17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The aging Steelers defense needs an injection of youth. On top of their age, they are faced with the worst cap situation in the NFL next season with less than 10 players accounting for close to 80 million on the cap. They need an impact player with this pick. Jones checks all the boxes for what the Steelers look for in a OLB prospect. Throw the timed speed and agility out the window. This kid can play and make an impact at the NFL level right away. He knows how to get to the QB and provided the Steelers clear his neck injury, he’s the pick.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Cowboys are making the switch to a 4-3 Cover-2 defense under Monte Kiffin. Their defensive line is facing a major overhaul because there simply aren’t many natural 4-3 tackles on the roster. Richardson has tremendous upside at 3-Technique. He provides great athleticism, movement skills and elite agility for the position. He can penetrate, get to the QB and has a large playmaking range against the run. The latest rumor going around is the Cowboys love Sylvester Williams, but if Richardson makes it to their pick, I think they pass on Williams for the higher upside player.
19. New York Giants – Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Jones is one of the fastest risers up the board and there’s a chance he doesn’t even make it to pick 19. I have heard the Giants linked to him multiple times. If he makes it to #19 I think he comes off the board here. The Giants lost both Chris Canty and Osi Umenyiora. When they are successful it’s because their DL is creating pressure, so they need to replenish their depth. Jones, much like Justin Tuck and Chris Canty has the ability to play both 4-3 DE and 4-3 DT making him an ideal fit for this selection.
20. Chicago Bears - Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
The Bears defense won’t look the same without Brian Urlacher roaming the middle of the field. Although the team signed DJ Williams to be a stop gap, the Bears don’t have a long term replacement on the roster. Ogletree, much like Urlacher was is a converted safety that possesses freakish athleticism for the position. Ogletree can play all three linebacker positions and adds some more speed to the Bears aging linebacker corps.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State
While DE may not be the biggest need on the Bengals roster, he is the best player available and a team can never have too much pass rusher. Michael Johnson is currently on the franchise tag and he is likely to cash in big time next season. It’s wise for the Bengals to draft with that in mind. Carradine has as much pure pass rush potential as any player in the draft. If he were fully healthy there’s no way he gets this far in the draft.
22. St. Louis Rams - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
After filling their biggest need with their first selection, the Rams are able to come back and fill their biggest offensive need, wide receiver. The Rams really need to add playmakers around franchise QB Sam Bradford. Right now the Rams don’t have any players on offense that scares opposing teams. Adding a player with the athletic ability and natural receiving skills as Patterson will quickly change that.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Vikings took a major chance by letting Percy Harvin go. They were able to replace some of the production by signing Greg Jennings and adding additional draft picks. While they still need another wide receiver, they would be wise to use their first round picks on the defensive side where there is less depth than at receiver. The Vikings defensive tackle position needs major help and Williams is a versatile defender that can play right away.
24. Indianapolis Colts - DJ Hayden, CB, Houston
Hayden is the drafts biggest riser, going from near death on the football field to a possible top 20 selection in the draft. Hayden has a near complete skill-set. He has natural cover skills, can play both man or zone coverages and has great ball skills. The Colts used their second round pick to acquire Vonte Davis and by pairing Davis with Hayden they greatly improve their pass defense.
25. Minnesota Vikings - Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
It seems as though everyone is projecting Te’o to the Vikings after it was learned he dined with GM Rick Speilman before his pro day. It’s well known that Speilman loves Notre Dame players and the Vikings have a big hole in the middle of their defense. The Vikings hit a home run by trading back up into the first round for safety Harrison Smith last year and Te’o could have a similar impact on the Vikings defense in 2013.
26. Green Bay Packers - Matt Elam, S, Florida
Charles Woodson is gone leaving the Packers without the heart and soul of their secondary. While the Packers have some nice pieces at safety they lack a clear cut star. Elam can do it all from bringing a physical edge to playing in the deep third or playing in the box. I love the passion and intensity that Elam plays with and that rubs off on his teammates. Elam has NFL bloodlines and is the first step in the Packers improving their pass defense.
27. Houston Texans - Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
It seems that each year the Texans are in the market for a wide receiver and each year they pass on one in the draft. With Andre Johnson lobbying for more help, they may not have a choice this time around. Justin Hunter is a boom or bust prospect. He could be the best receiver in the entire draft or he could be out of the league in a few seasons. Hunter has an elite combination of size and speed.
28. Denver Broncos - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Once thought of as a potential top ten pick, Wener’s stock has started to fall. The Bronoco’s screwed up big time by not faxing in Elvis Dumervil’s renegotiated contract and it cost them a good player. Since Dumervil has left, the Broncos have been unable to fill the hole. Werner is a a traditional 4-3 fitting the Broncos defensive scheme.
29. New England Patriots - Robert Woods, WR, USC
The Patriots draft situation is more fluid than ever. They could go in about three different directions depending on how the draft board shakes out. What I do know is that they are focused on four areas CB, WR, DL and OG. Depending on how the picks before them go, it’s likely they go wide receiver or cornerback with their first pick. Over the last three months the Patriots have spent a lot of time and resources scouting the receiver class.
Out of all the receivers that could be picked with this selection, I believe Woods is the best fit. His ability to run a number of different routes, line up anywhere in the formation and his strong hands make him a great fit for the Patriots offense. Woods will give OC Josh McDaniels a lot of flexibility with formations and how he is lined up. If it weren’t for his ankle injury Woods would be ranked much higher. If Woods is off the board, I expect the Patriots to target a CB and reset their WR board heading into the second round. Cornerbacks to keep an eye on are Jamar Taylor, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and potentially Desmond Trufant.
30. Atlanta Falcons - Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Atlanta’s secondary has taken a major hit this off-season by losing Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson and Christopher Owens. There is a gaping hole at cornerback on what is a very good playoff roster. There are rumors that the Falcons are looking to move up for a cornerback, but that might be tough to pull off. If they sit tight and land Desmond Trufant that would be considered a huge steal.
31. San Francisco 49ers - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
No team is set up better to manipulate the draft board than the 49ers. The 49ers can move up to get a player they covet of they can sit at pick 31 and pick the best player on their draft board. After losing Delanie Walker in free agency they are able to land the best tight end in the draft. Eifert will pair with Vernon Davis to create a scary good tight end tandem.
32. Baltimore Ravens - Keenan Allen, WR, California
Most are anticipating the Ravens to fill one of their defensive needs in the first round, specifically ILB. After losing Anquan Boldin it’s going to be important that the Ravens replace some of his production in the draft. Keenan Allen isn’t a burner, but he would be a great compliment to the vertical threat of Torrey Smith. Allen is a big, smart and savvy receiver that can be productive in Baltimore’s offense.
Check back Wednesday for my final mock draft before the draft and after I do some more digging. Hopefully things will begin to clarify as the week goes on.