17. Minnesota Vikings: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (Jr.)
Johnathan Hankins made it all the way up to the No. 1 spot on my draft board earlier in the season, so he would be an absolute steal as the No. 17 overall pick. He is a disruptive, difference-making defensive tackle who could bring back the dominant interior defensive line that the Vikings have not had since Pat Williams’ departure broke up the “Williams Wall.”
Hankins is a massive, powerful defensive tackle who also has great quickness and athletic ability for his size. He has the potential to be a true game-changer at the next level, and the Vikings should not pass him up if they have the chance to select him.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Robert Woods, WR, USC (Jr.)
Although Pete Carroll never coached Robert Woods at USC, he was responsible for recruiting him to the Trojans program. Now the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Carroll needs to find a top wide receiver to be a go-to target for young quarterback Russell Wilson, and could try to bring Woods to his program again.
Woods does not have the prototypical size and speed of an NFL No. 1 wideout, but he has the skills to be very productive at the next level. He is an exceptional route-runner with great hands, making him a reliable target who is a weapon with his ability to make plays by finding seams in the defense and getting open.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Signs point to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being in the market for another cornerback in 2013. The Buccaneers traded one starting cornerback, Aqib Talib, to the New England Patriots this season, and their other starting cornerback, Eric Wright, is no longer guaranteed money next season following a drug suspension, meaning that they could move on from him as well after a disappointing season.
Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks is a well-rounded cornerback who has shut his opponents down in the SEC, and would be a great choice in the latter half of the first round. The Buccaneers have one promising young cornerback in Leonard Johnson, but they lack a true No. 1 corner, which Banks has the all-around skill set to be.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Pittsburgh Steelers could really use some reinforcement at the nose tackle position. At 35, Casey Hampton’s best years are behind him, and his heir apparent, Alameda Ta’amu, was cut earlier this season after being arrested on felony charges.
Alabama’s Jesse Williams is a powerful, big, quick and disruptive defensive lineman who could contribute immediately at any spot on the Steelers’ three-man front, and take over at nose tackle next season or in the future. The Steelers used first-round picks on defensive ends in 2009 and 2011, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward, but both have been somewhat disappointing, leaving the line fairly weak outside of Hampton and veteran defensive end Brett Keisel.
21. New Orleans Saints: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (R-So.)
The New Orleans Saints’ pass defense has struggled mightily this season, and the biggest reason for that has been a very weak group of cornerbacks outside of Patrick Robinson. The Saints really need to find another playmaker and starting-caliber cornerback, and could get that in this scenario if Ohio State’s Bradley Roby declares as a redshirt sophomore.
Roby has had a breakout sophomore season, in which he has a complete shutdown cornerback for the Buckeyes. He is a very fast defensive back who shuts down opposing receivers in pass coverage, is an aggressive playmaker and tackles well.
22. Cincinnati Bengals: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (Jr.)
The Cincinnati Bengals have gotten a very pleasant surprise from the play of undrafted rookie Vontaze Burfict at weakside linebacker, but outside of Burfict, the Bengals remain quite weak at linebacker. Starting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is an unrestricted free agent, and he has struggled this season, so the Bengals could look to move forward.
C.J. Mosley has been a breakout star of the Alabama defense in his junior season, proving to be a tremendous all-around playmaker. Mosley is an athletic linebacker and hard-hitting tackler who can be a very solid run stopper and is very good in pass coverage. He also has the versatility to play any 4-3 linebacker position.
23. Indianapolis Colts: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU (Jr.)
Jerrell Freeman and Kavell Conner are solid inside linebackers in the Colts’ 3-4 defense, but they are not standouts by any means. The Colts could certainly use an upgrade, and with the value not on the board among offensive linemen, upgrading with LSU’s Kevin Minter would make sense.
Minter has had a tremendous junior season, emerging as a tackling machine with great playmaking range. The Colts do not have many big playmakers in their defensive front seven, but Minter has the potential to be one.
24. Chicago Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (Jr.)
The Chicago Bears’ offensive line has been terrible this season. They have been especially weak at right tackle, where 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi has not panned out. The Bears should really be looking to address that position early in the 2013 draft if possible, and have the chance to draft a very good right tackle prospect in D.J. Fluker.
Fluker does not quite have the limber athleticism to play left tackle, but he is a big right tackle with the length, power and good enough feet to be a very solid starter at that position. The Bears could be hard-pressed to pass up the value of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert here, but would be smart to address their biggest need here with Fluker.
