10 NFC East questions that need answers heading into the draft
Are the Eagles set at quarterback?
According to Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, Sam Bradford was the best quarterback prospect the orgnaization has seen since Peyton Manning. He added that Chip Kelly has done his research—watching Bradford play over 100 times. Having said that, some people in the know are still reporting that Kelly is trying to find a way to trade up for Marcus Mariota. One thing that Lurie did make clear is how high he values finding that franchise quarterback. With the injury risk that is tied to Bradford, it wouldn't be surprise to see the Eagles draft a quarterback not named Marcus Mariota. The Eagles have been linked to both Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty. Both prospects would be nice fits in Kelly's offensive scheme.
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Are the Redskins set at quarterback?
New Redskins GM Scot McCloughan has admitted that he is open to taking Marcus Mariota if he drops to the Redskins' first-round pick at No. 5 overall. McCloughan also admitted that he is stiill uncertain about picking up Robert Griffin's 2016 contract option. Several reports have surfaced that Jay Gruden does not view Griffin as a franchise quarterback, and can you blame him? His footwork and ability to drive the football to the intermediate levels with accuracy are giant question marks at this time. If the Redskins don't land Mariota, they could be interested in Colorado State QB Garret Grayson. Size and arm strength concerns are the lone blemishes on Grayson's resume, but Gruden has made it work before with a prospect with the same concerns in Andy Dalton. The Redskins could look to target him in the third round.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
In what round will the Cowboys upgrade at running back?
Jerry Jones recently said that he hopes all of the top running back prospects visit Valley Ranch in the coming weeks. This should come as no surprise after the Cowboys failed to invest anything more than a 'prove it' contract for Darren McFadden in this year's free agent class. It's a safe bet to say that the Cowboys will draft a running back, but predicting the round becomes more difficult. When they struck gold with DeMarco Murray, they only had to invest a third-round pick. Melvin Gordon would be a great fit for the Cowboys after playing in a similar blocking scheme at Wisconsin, but it would cost them their first-round pick. If they wait until day two, a bigger back like Boise State's Jay Ajayi could be on their radar. On day three, keep an eye out for Minnesota Gophers back David Cobb.
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Could the Giants actually go wide receiver again?
Just one year removed from drafting Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round, most expect that the Giants won't consider investing another top pick in a wide receiver. After all, they also have Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and they just invested free agent dollars in Dwayne Harris. However, it's important to keep in mind that GM Jerry Reese often adheres to a best-player-available approach. And with Cruz's recovery still an uncertainty, this might be a bigger need than given credit for. If either Amari Cooper or Kevin White is still on the board when the Giants' pick at No. 9 overall, they might be too talented for Reese to pass up. Cooper is a polished route runner with legitmate straight-line speed and a productive track record. White has already been compared to both Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Larry Fitzgerald in the pre-draft process.
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Will the Redskins first address luxury or need?
The Redskins have been linked to all of the top edge rushers, but it's fair to wonder if this is actually the direction that they will go in. With Ryan Kerrigan settled in at one outside linebacker spot, drafting a first-rounder would mean that second-year player Trent Murphy could be without a role in the starting lineup. Murphy finished his rookie season with strong marks as a run defender, according to Pro Football Focus, and he has the tools to improve as a pass rusher. Drafting an edge rusher seems more like a luxury when you consider the Redskins' need at right tackle. It's probably not time to give up on Morgan Moses, but after struggling mightily in 2014, it's not wise to project a major jump in 2015. If the Redskins want to get better now, they might be best off investing in one of the top offensive lineman.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportCharles LeClaire
Will the Eagles continue to neglect the offensive line?
Here's a quick recap of the Eagles' offensive line movement this offseason: longtime lineman Todd Herremans was released and Evan Mathis could be traded or released any second now. The Eagles haven't brought in any depth, and in Chip Kelly's offensive scheme, this won't work out. The linemen are expected to operate at a fast pace the entire game, and key starters Mathis and Jason Peters are now 33 years old. The Eagles had Matt Tobin to slide in as the starter at right guard when Herremans went down in 2014. According to Pro Football Focus, Tobin graded out very poorly in pass protection while making seven starts in 2014. Now they are expecting another unproven guard, Allen Barbre, to step in. If Kelly doesn't find an early offensive lineman or two, it won't matter who is playing quarterback.
Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY SJeffrey G. Pittenger
Are the Cowboys satisfied at defensive end?
After the brutal loss to the Packers, Jerry Jones vowed that the Cowboys would be players in free agency and that pass rusher would be a top priority. The Cowboys then went out and signed Greg Hardy to a one-year deal. Hardy was one of the five best defensive ends in football in 2013, but a domestic violence issue led to his missing the entire 2014 season. Hardy is likely to be suspended by the league and some have speculated that it would be for six games. Without any guaranteed money tied to Hardy's deal, the Cowboys could get rid of him fast if things get worse. The team is expecting second-year DE Demarcus Lawrence to step up, but that doesn't mean they won't cover their tracks with Hardy. Before free agency, I broke down why Preston Smith would be a great fit at DE in my Cowboys mock draft.
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In what round will the Giants upgrade at offensive line?
Earlier this offseason, Giants co-owner John Mara singled out the offensive line as an area where the Giants need to upgrade. Aside from depth signing Marshall Newhouse, the Giants didn't address this need in free agency. The good news is that there is a stacked class of offensive linemen entering this year's draft. If the Giants choose to use the ninth pick here, they can target this year's version of Zach Martin — Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat or La'El Collins. All project as early NFL starters. The Giants could also wait until day two to target someone like Ereck Flowers who has drawn comparisons to last year's first-rounder Greg Robinson. Either way, it seems likely that the Giants will invest an early selection on the line with the idea of finding an immediate starter at right tackle and kicking Justin Pugh inside to righ guard.
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How will the Eagles replace Jeremy Maclin?
In the same thought, Chip Kelly expressed confidence in his current receiving corps and also heaped praise on this year's wide receiver class. Kelly will likely follow the latter plan. Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff don't sound like the most dynamic combination, and the Eagles offense led the NFL in deep pass attempts last season. The vertical shots are a big part of what makes Kelly's scheme successful. Kelly is also correct; this is another unbelievably talented and deep wide receiver class. The Eagles can look to find Maclin's replacement with any of their first four selections. One option is Jaelen Strong. Strong has already met with the Eagles and he fits the profile nicely. At 6-feet-2-inches with 4.44 speed and a 42-inch vertical, big plays are likely in his future.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY SportsCasey Sapio
Where will teams find starting safeties?
Every NFC East team aside from the Cowboys is looking for a starting safety. The Redskins and Eagles have locked up one starter apiece, and the Giants are potentially looking for two new starting safeties. Unfortunately for these teams, we are looking at one of the weakest safety drafts in recent memory. Landon Collins is the clear-cut top safety prospect, but most scouts and analysts see him as more of a top-25 prospect, and the Giants and Redskins pick in the top 10. With no consensus second-best prospect, it will be interesting to see what type of prospect and what picks teams are willing to invest in what could potentially be a starter in 2015.