17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jarvis Jones’ draft stock is not what it once was, but nonetheless, he has the skill set to be one of the best players to come out of the 2013 NFL draft. The Georgia outside linebacker’s slide should stop at the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Jones would be a tremendous 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 was a consistent difference-maker on the field at Georgia. His ability to both rush off the edge and set the edge make him a potential three-down asset as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Though no longer considered likely to be a top-10 pick, Jones is great value in the second half of Round 1.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
As the Cowboys switch to a Tampa 2 defensive scheme, they should be in the market for another interior penetrator at defensive tackle who can bring pressure up the middle while also improve the Cowboys’ interior run-defense. They could get that out of Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, who is also tremendous value at the No. 18 overall selection.
Floyd, a great athlete for a defensive tackle who has a high motor and is also strong and powerful at the point of attack, is projected by some as a top-five overall selection. While he belongs more in the middle of the first round in my eyes, he would be a terrific addition to the Cowboys, where can add a difference-maker inside and help the Cowboys make the transition and improve in their new defense.
19. New York Giants: Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, DE, Florida State
The New York Giants pass-rush started to lose its luster last season. Following Osi Umenyiora’s departure and with Justin Tuck entering the last year of his contract, the New York Giants would be smart to take advantage of Cornellius “Tank” Carradine’s value if he is still available at the No. 19 overall selection.
Carradine’s stock is hurt by a torn ACL suffered in November, but he showed strong signs toward a full recovery on Saturday, when he ran the 40-yard dash at his personal pro day in front of NFL teams, according to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Although the Giants were not one of the 11 teams reported by Reedy to be at the workout, they will certainly receive word of his impressive workout.
Carradine is a well-rounded and explosive defensive end with star pass-rushing potential, but is also a strong point-of-attack run defender. Going forward, Pierre-Paul and Carradine could become one of the NFL’s elite defensive end combinations. The Giants could afford to bring Carradine along slowly in 2013, potentially starting his season on the Physically Unable to Perform list if he is still dealing with knee issues, but it seems as though he will be healthy enough to play in 2013 while the Giants can groom him as Tuck’s eventual replacement in the lineup in 2014.
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 picks in Round 2 and few pressing needs, the Cincinnati Bengals can afford to take a chance in Round 1 if the right player falls into their spot. That could very well be the case if Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, one of the most dynamic offensive players in the draft class, is still available at the No. 21 overall pick.
Wide receiver is not a significant need, especially considering the Bengals drafted two receivers, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, in last year’s draft. That should not preclude them, however, from adding a dynamic playmaker like Patterson opposite A.J. Green.
Patterson can give the Bengals another big, fast downfield target on the outside, while he can also add another dimension to the Bengals’ offense with his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands, while he can also be used creatively on running plays and as a kick/punt returner, all of which increases his value and makes him a plausible upside choice at No. 21.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
There is a good shot that Alabama guard Chance Warmack could be off the board even before the St. Louis Rams’ draft pick at No. 16 overall, so getting him with their second first-round pick would be an ideal scenario.
Warmack could slide due to the lack of value typically assigned to guards as first-round picks, but he is among the best overall players in the draft class. He is a massive, powerful road-grading run-blocker with good athleticism and is also an effective pass-protector. He could be an immediate upgrade at guard, where the Rams most need to upgrade their offensive line.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Minnesota Vikings are in need of a middle linebacker, and they appear to have interest in Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported in a series of tweets last week that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman dined with Te’o before his pro day. With one of the Vikings’ two first-round picks, drafting Te’o would make sense to upgrade the middle of their defense.
An instinctive playmaker with enough of an all-around game to play on all three downs, Te’o could be the presence the Vikings need against the run from the middle linebacker spot, and he presents good value as a late first-round pick.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
The Indianapolis Colts have a decent group of inside linebackers in Jerrell Freeman, Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner, but they lack a true playmaker in that group. Brown, a terrific athlete who is good at attacking the run as a blitzer but also at making plays in space and dropping back into coverage, could be exactly what they need.
The Colts are lacking impact players on their defense, and they could get one at good value late in Round 1 with Brown.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
After releasing Antoine Winfield, the Minnesota Vikings should look to use one of their early picks on a cornerback. Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes, considered by many to be the second-best cornerback in the draft class, could very well end up being their choice with their second first-round pick.
There is a lot to like about Rhodes: he has terrific size and length for a cornerback, is a physical press cover corner and he has very good athleticism considering his size. He also has some flaws—he has some issues in zone coverage and is penalty-prone—but he has the most upside of any available cornerback, and he could be a difference-maker in the Vikings’ secondary.
The Vikings also have needs at defensive tackle and wide receiver, but can address those in Rounds 2 and 3 considering the depth of the draft classes at both positions.
