May 25, 2024

NFC East check-in: Most, least improved position groups post-draft

The 2024 NFL Draft is in the books, meaning teams have mostly completed their most significant roster moves for the season. With that in mind, here’s a look at the most and least upgraded position groups for each NFC East team. 

Dallas Cowboys

Most improved position group: Offensive line

Here’s what Cowboys executive vice president and COO Stephen Jones told reporters after taking three offensive linemen in the 2024 NFL Draft:

“I think from an offensive line standpoint, obviously when you lose two really good football players in (center) Tyler Biadasz and (left tackle) Tyron Smith, we came in here looking to improve the offensive line to go along with a good young group that we already have.”

Losing Pro Bowl players is never good, but the Cowboys did pretty well in drafting their replacements. First-round pick Tyler Guyton is raw but highly athletic. The 6-foot-7, 327-pound offensive lineman actually took snaps as an H-back as a freshman at TCU and could play either tackle position in 2024.

Cooler Beebe, a third-round guard and two-time Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, can play all five positions and will likely be the team’s new center. Dallas’ offensive line may not match last year’s stats, but it’s light years ahead of its pre-draft model.

Least improved position group: Running back

So the team replaced Ezekiel Elliott with Tony Pollard in 2023 only to replace Pollard with Elliott in 2024? Pollard had 1,005 yards for the Cowboys while Elliott had 642 yards and a career-low 3.5 yards per carry with the Patriots last season. 

Texas RB Jonathan Brooks would have been a nice fit but went earlier than expected to the Panthers before the team’s second-round pick. 

New York Giants

Most improved position group: Wide receiver

New York’s 2,886 passing yards were second-fewest in the NFL last season. Darius Slayton, the team’s leading receiver, ranked 46th among NFL pass-catchers with 770 yards in 17 games. 

The Giants’ passing game has nowhere to go but up, and first-round pick Malik Nabers should give them a boost.

According to Pro Football Focus, Nabers averaged 3.64 yards per route run in 2023, tops among wide receivers in the draft. He averaged 17.6 yards per catch while forcing 30 missed tackles to earn first-team All-SEC honors. He’ll earn his share of double coverage next season, but his 4.35 speed should open things up for young receivers like Jalin Hyatt and Wan’Dale Robinson.

Least improved position group: Quarterback

The addition of Nabers came at a cost, namely J.J. McCarthy. Many thought New York would draft Michigan’s quarterback at No.6, but the team opted for Nabers instead. 

It did add former first-round pick Drew Lock to back up Daniel Jones, but neither strike fear into NFL defenses.

Philadelphia Eagles

Most improved position group: Cornerback 

Philadelphia didn’t take every cornerback in the draft, but it sure seemed that way. 

After landing Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell at No. 22, the team doubled down by trading up for Iowa’s Cooper DeJean in the second round. Factor in the addition of Isaiah Rodgers who missed all of 2023 for a gambling violation, and the Eagles’ secondary could be in for a bounce-back year.

Philadelphia led the NFL by allowing a league-low 179.8 yards per game in 2022 but gave up the second-most passing yards last season (4,296.) Cornerback James Bradberry struggled badly last season but could be used sparingly with Mitchell and DeJean on the roster.

Least improved position group: Edge rusher

The Eagles signed linebacker Bryce Huff to a three-year, $51M contract but may have gotten worse in the pass-rush department. Huff had a career-high 10 sacks for the Jets last year but had just 7.5 in his previous seasons when he missed a total of 13  games.

Haason Reddick never missed a game in two seasons as an Eagle while putting up 27 sacks. He’ll look to take Huff’s place after being traded to the Jets, while Philadelphia hopes linebacker and first-round pick Nolan Smith can improve on an unremarkable rookie season that saw him earn one sack and no starts in 18 games.

Washington Commanders

Most improved position group: Quarterback 

As a first-year starter and former fifth-round selection, Sam Howell’s ceiling was fairly low in 2023, although he did finish as the NFL’s 12th-leading passer with 3,946 yards. 

If his college stats are any indication, Jayden Daniels could have half as many yards on the ground next season.

In addition to passing for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2023, Washington’s first-round pick led all college quarterbacks with 1,134 yards and 10 scores on the ground. With Daniels under the guidance of backup QB and fellow Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, there’s no reason to think Washington’s quarterback play won’t improve.

Least improved position group: Wide receiver

Washington signed Olamide Zaccheaus in free agency, drafted Luke McCaffrey in the third round and signed Georgia’s Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint as an undrafted free agent. That’s it.

Zaccheaus had 10 catches for 164 yards with the Eagles last season while McCaffrey was still adjusting to the wide receiver position. Ed’s son and Christian’s brother played quarterback with Nebraska before changing schools and positions with Rice in 2022.

Washington passed on more polished receivers like Illinois’ Ja’Lynn Polk and Texas’ Adonai Mitchell in favor of defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton, cornerback Mike Sainristil and tight end Ben Sinnott in the second round of the draft. 

If either Terry McLaurin or Jahan Dotson miss any time with injury, McCaffrey and Zaccheus could struggle to fill the void in 2024.