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April 29, 2016

NFC East first round NFL Draft grades

Eagles NFL
042916CowboysFans Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

"Terrible value! YAAAAAAY!"

There's a thinking that you have to wait three years to properly evaluate a draft pick, but does that mean we can't have opinions on how well each team did the next day? Hell no. With that in mind, here are my NFC East draft grades.

We'll go in order of draft position:

Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The cost for the pick wasn't cheap. First, the Eagles were able to move from pick No. 13 to pick No. 8 when they traded Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins. The move from pick No. 8 to pick No. 2 was much more costly:

Browns get Eagles get 
 2016 1st round pick (8th overall)2016 1st round pick (2nd overall) 
2016 3rd round pick (77th overall) 2017 4th round pick 
2016 4th round pick (100th overall)  
 2017 1st round pick 
 2018 2nd round pick 

There's isn't much to dislike about Wentz's game. He's big and sturdy, he has a great arm, a quick release, he's surprisingly athletic and very smart. Even if you dock him for playing at a lower level in college, Wentz operated in an offense that had pro-style concepts, prompting some to believe he's more pro-ready than other quarterbacks who played in more remedial offenses at a more competitive college level.

In the NFL, you either have a quarterback, or you don't, and if you don't, you have no chance unless you have some kind of historic defense, which the Eagles do not. The Eagles now believe they have their guy, and they were right to be aggressive in their pursuit of Wentz.

Grade: B

Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Awful. I've long been on record that Elliott would not have been good value at pick No. 8 before the Eagles traded up to pick No. 2. At pick No. 4, where Dallas landed Elliott, that is atrocious value.

To begin, let's be very clear -- Elliott is really, really good, as is any player who is being drafted in the top 10. This is in no way a slight against Elliott, rather, it's a about the value of drafting the position he plays at the fourth overall pick.

Running backs take a pounding in the NFL. Their bodies wear down, and even the good ones rarely make it beyond the age of 30. Below is a chart of the projected starting running backs for all 32 teams, as their rosters currently stand:

Player Team Age (as of 3/15/16) 
Frank Gore Colts 32 
Adrian Peterson Vikings 30 
Rashad Jennings Giants 30 
Justin Forsett Ravens 30 
Matt Forte Jets 30 
Jamaal Charles Chiefs 29 
Ryan Mathews Eagles 28 
Jonathan Stewart Panthers 28 
 DeMarco MurrayTitans 28 
LeSean McCoy Bills 27 
Darren McFadden Cowboys 27 
Doug Martin Buccaneers 27 
Mark Ingram Saints 26 
 Dion LewisPatriots 25 
Eddie Lacy Packers 25 
C.J. Anderson Broncos 25 
Latavius Murray Raiders 25 
Lamar Miller Texans 24 
Carlos Hyde 49ers 24 
 Jeremy LangfordBears 24 
 David JohnsonCardinals 24 
Le'Veon Bell Steelers 24 
Devonta Freeman Falcons 24 
Jeremy Hill Bengals 23 
Isaiah Crowell Browns 23 
 Matt JonesRedskins 23 
Melvin Gordon Chargers 22 
 Ameer AbdullahLions 22 
 Jay AjayiDolphins 22 
Thomas Rawls Seahawks 22 
T.J. Yeldon Jaguars 22 
Todd Gurley Rams 21 

As you can see, only five of the NFL's projected starters at running back are 30 years of age or older. Two of those backs -- Justin Forsett and Rashad Jennings -- have less than 750 career carries. Had they carried the load for the entirety of their careers, they'd probably already be out of the league.

The average age of the running backs above is 25.5 years old, and that's before the draft, when some rookies (like Elliott himself) will replace aging vets atop the depth chart. By comparison, the average starting age of NFL quarterbacks heading into the 2016 season is 29.4, and that's with an almost 40-year old Peyton Manning having already retired.

In short, if you're a Super Bowl contender looking for an immediate impact player for the short term, then sure, go draft yourself a running back talent in the middle-to-end of the first round. If you're delusional about your team's prospects of competing for a Super Bowl (cough, Cowboys, cough), it becomes harder to justify taking a running back at fourth overall.

Furthermore, there is an absurd number of really good sophomore running backs who will be eligible to enter the NFL Draft in 2017. A quick list:

• Leonard Fournette, LSU: Beast of a human being, ran for 1953 yards and 22 TDs on 6.5 yards per carry in 2015.

• Dalvin Cook, Florida State: Ran for 1691 yards and 19 TDs in 2015 on 7.4 yards per carry.

• Christian McCaffrey, Stanford: One of three Heisman finalists in 2015, ran for 2019 rushing yards and 8 TDs, added 45 catches for 645 yards and 5 TDs, returned a kick for a TD, returned a punt for a TD, and threw 2 TD passes.

• Royce Freeman, Oregon: Ran for 1836 yards and 17 TDs on 6.5 yards per carry. In 2014, as a freshman, he ran for 1365 yards and 18 TDs.

• Nick Chubb, Georgia: Ran for 1547 yards and 14 TDs on 7.1 yards per carry as a freshman, and then 747 yards and 7 TDs on 8.1 yards per carry before suffering a serious leg injury in the Bulldogs' sixth game.

• Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: Ran for 1713 yards and 21 TDs on 6.5 yards per carry as a freshman, and then 1349 yards and 16 TDs on 6.0 yards per carry as a sophomore.

And then there's Wisconsin's Corey ClementPitt's James Conner, and Baylor's Shock Linwood, who will all be highly regarded seniors in 2016.

Even if you believe that Elliott is better than every single one of the players listed above (I don't, for the record), wouldn't it be much better value to get a marginally less talented back in the second round in 2017 than Elliott at fourth overall?

The Cowboys are going to regret passing on stud defensive back Jalen Ramsey.

But wait, we're not done.

The Cowboys reportedly "loved" Carson Wentz, but lost out when the Rams and Eagles traded up to wipe the top two quarterbacks off the board.

And then, with Wentz and Jared Goff gone, the Cowboys tried to trade up from the second round back into the first for Paxton Lynch, but missed the boat.

My analysis:

Elliott may indeed wind up being a good running back, but the execution and logic of this draft by the Cowboys was a failure.

Grade: D

Giants: Eli Apple, CB, Giants

The Giants draft corners and pass rushers in bulk. While they are already paying a lot of money to Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, don't forget that they selected Prince Amukamara when they already had Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, who were viable starters at the time. This is just what they do. In that regard, Apple makes sense as a draft target, although it feels a lot like a positional reach at pick No. 10.

The Chicago Bears jumped ahead of the Giants to draft Georgia edge rusher Leonard Floyd. It would interesting to know if the Giants preferred Floyd to Apple. It will also be interesting to see what kind of career CB Vernon Hargreaves has, who was drafted by the Buccaneers at pick No. 11.

Grade: C+

Redskins: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Doctson is nice receiver prospect, but he's not a guy opposing defenses are going to be terrified of on Sundays. Unfortunately for Washington, this was a draft where there was a dropoff in talent once you got into the teens, and it wasn't a particularly good wide receiver draft.

For example, in 2014, four receivers -- Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., and Brandin Cooks -- were taken in the first 20 picks.

In 2016, four receivers were taken in the first 23 picks -- Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Doctson, and LaQuon Treadwell.

Cooks went 20th overall, while Doctson went 21st. Doctson is nowhere close to as good a prospect as Cooks was when he came out.

Still, when I look at the players taken after Doctson, I can't really find fault with the pick. It was just the wrong year to be drafting 21st overall.

Grade: C+

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski