Alabama defensive tackle to go off the board, Dalvin Tomlinson. He moved around different spots on the line and excelled surrounded by the Crimson Tide’s talent. Guesses are he shouldn’t experience much of a change flanked by Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon in New York.

The news gets a little better from there. It’s hard to picture Jared Goff’s successor at Berkeley, Davis Webb, who the Giants took with the 87th pick, fulfilling the same role with Eli Manning. Wayne Gallman (Clemson, pick 140) might finally give them an answer at running back. 

Washington Redskins

Picking three spots after the Eagles, Washington had Johnathan Allen fall into their laps at 17. Tomlinson’s teammate along the Alabama defensive line, he had 10.5 sacks and won the Bednarik and Nagurski awards after returning for his senior season. He was considered among the top five players in the draft, but even with concerns about his shoulder durability, no one expected the slide to last this long. At least they didn’t take the similarly sliding O.J. Howard to pair up with Jordan Reed.

With their second pick they avoided moving to a second school, taking Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson 49th. Anderson made a living rushing the passer in college but will probably play a more traditional linebacking role in the pros, without great athleticism to come off the edge. Another favorite Eagles target, UCLA corner Fabian Moreau was the selection at 81, and should be a steal after a pectoral injury caused him to drop.

Washington had seven more picks on the draft’s third day, and finally looked to offense, spending five of them there. Of those, Oklahoma power runner Samaje Perine (pick 114) should be the one Eagles fans get used to seeing the most. He set the single game rushing record with 427 yards against Kansas as a freshman. He practically kept that pace up for the rest of his career, finishing with 4,122 yards and 49 touchdowns on the ground in three seasons.

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