17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Pittsburgh Steelers made a major effort to fix their offensive line in last year’s draft by spending their first two picks on offensive linemen, but what their roster still lacks is a long-term option at left tackle. In a draft class where the top offensive linemen are expected to go off the board quickly, the Steelers would be smart to take the opportunity to draft the only tackle worth first-round consideration left on the board in Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
Fisher is unheralded as a prospect from a mid-major program, but he is a very good prospect with the pass-protection skills to be the blindside protector the Steelers desperately need to find to keep Ben Roethlisberger from taking so many hits. Although often against lesser competition than the other top offensive line prospects, Fisher has dominated opposing pass-rushers with great length and footwork paired with adequate power.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Matt Barkley, QB, USC (SCOUTING REPORT)
This pick should be a slam dunk. The Dallas Cowboys need a right guard desperately, and Alabama’s Chance Warmack would fill that need and is the best player available. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, however, is not afraid to make a splash with personnel decisions, and the 2013 NFL draft may be no different.
Tony Romo is a better quarterback than he is often made out to be, but he is also 32 years old and entering the final year of his contract, which could have the Cowboys ready to find his successor given that they have not been able to make a playoff run under Romo.
Meanwhile, a disappointing senior season could cause USC’s Matt Barkley to fall to the second half of the first round, but he is still a potential franchise quarterback with high upside who could be groomed as Romo’s potential successor in 2014. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller tweeted on Dec. 31 that he has been told Jones is a fan of Barkley, and Barkley is well worth taking a chance on in the second half of the first round.
19. New York Giants: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (Jr.) (SCOUTING REPORT)
The New York Giants won two of the five past Super Bowls heading into this season largely on the strength of their pass-rush, but this season, their pass-rush production went down across the board, and the Giants’ defense was unable to carry them to the postseason.
Knowing the importance of the pass-rush to their success, its ability to put less pressure on their shaky secondary and the value available in this scenario a defensive end, adding another pass-rusher would make sense.
LSU’s Barkevious Mingo is an outstanding athlete and explosive defensive end who could give the team’s pass-rush another difference-maker, even if he is only a situational player. With Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora both apparently on the decline and entering the final year of their contracts, the time is now to upgrade at defensive end, and Mingo has huge upside.
20. Chicago Bears: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Chicago Bears haven’t chosen their next coach yet, but one thing he and general manager Phil Emery should both agree on is the Bears badly need to rebuild their offensive line. Alabama guard Chance Warmack is as good as any prospect available on the board, and as the best offensive lineman available, he should be an easy choice and much-needed upgrade at guard.
Warmack is a massive, powerful mauling run-blocker, but he also has very good feet for a 322-pound interior lineman. The Bears could definitely afford to upgrade at either guard spot, and Warmack has the talent to be that immediately.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Eric Reid, FS, LSU (Jr.)
Eric Reid’s stock has slipped a bit after a disappointing junior season, but he is still the best safety prospect in the 2013 draft class. The Bengals need an upgrade at safety next to Reggie Nelson, and should pounce on Reid if he falls outside the top 20 picks.
Reid has had some issues with inconsistency and penalties, but he is an outstanding safety at his best. He is a terrific athlete with very good deep coverage ability, and he is a playmaker closer to the line of scrimmage as well as a hard-hitter and solid tackler.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (Jr.)
The Rams’ offense made positive strides this season, but more offensive weapons should still be coveted. A go-to downfield weapon in the middle of the field would be ideal for quarterback Sam Bradford, and that is exactly what the Rams would get from Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert.
Eifert is the best tight end in the draft class, with a combination of size, athleticism and ball skills that fit the modern “basketball player” prototype at the position. In addition to how he could help the Rams’ passing offense as a receiving threat, he is also a solid blocker who could help power an offense that has had some issues with run blocking.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (Jr.)
The Minnesota Vikings’ two greatest needs, wide receiver and defensive tackle, both come at positions deep enough with talent that the Vikings can get a starting-caliber player in Round 2. That should leave the Vikings looking for the best value at either position in Round 1, and Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson would be awfully difficult for them to pass up.
Richardson is an explosive defensive tackle who is the best pass-rushing interior lineman in the draft class, and he could be an immediate upgrade as an under tackle next to Kevin Williams. The Vikings’ interior defense hasn’t been the same since Pat Williams’ departure broke up the “Williams Wall,” but the Vikings have an opportunity to restore that strength inside by selecting Richardson.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line is a mess, and largely the reason why they were unable to advance past the first round of the playoffs. The Colts’ best game plan for their first-round pick would be to draft the best-available offensive lineman, and there is still one offensive lineman available well worth a first-round pick in North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper.
