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NFC East rookie grades: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott led Dallas

The 2016 NFL season just ended -- but the 2017 NFL season is coming. As the NFL Scouting Combine nears, looks forward by looking backward, grading the 2016 rookie class for each team and identifying what the front office should focus on this offseason. Click below to scroll through each divisional rundown.

Dallas Cowboys

» Round 1: (No. 4 overall) Ezekiel Elliott, RB, 16 games/16 starts.
» Round 2: (34) Jaylon Smith, OLB, 0 games.
» Round 3: (67) Maliek Collins, DT, 17 games/14 starts.
» Round 4: (101) Charles Tapper, DE, 0 games; (135) Dak Prescott, QB, 17 games/17 starts.
» Round 6: (189) Anthony Brown, CB, 17 games/9 starts; (212) Kavon Frazier, SS, 10 games/0 starts; (216) Darius Jackson, RB, 0 games; (217) Rico Gathers, TE, 0 games.

Whenever a team lands the Offensive Rookie of the Year and the NFL's leading rusher in the same draft, the personnel department and coaching staff deserve kudos for their outstanding identification and developmental plan. Dak Prescott rose from QB3 status to Pro Bowl playmaker while showing better passing skills, poise and leadership ability than many anticipated. Most impressively, he posted a 100-plus passer rating (104.9) and a stellar 23:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the way to notching 13 wins -- tying Ben Roethlisberger's NFL record for wins by a rookie starter. Not to be outdone, Ezekiel Elliott finished as the NFL's rushing leader, racking up 1,631 yards in 15 regular-season starts. The electric playmaker set the table for the offense with his hard-nosed running style between the tackles. Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown made key contributions on a defense that exceeded expectations. GRADE: A+

Combine/free agency focus: The Cowboys must find a top-shelf pass rusher to field a championship-caliber defense. Luckily, the draft has a number of pass rushers with impact potential in the first few rounds. With that in mind, the Cowboys could take extended looks at Tennessee DE Derek Barnett, Michigan DE Taco Charlton and Florida State DE DeMarcus Walker to see if they have the tools to excel in coordinator Rod Marinelli's straightforward scheme.

New York Giants

» Round 1: (No. 10 overall) Eli Apple, CB, 15 games/12 starts.
» Round 2: (40) Sterling Shepard, WR, 17 games/17 starts.
» Round 3: (71) Darian Thompson, S, 2 games/1 start.
» Round 4: (109) B.J. Goodson, OLB, 16 games/0 starts.
» Round 5: (149) Paul Perkins, RB, 15 games/2 start.
» Round 6: (184) Jerell Adams, TE, 13 games/2 starts.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Andrew Adams, FS, 15 games/13 starts; Roger Lewis, WR, 14 games/1 start; Romeo Okwara, DE, 17 games/5 starts.

The Giants' return to prominence was fueled by a defense that invested heavily in upgraded personnel in the offseason. In addition to bringing in some marquee names via free agency, the team also plucked a long, rangy corner in Eli Apple to fortify the secondary. The rookie contributed 51 tackles, one forced fumble and an interception in 14 games. Most importantly, Apple showed team officials he could be a solid long-term playmaker at the position. Andrew Adams joined Apple in the secondary and responded well to being pressed into duty after entering the league as an undrafted free agent. On offense, the Giants got solid contributions from Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. Shepard, in particular, looked like a natural WR2 on the way to scoring eight touchdowns on 65 receptions. He should team with Odell Beckham Jr. to give the Giants a solid 1-2 punch in the passing game for seasons to come. GRADE: B+

Combine/free agency focus: The Giants haven't invested in a top tight end since they drafted Jeremy Shockey with the 14th overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. It might be time to take another dip in the pool, with a loaded class featuring the likes of O.J. Howard (Alabama), David Njoku (Miami) and Jake Butt (Michigan) at the top of the charts. The team desperately needs someone who can attack the middle of the field, with opponents intent on slowing down Beckham on the outside.

Philadelphia Eagles

» Round 1: (No. 2 overall) Carson Wentz, QB, 16 games/16 starts.
» Round 3: (79) Isaac Seumalo, OG, 9 games/4 starts.
» Round 5: (153) Wendell Smallwood, RB, 13 games/3 starts; (164) Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, 7 games/6 starts.
» Round 6: (196) Blake Countess, CB, 0 games.
» Round 7: (233) Jalen Mills, FS, 16 games/2 starts; (240) Alex McCalister, DE, 0 games; (251) Joe Walker, ILB, 0 games.
» Notable undrafted FAs:C.J. Smith, CB, 10 games/0 starts; Bryce Treggs, WR, 9 games/1 start; Paul Turner, WR, 4 games/2 starts; Destiny Vaeao, DT, 16 games/0 starts.

Despite a bit of a rocky ride during his rookie season, Carson Wentz showed the football world that he has the goods to be a franchise quarterback for the Eagles. The 6-foot-5, 237-pound passer not only can make every throw in the book, but he is also athletic enough to create big plays with his legs. With a better supporting cast, he could be the guy who gets the Eagles back into the mix as a perennial contender. Wendell Smallwood flashed as a change-of-pace back/return specialist in limited action. He scratched out 312 rushing yards on 77 carries and displayed the kinds of traits (quickness, balance and body control) that could make him a difference-maker in a more prominent role. Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai cracked the lineup for a few starts, which will help the Eagles immensely going forward. GRADE: B-

Combine/free agency focus: Philly needs playmakers on the perimeter. Whether they add a veteran pass catcher capable of stepping into the WR1 role or a young, athletic playmaker in the draft, the Eagles need to surround their QB1 with more weapons on the outside. In the draft, Washington's John Ross, Western Michigan's Corey Davis, Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp and East Carolina's Zay Jones could be ideal fits in the Eagles' catch-and-run scheme.

Washington Redskins

» Round 1: (No. 22 overall) Josh Doctson, WR, 2 games/0 starts.
» Round 2: (53) Su'a Cravens, LB/S, 11 games/3 starts.
» Round 3: (84) Kendall Fuller, CB, 13 games/6 starts.
» Round 5: (152) Matthew Ioannidis, DT, 10 games/0 starts.
» Round 6: (187) Nate Sudfeld, QB, 0 games.
» Round 7: (232) Steven Daniels, ILB, 0 games; (242) Keith Marshall, RB, 0 games.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Maurice Harris, WR, 10 games/0 starts; Rob Kelley, RB, 15 games/9 starts.

Injuries prevented some of the Redskins' draftees from making immediate contributions as rookies. Josh Doctson missed most of the season with a nagging Achilles injury. Su'a Cravens showed tremendous promise as a Swiss Army Knife-like safety/linebacker, but his season was prematurely cut short by a partially torn biceps. With Keith Marshall also sidelined with an elbow injury, the Redskins saw most of their rookie draft class standing in sweats. To be fair, the team did get solid contributions from Kendall Fuller and undrafted RB Rob Kelley. In particular, the unsung runner gave the 'Skins a rugged RB1 to lean on in critical moments. Kelley not only led the team in rushing (704), but he gave the offense an identity with his hard-hitting style. GRADE: C

Combine/free agency focus: The Redskins' defensive line has been a sore spot for the team for years. Washington hasn't addressed the position with a top pick since plucking Ryan Kerrigan in the first round in 2011. With that in mind, the Redskins could take a long, hard look at defenders like Michigan State's Malik McDowell, Florida's Caleb Brantley and Michigan's Chris Wormley to do some of the dirty work on the interior.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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