17. Baltimore Ravens: Jernigan, Timmy DT, Florida State
Ideally the Ravens would want one of the upper echelon offensive tackles to fall to them at seventeen, but with the top of that position already locked up, Baltimore turns their sights to the defensive line. If Donald makes it past Dallas at #16, expect Ozzie Newsome to grab him here. However, in the likely scenario Donald is gone, Baltimore will settle for the next best DT prospect in Jernigan. A diluted sample that appeared after submitting to a combine drug test might deter Baltimore from taking him at #17, but ultimately his talent may end up winning them over. Much like Donald, Jernigan’s game is comprised of power and uncanny athleticism. The Ravens might question his schematic fit inside a 3-4, but with an early run on tackle, they may feel its best not reach at #17. I would also not be surprised if Baltimore decided to trade out of this pick, whether it’s towards the back end of round one, or into the top fifteen.
18. New York Jets: Dennard, Darqueze CB, Michigan State
A lot of people expect the Jets to take a receiver here, but with such a deep pool of receiver talent in this year’s draft, that position can be taken care of in round two or later. After losing Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis over the last two years, Rex Ryan’s secondary has become a far cry of what it once was. Rookie Dee Milliner had an up and down season last year, and the addition of Dimitri Patterson leaves a lot left to be desired by Jets fans. Dennard is an aggressive CB who has the ability to lock onto a receiver and impede routes. He also has good ball skills, and exceptional range. I could also see New York trading back, and potentially filling their need at CB with either Jason Verrett or possibly Bradley Roby.
19. Miami Dolphins: Barr, Anthony OLB, UCLA
Miami will want to continue shoring up their offensive line heading into the draft, but at this stage in the first round most of the premier tackles have been selected, and there’s no reason to reach for a guard this early. Barr may be a raw talent with only two years of experience at the position, but he has massive upside. Dion Jordan had such a disappointing rookie year, that trade rumors have begun to emerge surrounding the former Oregon Duck. Barr’s size and length give him the ability to potentially drop back in coverage, and take on bigger receiving TE’s. He offers good value at #19, and could become an effective pass rushing compliment to Cameron Wake.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Beckham, Odell WR, LSU
Andre Roberts leaving via free agency opens things up at the slot position for Arizona. Beckham gives them a speedy presence inside that can work underneath as well as take the top off a defense. With Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd commanding the outside, Beckham will find plenty of room to operate with inside the offense.
21. Green Bay Packers: Amaro, Jace TE, Texas Tech
Aaron Rodgers needs a reliable option at TE, and Amaro offers that and more. Amaro set the single season record for receiving yards by a TE in division one football, and a lot of that had to do with his ability to tack on yards after the catch. In many ways Amaro is like an oversized slot receiver, who makes his bones running short routes. But has flashed the ability to run up the seam and make a big catch. If Jermichael Finely is able to avoid injury, Amaro gives Green Bay a dangerous duo at the position. Amaro’s large frame offers up a sizable target for Rodgers in the end zone. And with James Jones leaving for Oakland, Green Bay will be looking for more red zone help come the fall.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Cooks, Brandin WR, Oregon State
After DeSean Jackson’s release from the team, Philly will be in the market for a fast wide out. Cooks fills that need and then some. He has the wheels to separate from any defender, and excellent vision that allows him to track down balls. Like Jackson, Cooks can turn a short curl route into a 70 yard touchdown. The 2013 Biletnikoff award winner will be a terrific fit for Chip Kelly’s high octane offense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Mosley, C.J. ILB, Alabama
This would be quite the fall for Mosley, but if he makes it past the Steelers at #15, I could see him dropping into the twenties. Some teams waiting in the wings at the end of the first round (Denver) have been rumored to have interest in Mosley. If he falls this far expect teams to give Kansas City a call regarding the pick. However, even though this isn’t necessarily a position of need for the Chiefs, he’s the best available prospect on the board. Ironically, the Chiefs used a 4th round pick in last year’s draft at the same position, and from the same program in Nico Johnson. Along with free agent signing Joe Mays, Kansas City will have injected itself with immediate competition, and depth at inside linebacker next to Derrick Johnson. Other options at this spot could be Marqise Lee or Kelvin Benjamin. But once again, with such a deep field of receivers this year, some teams may want to wait until after round one to invest in wide outs.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ealy, Kony DE, Missouri
After losing out to Tampa Bay in free agency for Michael Johnson’s services, Ealy represents a good solution at DE. He has the desired length and size for a 5-technique in a 4-3, but can line up inside as well. The Bengals still have a formidable front as constituted, so Ealy will have time to further his development at the next level. Along with NFL sophomore Margus Hunt, Cincinnati should have some healthy pass rush competition come training camp.
