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 pair with Kevin Williams to give the Vikings a dominant interior defensive line that they 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. New Orleans Saints: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (Jr.)
The New Orleans Saints have bigger needs on their defense than at defensive end, but that does not hide the fact that their pass-rush is subpar, and they could certainly use a premier rusher at the position. The Saints are in a position where drafting the best available defensive player makes sense, and drafting a very gifted pass rusher with in-state ties in LSU’s Sam Montgomery makes a lot of sense.
Montgomery is a terrific athlete and talented all-around defensive end who can be a three-down difference-maker at the next level. He would be great value in the latter half of the first round, and be a much-needed impact player if added to the Saints’ defensive line.
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. Cincinnati Bengals: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State (Jr.)
The Cincinnati Bengals have bigger needs than at defensive end, but it makes for them to draft where the value is at rather than at free safety, linebacker or right tackle. Michael Johnson is an unrestricted free agent, which means the Bengals could certainly target a defensive end in the first round, and Michigan State’s William Gholston is one of the best players on the board in this scenario.
Gholston is a big defensive end who also is a very good all-around athlete, making him disruptive both at rushing the passer and shutting down the run. He has been an inconsistent performer at Michigan State, but has the upside to be a difference-maker.
21. 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.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama
Jesse Williams would be a steal as a late first-round pick, and would be a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
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.
Jesse Williams is a strong and powerful nose tackle who is a perfect fit to be the new anchor of the Steelers defensive front. Williams has great size, but he is also quick off the snap and truly a disruptive player who frees up the defenders around him to make plays.
23. Indianapolis Colts: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
If the Indianapolis Colts have a shot to draft Alabama guard Chance Warmack, he is a no-brainer of a selection. The Colts really need to upgrade their interior offensive line, and Warmack is a tremendously talented guard with the potential to be a star at the position.
It is rare to find a guard prospect with the combination of mauling power and strength with nimble feet that Warmack has. The Colts could immediately make a weak area better with this selection, and he fills a need while he is also the best value on the draft board.
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 solid right tackle prospect in D.J. Fluker.
Fluker is a powerful run blocker and a long, decently athletic tackle who leverages defensive opponents well. He may be somewhat of a reach as a first-round pick, but would fill a very important need.
25. Green Bay Packers: Sharrif Floyd, DE, Florida (Jr.)
The Green Bay Packers drafted two 5-technique defensive ends in the 2012 NFL draft, but the Packers have had some issues in the defensive front seven when injuries have hit this year. Specifically, they need to do a better job stopping the run, and with some very good value still available on defensive linemen, it would make sense to draft another and strengthen the position.
Floyd is a defensive tackle at Florida, but he projects well to playing 5-technique defensive end in a three-man front, while he also has the functional strength to spell B.J. Raji at nose tackle if needed. Floyd is can add a level of athleticism, explosiveness and quickness that current starters Jerel Worthy and Ryan Pickett do not have.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (R-So.)
The Baltimore Ravens are known for drafting value, and if he declares for the 2013 draft, redshirt sophomore Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby would be the best available player in this scenario. The Ravens could certainly use another playmaker to start across from Lardarius Webb at cornerback, and adding Roby could give them an outstanding duo of starters.
Roby emerged a shutdown cornerback in a breakout year for the Buckeyes. He has tremendous speed and ball skills, and that combined with his aggressive style of play make him a very dangerous playmaker. He is also very solid as a tackler in run support.
27. Denver Broncos: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Defensive tackle has been a point of weakness for the Denver Broncos defense for a few years now, but they can certainly become stronger at the position by drafting Georgia’s John Jenkins. With enormous size but also the quickness to shoot gaps, Jenkins is a true difference-making interior lineman.
Jenkins can beat blockers both by simply overpowering them and by exploding off the line, making him both a dominant run stopper and a dynamic interior pass-rusher. Jenkins certainly fits a 3-4 defensive scheme as an anchoring nose tackle best, but has the athleticism and overall skill set to excel in a four-man front as well.
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.
Okafor is great value late in the first round. He is an athletic pass-rusher who is also very solid against the run, and has the skills to make an immediate impact in the Falcons’ defensive line rotation.
29. New York Giants: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU (Jr.)
The linebacker corps is the weak point of the New York Giants’ defense, and they lack a true leading run-stopper at middle linebacker.
LSU’s Kevin Minter may be the best player available in this scenario. He is an athletic linebacker with great playmaking range as both a run-stopper in the middle of a defense, and with the ability to get out in space and make tackles and drop into coverage.
30. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR/RB, West Virginia (SCOUTING REPORT)
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 are already thin at wide receiver as it is, and if they lose Welker, they will need to find a playmaker with quickness and route-running to take over his role in the offense. Austin is the most dynamic receiver in the 2013 draft class, with exceptional cutting ability and quickness, along with route-running skill and rushing ability that would make him a perfect fit in an offense featuring Julian Edelman, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen already.
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 consistent No. 2 weapon at the position to draw coverages away from Johnson. A big-play threat and playmaker like Tennessee’s Justin Hunter could be exactly what the Texans’ passing offense needs.
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 has the most upside of any wide receiver eligible for the 2013 draft.
32. San Francisco 49ers: David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State (Jr.)
North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson had an up-and-down junior season, but he remains a dynamic playmaker worth a late first-round selection. The 49ers can afford to take a chance on Amerson, and could certainly use another playmaker in their secondary.
Amerson has a tremendous combination of size and athleticism and tremendous ball skills, but his shortcomings come from being over-aggressive and giving up too many big plays. He compares favorably, however, to New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty, and the 49ers could use McCourty as a model and try converting Amerson to free safety if Dashon Goldson leaves as an unrestricted free agent following the season.