Spoiler alert: The following article contains the results of the latest episode of “Birds with Friends.”

The NFC East has had a different division champion for 17 consecutive seasons, which should show that it’s difficult to predict who will be atop the standings at the end of the year. But oddsmakers have made the Cowboys the favorites to win the division, with the Eagles not far behind. Then there’s a gulf, with the Commanders and Giants facing far longer odds.

When reviewing each team’s roster, it’s clear why Dallas and Philadelphia are expected to be atop the standings. To put it to the test, The AthleticSheil Kapadia, Bo Wulf and Zach Berman each drafted a team of players (and coaches) from the division. The rules were as follows:

Team Each team will have 12 players on both sides of the ball, three coaches, and one wild card – it could be anything from a player to a stadium, home-field advantage or a specific jersey.

Teams The teams are drafted for the 2022 season only, so long-term progression / regression is not a consideration. Neither are contracts. However, present-day injuries are a consideration.

Osition Position changes are permitted only if that player has started a reasonable number of games at the other position. A left tackle could only become a right tackle if he has started on the right side. A safety cannot be turned into a linebacker if he hasn’t played linebacker in the NFL.

The exercise was meant to reveal the most valuable players in the NFC East, where the division has the most depth and where it’s especially weak. As is always the case on “Birds with Friends,” it incites a competitive spirit and a dose of game theory. Here’s how the rosters turned out, with pick order in parentheses:

NFC East Draft

Zach Bo Sheil

QB

Dak Prescott (1.1)

Jalen Hurts (9.2)

Daniel Jones (21.3)

RB

Ezekiel Elliott (21.1)

Antonio Gibson (23.2)

Tony Pollard (26.1)

WR

Michael Gallup (9.1)

CeeDee Lamb (4.2)

AJ Brown (1.3)

WR

Kenny Golladay (11.1)

Quez Watkins (15.2)

Terry McLaurin (3.3)

WR

Jahan Dotson (12.3)

Kadarius Toney (20.2)

DeVonta Smith (4.1)

TE

Dalton Schultz (8.3)

Logan Thomas (17.2)

Dallas Goedert (2.1)

LT

Jordan Mailata (2.3)

Tyron Smith (3.2)

Charles Leno Jr. (19.3)

LG

Trai Turner (15.1)

Tyler Smith (22.2)

Landon Dickerson (6.1)

C

Jon Feliciano (18.3)

Jason Kelce (2.2)

Chase Roullier (27.3)

RG

Zack Martin (5.1)

Andrew Norwell (12.2)

Isaac Seumalo (8.1)

RT

Jack Driscoll (23.1)

Lane Johnson (1.2)

Evan Neal (5.3)

Flex

Saquon Barkley (22.3)

Darius Slayton (21.2)

Andrew Thomas (23.3)

DE

Haason Reddick (6.3)

Chase Young (7.2)

DeMarcus Lawrence (13.3)

DT

Jonathan Allen (4.3)

Dexter Lawrence (14.2)

Daron Payne (9.3)

DT

Fletcher Cox (13.1)

Leonard Williams (8.2)

Javon Hargrave (10.1)

DE

Kayvon Thibodeaux (9.1)

Montez Sweat (10.2)

Azeez Ojulari (14.1)

LB

Micah Parsons (3.1)

Nakobe Dean (18.2)

Jamin Davis (17.3)

LB

Leighton Vander Esch (24.3)

TJ Edwards (25.2)

Kyzir White (18.1)

CB

James Bradberry (7.1)

Trevon Diggs (5.2)

William Jackson III (7.3)

CB

Kendall Fuller (10.3)

Darius Slay (6.2)

Anthony Brown (11.3)

S

Xavier McKinney (16.3)

Jayron Kearse (19.2)

Marcus Epps (20.1)

S

Anthony Harris (20.3)

Julian Love (26.2)

Bobby McCain (24.1)

CB

Jourdan Lewis (19.1)

Avonte Maddox (11.2)

Adoree Jackson (12.1)

Flex

Jordan Davis (14.3)

Josh Sweat (13.2)

Milton Williams (25.3)

HC

Ron Rivera (27.1)

Brian Daboll (16.2)

Nick Sirianni (15.3)

OC

Kellen Moore (17.1)

Shane Steichen (27.2)

Mike Kafka (28.1)

DC

Jonathan Gannon (28.3)

Dan Quinn (24.2)

Wink Martindale (16.1)

WC

Sterling Shepherd (26.3)

Eagles fan base (28.2)

Gardner Minshew (22.1)

Berman

Overall thoughts: Similar to winning the NBA Draft Lottery in a year when there’s a consensus no. 1 pick, I lucked out by winning the top pick in this draft in a division with a clear outlier at quarterback. Starting with Dak Prescott provides a strong foundation.