26. Green Bay Packers: Datone Jones, DT/DE, UCLA
The Green Bay Packers could be in the market for another interior pass-rusher to line up alongside B.J. Raji as a 5-technique defensive end and in the two-man front in the nickel defense. UCLA’s Datone Jones would be a perfect fit to fill that role as a late first-round pick.
Jones did not always play like a first-rounder at UCLA, but with a rare combination of quickness, athleticism and size (6’4”, 283 pounds), he has huge upside as a 5-technique end. He is an explosive playmaker who can both an asset not only as an interior pass-rusher, but also as a run defender, and is worth taking a chance on late in Round 1.
27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The Houston Texans need a legitimate No. 2 option at wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson. Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins would be a very good fit, and good value late in Round 1.
Hopkins is a very skilled receiver who runs great routes, has great hands, is physical and goes up and gets the football. He has good size and athleticism, and would give Matt Schaub another go-to receiving weapon while helping to draw multiple coverages away from Johnson with a reliable intermediate target who does a great job of getting open.
PROJECTED TRADE: The Denver Broncos trade the No. 28 overall selection to the Atlanta Falcons for the No. 30 and No. 127 overall selections.
28. Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Atlanta Falcons are rumored to be considering a trade up the draft board, per Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, and one possible target of a move up could be Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, who would be a great fit to address their need for a cornerback. If Trufant falls to this point on the board, the Falcons could be smart to make a move to jump the New England Patriots, who are also a strong candidate to draft Trufant, and get in position to draft him, while the Broncos could look to trade down with the top middle linebackers and defensive tackles off the board.
Following the loss of Brent Grimes, the Falcons are very thin at the cornerback position. With good size, athleticism, physical play and coverage instincts, Trufant has the potential to develop into a No. 1 cornerback and is the best in zone coverage among the top cornerbacks available.
Trading up just two spots may not be the big move up the board the Falcons have in mind, but it would make sense to assure the chance to select Trufant at this point in the draft.
29. New England Patriots: Robert Woods, WR, USC
Having missed out on restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the Patriots have a major need for playmakers at the position. If USC’s Robert Woods is still available at the No. 29 overall selection, he would be a perfect fit and great value for what the Patriots need.
With terrific hands, crisp route-running, a willingness to play physically and good open-field quickness, Woods is an excellent intermediate receiver, which is the crux of the Patriots’ passing offense. Woods can give the Patriots a much-needed downfield playmaker on the outside, but he also has the versatility to line up in the slot and make plays inside and over the middle.
PROJECTED TRADE: The Denver Broncos trade the No. 30 overall selection to the New York Jets for the No. 39 and No. 141 overall selections and a 2014 third-round selection.
30. New York Jets (from Denver Broncos): E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Trading down into Round 2 to get better value on a middle linebacker or defensive tackle while stocking up on future selections makes sense for the Denver Broncos, while the New York Jets can afford to mortgage a 2014 third-round selection having picked up the Buccaneers’ third-round pick for that draft in the Darrelle Revis trade. In anticipation of a big run on quarterbacks to start Round 2, trading up for a third pick in Round 1 would make sense for the Jets to take a shot on a potential franchise signal-caller.
The most likely target for the Jets in a trade up would be Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. While Manuel has some unresolved issues in pocket passing, including downfield accuracy and making better reads, he has the most intriguing physical tools of any quarterback in the draft class. Manuel could add a dual-threat dynamic to the Jets’ offense, and could end up being a very good quarterback if developed properly.
With two top-13 picks, the Jets are going to be big players in the 2013 NFL draft, and could be even bigger players if they can put this deal together.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
The San Francisco 49ers made big addition at cornerback already this offseason by signing Nnamdi Asomugha, but Asomugha is only signed to a one-year contract, which should have the 49ers for more reinforcements at the position with at least one of their many early draft picks.
Boise State’s Jamar Taylor could be exactly what the 49ers need at the position at the No. 31 overall selection. Taylor is a physical cornerback who excels in press man coverage, which is a significant component of the 49ers’ coverage, and he is also a very good athlete with strong ball skills. He would be a very good fit and is ready to contribute immediately in the San Francisco secondary either as a starter or in the nickel.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Johnathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International
One of the Baltimore Ravens’ many key losses on their defense this offseason was future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, who has long been the leader and playmaker of their secondary. The Ravens need to add another playmaker at safety to replace him, and Florida International’s Johnathan Cyprien would be an adequate choice to fit the bill.
Cyprien doesn’t quite have the coverage skills that Reed had in his prime, but he is a hard-hitting safety who excels in run support, while he is also an athletic safety with very good playmaking range. The Ravens added a good complementary playmaker at free safety this offseason in Michael Huff, but they could the hard-hitting ballhawk they need at the position by drafting Cyprien at the end of Round 1.