17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Age is more and more a concern for the Pittsburgh Steelers especially after losing five of their last seven games cost them a playoff spot. They’ve tried to get younger but not fast enough. Linebacker Larry Foote is a free agent this offseason and though he might return, he’s getting older. They’ll take Manti Te’o here to bring youth to the position.
Te’o is a well known name showcasing great instincts and leadership on Notre Dame’s top defense. He may not have great speed, but he’s always around the ball and making plays. With the recent Te’o girlfriend (or lack thereof) controversy, Te’o may fall on some teams’ boards but the Steelers will seize the opportunity to grab him here.
With experience in a 3-4, Te’o could seamlessly transition to the NFL and contribute to Pittsburgh right away.
18. Dallas Cowboys
Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
With the hire of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator, the Cowboys will be transitioning to a 4-3 defense. It seems they play to move DeMarcus Ware to end, but other than Ware there aren’t many others who can contribute at end. They’ll grab Texas’ own Alex Okafor to fill the void.
Okafor has been a beast for the Longhorns and one of the few consistent players on the team the past few years. He can rush the quarterback (just watch his 2012 Alamo Bowl performance) and can contain and stop the run. He’s talented player with room to grow.
The transition to a 4-3 will be tough for Dallas to make in one offseason, but drafting Okafor will a good step in the right direction.
19. New York Giants
Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Osi Umenyiora has likely played his last game as a Giant and Justin Tuck’s impact has diminished. Once again, they’ll draft a talented defensive end like Dion Jordan.
Jordan is a fantastic edge rusher who can play the run. He’s an athletic freak with a long, lean frame that can add bulk to it. He’s a top ten talent who will fall on draft day due to a torn labrum, but the Giants will see the value and capitalize.
Without Jason Pierre-Paul, Tuck and Jordan the Giants form a scary group of ends once again and won’t miss Umenyiora.
20. Chicago Bears
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Offensive line has been the bane of the Bears for several years as they gave up 44 sacks this season. They can no longer ignore it. Lane Johnson can become the left tackle they’ve lacked for years.
Johnson is an athletic lineman with great footwork that does well in the passing game. He still needs quite a bit of work, but he has lots of room to grow after starting his career as a tight end.
Protecting Jay Cutler has to be a top priority after finally giving him targets to throw to. Johnson should develop into solid left tackle giving them that blind side protection.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Bengals have one of the best collections of young talent in the league. Linebacker is a huge area of concern with Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson and Rey Maualuga set to be free agents. An aggressive linebacker like Alec Ogletree would be perfect in Cincinnati.
Ogletree has great speed, a fantastic skill set and a mean streak that fits the Bengals system. He is a hard hitter that could knock the ball out with every hit. Even though he played inside at Georgia, he projects better on the outside due to his range and athleticism.
No matter where they put Ogletree, teaming him with Vontaze Burfict would give the Bengals one of the best tandems of linebackers in the league.
22. St. Louis Rams (from WAS)
Dallas Thomas, OL, Tennessee
The Rams acquired this pick as part of the Robert Griffin III trade. With their second pick in the first round, they take an offensive lineman. When he’s not hurt, Rodger Saffold is the only good player on the line so they’ll need to invest quite a few picks here. They grab the best available lineman in Dallas Thomas.
Thomas is a good all-around lineman that has good feet, long arms and a strong hand punch. He’s versatile enough to play either guard or either tackle positions.
Depending on what else they can do in the offseason, Thomas will be able to fit in at any spot to protect Sam Bradford and open up the run.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Keenan Allen, WR, California
Minnesota rode Adrian Peterson to the playoffs, but their passing attack needs to get going to continue the success. Christian Ponder flashed traits that may make him a top quarterback, but he needs guys to throw to. Keenan Allen would be a big-bodied receiver that makes plays for Minnesota.
Allen is a taller receiver with good hands that creates after the catch. He’s not someone who will wow you on first viewing like an A.J. Green, but he’s consistently good and makes plays.
Should Percy Harvin come back healthy, he and Allen would form a great complementary set of receivers for Ponder to throw to. If they can get the passing game going, this team will be dangerous.
24. Indianapolis Colts
Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
In the first year under Chuck Pagano, Andrew Luck led the Colts to one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history and a playoff berth. With Pagano healthy and back, he can begin to install his defense. He’ll improve the interior by grabbing Arthur Brown.
Brown may get overlooked due to his size, but he’s got top notch instincts and good range. He’s an aggressive player who plays much larger than he is.
Despite making the playoffs, the Colts have lots of holes to fill and Brown would be a big addition to improving the defense.
