16. St. Louis Rams – Jonathan Cooper, OG/North Carolina
The Rams would love for Chance Warmack to fall to them here, but as he continues to get (deserving) hype, he’ll probably be gone. That’s where Jonathan Cooper comes in, who should not be mistaken for second best here. Cooper will help eliminate interior lineman and provide much needed protection and security for Sam Bradford. It’s not a flashy pick, but teams that spend serious time building a good offensive line (Like NFC West mates San Francisco) are rewarded in the long run.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Johnathan Hankins, NT/Ohio State
The Steelers have so many needs that aren’t yet dire needs. They have an aging defense that is slowly withering away, but the unit still has a few years left in it, which affords the front office to pile up replacements in the meantime. Hankins falls to the Steelers by way of some interesting moves before their pick, but you won’t hear them complaining about drafting him. Casey Hampton is 35 and by bringing in Hankins Pittsburgh won’t have to worry about a nose tackle again for another 10 years.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Jesse Williams, DT/Alabama
While Geno Smith is a good option, Jerry Jones will likely draft a quarterback later as to not upset his pet Tony Romo too much. Monte Kiffin, on the other hand, wants to install a 4-3 defense and Williams is the perfect guy to plop on the line with guys like Ratliff and Ware. Virtually everyone on the Crimson Tide roster is being talked up as though they’re the second coming of whoever, and Williams is the latest guy to see his stock slowly rise.
19. New York Giants – Sam Montgomery, DE/LSU
The Giants need an edge rusher to electrify an aging defensive line. Montgomery can step in and learn from two of the best 4-3 rushers in the NFL in Osi Umenyiora (if he returns) and Justin Tuck, but as has been pointed out, both of these guys will be older than 30 by the time Montgomery’s name is called. Tuck might be playing his final year in New York and Umenyiora is always a wild card being that he’s an unrestricted free agent. Montgomery is a demon and the Giants would love to have him.
20. Chicago Bears – Alec Ogletree, ILB/Georgia
The Bears could go any number of ways with their draft pick in April, but they might end up going defense. Everyone knows the offensive line needs work, but with Marc Trestman in town, some are hoping the problem fixes itself. On defense, Brian Urlacher is likely not going to return which means with Nick Roach steps up or the Bears draft one of the best interior linebackers in the country to replace him. I think Chicago goes with the latter.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Montee Ball, RB/Wisconsin
Mel Kiper Jr. suggested this pick so all credit goes to him for it. However, it’s an intriguing idea and Ball has the potential to end up as first round talent come April. The Benglas have BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but running back tandems are a popular thing in the NFL and the Bengals are still lacking something on offense. If you add Ball into the mix with Green-Ellis, Jermaine Gresham and A.J. Green, all of a sudden a lot of pressure gets taken off Andy Dalton and the Bengals are much better than they have been.
I was high on Fluker in my previous mocks but he had kind of fallen off. But he’s back this week and will likely stay in most people’s mocks as we approach the draft. Fluker isn’t a flashy pick for the Rams, but as we’ve learned in the past, you need a solid offensive line to compete in the NFL and to keep your franchise quarterback healthy. Fluker (and Jonathan Cooper) will not only provide protection for Bradford, but they might convince Steven Jackson to come back for another season since he’ll have blocking for the first time in his career.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Keenan Allen, WR/California
The Vikings need a weapon for Christian Ponder to throw to and with Percy Harvin possibly gone this offseason, the need becomes even more great. Allen is tall, he’s fast and he’s exactly what Ponder needs to prove he is indeed the guy to lead this franchise. However, if Jonathan Banks is here, the Vikings might opt to take a receiver later in the draft so they can shore up a patchy and spotty secondary.
24. Indianapolis Colts – Johnthan Banks, CB/Mississippi St.
Banks is one of the best corners in this draft, and there’s a good chance he falls to the Colts if the Buccaneers don’t crack under pressure and reach to get him. The Colts need to shore up their secondary and Banks provides a way of eventually transitioning from the Vonte Davis era to the Banks era in Indy. But while Davis is still playing, the tandem of Davis-Banks will be one quarterbacks don’t look forward to playing.
