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April 16, 2008

NFC East: Receivers are a priority

Rivals.com has partnered with NFL scout and draft expert Frank Coyle of draftinsiders.com to analyze the five biggest needs of each NFL team. Today, we look at the NFC East.

Three teams in the NFC East enter the 2008 Draft looking for playmakers at wide receiver. The division that produced three playoff teams should find help in the bottom of the first round, like Texas star Limas Sweed, that can make an early impact.

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys | New York Giants | Philadelphia Eagles | Washington Redskins

Dallas (13-3 in 2007)
Head coach: Wade Phillips (Second year)
Key needs: 1. Wide receiver 2. Cornerback 3. Running back
1. Wide receiver - Starting receivers Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn will be entering their 13th seasons this fall. There is little depth and experience behind them, other than the recently re-signed Patrick Crayton. The best value could be Texas' Limas Sweed, Michigan State's Devin Thomas or California's DeSean Jackson with one of their two No. 1 picks. They like Houston's Donnie Avery and Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett in the second round.
2. Cornerback - The Cowboys like starting corners Terrence Newman and Anthony Henry, but there is no depth. Newman is a shutdown defender, but the Cowboys' nickel and dime packages struggled. Thus, another good cover corner makes sense. There are several reports that the Cowboys are in trade talks with the Tennessee Titans to acquire Adam "Pacman" Jones. In the draft, they are looking at Arizona's Antoine Cason, Kansas' Aqib Talib and Virginia Tech's Brandon Flowers late in the first round and Auburn's Pat Lee and Indiana's Tracy Porter with their second-round pick. They hope corners such as Colorado's Terrence Wheatley and USC's Terrell Thomas will be available in the middle rounds.
3. Running back - Julius Jones was lost in free agency and there is little behind Marion Barber. It is an area the Cowboys most likely will address with one of their top four picks. They are still attempting to trade up and land Arkansas' Darren McFadden in the top 10. They could shock fans and select Oregon's Jonathan Stewart with one of their first-round picks. They also like Arkansas' Felix Jones, Rutgers' Ray Rice, Texas' Jamaal Charles and East Carolina's Chris Johnson with their late first-round pick or with their second-round pick.
4. Guard/tackle - The Cowboys improved in protecting Tony Romo last season, but every starter will be at least 30 by midseason. They most likely will address this area fairly early in the draft. They like Nebraska's Carl Nicks and UTEP's Oniel Cousins, and both are ideal candidates with experience at both guard and tackle. They probably would be able to land them in the second or third rounds. They like Auburn's King Dunlap and Kansas' Anthony Collins in the third round.
5. Safety - The Cowboys need depth and hope to address this area possibly early. Starters Roy Williams and Ken Hamlin generally play well. Williams is a force in run support but a liability in coverage, and Hamlin has been injury-prone. They like UTEP's Quintin Demps and Arkansas State's Tyrell Johnson in the third round, and at least one should be available.
New York Giants (10-6 in 2007)
Head coach: Tom Coughlin (13th year)
Key needs: 1. Safety 2. Linebacker 3. Wide receiver
1. Safety - The Giants added several defensive backs last season, with good results. They saw young cornerback Corey Webster finally produce over the second half of the season. Rookie corner Aaron Ross was a fine addition as their No. 1 pick. But they lost free safety Gibril Wilson in free agency and strong safety James Butler is barely adequate. They could address both spots early this year, with safety the higher priority. They like safeties DaJuan Morgan (North Carolina State) and Kenny Phillips (Miami) with their first pick. They also like corners Antoine Cason (Arizona) and Brandon Flowers (Virginia Tech) late in the first round. They will consider safeties Tyvon Branch (Connecticut) and Tyrell Johnson (Arkansas State) in the third round. They like corners Justin King (Penn State), Jack Williams (Kent State) and Terrence Wheatley (Colorado) in the third and fourth rounds.
2. Linebacker - The Giants suffered two losses in free agency and added veteran Danny Clark as a stop-gap addition. They have little depth. They need a middle 'backer and should get a chance at Oklahoma's Curtis Lofton and Penn State's Dan Connor in the first round. They are hoping weakside 'backers Erin Henderson (Maryland) and Xavier Adibi (Virginia Tech) are on the board in the second round. They are considering moving Antonio Pierce to the outside, but only if they get a premier middle man.
3. Wide receiver - The Giants hope veteran Amani Toomer returns for one more season, though he may be hard-pressed to hold off young Steve Smith for the starting job. Sinorice Moss has been a huge disappointment and could be available in trade talks. Plaxico Burress is a fine No. 1 receiver but there is little depth. They will consider Michigan State's Devin Thomas as a surprise No. 1 pick. They like Virginia Tech's Eddie Royal in the second round, and his return skills are a bonus. They also like Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett in the third round.
4. Offensive line - The Giants' front did a fine job last season but there is marginal depth. They also have some age on the inside and could address this unit with a top-100 selection. They like Toledo's John Greco and Pitt's Mike McGlynn in the third and fourth rounds. Both are tough, versatile linemen who are capable of playing a few positions.
