17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Damontre Moore, DE/Texas A&M
Moore has fallen causality to a terrible combine. He was atrocious in the drills he ran in comparison to how much he’d been talked up leading into the combine. But unlike Star Lotulelei who was a top 3 pick in some mocks, Moore’s bad combine is a fixable project and one that the Steelers would love to be in charge of. They’re agin up front and having Moore, a guy they could even slide to outside linebacker, on their team is not the worst idea in the world.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Star Lotulelei, DT/Utah
Lotulelei’s agent has told reporters that the prospect’s heart condition that held him out of the combine won’t effect his clients status — but it will. Lotulelei will continue to fall and don’t be surprised to see him fall out of the first round entirely, as Da’Quan Bowers is a perfect example if how quickly an injury can sink your status. Still, his talent is undeniable and as the Cowboys transition to a 4-3 look on defense, plugging Lotulelei in the middle of it might slow some of the explosive running offenses they face.
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 – Tavon Austin, WR/West Virginia
The Bears need to acknowledge that the Devin Hester/Johnny Knox days are over. It was a nice experiment and their heart was in the right place but the need for a speed receiver has made itself known again. With Hester going through a complete mental breakdown over how he feels about the Bears and Knox being forced into retirement, Austin makes more sense than ever for Chicago. Not only can he return the ball, but he’s a cheaper, younger version of Percy Harvin, as he’ll be able to run out of the backfield as easily as he can be a dangerous slot threat for Jay Cutler.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Desmond Trufant, CB/Washington
Cornerback is, at the moment, one of the hottest positions in the NFL Draft. From Dee Milliner on down, the list of names is becoming more and more recognizable and talented as we approach the draft. The Bengals need serious help at linebacker, but locking down the secondary isn’t a bad route to go. Stopping the run game is a goal for the Bengals, but it becomes a lot easier when you force runs by taking the passing game out of the equation.
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 – Johnathan Hankins, NT/Ohio State
Minnesota would love to upgrade at wide receiver but until they actually trade Percy Harvin, it won’t become a No. 1 need. Right now the Vikings are in a position where everything is a need, and that starts up front on defense. Kevin Williams is getting old, Jared Allen is up there and Brian Robison is going to fade. Minnesota made it within a game of the Super Bowl back in 2009 thanks in large part to the ‘Shock and AWWE’ defensive line they had. Plugging the middle is important and the Vikings must realize Kevin Williams can’t do it forever. Besides, Keenan Allen’s draft stock is dropping which means they may be able to trade up in round two to get him.
24. Indianapolis Colts – Xavier Rhodes, CB/Florida State
It really depends on who you ask when you’re wondering who the top cornerback in the draft is outside of Dee Milliner. Many thought the Buccaneers knew since they need a corner desperately, but they’ve reportedly said they’re not sold on anyone outside of Milliner. Desmond Trufant is a popular choice but Xavier Rhodes is a clear cut No. 2 option when it comes to corners. If Chuck Pagano can pair him next to Vonte Davis, the Colts secondary will be one teams aren’t looking 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 – 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 - Kevin Minter, ILB/LSU
Houston started out strong on defense in 2012 but thanks to a torn ACL, it all started to go south pretty quickly. When the Texans lost, it was ugly and their defense was picked apart in every single way. Adding a serious linebacker threat next to Brian Cushing is something Wade Phillips would love and he just might get it. Minter is considered to be one of the best true linebacker prospects in the draft, so you can imagine why the Texans would be high on him.
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 – Keenan Allen, WR/California
Bill Belichick loves to get what he wants when he wants it and if he’s sold on Keenan Allen when he holds his Pro Day, expect him to be a Tom Brady target next year. Wes Welker’s future is not clear and Brandon Lloyd is likely gone as well. This means the Patriots would run a three tight end offense lead by Rob Gronkowski but adding the tall and talented Keenan Allen to that mix is something that will give defenses headaches week in and week out.
30. Atlanta Falcons – Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
He’s being called by some, the best draft prospect no one is talking about. Jones has everything he needs to have to be a first round pick, and teams are starting to notice. The Falcons were good last season but they were burned on the edge all year long and need to find a youthful defensive end to right the ship. Jones is a name we’ve been watching for a while and he’s starting to work his way up the draft board and into the first round.
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 – Alec Ogletree, LB/Georgia
Baltimore has a need to fill with Ray Lewis retiring and it won’t be Manti Te’o. John Harbaugh was clearly not impressed with Te’o at the combine and his situation is still a little too weird. Alec Ogletree was grilled about his DUI at the combine but it’s wouldn’t be the first time the Ravens looked past off-field issues in order to allow a middle linebacker to thrive for them. The idea of Manti Te’o somehow working his way into the first round is cute, but Ogletree has way more talent and upside and make much more sense.