Cooper is a terrific all-around guard as both a powerful run blocker and a skilled pass protector, and has even better feet than Chance Warmack. The Colts need to upgrade at four of five offensive line spots, but could start out strong by adding a potential star at guard with Cooper.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia (Jr.)
With Ray Lewis set to retire this offseason, the Baltimore Ravens’ greatest immediate need is to find his replacement at inside linebacker. Georgia’s Alec Ogletree may never be the superstar Lewis has been, but he is a great fit to fill Lewis’ role.
Like Lewis, Ogletree has outstanding speed for a linebacker, and is a big, hard-hitting tackler who is both a physical run-stopper and very effective in coverage. With Lewis calling it a career, the Ravens need to add a linebacker who can be a three-down playmaker inside, and Ogletree has the skill set to be that player.
26. Green Bay Packers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (Jr.)
The Green Bay Packers haven’t gotten much pass-rush production from their defensive linemen this season, so they could really benefit from adding a quick interior lineman to complement B.J. Raji in their two-man base nickel defensive front, and also as a defensive end in their three-man front. Florida’s Sharrif Floyd would be a tremendous fit.
Floyd is an explosive interior defensive lineman with great athleticism and quickness, and he is also a strong, physical run-stopper. Adding Floyd to their defensive front rotation would add a very valuable piece to a defensive front seven that has had their share of struggles this season.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (Jr.)
The Houston Texans need to find a legitimate No. 2 threat at wide receiver to line up across from Andre Johnson. With no wide receivers off the board, the Texans have their pick of the litter at the position, and the best wideout in the class is Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins.
Hopkins is a deep threat with good speed and leaping ability, while he is also a very good route-runner with consistent hands. As a dynamic playmaker on the other side of the field, Hopkins could successfully draw coverages away from Andre Johnson, and give Matt Schaub another weapon to work with in the downfield passing game.
28. Atlanta Falcons: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (SCOUTING REPORT)
The Atlanta Falcons released Ray Edwards midseason, which could have them looking for another pass-rushing defensive end to rotate in with John Abraham and Kroy Biermann. Texas’ Alex Okafor is a productive defensive end who could be an asset both at bringing pressure against opposing quarterbacks and in stopping the run.
Okafor is not tremendously explosive, but he is a good athlete who has tremendous hand technique as a pass-rusher. He also has good size and strength, and holds up well against the run, making him a player who can play on all three downs if used in a starting role.
29. Seattle Seahawks: Robert Woods, WR, USC (Jr.) (SCOUTING REPORT)
The Seattle Seahawks’ passing offense made incredible strides with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson leading the way this season, but as Wilson and the passing game continue to develop, the Seahawks need to add a go-to playmaker at the wide receiver position.
As the man who recruited him to USC, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll should know a thing or two about Robert Woods — meaning he should know that Woods is as good as any receiver in the draft class, and could be a tremendous weapon in their offense.
Woods is knocked for having subpar measurables, but he is an outstanding route-runner with great hands and open-field quickness and playmaking ability. He can line up both outside and in the slot, and could quickly become Wilson’s most reliable and dynamic weapon.
30. Denver Broncos: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The Denver Broncos need to upgrade at defensive tackle. Specifically, they need a big, powerful nose tackle who can improve their interior run defense.
Georgia’s John Jenkins, a massive 350-pound-plus nose tackle, would be a perfect fit. He has great quickness for his size, and can contribute as both a powerful run-stopper and an interior bull-rusher to line up next to Derek Wolfe on pass-rushing downs.
31. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (SCOUTING REPORT)
The best pick for the Patriots would be an upgrade at under tackle who could provide a pass-rushing complement inside next to Vince Wilfork, but with Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd off the board, their best route would be to upgrade at wide receiver. They are already thin at the position, and if Wes Welker leaves this offseason, they will need a replacement in the slot.
With terrific speed, quickness and route-running ability, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin is a terrific playmaker and would be a perfect fit to replace Welker. Austin is a multi-dimensional playmaker who is a perfect fit for the Patriots’ offense, as he can keep their defenses on their heels and catch screen passes or come out of the backfield to create big plays.
32. San Francisco 49ers: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The defensive front seven is already the strength of the San Francisco 49ers, but to keep it that way, the 49ers need to continue to add young talent into the mix. North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams could be a perfect fit for their defense.
Williams possesses the size to line up inside at nose tackle while he is also a very quick penetrator who could potentially excel as a 5-technique defensive end. He may not necessarily fill a need on the 49ers, but he is worth a pick at the end of the first round and could improve both the team’s pass-rush and run stopping up front.