The NFC East has been known as the "NFC Least" over the last few seasons — and for good reason. Since 2015, the division has posted a 175-206-2 record, only made eight playoff appearances (only four playoff wins), had 10 teams with winning records in that span, produced just one Super Bowl champion (Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl LII), and became a punch line in the process. But after the 2021 NFL Draft, the fans of these teams are a little more optimistic about how this division will perform. Each team took care of their needs in this draft, so the expectation is that overall play will improve. Here is what each team accomplished in this year's draft.
Objective Achieved: Much-needed infusion of defensive talent
Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, Kentucky's Kelvin Joseph (cornerback) and Quinton Bohanna (defensive tackle), UCLA defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston, Oregon State cornerback Nahshon Wright, LSU linebacker Jabril Cox, and South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu are sure to bolster a defense that finished 23rd in the league last year. Stanford wide receiver Simi Fehoko could potentially be another downfield target for Dak Prescott, while Marshall offensive tackle Josh Ball, and Nebraska guard Matt Farniok bring youth to the Cowboys' offensive line.
Objective Achieved: Support for Jalen Hurts, new blood on defense
Last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, gives Hurts both a familiar face and a deep threat to throw the ball to. Smith's Crimson Tide teammate, center Landon Dickerson, will help improve an O-line that gave up 65 sacks last year. It'll be a Tide reunion in the City of Brotherly Love. Then you have Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell, who will add depth to the backfield.
The biggest takeaway for the Eagles, however, is on the defensive side of the ball. Louisiana Tech's Milton Williams, USC's Marlon Tuipulotu, Coastal Carolina's Tarron Jackson, and Tulane's Patrick Johnson add much-needed depth to the defensive line. Texas Tech cornerback Zach McPhearson and LSU safety JaCoby Stevens will help the secondary. The hope is that the Eagles can improve a unit that ranked 19th in total defense (363.1 ypg), and 17th in scoring defense (26.1 ppg) last year.
New York Giants
Objective Achieved: Help on both sides of the ball
The Giants gave up 349.3 yards per game last year, while their offense was the second-worst in the league (299.6 ypg). So they used their draft selections to address both sides of the ball. Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney gives Daniel Jones the versatile, explosive threat that he sorely needed. Arizona running back Gary Brightwell should boost the depth in the backfield, which was lacking in the wake of Saquon Barkley's injury last season. The only position the Giants didn't address on offense was the line.
On defense, the G-Men added Georgia's Azeez Ojulari and Northern Iowa's Elerson G. Smith to boost their pass rush. They also selected cornerbacks Aaron Robinson (UCF), and Rodarius Williams (Oklahoma State) to help the back end. But they didn't draft a linebacker, which was curious.
Washington Football Team
Objective Achieved: Filled most of their needs
Despite being the reigning NFC East champions, this team has issues on both sides of the ball. Texas offensive tackle Sam Cosmi helps the blocking up front, while North Carolina receiver Dyami Brown, BYU wideout Dax Milne, and Boise State tight end John Bates should help the passing game. Washington also went heavy on defense by grabbing Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis, Minnesota corner Benjamin St.-Juste, Cincinnati safety Darrick Forrest, along with defensive ends Will Bradley-King (Baylor) and Shaka Toney (Penn State). Washington did not take a quarterback so the pressure is on free agent signing Ryan Fitzpatrick to perform with no long-term answer currently on the roster.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Micah Parsons photo courtesy of @dallascowboys)