NFC East 2023 NFL Draft Preview

by Connor Donald · Fantasy Football

With the first wave of free agency over and the NFL Draft just around the corner. It is time to dive into the NFC East Team Needs for the 2023 NFL Draft.

What are their biggest needs heading into the NFL Draft? What are these teams most likely to do based on on Thursday night?

NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles

Key Additions: QB Marcus Mariota, RB Rashaad Penny, LB Nicholas Morrow, S Terrell Edmunds

Key Losses: DT Javon Hargrave, LB T.J. Edwards, S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, RB Miles Sanders, OL Isaac Seumalo, S Marcus Epps

Coming off a Super Bowl loss and 19 impending free agents, including seven defensive starters, the Philadelphia Eagles seemed destined for 2023 regression. Howie Roseman managed to keep his effective veteran cornerback duo of Darius Slay and James Bradberry in place for a couple more seasons. He replaced significant losses with cheap, one year, low-risk, high-reward options like: linebacker, Nicholas Morrow, safety Terrell Edmunds, and running back Rashaad Penny.

The Eagles are primed to remain a contender, and they haven’t even touched either of their two first round picks.

Defensive Tackle

Fletcher Cox is back on a team friendly deal, but his inconsistent play paired with age make him more a rotational defensive tackle versus a teams best defensive tackle. Javon Hargrave was a massive presence last year. Hargrave ranked No. 3 among interior defensive linemen with 66 pressures and tied for No. 4 with 12 sacks. Hargrave will be a body very much missed in the middle of this defense.

The Philadelphia Eagles will need two players to take big leaps forward. Last year’s first round pick Jordan Davis was great against the run, but lacked in the pass rush department last season. Davis missed time due to injury and didn’t see large sums of snaps. Also, 2021 third round selection Milton Williams, who has at best been a solid rotational player across the defensive line, is another player who needs to step up.

There are reports circulating about the reason embattled Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter isn’t taking visits with teams outside the top 10. This is that the Eagles are his “backstop” assuring him, if available at pick 10, he would be there choice.

Linebacker

Linebacker seems to be a need every year with the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s for three reasons. They don’t pay linebackers. They don’t invest high draft capital in linebackers. Their scheme has never valued or utilized the position with importance like others.

Edwards emerged in 2022 after an effective 2021 season and earned his payday from the Chicago Bears. Kyzir White’s┬áprove it deal showed an average at best linebacker with deficiencies in coverage. He followed Eagles defense coordinator, now Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon, to Arizona.

The Philadelphia Eagles have already started meeting with a number of edges in this class, who are considered more stand up rushers. Names like Georgia’s Nolan Smith and LSU’s BJ Ojulari are some of those names. There is a high likelihood that Vic Fangio disciple, and new Eagles defensive coordinator, Sean Desai, will implement a 3-4 base defense. This creates a need for an outside linebacker to pair with Haason Reddick.

NFC East: New York Giants

Key Additions: WR Parris Campbell, WR Jamison Crowder, TE Darren Waller, LB Bobby Okereke

Key Losses: OG Nick Gates, S Julian Love, C Jon Feliciano, WR Kenny Golladay

The NFC East’s biggest surprise, the New York Giants, shocked the NFL world last year with an overall lackluster roster. And subpar play on both sides of the football. They have put their faith in Daniel Jones with a major, arguably unwarranted, contract extension. Additionally, the Giants franchise tagged their most important offensive weapon in RB Saquon Barkley.

Joe Schoen has had a fairly effective offseason with limited major losses. Judge the Daniel Jones contract how you want, but something was there enough for Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen to say, we can work with this. They also got out of the brutal Kenny Golladay contract. Plus, they’ve now surrounded Daniel Jones with some new weaponry in wide receiver Parris Campbell and tight end Darren Waller. Th Giants may be an effective interior offensive line away from having an intriguing offense.

Oh yeah. They also snagged one of, if not, the best linebacker in free agency in Bobby Okereke. Slowly filling one hole at a time on a defense that will improve next season.

