17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Following a disappointing pro day workout and still facing medical questions, Jarvis Jones’ draft stock is on a downward slide. The Georgia outside linebacker’s slide should stop at the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Jones would be a great fit to replace James Harrison and spark the Steelers’ pass-rush.
While Jones is not the most explosive pass-rusher in the draft class, he is better than his measurables would indicate. He is an instinctive player who finds ways to the backfield and has a playmaking knack, and has ability to both rush off the edge and set the edge can make him a three-down asset as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
If one of the draft’s top two guard prospects is still available when the Dallas Cowboys pick at No. 18 overall, either would be a great choice. The Cowboys desperately need an upgrade over Mackenzy Bernadeau at right guard, and both Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are great value in the second half of Round 1.
In this case, with Warmack still available, he should be the selection. Warmack is a massive, powerful mauling guard with great feet and efficient technique. He can step in immediately as a right guard upgrade, and has the potential to develop into an All-Pro.
The Cowboys need to solidify their offensive line, and adding Warmack would be a terrific start.
19. New York Giants: Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, DE, Florida State
The New York Giants pass-rush started to lose its luster last season. With Osi Umenyiora an unrestricted free agent and Justin Tuck entering the last year of his contract, the New York Giants could very well target another pass-rushing defensive end to line up opposite Jason Pierre-Paul with their first-round pick.
Cornellius “Tank” Carradine’s stock is hurt by a torn ACL suffered in November, but assuming he can recover fully, he is one of the draft’s most talented pass-rushing defensive ends. The Giants could afford to bring Carradine along slowly in 2013 — potentially starting his season on the Physically Unable to Perform list — but groom him as Tuck’s eventual replacement in the lineup in 2014.
Carradine is a well-rounded and explosive defensive end with star pass-rushing potential. Going forward, Pierre-Paul and Carradine could be one of the NFL’s elite pass-rushing combinations.
20. Chicago Bears: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
After officially moving on from the Brian Urlacher era, the Chicago Bears got to work in rebuilding their linebacker corps with free-agent additions of D.J. Williams and James Anderson. Even so, the Bears should still be in the market for a long-term cog with the potential to continue the team’s great historic legacy of middle linebackers.
LSU’s Kevin Minter is the best all-around middle linebacker in the draft class. He is an instinctive playmaker who is consistently around the football, tackles soundly and is effective in both blitzing and coverage.
The Bears need to find a new leader for their linebacker corps in the post-Urlacher era, and if Minter is still available with their first-round pick, he should be the guy.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
With two second-round draft picks, few pressing needs and still plentiful cap room, the Cincinnati Bengals can draft for value over need with the No. 21 overall pick. That is why the Bengals could make a splash with their first-round pick and add another dynamic playmaker at wide receiver with Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson is a game-changer with the ball in his hands. He is great at extending plays in the open field with his speed and quickness, but is also a big receiver who can make plays outside. Paired with A.J. Green as the No. 2 receiver, the Bengals could have one of the NFL’s most dangerous receiving duos, while adding a player who can also run the ball out of the backfield and return kicks and punts.
Patterson is one of the best talents available, and would add another big playmaker to the Bengals’ offense.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The St. Louis Rams could still use more playmakers on their offense, and with the loss of Danny Amendola to the New England Patriots, they also need a new slot receivers. Bringing both of those together, the Rams would make a great choice by adding a tremendous slot receiver and explosive offensive weapon in West Virginia’s Tavon Austin with one of their two first-round draft picks.
With a rare combination of open-field quickness and straight-line speed, Austin can turn any play into a big play. He is a truly dynamic offensive weapon who makes up for his lack of size with crisp route-running and the speed and moves to run away from defenders.
The Rams have made some key additions in free agency to help quarterback Sam Bradford by signing tight end Jared Cook and left tackle Jake Long, but adding Austin would give Bradford another fantastic weapon to work with.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
With one of their two first-round picks, the Minnesota Vikings should be in the market for an upgrade at defensive tackle. Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins is great value at the No. 23 overall pick, and could be exactly what they need on their interior defensive line.
Hankins is a big, powerful nose tackle with good quickness and penetration ability for his size. He can be both a space-eater and a disruptive force inside next to Kevin Williams, which the Vikings have not had since Pat Williams’ 2011 departure broke up the “Williams Wall.”
