Safe Or Surprise Draft: NFC East
Trying to predict what might happen in this year's draft is an exercise in futility -- the apparent lack of elite talent plus an incredibly deep class could lead teams in any number of directions when they're on the clock.
Starting today with the NFC East and continuing through the remaining seven divisions, Audibles will break down what each team's safest play would be with its first draft choice ... and what curve balls might be thrown at Radio City Music Hall.
First pick: Round 1, No. 18 overall
The Safe Route: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina.
The Cowboys need to upgrade their offensive line, plain and simple. And starting guard Mackenzy Bernadeau was arguably the least reliable player up front during the 2012 season. That makes Cooper a great fit -- and, should he fall to 18, a terrific value.
The Surprise: Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU.
Dallas used its first-round pick in 2012 to attain help in the secondary, nabbing CB Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys might go that route again, despite signing stop-gap Will Allen away from Pittsburgh recently. Even with Allen in tow, it's hard to believe the Cowboys feel too comfortable at safety, with Allen and either Danny McCray or Barry Church penciled in as starters.
Should Texas' Kenny Vaccaro somehow slip to Dallas at 18, the team might sprint to the podium. Assuming Vaccaro comes off the board earlier, though, staying put and nabbing Cyprien might work. The Cowboys also might have their pick of Matt Elam, Eric Reid and other safeties here.
New York Giants
First pick: Round 1, No. 19 overall
Pick a Florida State 4-3 end. The Giants could use another playmaker out wide on its defensive line, with Osi Umenyiora departing in free agency. For a long time Werner appeared headed toward a top-10 selection, but teams seem to be cooling on him a bit.
They're doing the exact opposite with Carradine, who has an upcoming Pro Day to prove that he's close to recovered from a November ACL tear. Either player would provide the Giants with a needed pass-rushing punch.
The Surprise: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame.
Sure, the Giants signed Brandon Myers in free agency to replace Martellus Bennett, but Myers' one-year deal hardly sets him up as the tight end of the future. That title may fall to 2012 fourth-rounder Adrien Robinson, but he continues to be very much a work in progress.
Enter Eifert, a dangerous, field-stretching tight end, who also would help ease the loss of Bennett's blocking abilities. If the Giants drop Eifert into a passing game that already features Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and now Louis Murphy, the Notre Dame product could put up monster numbers in Year One.
First pick: Round 1, No. 4 overall
The Safe Route: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan.
The Eagles are kind of a wild card near the top of Round 1, because of their shift to an entirely new scheme on offense and the apparent need for help all over the roster. Still, should Fisher (or Luke Joeckel, if Fisher is selected No. 1) make it to the Eagles' choice at four, he would be the odds-on favorite to be selected.
At the very least Fisher would provide a fallback plan if Jason Peters is slow coming back from an Achilles tear. Ideally, Fisher would jump in at right tackle, allowing Todd Herremans to slide back to guard.
The Surprise: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia.
May as well go all out here, eh? Geno Smith is the obvious "surprise pick" candidate for the Eagles -- it's hard to tell if Chip Kelly is sold on Michael Vick and Nick Foles does not seem to be a very good fit for Kelly's new offense.
Austin, on the other hand, feels like a natural for the Kelly spread. Just imagine him in the slot, flanked by DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, with LeSean McCoy coming out of the backfield. Good luck defending that.
Austin also has the ability to shift into the backfield and run the football, making him the versatile type of player Kelly covets. No. 4 would be extremely high for any receiver in this draft, let alone an undersized slot player. But Austin has the potential to elevate Philadelphia's offense as soon as he steps on the field.
First pick: Round 2, No. 51 overall
The Safe Route: David Amerson, CB, N.C. State.
Take your pick of cornerbacks that might be available here (and I'm not entirely sure that Amerson, off a great combine, will be). The Redskins still have a need at that position, even after inking E.J. Biggers to a contract and bringing back veteran DeAngelo Hall.
The speedy Amerson would give Washington another option in the nickel, plus push Biggers and Josh Wilson for the starting jobs.
The Surprise: Brandon Williams, NT, Missouri Southern.
The Redskins have Barry Cofield at the nose spot and recently signed Ron Brace, formerly of the Patriots, to a one-year deal. But neither Cofield nor Brace is much of a run-stuffer -- Cofield, in fact, rated as the Redskins' second-worst run defender last season on Pro Football Focus.Johnathan Hankins John Jenkins