The world of the NFC East was turned upside-down during the 2020 NFL Draft, and then flipped on its belly, hog tied and spun around like a dreidel. But to know this division is to know you must always expect the unexpected, and even then you should prepare to be completely floored from time to time. The NFC East has seen a shakeup in recent years after being dominated almost perennially by the Dallas Cowboys who -- going back to 1970 when it was changed from the NFL Capitol Division and included the Arizona Cardinals -- have notched 20 divisional crowns, eight conference championships and five Super Bowl wins.
Their yacht ran ashore in the late 1990s, however, and hasn't figured out how to set sail again since. In the meantime, no team in the NFC East has logged consecutive division titles since the Philadelphia Eagles won four in a row from 2001 through 2004, with each taking a turn between then and now, including the Eagles going on to land their first-ever Super Bowl victory following the 2017 season. The New York Giants have had their share of fun as well, earning their third and fourth Lombardi trophies and distancing themselves from the Eagles and Washington Redskins as they chase the Cowboys.
For the Redskins, who have threatened to turn the corner a time or two, the 2020 season is all about figuring out how to finally do so -- currently suffering from a Super Bowl drought longer than that of their most bitter and longstanding rival, the Cowboys. And if you know the story of how the Cowboys used the Redskins fight song against them to force a yes vote on Dallas being awarded an expansion franchise for the 1960 season, you'd know there's no love lost between those two franchises.
And so enters 2020, with a slew of new faces in the division, in both the coaching and player ranks. So who's the new king of the NFC East castle? Good question.
Let's take a look at where they all stand currently.
Team Grade: B+ (Pete Prisco)
Best pick: No. 82, DT Neville Gallimore (Josh Edwards)
Most questionable pick: No. 123, WR Reggie Robinson (Josh Edwards)
2021 mock draft pick: No. 28, S Hamsah Nasirildeen (Ryan Wilson)
Biggest fantasy question: Does landing spot suddenly make CeeDee Lamb a Dynasty value? (Ben Gretch)
SportsLine's 2020 win projection: 9.6
William Hill season win total: 9.5 (-145)
William Hill odds to win division: +110
William Hill odds to win Super Bowl: +1200
No one expected CeeDee Lamb to be available when the Cowboys went on the clock with the 17th-overall pick. What's more, the Eagles were hoping that since he had, Dallas would wave him off and stick to their usual formula of need over talent. This was key for an Eagles team hungry for a falling Lamb, but they were forced to watch him go off the board and make his way to North Texas, which resulted in a not-too-shabby consolation prize in Jalen Reagor -- but a consolation prize, nonetheless. Lamb has the potential to elevate the NFL's best offense from 2019 to new heights in 2020, joining a unit that already features Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Gallup.
If Blake Jarwin bursts onto the scene in his new starting role as expected, and Tony Pollard finds his NFL gears in Year 2, it's an offense the other three NFC East teams will have nightmares over. They've also upgraded defensively, albeit not to the extent of their offense, by adding free agents like Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy and swapping out Jeff Heath for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Taking a risk on Aldon Smith and the expected return of Randy Gregory and Tyrone Crawford makes for a formidable front if all goes according to plan, but in case it doesn't, the addition of Gallimore and Bradlee Anae in the draft provides some potent insurance.
Oh, and Trevon Diggs has arrived as well to replace Byron Jones, the rookie being a ballhawk the Cowboys crave badly. Landing him with the 51st-overall pick is simply more fortuitousness for a Dallas team looking to move on from Jason Garrett, with head coach Mike McCarthy leading the way by masterfully molding free agency and the draft. McCarthy's influence has not only been evident, but rather potent, to the point team exec Will McClay admits he "jumped up and down" when discussing the team's new blueprint of "players over system". This makes the Cowboys a serious threat to all comers, in particular the ones they play twice a year.
They're the early favorite to win the division, but the Eagles have something to say about that.
Team Grade: C+ (Pete Prisco)
Best pick: No. 210, OT Prince Tega Wanogho (Josh Edwards)
Most questionable pick: No. 53, QB Jalen Hurts (Josh Edwards)
2021 mock draft pick: No. 24, OL Jalen Mayfield (Ryan Wilson)
Biggest fantasy question: How many targets can we expect for Jalen Reagor in Year 1? (Ben Gretch)
SportsLine's 2020 win projection: 9.1
William Hill season win total: 9.5 (-115)
William Hill odds to win division: +135
William Hill odds to win Super Bowl: +2500
If you thought the Cowboys stole headlines by selecting Lamb when they didn't "need" to, you'd be right, but not for long. When the Eagles went on the clock in the second round, it was quite the "hold my beer" moment in the NFC East. Having grabbed their not-too-shabby consolation prize at wide receiver in Jalen Reagor, they flipped the table completely and selected quarterback Jalen Hurts in a move that sent Eagles fans into a fury, and media into a state of paused confusion. After all, the selection comes only 10 months after the team awarded Carson Wentz a megadeal, leaving some to wonder if Hurts is in Philly as insurance, another offensive weapon (example: Taysom Hill), the eventual successor to Wentz or all of the above.
Time will sort all of that out, but Hurts does at least allow the club to take a deep breath knowing Nick Foles isn't running out of that tunnel if Wentz gets injured yet again. So while it can be viewed as a massive reach, there's some obvious value in it, the bare minimum being an upgrade at the QB2 role -- which could help them in a playoff scenario if Wentz is (again) in street clothes come January. Defensively, their biggest and wisest move was to trade for Darius Slay and then extend him, because they'll need every molecule of his Pro Bowl-caliber play to help repair their secondary and stave off an onslaught from a team like the Cowboys.
