April 15, 2024

The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly in the books, and the NFC East has not disappointed in the three-day event held in Las Vegas. That’s because the division is setting up to potentially deliver a different winner than the one it saw take the throne the previous season, yet again. For while the Dallas Cowboys can be viewed as favorites to possibly repeat after going 12-5 overall and finishing with an undefeated 6-0 record inside of the division, the reality is it’s insanely difficult to repeat in the NFC East. 

None of the four teams has achieved the feat since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2001 through 2004 — the crown making its rounds perennially ever since. And as the Cowboys get to work on trying to buck those odds, the Eagles join the New York Giants and Washington Commanders in putting together a plan to keep them from doing so. Free agency notwithstanding, the future of each team will be molded in a very big way by what it does or does not choose when things get underway on Thursday.

It all begins with each of the four teams identifying their top needs, and then seeing if they’re addressed this weekend.

It should be an exciting draft and you can follow along with every pick on our draft tracker.

New York Giants

Top 5 needs (unranked): QB, TE

To Daniel Jones or not to Daniel Jones, that is the question. The Giants are expecting a swift turnaround in 2022 after seeing Dave Gettleman retire from his GM position and then firing Joe Judge after only two seasons as head coach. The hiring of former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was in large part with the development of Jones in mind, but the QB position is only the beginning of the blueprint for New York, which may or may not shed Kadarius Toney and/or Darius Slayton and/or James Bradberry via trade, and which also has to figure out the future of Saquon Barkley. Neglecting the glaring need for a dominant edge rush would keep them in the Dark Ages through the 2022 season — having no shortage of draft capital to do some very real damage.

Their first pick can easily be viewed as as jackpot, going with Kayvon Thibodeaux, the edge star from Oregon. With plenty of talk of several teams considering trading up for Thibodeaux (including rumblings regarding the Cowboys), the Giants were poised at No. 5 to sit tight and kill those hopes and dreams rather swiftly. Thibodeaux joins Big Blue having earned a list of collegiate honors including the Morris Trophy and is a Unanimous All-American, lagging 19 sacks and 126 combined tackles in his three seasons with the Ducks — sending a message to the NFC East rivals that their respective quarterbacks aren’t entirely safe against the Giants anymore.

They wouldn’t have to wait long to go back on the clock, owners of the No. 7 pick as well, and they used it to bolster the offensive line in front of Daniel Jones, who will have to put up a career-best season now that his fifth-year option has been declined. For Jones, who often hasn’t had anything short of a porous offensive line, the news of Neal being the selection has to make him smile from ear to ear. A Consensus All-American, First-Team All-SEC talent and national champion, Neal is arguably the best offensive lineman in this year’s draft. 

Busy as they’ve suddenly become in the post-Gettleman era, having traded down twice to begin the second round, the Giants finally went on the clock at No. 43 (acquired from the Atlanta Falcons) and selected wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky — adding a weapon for Jones amidst trade rumors surrounding both Darius Slayton and Kadarius Toney. Robinson will be expected to make an early impact for Big Blue, and especially if Slayton and/or Toney is shipped out of town. A Second-Team All-SEC talent in 2021, Robinson had a breakout season last year that produced 1,334 yards and seven touchdowns — career-highs in both categories.

The first of their two third-round picks goes to Joshua Ezeudu, another would-be protector of Jones who joins Neal in the offensive trenches. It’s clear the Giants finally understand it’s important to protect the quarterback, and Jones has to be smiling ear to ear at this point. Ezeudu, a former Tar Heel, has the flexibility to play both guard and tackle, and that gives Brian Daboll lots to work with — using the other third-round pick on defensive back Cordale Flott, who can do plenty of work for the Giants as a slot defender. Flott plays angry and physical, a perfect combination for a cornerback tasked with stopping tight ends in nickel defense. 

As Day 3 got underway, it was clear what direction they wanted to travel, and they’re taking it at full speed.

