Last week, we recapped the NFL Draft 1st and 2nd rounds of the AFC West and AFC East. This week, we are focusing on the same with the NFC West and NFC East. We are grading the teams based mainly on their first and second-round picks in the 2021 Draft.
Here are some main takeaways from the teams we discuss in this draft article:
- Cowboys went all-out on defense
- Giants made the right trades but may have another Plaxico situation
- Eagles finally have a worthy 1st round receiver
- The WFT is probably too fixated on defense
- Cardinals aren’t too concerned with their offensive line, apparently
- Rams drafted a 155lb WR and completely passed on their one major weakness…Center
- 49ers might have a legendary draft class
- Seattle thinks they are doing just fine
We are going in order by their draft position when we discuss these teams. Next week, we will go over the AFC North and South teams and their draft picks.
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Dallas Cowboys (Pick 12)
The Cowboys are set on offense. Even before the draft, the Cowboys had one of the most cemented offensive units in football. The biggest problem for the Cowboys has been their defense, which ranked among the worst in most defensive categories in 2020. We thought, going into the draft, the Cowboys would target defense (more specifically, a corner).
As it turns out, we were right to assume that. With both top corners gone by pick nine, the Cowboys opted to trade back a few spots, knowing their contingency option would be there. After the Eagles took a receiver, the Bears traded up to get Justin Fields, leaving the Cowboys with their top option on the board (Micah Parsons, ILB – Penn State) and a 2021 third-round pick in their pocket. The Cowboys spent their first six picks over four rounds on defensive players.
Not only was it one of the smartest draft day trades, but it also allowed the Cowboys to go even heavier on addressing their biggest weaknesses. For all the mockery the Cowboys drew over the past year for doing so little on the defensive side of the ball, picking up a stud inside linebacker who slipped well beyond his projected draft spot was a wise decision.
New York Giants (Pick 20)
One narrative heading into draft day was about how Dave Gettleman never trades back in drafts. Over eight seasons, Gettleman had failed to trade back even once. It’s surprising, sure. However, why is it such a big deal? On the one hand, I loved the trade the Giants made on draft day. Trading back from 11 to 20 and getting a late-round pick, plus a future first and fourth was great for them.
The Giants clearly wanted either Waddle or Smith at 11, but when the Cowboys traded back to the Eagles, Smith was taken at 10. Knowing their guy was gone, the Giants moved back nine spots with the opportunity to make an impact with any number of positions.
Instead of improving their weak defense or their bad offensive line, the Giants took a receiver with a lot of speed and that’s about it. Toney had a few gun-related issues at Florida and he only had one great season there, which typically doesn’t bode well for prospective NFL receivers. He also doesn’t have the best hands around. Just imagine Nelson Agholor with disciplinary issues and that’s Toney.
It was a great trade for the Giants, but ultimately a bad choice with their first-round pick. After all, I seem to remember a certain Giants receiver who had an infamous gun-related incident in a club a little over a decade ago. Alas, maybe the Giants forgot about ol Plaxico.
Philadelphia Eagles (Pick 10)
E-A-G-L-E-S…Eagles! The Eagles are soaring high after drafting possibly the best route runner and pure receiver in this class. Unlike last season’s purely needs-driven selection of Jalen Reagor, the Eagles got a first-class receiver with Devonta Smith.
Sure, there are some questions about how his 165-pound frame, but he’s a tremendous receiver with outstanding upside. The Eagles make a savvy move, trading up a few spots to get the last of the three top-tier receivers in the draft.
The best part is that they did it right in front of the Giants, who took a troubled Kadarius Toney after trading back. If the Eagles really believe in Hurts, Devonta Smith truly is a great choice to help bring some potency back to the passing game. I love the trade for both the Cowboys and Eagles.
Washington Football Team (Pick 19)
There are still a lot of questions outside of, “how big of a creep/scumbag is our owner”? One major question is, “are we going to pick a new name soon”? Unfortunately, neither of those seem like they’ll be resolved any time soon.
Instead, we have to digest what the WFT did in round one to improve their defensive-focused roster from 2020. It was surprising to many of us, but the WFT opted to build on their strong defense in the opening round.
One of the few potential holes in this defense is at linebacker, so Washington should now have one of the NFL’s truly elite defenses. With how bad the other defenses are within the division, Ryan Fitzpatrick should have a pretty easy time leading this team back to another playoff appearance.
Arizona Cardinals (Pick 16)
The Arizona Cardinals had a lot of momentum going into Week 11 last season. They were riding high (6-3) after the Hail Murray play to end the game against Buffalo. From Week 1 to Week 11, the Cardinals were among the best offenses in the league, scoring at least 21 points in every game. T
The following week, the Patriots laid out a blueprint to slow Murray and it flipped their whole season. The Cardinals ended the season 2-5 and missed the playoffs. With little buzz heading into the draft, the Cardinals sought to improve their defense first (despite having some very notable holes on the offensive line).