5. Defensive line - The Giants' front four has been the staple of the team's entire defense. Depth is an issue here, though LB Mathias Kiwanuka could move back to end fairly easy. That would make the tackle spot the higher priority.
Philadelphia (8-8 in 2007)
Head coach: Andy Reid (10th year)
Key needs: 1. Wide receiver 2. Offensive tackle 3. Defensive end
1. Wide receiver - The Eagles signed Kevin Curtis before the 2007 season and he was a fine addition. But they still lack a true No. 1 receiver and like Texas' Limas Sweed and California's DeSean Jackson in the first round. Jackson's return skills could tip the scale in his favor. They also like Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett and Houston's Donnie Avery in the second round.
2. Offensive tackle - Starting tackles William Thomas and Jon Runyan are both 33 and each has had injury problems. Tackle is one of the strongest positions in this draft, and Pitt's Jeff Otah and Boston College's Gosder Cherilus are the most likely to be available at No. 19 in the first round.
3. Defensive end - The Eagles will consider drafting an end early; there is a deep group of ends in this draft. At No. 19 overall, they may have a chance at Miami's Calais Campbell, Auburn's Quentin Groves or Clemson's Phillip Merling. They like USC's Lawrence Jackson and Virginia Tech's Chris Ellis in the second round. These are defenders with the versatility to fill a few roles in different schemes.
4. Defensive back - This area has become a problem despite the signing of free-agent cornerback Asante Samuel. Veteran corner Lito Shepherd is on the trading block and could be involved in a draft-day deal. The Eagles have little depth at corner or safety and could take cornerbacks Antoine Cason (Arizona) or Aqib Talib (Kansas) at No. 19. They like safeties DaJuan Morgan (North Carolina State) and Kenny Phillips (Miami), though not at the No. 19 spot. Expect a fairly high selection at both positions, and the talent level available falls fairly quickly at safety.
5. Linebacker - The Eagles have young talent in Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong and free-agent signees Chris Clemons and Rocky Boiman. That may not stop them from using an early selection here if the value is good in the first round, such as with Oklahoma's Curtis Lofton and Tennessee's Jerod Mayo. They also like Georgia Tech's Philip Wheeler and Purdue's Stanford Keglar and will consider them in the second and/or third rounds.
Washington (9-7 in 2007)
Head coach: Jim Zorn (First year)
Key needs: 1. Offensive line 2. Safety 3. Linebacker
1. Offensive line - The Redskins lost guard Derrick Dockery in free agency and replaced him with Pete Kendall. But they have little depth, especially at tackle, where both starters are over 30. They may attempt to address the tackle spot in the first round, though it's unlikely they will have a chance at the top three prospects. They like Pitt's Jeff Otah and Boston College's Gosder Cherilus in the first round. They also like Nebraska's Carl Nicks, Kansas' Anthony Collins and Auburn's King Dunlap in the second and third rounds.
2. Safety - The death of Sean Taylor left this area thin, though the emergence of last year's top pick, LaRon Landry, gives them a stud defender. They are considering top-rated safeties Kenny Phillips (Miami) and DaJuan Morgan (North Carolina State) with the 21st overall pick, though it's not their highest-need area. They are considering trading down in the first round to add another top-100 selection. They like Arkansas State's Tyrell Johnson and Arizona State's Josh Barrett in the third round area. On the second day, they have Notre Dame's Tom Zbikowski and LSU's Craig Steltz on their short list.
3. Linebacker - The Redskins saw Rocky McIntosh get injured late in the '07 season, which could affect his playing time this fall. They have little depth behind the starters. He was emerging as a fine playmaker on the weakside. They like Virginia Tech's Xavier Adibi, Maryland's Erin Henderson and Penn State's Dan Connor in the second round. In the middle rounds, they hope to have a chance at Florida State's Geno Hayes and LSU's Ali Highsmith.
4. Defensive end - The Redskins' front four did an average job last season and will need to add talent for this unit to be successful. They have little depth and would like to add a quality prospect for their line rotation. They like Clemson's Phillip Merling, Virginia Tech's Chris Ellis and USC's Lawrence Jackson in the second round. They also like Hampton's Kendall Langford and Wake Forest's Jeremy Thompson in the middle rounds.
5. Wide receiver - The Redskins will look to improve their receiving corps, likely with a top-100 selection. They like Texas' Limas Sweed and LSU's Early Doucet in the first round and Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett, Kansas State's Jordy Nelson and Houston's Donnie Avery in the second round.

Frank Coyle is a nationally known NFL scout who publishes Draft Insiders' Digest and www.draftinsiders.com. In it's 16th season, Draft Insiders' Digest is dedicated to year-round coverage of NFL and NCAA Football. He covers the NFL Draft and free agency extensively with a veteran scouting staff that provides insightful and unique information on players and team potential in the coming seasons. Draft Insiders' Digest is an extensive publication that produces 15 issues throughout the year and a Draft Yearbook with over 450 in-depth scouting reports.

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