2022 draft picks:

1 (5)

Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon


1 (7)

Evan Neal, OL, Alabama


2 (43)

Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky


3 (67)

Joshua Ezeudu, OL, North Carolina


3 (81)

Cordale Flott, DB, LSU


4 (112)

Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State


4 (114) Dane Belton, S, Iowa B-
5 (146) Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana B+

5 (147)

D.J. Davidson, DL, Arizona State


5 (173)

Marcus McKethan, OL, USC


6 (182) Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati B+

Dallas Cowboys

Top 5 needs (unranked): DL, LB, K

Having squandered a shot at making a deep playoff run with a roster that was absolutely loaded on both offense and defense, but seeing both Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn stay put, the Cowboys enter the offseason with a long list of very talented free agents, and they couldn’t keep them all — making things infinitely more difficult by parting ways with Amari Cooper, La’el Collins and losing Randy Gregory to free agency (all in controversial fashion). Their needs are now many, but owners of nine picks leading into the draft, they have a chance to overcome a very poor start to the offseason (and free agency) in Las Vegas.

It appeared the Cowboys were entertaining a trade back, but instead stood pat and passed on more notable talent — e.g., Jermaine Johnson, Nakobe Dean, Devin Lloyd and Tyler Linderbaum — going with more of a project in Tyler Smith out of Tulsa. Smith enters during a time of tumult on the Cowboys offensive line, with continued durability issues on an aging Tyron Smith and the decision to release starting tackle La’el Collins to pass the mantle to backup swing tackle Terence Steele. The jury is out on if Smith, who has a good ceiling, can contribute immediately or if he’ll need polish (the latter making it a debatable pick when tying him to the first round).

Keeping with their theme, the Cowboys again passed on bigger ticketed names and went with defensive end Sam Williams, the former Ole Miss talent who will presumably look to challenge Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler for the right to replace Randy Gregory opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. Williams is a First-Team All-SEC honoree who racked up sacks in ascending fashion over the course of his three seasons in Mississippi, going from 9.5 sacks in 2019 to 12.5 sacks in 2021 (32.5 sacks total). His fall was due to some off-the-field red flags, but the Cowboys are banking on that being in his rearview.

In the third round, Dallas found its wide receiver in Jalen Tolbert of South Alabama — a prospect that doesn’t hail from a big program but brings a big skill set to the table. He’s a vertical threat who finished his collegiate career with two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, scoring 16 touchdowns in his last two years at South Alabama and his 1,474-yard season in 2021 showed the entire world what he can be if he remains focused and sees the ball into his hands. Add him to a soon-to-be healthy Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, and it’s a great start following the controversial end to Amari Cooper’s time in Dallas.

It’s paramount the Cowboys nailed their picks on Day 3, to make up for a mostly inept free agency.

2022 draft picks:

1 (24)

Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa


2 (56)

Sam Williams, EDGE, Mississippi


3 (88)

Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama


4 (129)

Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin


5 (155)

Matt Waletzko, OT – North Dakota


5 (167)

DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State


5 (176)

Damone Clark, LB, LSU


5 (178)

John Ridgeway, DL, Arkansas


6 (193)

Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State


Washington Commanders

Top 5 needs (unranked): OL, LB, CB, S

It’s one of the worst-kept secret in the NFL that the Commanders need to locate a true franchise quarterback. They saw potential in Taylor Heinicke in 2020, but he had a forgettable 2021 season in the wake of injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick, leading to the acquisition of Carson Wentz via trade. Now the Commanders turn their attention to the other positions of need, and that should be led by a want of finding a definitive complement to Terry McLaurin, for starters. As for the defense, the addition of William Jackson III in 2021 was with the goal of upgrading the secondary, but more is needed there as well, having only six picks to work their magic — before trading out of the 11th spot in a draft day deal that landed them two additional picks (98th- and 120th-overall) to move back to the 16th-overall seat.

After trading out of the 11th spot, awarding it to the New Orleans Saints for added picks, the Commanders get their complement to Terry McLaurin by grabbing Jahan Dotson — a player with a great catch radius who’ll instantly become another top weapon for the newly-acquired Carson Wentz. Dotson is a First-Team All-Big Ten talent who reeled in 1,182 receiving yards and six touchdowns for the Nittany Lions in 2021, and will now get a chance to be a 1,000-yard receiver in the nation’s capital.

