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 – Chance Warmack, OG/Alabama
The Cowboys might look Tyler Wilson’s way here but if they’re serious about trying to extend Tony Romo that means any quarterback they take will be a late round selection if that. Extending Romo means getting him protection becomes a priority and there’s no better guard in the country than Chance Warmack. If St. Louis doesn’t take him at No. 16, the Cowboys will jump all over him since there’s no one better for them is available at this point.
19. New York Giants – Zach Ertz, TE/Stanford
Eli Manning got a taste of what life is like with a great pass catching tight end and Zach Ertz would bring him up to date with the rest of the elite passers in the NFL. Brady has Gronkowski, Brees has Graham and Manning would have Ertz. He’s smart, he’s huge and most importantly he’s ready to play right now. Ertz is going to create matchup problems all over for opposing defenses and he can beat defenders up the seam as well. Defensive end and linebacker are areas of need as well but Ertz is too good to pass up if the Giants are serious about exploiting Manning’s skills to their fullest.
20. Chicago Bears – Alec Ogletree, LB/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. Alec Ogletree’s DUI this weekend only helps Chicago’s chances that he’s available at 20th overall and despite the character hiccups, the hope is that Ogletree can be straightened out so he can flatten out opposing offenses in 2013.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Manti Te’o, LB/Notre Dame
The girlfriend story is still hilarious and if he disappears on defense, Cincinnati writers are going to have an easy time coming up with puns. But hoax aside, Manti Te’o proved he can be a leader and can make big plays on defense and that’s something the Bengals need badly at linebacker. Keith Rivers is a free agent, Rey Maualuga has done nothing to suggest he should be a starter in the NFL. Te’o is still drenched in red tape but the combine and draft workouts will shake that off and he’ll quickly get a look in the first round come April.
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.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Desmond Trufant, CB/Washington
The Vikings are thinking about trading Percy Harvin but even if they do, it doesn’t change the fact that their defense is aging where it’s good and short where it’s bad. A defensive lineman is an option here but a cornerback would fill a massive need the VIkings have that is generally being overlooked. We could see a run on the remaining top tier cornerbacks at the end of the first round that could entice the Vikings to go with arguably the second best corner in the draft. Trufant wowed at the combine and as soon as the VIkings can get A.J. Jefferson off the field the better. If Chris Cook can develop into a solid corner, the VIkings could have one of the best secondaries in the NFL in 2013 between Trufant, Cook and Antoine Winfield.
24. Indianapolis Colts – Sam Montgomery, DE/LSU
The Colts need an edge rusher to electrify a defensive that could be very good moving forward. Montgomery can step in and provide the Colts with exactly what they’ve been looking for. He’s fast, he’s mean and he’s going to be an impact player in 2013 if Chuck Pagano can get his hands on him and develop him into the premier pass rusher the team needs desperately.
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 – Eddie Lacy, RB/Alabama
I’d love Barrett Jones here as he fills an immediate need but Lacy fills an even bigger one. The only knock on the Packers offense over the years has been the utter absence of a running game and the Alabama hammer can fix that right up. Running back is one of the most popular skill positions for fans to pull for and Lacy will help make the Packers offense even more dangerous than it already is. Besides, if you think Alex Green and Cedric Benson are the answer at running back for the Packers, please review the Packers 2012 running game and then check out how well Lacy ran in a devastating offense with the Crimson Tide.
27. Houston Texans - Keenan Allen, WR/California
If Allen falls to the Texans, he won’t fall any further. Andre Johnson isn’t getting any younger and he’s never had a fellow deep threat to draw coverage off of him. Matt Schaub has gotten some serious flack for failing Houston in the playoffs but if he has another deep threat target to throw to, the excuses go away as to why the Texans aren’t an offensive powerhouse. Between Allen, Johnson and Arian Foster, Matt Schaub will have plenty of weapons and all of a sudden the Texans are right back into the thick of being one of the elite teams in the NFL.
28. Denver Broncos – 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 Broncos if the Buccaneers don’t crack under pressure and reach to get him. The Broncos need to shore up their secondary and Banks provides a way of eventually transitioning from the Champ Bailey era which seems to be over after his horrendous AFC Divisional playoff game against the Ravens. But while Bailey is still playing, the tandem of Bailey-Banks will be one quarterbacks don’t look forward to playing.
29. New England Patriots – Tavon Austin, WR/West Virginia
The Patriots need more receivers, especially after rumors surfaced that they might be parting ways with both Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. 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. San Francisco 49ers – Matt Elam, S/Florida
The 49ers were able to redshirt virtually all of their rookies this season, but contract situations and money issues might mean San Francisco will see some names leave in free agency this offseason. One spot the 49ers could use upgrading is at safety where Dashon Goldson is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the 49ers might opt to let him walk rather than give him a massive extension. San Fran has already spent a lot of money on their defense and they could use some discounted youth to liven things up a bit.
32. Baltimore Ravens – Kevin Minter, ILB/LSU
Baltimore’s defense helped them win a Super Bowl but it’s age is really hard to overlook. The absence of Ray Lewis will be even harder to ignore which means they need an upgrade immediately to fill the void. Minter would fit right into what the Ravens are all about and he’d eventually be an impact player for John Harbaugh’s defense.