They also added Javon Hargrave to tandem with Fletcher Cox and an already-impressive defensive front that has the potential to outright terrorize opposing quarterbacks in 2020, and losing Travis Frederick makes the Cowboys more vulnerable at that spot, even though Joe Looney has proven himself a more-than-capable starter. It'll be interesting to see the arc on Tyler Biadasz, a Consensus All-American drafted to potentially be Frederick's successor, but even more so considering it was the Eagles who traded with the Cowboys to allow it to happen.
The Eagles are expected to go nose-to-nose with the Cowboys, and what a war it shall be.
New York Giants
Team Grade: B (Pete Prisco)
Best pick: No. 36, S Xavier McKinney (Josh Edwards)
Most questionable pick: No. 238, LB T.J. Brunson (Josh Edwards)
2021 mock draft pick: No. 6, WR Justyn Ross (Ryan Wilson)
Biggest fantasy question: Does fourth-overall pick Andrew Thomas make Daniel Jones a 2020 sleeper? (Ben Gretch)
SportsLine's 2020 win projection: 6.2
William Hill season win total: 6.5 (-120)
William Hill odds to win division: +750
William Hill odds to win Super Bowl: +6000
Even if you don't love the who, you have to appreciate the Giants opting to select an offensive lineman with the fourth-overall pick in the draft. It's a team that's needed to repair its offensive line for a long time now but, more often than not, failed to address the issue head-on. Andrew Thomas is a talent capable of being an NFL starter on Day 1, and that should please Jones and Saquon Barkley mightily. He joins Will Hernandez and rookie third-round pick Matt Peart as the new guard (no pun intended) on the Giants offensive front, in a post-Ereck Flowers era that's already beginning to look up. A key issue with the Giants was also their defensive backfield though, having walked away from both Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
So when Xavier McKinney was there for the taking in the second round, they didn't look a gift horse in the mouth. McKinney is arguably the best safety in this class even when factoring in Grant Delpit of LSU, and should make an immediate impact for Big Blue -- something they desperately need. From there, working forward, they're hoping Darnay Holmes can do the same, and that fellow rookie cornerback/safety hybrid Chris Williamson proves himself more than simply a flyer pick. Signing James Bradberry in free agency was also key, who joins the club as a proven and capable CB1.
The linebacker corps, however, is nothing to write home to mother about. The team made the rare decision to use the UFA tag on Markus Golden after having not met with or offered him a deal prior to the draft, and Golden now has until July 22 to find a new home or be forced to either suit up for the Giants on a roughly $4 million base salary; or to sit out the season altogether and try his hand in free agency again in 2021. The Giants didn't exactly draft his replacement in 2020, grabbing four linebackers but none higher than the sixth round.
Golden led the team with 10 sacks in 2019, and that's not production easily replaced. And if they're pinning their hopes on a disgruntled Leonard Williams to be the answer, things might get worse for their pass rush before they get any better.
If the Giants can't figure out how to consistently pressure Prescott, Wentz and Haskins, the secondary will be under siege weekly.
Team Grade: B (Pete Prisco)
Best pick: No. 142, WR Antonio Gandy-Golden (Josh Edwards)
Most questionable pick: No. 66, RB/WR Antonio Gibson (Josh Edwards)
2021 mock draft pick: No. 3, Penei Sewell (Ryan Wilson)
Biggest fantasy question: How will Washington use Antonio Gibson? (Ben Gretch)
SportsLine's 2020 win projection: 5.8
William Hill season win total: 5.5 (-125)
William Hill odds to win division: +1100
William Hill odds to win Super Bowl: +20000
Quiet as it's kept, the Redskins are making some intriguing moves under newly-signed head coach Ron Rivera. It's not surprising, considering he's a proven winner who took the Carolina Panthers to the brink of winning the franchise's first Super Bowl, and when you factor in the decision by Dan Snyder to move on from general manager Bruce Allen. The energy in the building has been rejuvenated this offseason, and it hit fever pitch when the Redskins made the right decision to not trade out of the No. 2 in the draft, but to instead sit tight and take Chase Young -- arguably one of the best pass rushers to ever play collegiate football.
Adding Young to a front that includes Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Jonathan Allen and Da'Ron Payne sets the Redskins up to have a potentially devastating pass rush and run-stopping ability, and if Prescott, Wentz and Daniel Jones can't throw the ball, it doesn't matter who the receivers are. That's the line of thinking from Rivera, a defensive-minded coach who also used to put his hands on quarterbacks quite often in his playing days. The pressure up front should go a long way in helping to mask their cornerback situation, as they work to figure out who'll be the top dog in that rotation.
From an offensive standpoint, all eyes are on Dwayne Haskins to take the leap in Year 2 after landing only a few starts as a rookie. If he can, it'll truly help the team and talented wide receiver Terry McLaurin find a new gear, and they're hoping fourth-round pick Antonio Gandy-Golden can be a strong complement in the passing attack. Questions still loom at the running back position though, because Adrian Peterson can't play forever (right? um...), Derrius Guice has been riddled with injury in his first two seasons, and adding Peyton Barber in free agency to a room overflowing with bodies felt more like draft insurance than an actual "wow" move.
So when they selected Antonio Gibson in the third round, it was the Redskins sending up yet another flare for help, as they work to perfect the weapons around Haskins -- including figuring out the situation at tight end.