25. Seattle Seahawks – John Jenkins, DT/Georgia
Jenkins has seen his value fluctuate over the past couple of weeks, but he’s a pretty solid late round pick. The Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but even they could use some extra help up front. Any time you can add a guy that can power past interior offensive lineman and at the very least open up holes for pass rushing linebackers to fly through, you take the guy that can do that. Pete Carroll likes his defense mean, and Jenkins is going to fit that attitude perfectly.
26. Green Bay Packers – Barrett Jones, C/Alabama
Aaron Rodgers was abused last season and that’s one of the reasons the Packers struggled. Go back to the Seattle Screw game and you’ll see why the Packers didn’t pull away from the Seahawks. Usually Green Bay runs as many receivers as they can, but they had to pull them off the field at numerous times in 2012 so they could add extra blockers for Rodgers. Jones plugs up a huge hole in the middle and becomes Rodgers new right hand man on a powerful offensive unit.
27. Houston Texans - Terrance Williams, WR/Baylor
Williams is a tall, quick receiver and is exactly what the Texans need. Beside Andre Johnson, Houston really hasn’t had a good complement in the receiving corps and that’s what Williams provides. Matt Schaub has been under harsh criticism for disappearing against the Patriots but he didn’t have anyone to throw to, he had to disappear. Not only does Williams provide a deep target, he takes away the excuse of not having enough targets for Schaub and forces him to perform.
28. Denver Broncos – Zach Ertz, TE/Stanford
There’s this idea that Tyler Eifert will be the first tight end off the board but that’s simply not the case. Not only is Ertz more athletics than Eifert, he’s a lot smarter too. Both guys fit the mold of the modern day tight end, but Ertz will be the guy Peyton Manning can get the most out of in Denver. He’s never really had a Gronkowsi or Jimmy Graham type of tight end and if you add Ertz to Manning’s list of targets that includes Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, you better believe he doesn’t throw an interception in next season’s AFC Divisional Playoff game.
29. New England Patriots – Tavon Austin, WR/West Virginia
The Patriots need more receivers, and they need another one like Wes Welker. Some say Tom Brady needs a deep threat like Randy Moss the season they both broke records, but Brady has had consistent success with Welker, a guy who’s likely going to be out the door this offseason. Austin is a guy that can be exactly what Welker has been only younger and more athletic. New England can get fancy and use him in running back packages and he can return kicks too. If you’ve ever wondered what Percy Harvin would look like on the Patriots, that’s what Tavon Austin will be, and at a fraction of the price.
30. Atlanta Falcons – Tyler Eifert, TE/Notre Dame
We very well could have two tight ends be drafted in the first round this year, but both are deserving. Tony Gonzalez is probably retiring this offseason, which means Matt Ryan is losing one of his biggest targets. Eifert can step in an be a guy that helps soothe the pain of losing Gonzalez and even make Ryan forget about him. He’s the new breed of tight end and pretty soon every team will have a guy like Eifert, Ertz, Gronk and Graham.
31. Baltimore Ravens – Matt Elam, S/Florida
Ed Reed will likely soon follow Ray Lewis into retirement which means the Ravens will need to replace both. Look for them to give Manti Te’o a serious look later in the draft, but Matt Elam is the guy who comes off the board first. He’s mean, he’s physical and he’s not afraid to let you know he just decked you. I don’t think you can personify the Baltimore Ravens defense any better than that, and Elam will fit right in with the youth movement.
32. San Francisco 49ers – Sharrif Floyd, DT/Florida
Two Gators back-to-back? Oh how nostalgic. The 49ers were able to basically redshirt all their rookies last season, with really only LaMichael James seeing action in 2012. But Jim Harbaugh might be losing some pieces of his defense in free agency and that means he’ll need an impact guy this season out of the draft. Floyd will be able to step right in on the defensive line and become a menace for opposing running backs. Plus, Justin Smith showed that if he’s not in the lineup, Aldon Smith suffers and as a result so does the rest of the defense. Floyd can play tag-team with Smith as well as eventually fill in on the defensive line as a starter.