After the conclusion of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys surprised many with their outside-of-the-box thinking. The Cowboys took an unsexy, yet very sensible approach with their first pick at 26, selecting Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith. Smith is a player that will instantly improve the Cowboys’ interior run defense and All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons vehemently approves.
The All-American Michigan defender had the second-highest athletic score among defensive tackles with 90 according to NFL Next Gen Stats. There were rumors that the Cowboys fielded calls about possibly trading out of their spot, but the team held steadfast as two of their divisional foes made a few trades on the first night of the draft. The NFC East is facing stiff competition after the Cowboys and all their divisional foes made excellent choices on Thursday night.
The NFC East knocked it out of the park on Day 1 of the draft
The Philadelphia Eagles entered the draft with two first-round picks. (10th and 30th overall) and struck gold with both of their picks. First, the Eagles traded their 2024 fourth-round draft pick to the Chicago Bears to move up one slot in order to select Georgia defensive tackle, Jalen Carter. When the draft process began, Carter was viewed as one of the top prospects of this year’s class. However, Carter began to slide in the draft because of concerns regarding his character after his involvement in a fatal car accident, in which Carter was charged with two misdemeanors. Carter is a disruptive interior defensive lineman that is of tremendous value for the Eagles. The selection reunites Carter with Georgia defender and Eagles 2022 first-round pick, Jordan Davis.
The Eagles drafted another Bulldog with their second selection of the first round, taking edge rusher Nolan Smith. Smith is a high-upside talent with well above-average athleticism coming off the edge. With Smith, the Eagles make an already terrifying pass rush even more imposing.
The New York Giants, also making a trade, landed Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks. The Giants held the 25th pick ( one spot ahead of the Cowboys) and traded their sixth- and seventh-round pick (160th and 240th overall) to the Jacksonville Jaguars to draft Banks. Banks was a four-year starter for the Terrapins and earned an All-Big 10 honorable mention last season. The Giants suffered through a carousel at cornerback last year and hope that Banks can solidify cornerback opposite of Adoree Jackson under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
Finally, the Washington Commanders also selected a corner with their pick, passing on taking a quarterback even after Will Levis slid to their pick at sixteen. Emmanuel Forbes is a tremendous athlete that ranks among the top cornerbacks in the class in regard to athletic scoring. Forbes has a knack for making plays on the football and has fourteen career interceptions and has returned six of them for touchdowns. The Commanders boast a great defensive front but were lacking in their secondary. Taking Forbes is a great first step toward fortifying the back end of their defense.
All in all, after Day 1 of the draft, the objective is clear. The teams in the NFC East are focusing on controlling the line of scrimmage and limiting opposing passing attacks.