Cornerback

The New York Giants biggest need last offseason on defense was a lockdown corner. This season getting a lockdown corner now becomes the biggest need on either side of the ball. The current state of the Giants corners strikes little fear in opposing quarterbacks or pass catchers challenging them.

The cornerbacks allowed 14 of 25 passing touchdowns. New York Giants corner backs only accounted for one of the New York Giants six interceptions last season. Those six interceptions ranked No. 2 lowest in the league. A ball-hawking or shutdown corner can go a long way for this defense.

Wide Receiver

The wide receivers weren’t bad last season given who they are. Darius Slayton led the group with 724 yards. Richie James had 569 and Isaiah Hodgins had 351. This looks bad on the surface until you further dive in and see how bad this passing offense was overall. The Giants ranked No. 25 in attempts, No. 26 in yards, and No. 24 in touchdowns.

Plus, throw in that last year’s second round pick Wan’Dale Robinson only played in six games due to injury.

The receivers lacked separation ability. Their yards after catch per target also ranked in the bottom third of the league. Free agent acquisition Parris Campbell should be able to help with this. Then there is the Daniel Jones factor. Jones ranked No. 25 or worse in yards per attempt and air yards per attempt. The wide receivers didn’t help the quarterback. And vice versa, the quarterback really didn’t help the wide receivers. A dangerous combo.

Daniel Jones Efficiency Stats

The Giants don’t have an alpha wide receiver who will lead the way for this offense for years to come. Like division rival Philadelphia Eagles and A.J. Brown or the Dallas Cowboys and CeeDee Lamb. Unfortunately, most reports really don’t pay a picture of elite, franchise altering wide receivers coming out of this year’s draft class. However, with about half their current wide receiver depth chart on one year deals, it would behoove them to dive into this class at least once and starting filling out this depth chart.

Interior Offensive Line

The interior offensive line was bad last year, plain and simple. The New York Giants offensive line was responsible for a No. 3 highest pressures in the league with 212 . While rookie RT Evan Neal led the team in allowed pressures, the expectation is that he improves in 2023. Second and third in pressures allowed were starting RG Mark Glowinski and C Jon Feliciano. The two accounted for 62 pressures, or 29.2-percent of the team’s pressures, plus nine penalties. Both ranked in the bottom six at their respective positions for pressures allowed.

This type of interior offensive line pressure being allowed is just not sustainable for any type of quarterback or running game success. Jon Feliciano is gone, signed by the Sam Francisco 49ers. He is replaced by former Pittsburgh Steeler J.C Hassenauer who was signed by the New York Giants in free agency. Glowinski will likely be given another shot at RG due to a fairly expensive contract, $8.650 million dead money.

Neither Hassenauer, who has been largely an average backup moving between left guard and center, or Glowinski and his contract, should stop the New York Giants from looking at right guard or center options in the draft. Addressing one of the positions paired with Evan Neal improving in his sophomore season would be huge for this Giants offensive line.

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

Key Additions: WR Brandin Cooks, CB Stephon Gilmore, RB Ronald Jones

Key Losses: G Connor McGovern, TE Dalton Schultz, RB Ezekiel Elliot, WR Noah Brown

Nobody loves a good “We dem boys” or “It’s our year” jokes more than me. But the reality of the situation is this could be the Dallas Cowboys year and they remain a threat in the NFC East. They made two major, and I mean major, moves in acquiring new WR2 Brandin Cooks and new CB2, arguably 1B, Stephon Gilmore.

Their losses are really not major ones. Based on early NFL Draft meetings, they are dedicated to addressing the losses in the NFL Draft. They will be once again poised to compete atop the NFC East in 2023.

Running Back

Tony Pollard has been franchise tagged coming off a fibula fracture. Ezekiel Elliott has been released due to a contract impasse, and Ronald Jones has been brought in through free agency. None of these are exactly great situations for what was an effective Dallas Cowboys rushing attack in 2022 which ranked No. 7 in attempts per game and No. 9 in rushing yards per game.

Elliott had a major workload in this rushing attack over the last seven seasons. He carried the ball over 230 times in all of those seasons. Elliott averaged over four yards per carry in six of seven seasons and scored eight or more touchdowns in all seven seasons. This is all before looking at his impact in the receiving game, which was substantial as well prior to this season.

