Defense, QB among NFC East draft needs

Stats & Information gets you ready for the NFL Draft at the end of the month with a look at the biggest need for each team. Today, we take a look at the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys

Need: Secondary

Last season the Cowboys had trouble defending the deep ball, allowing 43 percent of passes over 20 air yards to be completed, fourth-worst in the NFL.

The Cowboys also got burned on throws to the sidelines, giving up 15 touchdowns with just five interceptions on tosses outside the numbers. Only the Bills and Vikings had worse differentials.

Cornerback Brandon Carr was a high-profile addition to the Dallas secondary, but further depth is necessary.

Kiper’s 1st-Round Prediction: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

McShay’s 1st-Round Prediction: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

New York Giants

Need: Linebacker

The Giants’ defense relied on a standard pass rush last season, sending four or fewer pass rushers on nearly 70 percent of dropbacks, which ranked among the top 15 teams in the NFL.

However, the Giants’ linebackers defended or intercepted only nine passes last year, tied for seventh-fewest in the league.

New York also had issues defending short throws in the middle of the field, allowing completions on 71 percent of passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage and inside the numbers (26th in NFL).

Kiper’s 1st-Round Prediction: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

McShay’s 1st-Round Prediction: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

Philadelphia Eagles

Need: Defense

The Eagles traded for LB DeMeco Ryans in the offseason, but their defense could use more upgrading. Philadelphia was one of three teams to send four or fewer pass rushers on more than 80 percent of dropbacks last season.

Eagles Defense
Throws 10 Yds or Fewer

However, even with linebackers frequently dropping into coverage, the Eagles were susceptible to the short passing game.

An interior defensive line presence might be necessary as well to help stop the run. The Eagles line up defensive ends wide, leaving the middle open. The result? They allowed 4.9 yards per rush up the middle last season, which ranked second-worst in the NFL.

Kiper’s 1st-Round Prediction: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

McShay’s 1st-Round Prediction: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

Washington Redskins

Need: Quarterback

The Redskins really struggled on long throws in 2011, notching the worst completion percentage (22 percent) and tying for the fewest touchdowns (2) on passes that traveled more than 20 air yards.

Washington is expected to take Robert Griffin III with the second pick in the draft, and he should provide a significant upgrade to their deep passing game. At Baylor last season, Griffin completed 51 percent of passes that flew more than 20 yards in the air, with 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

The Redskins also failed to control the middle of the field in the passing game. Washington quarterbacks ranked 27th in the NFL in Total QBR and 29th in completion percentage on throws inside the numbers last season.

Kiper’s 1st-Round Prediction: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

McShay’s 1st-Round Prediction: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor