16. St. Louis Rams – Jake Matthews – RT/Texas A&M
Not very many people are high on Matthews in terms of having him on the big board, but as the need for lineman rises at the top of the draft, so will Matthews stock. The Rams have a great team coming together but they need to protect Sam Bradford and Barry Richardson needs to go. Matthews was on one of the better lines in the country and while his buddy Luke Joeckel is getting all the attention, Matthews is largely regarded as one of the best right tackles in the draft. When his name is called, Sam Bradford breathes a sigh of relief.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – Sam Montgomery – DE/LSU
Montgomery is a monster and was more productive than his teammate Barkevious Mingo who will be selected well ahead of him in the draft. The knock on him is that his ceiling isn’t as high as Mingo’s but that shouldn’t stop him from being a mid-round pick as he fits in just about any 4-3 defense in the NFL and can make plays now.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alec Ogletree – ILB/Georgia
The Steelers are going to look to upgrade at linebacker and Ogletree is one of the best in the class. Next to Manti Te’o he’s the best interior linebacker in the draft and boosted his stock by being the best player on the field in the SEC championship game. With Troy Polamalu injury prone and aging, don’t count out Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro or a quarterback here.
19. Minnesota Vikings – Jonathan Banks – CB/Mississippi State
It’s not the flashy choice Vikings fans are hoping for but if the team wants to get better it needs to be on both sides of the ball. A.J. Jefferson has struggled and likely isn’t a suitable replacement for Antonie Winfield when he retires. Banks can be a lockdown corner that, if Chris Cook can develop, can become a No. 1-A/B type of corner. The Vikings need a wide receiver but they can get one on the second day and don’t even think about going quarterback here. They reached once for a so-so pick they won’t be doing it again when they can get a Landry Jones or Tahj Boyd the next day.
20. Dallas Cowboys – John Jenkins – DT/Georgia
Rob Ryan loves his defense and he loves drafting potential defensive stars. Like Ryan, Jenkins is huge, he’s mean and he’s really good at what he does for a living. He’s almost impossible to block one-on-one and when he draws double teams and is rendered ineffective, he opens lanes for linebackers to fill in and stuff the run or rush the passer.
21. St. Louis Rams (From Redskins) – Eric Fisher – LT/Central Michigan
Like the Vikings, the flashy pick for one of the Rams two first round picks is a giant receiver but again, Sam Bradford isn’t made of stone and he needs protection to properly utilize his weapons. Fisher is a MAC product and while it’s easy for great players to look good there, he also held his own against top notch competition. Getting Steven Jackson some blocking for once in his career won’t hurt either. It’s not flashy to double dip on lineman in the first round, but Super Bowl trophy’s are very flashy.
22. Chicago Bears – Sylvester Williams – DT/North Carolina
The Bears are known for their defense, especially this year. But while the unit as a whole was stellar earlier this year, they’ve fallen off a bot as of late and that starts on the line. Williams can start right away for the Bears and give them a big burly presence on the line, which means the 10th ranked run defense can only get better and pressure can be brought on the quarterback which forces an opponent to rush passes against a hungry secondary. The Bears need help on the offensive line as well, but they don’t want to reach for a guy like Dallas Thomas they can get later.
23. Seattle Seahawks – Keenan Allen – WR/California
Seattle is one of those teams on the cusp and is in what is shaping up to be the next great division in the NFC. But if they want to compete they need a true No. 1 receiver and that’s Keenan Allen. He’s tall, he’s productive and the only reason his stock isn’t higher is because he’s on an awful team. But if he can put up big numbers on a bad Cal team, Seahawks fans (and Russell Wilson) will love him in Seattle.
24. New York Giants – Tyler Eifert – TE/Notre Dame
Two “Domers” taken in the first round?! He’s no Manti Te’o but Tyler Eifert is looking more and more like he will be a first round pick for the Giants. Martellus Bennett has shown them what a good pass catching tight end can do for Eli Manning, but he’ll likely bolt and capitalize on his success with a big contract somewhere else. Eifert has the ability to be a pass catching tight end but could be developed as a fine blocker as well.
25. Indianapolis Colts – Matt Elam – S/Florida
He’s got attitude, he’s hard hitting and he can compliment Antonie Bethea in the Colts secondary. Indianapolis Colts loaded up on offense last year and they’re making a killing so far this season. If they load up on young defensive talent in this year’s draft, the Colts could be avery dangerous team next year, and that could start with Elam popping ball carrier’s heads off with his hard hitting skills.
26. Green Bay Packers – Lane Johnson – OT/Oklahoma
Aaron Rodgers is one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL over the past two seasons, and in 2012 he was just brutalized on a regular basis. Packers lineman complained about the refs after the Seattle Screw but they should have been more angry at the fact the Packers have had to take receivers off the field to add extra blockers. Green Bay doesn’t need too much but a glaring need is apparent on the offensive line.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Kenny Vaccaro – S/Texas
The Ravens want to keep their defense stout, but there is a transition period coming up as the aging stars of yesteryears defense are starting to head towards the exit. Ed Reed isn’t retiring but he’s not bathing in the fountain of youth either. Vaccaro has looked great on a bad Texas defense and should he head to Baltimore, it would again be a case of the rich getting richer on defense.
28. New England Patriots – Barrett Jones – OG/Alabama
Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger and he can’t take the punishment he’s taken this year. It hasn’t been brutal and the league tends to put a skirt on him, but the less Brady is sacked the better for the Patriots. Jones isn’t way up on people’s boards but he has been on one of the better offensive lines in the country. Not only will Brady benefit from him being there, so will whoever is running the ball for the Patriots.
29. San Francisco 49ers – Tank Carradine – DE/Florida State
Tank Carradine was by far one of the most explosive players for the Seminoles before he tore his ACL. Usually that’s a death sentence for a prospect but the 49ers are in a position where they can let Tank wait in the wings for a while, heal up and come back the player he was before the injury, and the guy he was pre-ACL tear was one of the fastest edge rushers in the country.
30. Denver Broncos – C.J. Mosley – ILB/Alabama
Mosley missed some time this season but that didn’t stop him from flexing his muscles on an outrageous Tide defense. He’s been called the best true linebacker in the draft and is just too good for Denver to pass up. Mosley and Von Miller together is a scary thought for AFC teams.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Jesse Williams – DT/Alabama
Williams is all brawn and that’s what the Falcons need badly on their defensive line. Atlanta has and trouble up front and even if they’ve managed with what they have, adding Williams isn’t going to hurt. We saw what he did in the SEC and even in the Georgia Dome in the Championship game, so seeing him there eight times a year on Sunday won’t be something Falcons fans get upset about.
32. Houston Texans - Tavon Austin – WR/West Virginia
The Texans have needed a compliment for Andre Johnson for years, and despite not having an adequate one, they’re still winning. Austin is a Percy Harvin type of player that can not only be a No.2 for the Texans, but can be a slot man, a down field threat, a kick returner and even a running back at times. Austin is an all-purpose weapon the Texans would be spoiled to have and even more dangerous if they get him.