25. Green Bay Packers: Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M
Injuries this season have exposed the Green Bay Packers’ lack of depth at the linebacker position, and without a first-round talent available at offensive line and running back — the Packers’ two biggest positions of need — drafting for depth at that position makes sense.
Texas A&M’s Sean Porter has been overshadowed in the Aggies’ front seven by Damontre Moore this season, but he is still an athletic, skilled linebacker who could play any linebacker position in a 3-4 scheme. Porter has pass-rushing ability, but is also very good at tackling in space and can cover effectively.
26. Baltimore Ravens: David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State (Jr.)
The Baltimore Ravens are known for drafting value, and North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson is one of the best players available in this scenario. Additionally, he would add depth at a position where the Ravens have missed Lardarius Webb after he tore his ACL earlier this season.
Amerson has had an up-and-down junior season, but he is a big-play cornerback with great ball skills, size and athleticism. Other players who could be considered on sheer value are Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd.
27. Denver Broncos: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (Jr.)
Defensive tackle has been a point of weakness for the Denver Broncos’ defense for a few years now, but if they have a chance to make Sharrif Floyd their first-round pick in 2013, they can go a long way in changing that. The Florida defensive tackle is quick for his size and a very disruptive interior lineman who can give the Broncos the interior rush presence that they have lacked.
In the interest of potentially moving Derek Wolfe back to defensive tackle from defensive end, Michigan State’s William Gholston and Texas’ Alex Okafor could also be considered as defensive ends. A naturally-gifted defensive tackle in Floyd may be too hard to pass up.
28. Atlanta Falcons: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
The Ray Edwards experiment officially became a failure earlier this season, when the Atlanta Falcons released him less than two years after signing the high-profile defensive end as a free agent. The Falcons still have a strong pair of starters in John Abraham and Kroy Biermann, but will likely be looking for a third defensive end to be the key player in the rotation they expected Edwards to be.
Either Texas’ Alex Okafor or Michigan State’s William Gholston would be a steal at this point, but Okafor gets the slight nod. Okafor is a very good pass-rusher who is also very solid against the run, and can push both starters for their starting jobs. Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert is hard to pass up here, but signs point toward the Falcons pursuing a first-round defensive lineman.
29. New York Giants: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Martellus Bennett has had a breakout season with the New York Giants, but they could still be in the market for a tight end early in the 2013 draft after losing injured Jake Ballard to waivers last offseason. If Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert is still available this late in the first round, he would be awfully tough for the Giants to pass up.
Eifert fits the modern prototype at the tight end position, with a combination of size and athleticism fit for a basketball star, while he is also a strong blocker.
30. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR/RB, West Virginia
Upgrading the pass defense may seem like an obvious direction for the New England Patriots to go in the first round, but never count on Bill Belichick to go the obvious route in the draft. If the Patriots lose Wes Welker as an unrestricted free agent, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin would be a perfect fit to replace him as the Patriots’ slot receiver.
The Patriots will need to add another playmaker to the offense who can be a playmaker in the slot if they lose Welker. Austin is small, but he has a fantastic combination of speed, quickness, route-running ability and running ability that give him the potential to be a very dynamic player in the form of Randall Cobb or Darren Sproles at the next level.
31. Houston Texans: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (Jr.)
The Houston Texans already have one of the league’s elite wide receivers in Andre Johnson, but they lack a legitimate No. 2 weapon at the position to draw coverages away from Johnson. The Texans need to find another big-play threat at the position to achieve that, and can get that in Tennessee’s Justin Hunter.
Hunter has a tremendous combination of size and speed, and has the ability to be a big playmaker at the next level. He is raw as a route-runner and drops can be an issue, but he has huge upside and could be exactly the missing piece in the Texans’ offense.
32. San Francisco 49ers: John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
The 49ers’ defensive front seven stands out as the NFL’s best, with one of the NFL’s best defensive ends and four potential All-Pro linebackers, but the one thing they do lack is a true anchor at nose tackle. The 49ers could make their defense even more dominant by adding that player in Georgia’s John Jenkins.
Jenkins is an absolutely massive gap-filler. He is very tough against the run, not only because of his hulking size and strength, but also because of surprising quickness for his size. He is ideally fit to play nose tackle in a physical defense like the 49ers.