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NFC East Draft Preview

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Posted: Monday April 10, 2000 09:52 PM

By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated

 

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Total picks: 8

Priority positions: RB, DL, OLB, G

The state of things: The Cardinals lack that No. 1 running back who can hoist a team on his shoulders in any given game and carry the ball 25-30 times. Michael Pittman and Mario Bates don't fit the bill, so look for the Cardinals to be in the market for either Virginia's Thomas Jones, if he lingers, or Alabama's Shaun Alexander. But Arizona is said to have faith in Pittman and may think defense instead. Defensive line, a deep position as recently as the offseason of 1999, is suddenly in need of bodies. Injuries have played a role, with Eric Swann, Rashod Swinger and Mark Smith all battling knee troubles. If Florida State defensive tackle Corey Simon somehow gets past No. 6 Philadelphia, the Cardinals may have their first-round decision made for them. An outside shot is New Mexico's Brian Urlacher, although the seventh pick is a high price to pay for him. In the middle rounds, look for a guard and a tight end to be the targets.

The hunch: Conventional wisdom says Arizona needs the premier back to ease the burden on young quarterback Jake Plummer. That's where Alexander comes in. But don't be shocked if the Cardinals cross folks up and address their sagging defensive line.

 

DALLAS COWBOYS

Total picks: 5

Priority positions: CB, LB, QB, WR

The state of things: The Cowboys have just one pick on the first day of the draft thanks to the Joey Galloway trade with Seattle, and that's No. 49, in the second round. But all that extra time on their hands won't be needed to deduce the Cowboys need assistance at both cornerback and linebacker. With Deion Sanders expected to be in a Redskins uniform at some point in 2000, Dallas must start re-stocking in the cover-man department. The Cowboys signed Ryan McNeil away from Cleveland, and still have the two Kevins, Smith and Mathis. But without Sanders they'll lack the matchup corner who alters game plans. At linebacker, Dallas became painfully thin after Randall Godfrey signed with Tennessee, and backup/special teamer Lemanski Hall joined the Vikings. In addition, Quentin Coryatt was released for salary cap reasons. Paul Justin is in and Jason Garrett is out as Troy Aikman's backup. But the future of the position must be addressed at some point in the near future. Galloway came at a huge cost but upgrades the receivers. Still, more size and speed is needed.

The hunch: Dallas won't be much of a player in this draft, so they have to make their picks really count. Cal linebacker Sekou Sanyika -- what is it about Dallas and tough names on draft day? -- has been mentioned as a solid second-round candidate for the Cowboys. He's an athletic, outside linebacker who has some speed-rush skills.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Total picks: 7

Priority positions: RB, OL, CB, LB

The state of things: On the surface, the Giants appear to be in perfect position to upgrade their No. 1 need position, running back. Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne should be sitting there ripe for the plucking when New York's No. 11 pick comes around. Yes, the Giants have swung and missed on Big Ten running backs before -- see Tyrone Wheatley, Jarrod Bunch and Butch Woolfolk -- but none of those Michigan runners had the credentials of Dayne. Gary Brown's release almost guaranteed that New York must address its ground game early on. Dayne appears to be a nice fit for those windy, cold late-season games at Giants Stadium when New York loads up the power running game and rides it to victory. The loss of offensive left tackle Roman Oben to Cleveland gives the Giants reason to look there in the draft. Linebacker could also tempt New York, especially if New Mexico's Brian Urlacher lasts until No. 11. Michigan State linebacker Julian Peterson -- there's that Big Ten thing again -- is also another name to watch for.

The hunch: The Giants are said to still be vacillating between Dayne and Alabama's Shaun Alexander, but running back is the most likely bet to get the attention. Offensive tackle Chris McIntosh of Wisconsin is a long shot for the Giants in the first round, and cornerback is set to receive second-round treatment.

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Total picks: 9

Priority positions: WR, DT, TE, S

The state of things: On the plus side, the Eagles have so many needs that they're likely to come out of the draft with help for a lot of positions. Having been turned off by Michigan State receiver Plaxico Burress' immaturity, Philly is now expected to address its crying need for a run-stopping defensive tackle in the first round rather than a pitch-and-catch partner for second-year quarterback Donovan McNabb. Unless, of course, Florida State receiver Peter Warrick lasts until No. 4 or No. 5. Then the Eagles will get antsy and attempt to trade up with either the Bengals or Ravens for one of the draft's four special players. Failing that, Florida State's Corey Simon is an ideal fit for Philadelphia in the No. 6 slot. The team would then address the receiver slot in round two, with Georgia Tech's Dez White being mentioned. The Eagles will be on the lookout for a more talented strong safety than Tim Hauck, and will spend a middle round pick on one, with tight end also getting mid-round attention.

The hunch: Unless someone trades up to Baltimore's No. 5 pick to get Simon, the Eagles are in great shape. The flirtations with a trade for Warrick may continue right up until Cincinnati makes its pick at No. 4, but the Eagles would be better served to sit tight, take Simon and address their glaring need for receivers in rounds two and three.

 

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Total picks: 7

Priority positions: OLB, OT, CB, WR

The state of things: With the No. 2 and 3 picks in the first round, the Redskins are in prime position to distance themselves farther from the NFC East pack. But there's a feeling out there that impulsive Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will get greedy and dangle the team's second first-rounder in some attempt to parlay the club's good fortune into an even bigger haul. Washington is in position to get either the havoc-creating outside linebacker it craves in Penn State's LaVar Arrington, or the draft's best defensive end, in Courtney Brown. Alabama's Chris Samuels, another of the draft's top four prizes, would solve the team's problem at left offensive tackle, where Andy Heck is limited against speed rushers, exposing quarterback Brad Johnson's blind side. Washington needs to come away with two linebackers, an offensive tackle and either a receiver or a cornerback. If Deion Sanders comes aboard later this year, the former need will be filled. Florida State kicker Sebastian Janikowski has his fans in the organization, but the Redskins have no second round pick and probably can't get him.

The hunch: Arrington and Samuels, in some order, still make the most sense for a team that looks poised to dominate its division for the foreseeable future. If Cleveland doesn't cooperate, Brown and Samuels will do just fine. If Snyder is smart, he'll let the Keyshawn Johnson trade talk pass him by and play the hand he's been dealt.


 
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