Their second pick of the draft turned to the defensive side of the ball, grabbing Phidarian Mathis out of Alabama. The 6-foot-4, 312 pound defensive lineman adds more beef to an already impressive defensive line in Washington. He joins a unit led by Chase Young and other young, stout talent, and should fit in nicely with Ron Rivera leading him. The former Crimson Tide standout finished his career with Alabama on a breakout note — logging a career-best nine sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.

They’d get back to work on the offensive side of the ball in the third round by adding running back Brian Robinson Jr., a former Alabama talent who earned First-Team All-SEC honors in 2021 along with the nod as Cotton Bowl MVP, and who has two national titles on his collegiate resume. This is a great situation for Robinson to head into Washington, a 1,300-yard rusher who will combine with Antonio Gibson to make for a potent one-two punch. An angry runner with enough speed to break loose, the Commanders bookend the first two days of their 2022 NFL Draft with offensive firepower to help Wentz. 

How the Commanders manage Day 3 will say a lot about how their 2022 season, and beyond, unfolds. They made things interesting in the fifth round by drafting Sam Howell, who might readily compete with Wentz — sooner than later — but most certainly for Taylor Heinicke (immediately).

2022 draft picks:

1 (16)

Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State


2 (47)

Phidarian Mathis, DL, Alabama


3 (98) Brian Robinson Jr., RB, Alabama C+

4 (113)

Percy Butler, S, Louisiana


5 (144) Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina A
5 (149) Cole Turner, TE, Nevada C+

7 (230)

Chris Paul, G, Tulsa


7 (240)

Christian Holmes, CB, Oklahoma State


Top 5 needs (unranked): S, EDGE, CB

It was an impressive midseason turnaround for the Eagles in their first season under new head coach Nick Sirianni — one that saw them make the playoffs and show promise for the future with Jalen Hurts under center. Presuming no unexpected about-face on Hurts, the Eagles can enjoy having no need atop the QB totem and focus their efforts on surrounding him with talent. They were able to finesse the Indianapolis Colts into giving up draft collateral in exchange for Carson Wentz, so the Eagles have that much more firepower to bolster a defense that wasn’t the team’s Achilles heel in 2021, but did leave meat on the bone; but they also can’t ignore any opportunity to add more firepower for Hurts and the offense.

They jumped off their draft with a monster pick, selecting Jordan Davis out of Georgia. Davis is a specimen rarely seen in football, from his build to his athleticism, and he’s primed to be a nightmare for all comers — especially those in the NFC East. Anyone attempting to run the ball against him will be in for a long day, and just as long of a day if the QB drops back to pass the ball. The Eagles defensive line is now one of the best in the NFL. Philly gave up quite a bit of draft capital to grab him as the tandem star with Fletcher Cox, and it’ll likely be more than worth it.

They then traded the 18th-overall pick to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for A.J. Brown in a blockbuster move that will send shockwaves throughout the division. On Day 2, they chose to pivot to the offensive line after adding Davis to the defensive side of that equation — grabbing Cam Jurgens. The former Nebraska Cornhusker is a mountain of a man with a high football IQ that will serve the Eagles well in trying to protect quarterback Jalen Hurts, and getting him late in the second round is a bit of a steal.

And speaking of possible steals, Nakobe Dean becomes potentially the steal of this year’s draft, and it’s the Eagles who have the pleasure of finding out. Dean, an all-star UGA linebacker graded by many teams in the first round, reportedly slid all the way to the third round due to an unwillingness to have surgery on a pec strain this offseason. If Dean, who was arguably the best defender for the title-winning Dawgs in 2021, is now reunited with his fellow UGA compatriot in Jordan Davis — selected in the first round. The two instantly upgrade the Eagles defense, and Dean’s intellect and football prowess could be the heartbeat of it all. 

Having already owned this year’s draft, it would take an implosion for the Eagles to grade poorly at this point.

2022 draft picks:

1 (13)

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia


2 (51)

Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska


3 (83)

Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia


6 (188) Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas C+
6 (198) Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU B-

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