Tony Pollard cannot take on all this additional workload. His 193 carries were an NFL and college football career high last season. It was accompanied by a dip in his true yards per carry from 5.1 to 4.7 and his yards per carry from 5.5 to 5.2. Ronald Jones might alleviate some of this, but he’s proven to be ineffective in his career thus far. They have been linked Texas stud Bijan Robinson.

Interior Defensive Line

Micah Parsons is the heart and soul of the Dallas Cowboys defense, but he definitely cannot do it by himself. Getting some attention off him could take Parsons to another level. If you can imagine there being another level higher than his 106 pressures and 13.5 sacks of 2022.

The interior defensive line for the Cowboys was a fairly heavy rotation in 2022. Only one player took over 500 snaps, Osa Odighizuwa. Only two had sacks, Odighizuwa produced four sacks and Neville Gallimore produced one. Bolstering the interior defensive line could be a potential game changing move for the Cowboys.

NFC East: Washington Commanders

Key Additions: QB Jacoby Brissett, OT Andrew Wylie, OL Nick Gates, LB Cody Barton

Key Losses: LB Cole Holcomb, QB Carson Wentz, QB Taylor Heinicke

The Washington Commanders look destined to waste a top ten defense again in 2023. The Commanders seem happy with Sam Howell and another bridge quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, in leading their offense. The Commanders have not been able to get it right at quarterback since Kirk Cousins’ 2017 departure. The following quarterbacks have started seven games or more over the last five seasons: Alex Smith, Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Taylor Heinicke, and Carson Wentz

Offensive Line

The Washington Commanders offensive line was one of the least efficient last season. Per PFF offensive line pass blocking efficiency, which measures pressures allowed per snap, they ranked No. 31 with a score of 81.6. They were bottom ten across the board in: pressures, hurries, hits, and sacks allowed.

Free agent acquisition right tackle Andrew Wylie will be an upgrade over the platoon of Sam Cosmi, who moves inside to right guard, and Cornelius Lucas. And the left side of the line seems set for this season at least. This is mostly due to contractual obligations with Charles Leno, who carries a $8.250 million dead cap hit. While his guard counterpart Andrew Norwell is in the final year of his deal.

The average age of their starting offensive line is 29 years old with Samuel Cosmi being the youngest at 24. All the Commanders offensive linemen but Andrew Wylie are free agents in or before 2025. This tells us the position is a need in the 2023 NFL Draft. If you can’t figure out the quarterback position, the best thing you can do is ensure they are one of the best protected quarterbacks.

Tight End

The Commanders have a pretty good duo of running backs and a really intriguing trio of wide receivers. Tight end is a very different story.

Logan Thomas has only played in 20 games over the last two seasons and will be 32 to start the season. Thomas hasn’t proven himself an irreplaceable asset in the offense. His best season was three years ago, where he had 110 targets, but only 670 yards. He hasn’t made it over 350 yards in any other season. John Bates is still raw and not quite ready for the spotlight.

Logan Thomas Career Stats

In what is being called a historically deep tight end draft class, this is a chance to secure the position in Washington. Plus the opportunity to add more weapons for their quarterback is always a bonus. This is especially considering the Commanders passing offense ranked No. 21 last season in pass yards per game and per attempt.

Defensive Back

As noted above, the Washington Commanders are a top ten defense in the league. Their defensive line is really good. If there was a weak spot in this defense, you can argue either cornerback or linebacker is the weak link. I would prioritize cornerback over linebacker.

After starting the season allowing over 200 passing yards in four straight games, the Commanders secondary only allowed over 200 yards passing two times the rest of the season. This was good for No. 4 best defense in total passing yards allowed. However, they ranked No. 23 in passing touchdowns allowed, 26 total, and No. 28 in interceptions, nine total all season.

While the corners may not have allowed the big plays or tons of yards, they did allow a large chunk of their points through the air. The rushing defense ranked No. 5 in touchdowns allowed on the ground, allowing only ten total. An upgrade to a playmaker or shutdown cornerback seems a necessity for this defense to keep the ball out of the end zone.