25. Seattle Seahawks
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
With an outstanding rookie season from Russell Wilson, the Seahawks became one of the best-rounded teams in the league. Defensive tackle is a concern especially with Alan Branch and Jason Jones set to become free agents. Sharrif Floyd will be able to immediately contribute should they lose either Branch or Jones to free agency.
Floyd bursts off the line and he’s stronger than he looks. An all-around player who can rush the passer or disrupt the run, he can even play end and provide a true back up to Red Bryant.
Floyd isn’t getting a lot of attention yet, but he should shoot up boards before draft day and could be gone by now. Should he be here, expect his college defensive coordinator and now Seattle DC, Dan Quinn, to jump at the opportunity.
26. Green Bay Packers
Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
The Packers’ offensive line struggled at times in 2012. This culminated in benching Jeff Saturday late in the season. Ted Thompson does a good job of taking the best available and luckily that guy here is arguably the most decorated offensive lineman in NCAA history, Barrett Jones.
Playing tackle, guard and center at Alabama, Jones won awards at each position. Jones is extremely smart and has an outstanding football IQ to go with great technique.
Jones would likely line up inside at center for the Pack and should be able to play right away and would give them a guy who can be plugged in should the need arise.
27. Houston Texans
Johnathan Hankins, DL, Ohio State
Houston’s defense has been one of the best in the league the past few years. Their weaknesses are up front with Shaun Cody and Antonio Smith, so taking a guy like Johnathan Hankins would be a smart pick.
Hankins is strong and surprisingly quick which allows him to plug holes and stop the run. He’s not much of a threat to sack the quarterback, but he can collapse the pocket generating pressure.
In Houston, he’d likely play end rather than nose tackle which will allow him to seal the edge before shifting inside to tackle on third down with J.J. Watt to rush the passer.
28. Denver Broncos
Kevin Minter, ILB, Louisiana State
When a 37-year-old Keith Brooking is starting at middle linebacker, that position becomes one that needs addressing by the Broncos. Though he may not have had as much hype as other players, Kevin Minter was the heart of the LSU defense and should be able to step in and contribute in Denver.
Minter does a good job of sniffing out plays and with a great closing burst makes plays. He does a good job of using his strength and positioning to shed blockers and make tackles. He can play in coverage which makes him a good fit in Denver.
29. New England Patriots
Eric Reid, S, Louisiana State
The Patriots used two picks on safety last year the early returns don’t look too promising. They do seem satisfied with Devin McCourty shifting to safety so now they need to find someone to play next to him. That someone else is Eric Reid.
Reid is a playmaker in the secondary displaying good instincts and the ball skills to make interceptions. He’s a very good tackler in run support and can deliver big hits to receivers across the middle.
With McCourty and Reid in the secondary, the Pats may have solved their safety woes for the first time since Rodney Harrison retired.
30. Atlanta Falcons
Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist
Atlanta parted ways with defensive end Ray Edwards in November and have struggles getting a consistent pass rush since. While Margus Hunt is not the typical end that Atlanta generally employs, his tenacity and upside are too intriguing to pass up.
At 6’8” and 280 pounds, Hunt is a force on the defensive line. Originally from Estonia, he went to SMU to be on the men’s track program, but when he reportedly ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at a tryout, he was offered a scholarship. He’s a versatile play who could play inside or at end and give Atlanta lots of options on defense.
31. Baltimore Ravens
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
The Baltimore Ravens rallied behind Ray Lewis to make it to the Super Bowl. GM Ozzie Newsome will look at where he can get the most value by taking the best player available. With tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta being free agents this offseason, Newsome may opt to select Zach Ertz.
Ertz is a very good pass catcher with the size and route running abilities to get open and make players. He’s an accomplished blocker who can stay in and block even play like an extra tackle. Tyler Eifert gets all the attention in this class and may be a better pass threat, but Ertz isn’t too far behind and is a better all-around player.
Even if the Dickson and Pitta are brought back, Ertz could still come in and compete to be the starter from day one.
32. San Francisco 49ers
Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
The league’s toughest defense and the threat of Colin Kaepernick have led the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 18 years. As showcased in the NFC Championship game, the secondary is the weakest area on this defense and they can start improving by taking corner Jordan Poyer.
Poyer may not wow you athletically, but he’s excellent in coverage and instinctual. His ballhawking abilities will be the most intriguing being able to change the momentum of the game in an instant.
They have to hope Carlos Rogers gets back to his 2011 form otherwise Poyer will immediately compete to start and should immediately contribute in the nickel at least.