24. Indianapolis Colts: Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
The Indianapolis Colts do not have many impact players on their defense, and having starting to shore up their offensive line with some key free-agent signings, they could look to that side of the ball with their first-round pick. A great choice would be Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, who has the potential to be a tremendous 3-4 inside linebacker.
Brown is an athletic inside linebacker who is an effective tackler in space with a nose for the football. He is an aggressive and effective blitzer, but also fluid dropping back into coverage. He would be an upgrade to the Colts’ linebacker corps and continue the team’s aggressive rebuilding effort on the defensive side of the ball.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
After going defensive tackle two picks earlier, the Minnesota Vikings should be in the market for another wide receiver to start opposite Greg Jennings with the No. 25 overall pick, one of the picks they acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for star playmaker Percy Harvin.
Hopkins is a big, athletic receiver who runs clean routes, has terrific hands and does a great job tracking the football to go up and get it. He is a great fit for the Vikings to add some much-needed size to their receiving corps and give quarterback Christian Ponder another playmaker to work with on the outside and downfield.
26. Green Bay Packers: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
The Green Bay Packers should be in the market for an explosive interior defensive lineman who can line up as a 5-technique defensive end and next to B.J. Raji in the two-man nickel front as an interior pass-rusher. UCLA’s Datone Jones would be a great fit for that role.
Jones didn’t exactly play like a first-round pick at UCLA, but he has huge upside for a 3-4 scheme like that of the Packers. He has an outstanding combination of size (6’4”, 283) and quickness, and can be an asset as both an inside rusher and as help in interior run defense.
27. Houston Texans: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Derek Newton experiment was a failure last season at right tackle for the Houston Texans. If Alabama’s D.J. Fluker is still available at the No. 27 overall pick, he would be a very smart choice to upgrade the right side of the offensive line.
Long, powerful and with good movement skills, Fluker has the potential to be a very good starting right tackle. He is the only remaining offensive tackle on the board worth a first-round pick, and would fill one of the Texans’ greatest needs.
28. Denver Broncos: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Denver Broncos should be looking to strengthen their interior run defense, and one way they can do that is by upgrading at middle linebacker. Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o has seen his stock slip in recent weeks, but he is great value late in the first round, and could be a great addition to the Broncos’ linebacker corps.
While he disappointed by coming into the combine smaller than expected at only 241 pounds, he is a sound run-stopper who fills holes well and makes plays in space. With overblown off-field issues aside, Te’o is one of the best players available at this point in the draft and worth a late first-round pick.
29. New England Patriots: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Even with re-signing Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington, the New England Patriots should be in the market for another cornerback early in the 2013 NFL draft. With Talib only signed to a one-year contract, and fellow starter Alfonzo Dennard facing possible prison time, drafting another starting cornerback in Round 1 would be smart if Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks falls to the No. 29 overall pick.
Banks is a great fit for the Patriots’ secondary, with great length and size, good instincts, great ball skills and physical play. He is great value late in the first round, and is ready to contribute immediately while he could be groomed into Talib’s long-term replacement as the No. 1 cornerback.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Assuming the Atlanta Falcons do not bring back Brent Grimes, what appeared to be a very deep position group at cornerback will instead be very thin. The Falcons need to add youth and talent at the position, and Washington’s Desmond Trufant could be a strong possibility late in Round 1.
Trufant is a quickly-rising prospect with good size, athleticism, physical play and coverage instincts, and is the best in zone coverage among the top cornerbacks available. He has the potential to be the No. 1 cornerback the Falcons need to replace Grimes, start opposite Samuel and give them a real playmaker at the cornerback position.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
The San Francisco 49ers need to rebuild their secondary, and with a run on cornerbacks starting late in Round 1, they should use their late first-round pick to select the best cornerback available in Boise State’s Jamar Taylor.
A physical cornerback who excels in press man coverage, Taylor would be a very good fit and upgrade in the 49ers’ defensive scheme.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Johnathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International
With a number of needs and a consistent organizational emphasis on value, it is very likely that the Baltimore Ravens will trade down from the No. 32 overall pick. If they stay put, however, Florida International strong safety Johnathan Cyprien would be a great fit to add an impact player to their defense.
Following the departure of legendary safety Ed Reed, the Ravens need to find another striker and ballhawk to lead their secondary on the back end. The Ravens could get that from Cyprien, a rangy playmaker who could fill the void at strong safety next to free-agent acquisition Michael Huff, giving the Ravens a younger, athletic and hard-hitting pair of safeties.