25. San Diego Chargers: Hageman, Ra’Shede DT, Minnesota
The Chargers need help on their defensive line, particularly at the 3-technique. Hageman has the type of frame you want from a 3-4 defensive tackle. Physically he shares many similarities to Richard Seymour, and potentially could fill that role in San Diego’s defense. However, he’s a long way from cultivating the sort of presence Seymour has at the line of scrimmage. If they don’t decide to go with Hageman here, expect Louis Nix III as a possible alternative.
26. Cleveland Browns: Bortles, Blake QB, Central Florida
The Browns decided to go defense with their first pick, and now turn their attention to offense. Bortles has risen up on many boards this off season due to his prototypical QB frame, and work outs. I’m not sure he’s as polished as some would lead you to believe, but there’s still a good foundation to work with. Cleveland still has high hopes for Brian Hoyer who was having a good season until a torn ACL cut it short. Derek Carr could also be in the fold for the Brows at #26, but regardless of which passer they choose, I believe the position will be addressed before round two.
27. New Orleans Saints: Hyde, Carlos RB, Ohio State
This prediction is kind of hypocritical for me, because I’m traditionally a firm believer in not drafting a RB before the second round. Especially for a team who whiffed on a RB a few years earlier when they selected Mark Ingram in round one. But there’s just no denying Hyde’s height, weight and speed. He’s an absolute monster coming out of the back field, and utilizes lateral movement rarely seen by someone that size. Hyde has the unique combination of power and finesse. He can churn his legs and barrel through defenders for a first down, or simply make linebackers miss at the second level. Drew Brees would surely welcome a powerful back who can dictate the pace of 4th quarters.
28. Carolina Panthers: Lee, Marqise WR, USC
This is no surprise. The Panthers are in dire need of wide out help after the off season they just had, which saw both Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith exit Charlotte. Lee is a complete receiver with an exceptional ability to obtain yards after the catch. He can run every route on the tree, and separate down field from defensive backs. A lack luster junior campaign inevitably hurt his draft stock, but Lee’s performance last year was hardly all his fault. Overall USC’s offense was a disappointment, and Lee’s numbers were a product of that.
29. New England Patriots: Benjamin, Kelvin WR, Florida State
The Pats will look to trade out of this position, most likely down so they can take advantage of the talent left over from round one. Defensive line is a need, as well as TE, but both those positions can be more than adequately addressed in rounds two and three. Stephon Tuitt, Dee Ford, Dominique Easley and many other defensive linemen should be waiting for them in the next round. Austin Seferian-Jenkins may still be on the board at TE, as well as Troy Niklas and CJ Fiedorowicz. So both those areas have plenty more to offer the deeper the draft goes, but the chance to land a mammoth like Benjamin is just too tempting to pass up. I had the pleasure of watching Benjamin in person this season when Florida State visited Chesnut Hill.
He’s a physically imposing player who looks more like a defensive end than receiver. Very raw, not as polished as other wide outs in the first round, but took advantage of his size better than almost anyone in college football. Knows how to box out defenders and catch the ball at its highest point. Has a long stride that makes him deceptively fast for his size, and gets down field to compete for position. A lot of Patriots fans are probably wondering why they should take a receiver so early, especially after investing two high picks in the position last year. The reason for picking Benjamin is simple, he’s a red zone juggernaut.
Forget labels and positions for a second, the Patriots biggest issue on offense was producing in the red area whenever Rob Gronkowski went down. They have no problem moving the sticks between the twenties, but Brady’s options become limited after that. Benjamin might not be the savviest route runner, but all McDaniels will have to ask of him during his first year is to run fades outside and seams down the middle. Those two routes alone will make him extremely valuable to New England’s offense.
I still believe the Patriots should take a traditional “Y” TE later in the draft considering Gronkowski’s inability to stay healthy. But that alone won’t cure their red zone deficiencies. Not to mention had Benjamin returned to college and caught passes from Jameis Winston for another season, he probably would have been a top ten pick in 2015.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Su’a-Filo, Xavier OG, UCLA
I’m sure the 49ers would love a chance at Benjamin, but with New England selecting him the pick before, they turn their focus to the offensive line. Su’a-Filo is a tough, durable player, and much like Logan Mankins did coming out of Fresno State, he plays to the echo of the whistle. Su’a-Filo will stabilize the inside of San Francisco’s offensive line for the foreseeable future.
31. Denver Broncos: Bitonio, Joel OG, Nevada
Denver has been talked about as a team that may potentially want to move up this year. C.J. Mosley could be their target if he falls out of the teens, but if they stick with this pick, Bitonio is a practical decision. Denver needs more depth and quality depth at that if they hope to continue keeping Peyton Manning upright.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Latimer, Cody WR, Indiana University
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seattle either trade up for an outside receiver (Maybe Kelvin Benjamin) or trade into the next day. But if they stay at #32, Latimer would be an interesting choice. He’s been climbing drafts boards throughout the offseason due to his physical prowess and measurables. Latimer has the skill set to be a dynamic number one receiver in today’s NFL, and could give the Seahawk’s the red zone threat they’ve been looking for.