17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Johnathan Banks (CB) MISS ST
A defense in decline and an injured Big Ben were among the reasons the Steelers failed to play in their usual January appearance. Ike Taylor has been enough for the secondary to just barely hold steady, but with him likely leaving this offseason the cornerback position can no longer be ignored. Banks was given the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and has the long frame and anticipation to make plays as a zone corner.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack (OG) ALABAMA
No the Cowboys won’t use this pick to anoint a successor to a once again beleaguered Romo, but next year all bets are off. The interior line play was been horrible so taking a guard Todd McShay is calling the best in the last decade would sure things up a bit. Barrett Jones ofAlabamacan play all five offensive line positions so he’ll also be in the mix.
19. New York Giants: Eric Reid (S) LSU
The Giants have one of the best defensive lines in the game, but when they struggle like they did late this year the weak secondary is exposed even more. Reid brings a lot to table and is equally competent making plays in the secondary as he is in run support. It will be extremely tempting to resist adding another potential Jason Pierre-Paul in Ziggy Ansah, but Reid is the safer and probably the more productive player at least right away.
20. Chicago Bears: Eric Fisher (LT) CENTRAL MICHIGAN
It’s no secret Jay Cutler has been unhappy with lack of protection the offensive line has allowed. Although pass protection is vital to any offense Cutler especially benefits from increased time to scan the field and utilize his arm strength to make throws downfield. Fisher has risen dramatically in a short time due to his size (6’7) and footwork.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Ezekiel Ansah (DE) BYU
The Bengals defensive front has been one of the league’s best, but free agency will hurt its depth. Why not add a versatile athlete with unlimited upside to the rotation. A second impact wide out would be great for the improvement of Andy Dalton, but this year was plenty of nice receiver prospect who will be available later on.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Wash): Justin Hunter (WR) TENNESSEE
Danny Ammendola, Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens have all shown some ability and softened the need for another receiver. Justin Hunter and his combination of size (6’4) and speed (4.4) is too good to pass up. With a better supporting cast Bradford may finally be able to reach his potential.
23. Baltimore Ravens: Matt Elam (S) FLORIDA
The two cornerstones of the vaunted Ravens defense will soon be retired so finding their replacements will be one of the offseason priorities. Ray Lewis has already announced this will be his final season and Ed Reed toys with the idea of retirement every year. Matt Elam plays with similar swagger and can not only cover ground quickly but loves to make the big hit. Alec Ogletree could also be targeted to fill the role of Lewis in the middle.
24. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson (WR) TENNESSEE
Adrian Peterson is neck and neck with Peyton Manning for the MVP award after a gruesome knee injury last year. The most impressive aspect of his stellar season is that everyone in the stadium knows he’s getting the ball and he still gashes defenses. If the offense can become less one dimensional it will do wonders for Christian Ponder and AD. Patterson burst onto the scene in his first year as a Vol and has fantastic athletic tools with a 6’3 frame and 4.45 speed.
25. Indianapolis Colts: Dion Jordan (OLB/DE) OREGON
Last draft was played terrifically well for the Colts. Not only did they luck into taking one of the best QB prospects arguably ever, but made it a point to surround him with weapons going almost exclusively offense. This go around the defense will be the focus and with Dwight Freeney nearing his end with the team Dion Jordan, who is better suited as a 3-4 OLB than Freeney, could step in and if developed properly become a feared edge rusher.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Kawann Short (DT) PURDUE
The Seahawks are rising fast and their dominant defense is one of the reasons why. On order to maintain that defensive dominance you need to continue to add resources. One of the weaker points is the interior of the defensive line and Short is both strong with the ability to anchor as well as the athleticism and anticipation to shoot the gap and penetrate into the backfield. A WR is also on the wish list.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Alex Okafor (DE) TEXAS
If the Flacons come up short this year many will question their ability to win the big game. Although the Giants tanked this time around, they have shown us that generating pressure on the opposing quarterback is a key ingredient to winning in January. Okafor had a huge game in the Alamo Bowl with a 4.5 sack performance. He isn’t explosive speed wise, but understands how to get to the quarterback by taking proper angles and active hands.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Sylvester Williams (DT) NORTH CAROLINA
The Niners are in a position to use this as a luxury pick. Safety might be a bigger area of concern, but this class is relatively deep in that area. Williams should fit well as a 3-4 DE and even flex to the NT spot on clear passing downs. Creating a pass rush that includes Williams, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith would be incredibly potent.
29. Houston Texans: Robert Woods (WR) USC
The Texans have looked a lot of beatable down the stretch. Wade Phillips’ defense is still very stout but the offense seems to struggle when their bell cow Arian Foster is being stopped. Andre Johnson is one heck of a receiver, but besides Owen Daniels, a decent receiving tight end, there isn’t much for Schuab to look for. Woods isn’t the top ten overall prospect he was touted to be at the start of the year, but he has the speed to be an explosive downfield threat and is a strong and precise route runner all while being 6’1.
30. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin (WR) WEST VIRGINIA
Wes Welker could be playing his last games in a Pats jersey and Belichick usually prefers to bring in unknowns who can provide depth at multiple positions like Julian Edelman or Danny Woodhead. If an all-purpose stud with blazing speed is available that trend might not continue this year.Austinwould be a great fit as the slot receiver Brady so often utilizes and would be a threat out of the backfield, on reverses and returning kicks. That’s the multi-purpose versatility Belichik lives for right?
31. Green Bay Packers: Johnathan Cooper (G/C) NORTH CAROLINA
Without a glaring weakness the Packers could go in a number of different directions this April. The defense could stand to improve but a lot of resources went into that side of the ball in last year’s draft and should start to pay dividends in the near future. Aaron Rodgers and company have put up big numbers in spite of an average at best O-line. Cooper is an outstanding athlete and could be a very solid OG, but if he moves inside to center he could be an All-Pro.
32. Denver Broncos: Alec Ogletree (ILB) GEORGIA
Peyton has looked like Peyton and are the favorite in Vegas to bring home the Lombardi trophy. It turns out the offensive pieces Tebow surged into the playoffs with last year are even better when on the field with a future Hall of Famer. The defense has carried the momentum from last year into this season, but would it be scary if they added a tremendously gifted former 6’3 safety with long arms and speed to the middle linebacker spot that could use a fresh face? Then again giving Peyton an elite TE prospect like Tyler Eifert would be too.