As we close in on the 2013 NFL Draft (April 25-27 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City), our analysts examine each team's biggest needs. Elliot Harrison previews the NFC East below, but click here for other divisions.
2013 draft picks: 18 (1st round), 47 (2nd), 80 (3rd), 114 (4th), 151 (5th), 185 (6th).
Biggest area of need: Safety.
Other spots to address: Right tackle, offensive guard, defensive line.
Prospects who fit: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Matt Elam, S, Florida; Eric Reid, S, LSU; D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama; Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky.
We chose safety as the Cowboys' "biggest area of need" partially because by the time they pick in the first round (18th overall), most of the premier O-line talent will likely be gone.
That being said, here's the deal in Dallas: Those who hemmed and hawed over Tony Romo's $100 million contract should bear in mind that -- besides the fact that quarterbacks are hard to find these days -- the Cowboys probably would have been a 4-12 team without the much-maligned passer last season. That contract will look much better -- especially considering the situations of quarterback have-nots like the Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills -- when the team builds an offensive line that isn't one of the worst in the league.
Dallas would love to draft a right tackle to pair with Tyron Smith, as well as at least one guard. The interior of the line performed miserably for the lion's share of last season. However, safety has also been an absolute black hole for this franchise over the past decade -- and that's no exaggeration. Gerald Sensabaugh is gone, and Will Allen isn't the long-term answer. Returning safety Barry Church, meanwhile, is coming off an Achilles injury. Next in line? Danny McCray, whose big play last year -- maybe his only big play -- was intercepting a pass off a teammate's butt. Welcome to Dallas, Kenny Vaccaro.
New York Giants
2013 draft picks: 19 (1st round), 49 (2nd), 81 (3rd), 116 (4th), 152 (5th), 187 (6th), 225 (7th), 253 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Linebacker.
Other spots to address: Offensive line, defensive line, cornerback.
Prospects who fit: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama; Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia; Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State; Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington; Alex Okafor, DE, Texas.
You'll notice the mention of both the offensive and defensive lines above. The Giants could use depth in each area, perhaps in the form of a right tackle (which has been rumored for months) and another edge rusher who can spell Justin Tuck ... or at least allow him to move inside occasionally. Given the number of quality defensive tackles in this draft, Big Blue might blow right past DE and instead find a DT to sneak into defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's line rotation.
Cornerback is another position at which the Giants are going patchwork crazy. Corey Webster is no great shakes at this point in his career, and it's worth mentioning that his motivation has been called into question. Former Giant Aaron Ross was brought back this offseason, joining future starters Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley. Then, there's the oft-injured Terrell Thomas. If all these guys come through, the position could be a strength. But between effort, injuries and youth, this unit comes with plenty of question marks.
Now that we've gotten all that depth-chart accounting out of the way, the thought here is that the Giants have to hit linebacker high -- and perhaps twice -- in this draft.
2013 draft picks: 4 (1st round), 35 (2nd), 67 (3rd), 101 (4th), 136 (5th), 210 (7th), 212 (7th), 218 (7th), 239 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Offensive line.
Other spots to address: Defensive end, quarterback, safety.
Prospects who fit: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas; Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan; Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama; Datone Jones, DE, UCLA.
Remember how you felt when you learned that Kevin Spacey's awkward character in the "The Usual Suspects" was actually feared crime lord Keyser Söze? For some reason, I expect that fans in man caves across the Union will have a similar reaction when the Eagles make their first pick at No. 4 overall (we think). This being Chip Kelly's baby -- and first pro football draft -- who knows which direction the Eagles will go in?
I can tell you one position they must fill somewhere in the first three rounds, however. No, not quarterback, or even defensive back; what this club needs is a certifiable 3-4 defensive end. Switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 requires unique parts, not too dissimilar from trading a propane-fueled grill for an electric unit. One such part: the large defensive end, the player who can put on enough size to occupy multiple blockers while still getting up the field. Philadelphia could really use a Datone Jones-type, or a later-round guy -- Michigan's William Campbell (who could be a defensive end or nose tackle) and Samford's Nick Williams are two names that come to mind. Alabama's Damion Square might be a reach, but SMU's Margus Hunt is a highly rated defensive end who, with some weight, could contribute at that spot. The position is a definite need, even if it does get lost amid all the quarterback-cornerback-offensive line talk.
Then again, what if Kelly says "Nuh-uh" to Nick Foles and decides to groom West Virginia's Geno Smith behind Michael Vick? What if the Eagles secretly value Dee Milliner so highly, they just can't pass him up? When it comes to the 2013 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles represent the unusual suspect in the first round ... true surprise.
2013 draft picks: 51 (2nd round), 85 (3rd), 119 (4th), 154 (5th), 162 (5th), 191 (6th), 228 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Safety.
Other spots to address: Cornerback, offensive tackle, pass rusher.
Prospects who fit: Matt Elam, S, Florida; Eric Reid, S, LSU; Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State; Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut; Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana.
While everyone holds their breath regarding the status of Robert Griffin III come September, there are a lot of other concerns throughout the depth chart, starting with the secondary. Washington's back four was behind the eight ball most of last season, although there was some improvement as the year wore on. Besides spending draft picks on both safety and corner, the Redskins surely will be hoping linebacker Brian Orakpo comes back 100 percent.
Fans can express their anxiety over RG3 until the cows come home, but ultimately, this team can look for other ways to play winning football. One possible avenue: Utilizing a healthy running game (Alfred Morris) and pass rushers (Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan) who can make life miserable for opposing signal-callers. Finding a right tackle to push free-agent acquisition Jeremy Trueblood, meanwhile, would also be a nice move. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Trueblood was strictly mediocre -- just like a certain series on HBO. He's more likely to be a temporary fix than a long-term solution.
Now that we've covered those details, we can all go back to worrying about RG3. Yoga, man. Yoga.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.