At pick 16, the Cardinals opted to go with an inside linebacker, Zaven Collins, from Tulsa. Collins is tall (6’5) and a versatile defender who should help anchor the run game. Linebacker and guard were the two most critical positions, so it’s good they addressed one. However, it’s a little strange the Cardinals didn’t go with a guard at some point in the draft.
Los Angeles Rams (No 1st Round Pick)
We often hear a lot about teams making bad trades, but the Rams seem to be fine with it. Technically, their trade for Jalen Ramsey really didn’t turn out to be that bad. However, losing out on three first-round picks really sucks when you look back on drafts and say, “We really could’ve gotten ___ at pick 25! In reality, first-round picks past pick 10 actually have a low hit rate.
Without their first-round pick, the Rams snagged Tutu Atwell in the late second round. He’s very fast and explosive, but he’s also 5’9 and 153 pounds. We have such small sample sizes for teams drafting severely undersized players, but it’s worrisome. I would be more worried, if I were a Rams fan, about the fact the Rams completely ignored their glaring hole at center.
They had the perfect opportunity to draft the center from Oklahoma but instead decided to go with yet another position they have plenty of depth in already. The wild part is, the Rams passed on a center the entire rest of the draft. Is there some mystery man we don’t know of? Is someone coming out of retirement just in time for the opener? I was not a fan of the Rams draft at all.
San Francisco 49ers (Pick 3)
Every year, I say the same thing about quarterbacks in the draft. I firmly believe the situation a quarterback is drafted into has more to do with determining success than the talent of the player. We’ve seen plenty of examples of this in the past, but think about Ryan Tannehill for a second.
Tannehill was drafted into a rough situation in Miami, under Adam Gase. Tannehill had a lot more downs than ups, and was inevitably signed by the Titans, where he blossomed into a Pro Bowl quarterback. Prior to this year’s draft, I thought the best QBs in this class were Trevor Lawrence and whomever the 49ers drafted at pick three.
Kyle Shanahan knows how to get the most out of his quarterbacks. The man-made Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard look good for stretches over the past two seasons. With that in mind, Shanahan drafted the most athletically gifted QB still on the board (toss-up between Lance and Fields).
We know the Niners love to use a lot of confusing formations, utilizing heavy running and quick passing schemes. Under these schemes, there will be plenty of short and intermediate passes to build a quarterback’s confidence and inflate people’s perception of that QB.
To me, in this scheme, Lance will certainly experience success when he finally gets the reins, but the real question will be, “will he reach the ceiling many think he is capable of?” Only time will tell.
After the opening round, the Niners went with a guard, two corners, and a Thunder (Trey Sermon) and Lightning (Elijah Mitchell) combination of running backs. I think the Niners had a stellar, once-in-a-decade type draft.
Seattle Seahawks (No 1st Round Pick)
Midway through last season, I was fooled into thinking the Seahawks may be on the fast track to postseason success again. We were seeing the “Let Russ cook” chants come to fruition, and it was amazing to see.
However, when the Seahawks offense hit a few snags in the passing game, Pete Carrol had seen enough. Instead of modifying the offense and making some small tweaks, Pete decided he’s absolutely finished with the idea of being a pass-first, aggressive offense. Carrol fired his offensive coordinator and made moves to suggest the Seahawks will be returning to the old mindset of, “We’re just going to be a run first team until we’re down a few scores late, and then we’ll have Russell Wilson bail us out again.”
It’s tragic, but it’s also a product of the early success the Seahawks had with Wilson and a dominant defense. In the draft, the Seahawks took another step back, in my opinion. They took Dwayne Eskridge in the second round, who should serve well as a return specialist and possibly in the slot. Eskridge is undersized (5’9, 187 pounds) but has good speed and good ball skills.
The Seahawks only drafted one defensive player the rest of the draft (Tre Brown, corner in Round 4). I don’t know if the Seahawks are just living in denial or have their priorities out of order. Either way, Seattle didn’t do much to improve their roster through the draft.
Looking for a high-value line? Take a look at this line from the DraftKings Online Sportsbook that we really like.
Washington Football Team to make the Playoffs: Yes +149
I’m not sure why the WFT is getting positive odds for the playoffs, but I’m here for it. As we discussed earlier, the WFT has an elite defense. They’re also the only team in that division with even an above-average defense. The Eagles will likely struggle with Hurts and have issues on the defensive end. The Cowboys are primed for shootouts each week, as they will struggle to develop their young defense.
The Giants are the big question mark, but I’m not sold on their offensive line’s ability to protect Daniel Jones. The Giants still need to improve on the defensive end as well. Frankly, the WFT is the clear favorite in this division. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, the WFT will have the offensive potency they’ve lacked now for a few years.