The NFC is highly competitive with teams setting their sights on defending champion Seattle. The NFC West in particular is quickly closing in due to very good draft classes. Although much of the hype wasn’t of any substance, many teams in the conference had excellent drafts. I don’t believe in post draft grades as true evaluations occur at least three years down the road. With that said, we will give our initial thoughts on each team in the NFC:
Dallas - Much of the buzz surrounding the Cowboys was related to in state quarterback prospect Johnny Manziel. Jerry Jones resisted the temptation, instead going with a steady player in Notre Dame guard/tackle Zach Martin. He will be at least a versatile starter for years to come. Demarcus Lawrence was a risky pick in the second round but there is no doubt he wouldn’t have lasted much longer, raw but a high ceiling. The Boys did very well in the later rounds with Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens, Pittsburgh’s Devin Street, and one of my favorites, Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon. Dixon will be a special teams terror. Dallas had a very good draft but their current roster is void of a pass rusher, thus Lawrence must pan out.
New York Giants - Most pundits are in love with Odell Beckham Jr. I like him but certainly do not love him, especially at #12 overall. He should be a solid pro but I don’t see the game breaking ability that would warrant that high of a selection. Weston Richburg is a solid second round selection and he will be a serviceable starter. In the third round, the selection of Jay Bromley is certainly questionable, but we do love Andre Williams in the fourth round. Williams is a monster who if healthy could be a major addition for the Giants. A solid draft, but don’t see this class be a major factor in getting New York back to a championship level squad.
Philadelphia - I get the Eagles need for pass rushing help, but don’t believe Louisville linebacker/defensive end Marcus Smith, a tweener, is a first round talent nor the best on the board at that time. The second round selection of Jordan Matthews and third round selection of Josh Huff will be critical in replacing talented wideout Desean Jackson. Taylor Hart, a fifth round selection out of Oregon, could be a late round steal. Anticipate more pressure on Philly’s defense as teams offer a different strategy for Chip Kelly’s unique offense.
Washington - The Redskins didn’t have a first round selection as the bounty for RGIII is still being fulfilled. In the second round, they selected Trent Murphy who is a gritty, versatile defensive end who will bring it on every play. He should be a very good player for the Skins. Third round selection Morgan Moses is an intriguing player who could develop into a very nice tackle. The rest of the draft was questionable but really like Lache Seastrunk in the sixth round. He will make the roster. Jay Gruden’s first draft and first year will be an interesting follow.
Chicago - The Bears attacked their weaknesses with veracity. First round selection Kyle Fuller is a long rangy corner who should start from day one. Defensive tackle was a major area of concern. In the second round they selected LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson but I like third round tackle Will Sutton much better. He could be a high level starter out of the gate. Ka’Deem Carey slid for reasons only known by NFL execs, but the tape doesn’t lie. He was an ultra productive back at Arizona and will be a good relief option for Matt Forte. Brock Vareen is a competitive hard-nosed safety who will make the squad while David Fales is a perfect pick for quarterback guru Marc Trestman. They even did well with the sixth round selection of a punter. Pat O’Donnell is a very good athlete and excellent punter. Outstanding job by the Bears.
Detroit - The Lions have major needs in the secondary but found tight end Eric Ebron’s talent difficult to pass on. The selection of Ebron was a head scratcher to many Detroit fans but they will be cheering immensely when this talent hits the field. BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy is a very good and versatile backer. He will be a major factor. Center Travis Swanson in the third round should be a very solid player. The rest of the draft was puzzling at best.
Green Bay - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a very talented safety who will be a big upgrade on the back end. Davante Adams is a talented receiver, who no doubt will look like a great second round pick with Aaron Rodgers throwing to him. In the fifth round, the Pack selected home state wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and in the seventh, small school stud Jeff Janis. Green Bay improves Rodgers targets, resulting in a good draft.
Minnesota - The Vikings moved down a spot and then selected Anthony Barr. Many stated #9 overall was too high for Barr but I see an extremely talented pass rusher who will only get better. They traded back into the first round to take quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Although he has flaws, he is certainly better than anyone on their current roster. Scott Crichton, David Yankey and Antone Exumall will get plenty of snaps in their rookie year. Crichton in particular could be a force. Excellent job.
Atlanta - The Falcons hit it out of the park with their first two selections. Tackle Jake Matthews is an excellent player who will start from day one. He has the talent to be an upper echelon tackle. In the second round they selected Ra’Shede Hageman, a gifted defensive tackle from Minnesota. He often lacks effort, but when he is at the top of his game he can be a dominant force. The rest of Atlanta’s draft was sketchy but expect Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo to get snaps.
Carolina - The Panthers have a major need at the receiver position thus they selected Florida State wideout Kelvin Benjamin. Pundits use catch phrases such as catch radius,etc. but can Benjamin get open? Personally, I don’t see it. Second round selection Kony Ealy could be a major contributor as a pass rusher during his rookie season. I do like sixth round selection Tyler Gaffney, a gritty runner who will contribute on special teams as well.
New Orleans - First round selection Brandin Cooks is an absolute burner. He can get in and out of breaks with ease and is explosive after the catch. He will put up big stats as a rookie. Second round corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a large corner- somewhat of a risk in the second round but is the new prototype from the Seattle model. Fourth round linebacker Khairi Fortt is a talent project while fifth rounder Vinnie Sunseri should be a good addition. A solid draft for a team looking to again compete for a NFC championship.
Tampa Bay - The Bucs are building targets for Josh McCown or potentially Mike Glennon. The first round selection of Mike Evans will provide a big third down and red zone target. He is a skilled athlete with very good hands and body control. Austin Seferian-Jenkins should start out of the gate at tight end and will be a big target. Charles Sims will get plenty of playing time, especially on third down. He possesses outstanding receiving skills for a running back. Look out for speedy sixth round selection Robert Herron. Tampa Bay will experience a quick turn around with Lovie Smith at the helm.
Arizona - Many viewed the first round selection of Deone Bucannon as a reach, but in our rankings he was our #1 safety, free or strong. He is a big hitter who also possesses ball hawking skills. In the second round they may in fact have reached with the selection of Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas. He is green but has plenty of athletic ability. Kareem Martin, a third round selection out of North Carolina, looks the part but needs some work in the technique and effort departments. They didn’t stop with the surprise picks there and instead picked little known receiver John Brown out of Pittsburgh State then topped that with Logan Thomas in the fourth round. There were many reaches for the Cardinals and in due time there will be no middle ground grades on this draft, big hit or big failure.
San Francisco - The Niners had a bounty of picks, traded time and time again, and of course came away with some rugged players who will bring it. Safety Jimmie Ward is a gamer who packs punch and second rounder Carlos Hyde is eerily similar to current starter Frank Gore. Third rounders Marcus Martin and Chris Borland will also contribute. A very good draft for the Niners who once again will compete for the championship.
Seattle - The Seahawks maneuvered out of the first round then got a potential deep threat with the second round selection of Paul Richardson. He is a speedy receiver who will help lift the top off the defense. Fourth round selection Kevin Norwood will also be a contributor. The defending champs took some reaches outside of receivers but of late their picks have been golden.
St. Louis - The Rams have had a multitude of picks in the last two drafts due to the RG3 trade and they have made the most of it. In the first round they selected Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald and both have the potential to be stars. Second rounder LaMarcus Joyner is a good, tough all around player. Running back Tre Mason in the third round will prove to be an excellent selection. He is an ultra quick back who can run between the tackles. We absolutely love Garrett Gilbert in the sixth round. He is a big arm quarterback who could be a big time steal in a few years. Overall, the Rams are quickly becoming a major threat in the very tough NFC West.
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