I might be too influenced by the Andy Reid team-building approach, focusing on a quarterback, rushing the quarterback and protecting the quarterback. That left me thin at the skill spots, which is partly the byproduct of Sheil taking the top pass catchers. Bo’s team strikes a good balance between the trenches and the skill spots. But I hope my decided advantage at quarterback can help me overcome some of the team’s shortcomings; I’m curious if readers agree.

Also, my roster-building might be a bit too Arizona Cardinals-ish, veering toward past Pro Bowlers who haven’t reached that level in a few years. Trai Turner went to five consecutive Pro Bowls but hasn’t played up to that level the past two seasons. Kenny Golladay had back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns but underachieved in 2020 and 2021. Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott were both top-five draft picks, but is the name outpacing the production at this point?

My main takeaways from the exercise were (1) how far superior the rosters of Dallas and Philadelphia are compared to Washington and New York (16 of the first 19 picks were Cowboys and Eagles); (2) just how loaded the NFC East is with pass rushers / defensive linemen, but how lacking it is in the secondary; and (3) how much uncertainty there seems to be at head coach and quarterback.

Favorite pick: Other than Prescott at No.1? Micah Parsons was the No. 2 player on my board. To land a versatile pass rusher who had 13 sacks as a rookie and could reasonably be in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion after Bo and Sheil both picked two players was a steal. That gave me the most valuable offensive player and the most valuable defensive player. You can knock my wide receivers but not my top-end talent. Also, if you’re operating under the premise that Xavier McKinney is the top safety in the division, I’m happy I took him where I did (No. 49 overall).

When I look at Bo’s and Sheil’s picks, my favorite pick was Bo landing Chase Young at No. 20. There was some recency bias (and injury recovery calculation) at play with him lasting that long, but Young would be a top-10 pick if we did this draft next June.

Biggest regret: The early run on pass catchers hurt me. I didn’t see five going in the top 11 and thought I’d land Terry McLaurin or CeeDee Lamb where I picked Jonathan Allen or Zack Martin. In hindsight, could I have taken one where I picked Jordan Mailata and waited on an offensive tackle? Is the delta between, say, Lamb and Kenny Golladay greater than between Mailata and Evan Neal?

My wide receivers are clearly the worst of the three, and that has turned into a premium position in the NFL. I need to be like the Chiefs and hope my quarterback and tight end make a big enough difference while my underperforming wide receivers play to their past production.

Given how deep the NFC East is at defensive tackle, I could have passed on Allen (even though he’s the top player at the position) and gone with Darius Slay at that spot. There was quality there later in the draft.

Wulf

Overall thoughts: As Zach mentioned, this exercise illuminated where the division is strong and how heavily weighted the best players are to the Eagles and Cowboys. We drafted these teams before the Eagles signed Jaquiski Tartt, but I felt much better about the Eagles’ safety situation after realizing how weak the position is across the division. The first safety drafted was Xavier McKinney with the 48th overall pick, which was not a case of position devaluation (as with the running backs) or because there was a cluster of similarly ranked players (which is why the edge rushers all went later than they deserved to). Linebacker also seems relatively weak across the board, while there seems to be a drop-off after the top four wide receivers (and the Eagles are the only team with two of those top four).

In terms of how the rosters stack up, well, mine is clearly the best. Zach has a heck of a group of pass rushers but is either going to be playing some kind of amoeba defense that leaves the middle of the field open or he has neutered his best defensive player. And his offense is garbanzo beans aside from the quarterback. Sheil built the entire plane out of his skill-position players, which is fun on paper but makes him a Matt Millen team builder. I, on the other hand, have a perfectly balanced roster with far and away the best offensive line and secondary.

Finally, I’m curious which undrafted player or coach will be the most upset by his omission. Is Carson Wentz angrier to be considered behind Daniel Jones, or is Mike McCarthy more furious about being the only unselected head coach? Other notable undrafted players include Miles Sanders, Brandon Graham, Dante Fowler Jr., Blake Martinez and Kayode Awosika.

Favorite pick: Value-wise, getting Quez Watkins in the 15th round after Zach drafted both Kenny Golladay and Jahan Dotson ahead of him was a steal. Watkins’ 2021 season was a lot better than anyone remembers – he had 647 receiving yards to Golladay’s 521, while Dotson is a complete unknown. With CeeDee Lamb, Watkins, Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton, I’ve got all kinds of speed on the outside to take advantage of the space created by what will be a dominant run game. Early on, the best thing I did was secure the best two cornerbacks in the division by taking Trevon Diggs and Darius Slay with back-to-back picks. Since everyone was guaranteed a great defensive line, that makes my defense stand above the rest.

Biggest regret: That I didn’t make more fun of Sheil for his Isaac Seumalo reach.

Kapadia

Overall thoughts: This is actually Bo again. Sheil was so despondent about his terrible performance that he neglected to participate in this exercise.

(Photo of Darius Slay and Dak Prescott: Kevin Jairaj / USA Today)

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