Round 1 Cont.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Barkevious Mingo OLB (Louisiana State)
I’ve made my thoughts pretty clear on the “Steelers Need an OLB Upgrade” matter over the last few months. With Pittsburgh’s Outside Linebacker needs in mind, I will be very pleased if Barkevious Mingo or any one of the other top-tier pass-rusher falls to the Steelers at #17. Standing 6’4″ and 241 lbs., Mingo possesses a tremendous amount of speed (4.58 40 Yard Dash) and agility (6.84 3-Cone Drill) off of the edge which should help him translate well to the professional level. The biggest issues with Mingo however deal with how raw his skill-set is and his limited production (4.5 Sacks and 8.5 TFL’s) at Louisiana State last season. If teams pass on him due to those concerns, a player with Mingo’s raw talent could be a steal for a Pass-Rusher-needy team like the Steelers at #17 overall who can use him solely as a pass-rusher early in his career until he develops the rest of his game.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Damontre Moore DE/OLB (Texas A&M)
Damontre Moore had himself a terrible Combine performance, and he could slip all the way into the mid-Teens if he does not “Wow” at his Pro Day. A slip by Moore could benefit a team like Dallas who is in need of a Defensive End to develop behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer as they transition to a 4-3 scheme. At 6’4″ 250 lbs., Moore led the Aggies last year in Tackles (85), TFL’s 21.0, Sacks (12.5) as he emerged as one of the S.E.C.’s best pass-rushers. The production is there with Moore, as well as the talent. Where he inevitably goes in Round 1 will be something to watch for in this April’s Draft, but the Cowboys will need to find ways to keep consistent pressure on “RGIII,” Eli Manning, and whichever athletic signal-caller is running Philadelphia’s Offense under Chip Kelly, six times per season.
19. New York Giants: D.J. Fluker OT (Alabama)
The Giants could stand to use an upgrade at Right Tackle as David Diehl and Sean Locklear are entering their mid-30’s. Arguably the best “Right Tackle” prospect on the board is Alabama’s D.J. Fluker, and New York could definitely use the services of the 6’5″ 339 lb. road-grader. A starter of 36 games during his three years with the Crimson Tide, Fluker is one of the more experienced Tackles in this year’s Class. Keeping Eli Manning healthy is a high priority, and the addition of a massive yet athletic Right Tackle should help do just that.
20. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Cooper OG/C (North Carolina)
The Bears need upgrades all along their Offensive Line and would be smart to consider shoring up the interior with a versatile prospect like Jonathan Cooper. The combination of James Brown, Lance Louis, Gabe Carimi, and Chilo Rachal did not cut the mustard this year, plus Center Roberto Garza will be a Free Agent in 2014. Chicago’s pass-protectors gave up 44.0 Sacks last year, and it would be wise to protect their Franchise Quarterback in the form of Jay Cutler. The 6’2″ 311 lb. Cooper could instantly step in and challenge any of the Guards who suited up for the Bears last year for a starting spot. Cooper was a 4-year starter with the Tar Heels (48 Games), and his presence would be a welcome sight to Cutler I am sure.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Alec Ogletree ILB/OLB (Georgia)
In need of a talented Linebacker to pair with Vontaze Burfict, I do not believe that the Bengals will pass on Alec Ogletree. A former Safety, Ogletree possesses an incredible mix of size and speed (6’2″ 242 lbs.), and led the Bulldogs this past year in Tackles with 111, and registered 11.5 TFL’s and 3.0 Sacks to go along with 6 PD’s and 1 Interception. I should also add that he did all of this in 10 games, as he spent the first four on the bench while he served a suspension. At least to me, Ogletree is worthy of a Top 12-15 selection based on talent. Unfortunately for him, he is likely to fall due to his character issues, most notably his recent D.U.I..
22. St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin WR (West Virginia)
Danny Amendola is a UFA, and if the Rams elect not to re-sign him, they could be in the market for a Slot Receiver like Tavon Austin (5’8″ 174 lbs.). Not only did Austin top the 100 Catch mark during his Junior season, he had an even more productive Senior campaign as he recorded 114 grabs for 1,289 Yards and 12 TD’s. But Austin not only shined in the passing game for the Mountaineers, he also was effective in the run-game as he rushed for an incredible 643 Yards and 3 TD’s on only 72 Carries last season as well.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen WR (California)
The Vikings could decide to go for a Defensive Tackle this early, but I believe that G.M Rick Spielman will try to find a Wide Receiver in Round 1 of this year’s Draft. Plus, I cannot blame them if they decide to find more weapons to help out Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson. Allen enjoyed a terrific career with the Golden Bears (totaled 1,343 Yards Receiving during 2011 and 737 during 9 games last year). Allen is a threat to stretch the Defense vertically and horizontally, and possesses a large and physical frame (6’2″ 206 lbs.) which can make him a solid fit with a Wide Receiver-needy team like Minnesota.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Xavier Rhodes CB (Florida State)
The Colts’ Secondary only registered 12 Interceptions during the 2012 season. In addition to that, Indianapolis could use either another starter at the Cornerback position, or an eventual replacement for Antoine Bethea at Free Safety if he leaves via Free Agency next year. Standing at 6’1″ and 210 lbs., the imposing Rhodes was a 1st Team All-ACC Cornerback as he racked up 39 Tackles and 3 Interceptions this year. A team can never have too many Corners in today’s N.F.L.. Thus, a player who has the tools and size to stack up against N.F.L.-caliber pass-catchers like Rhodes could interest teams even earlier in Round 1 than the Colts at #24.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Kawann Short DT (Purdue)
With Alan Branch and Jason Jones set to become UFA’s during the upcoming offseason, the Seahawks might try to add some depth along the interior of their Defensive Line. The 6’3″ 299 lb. Short had a terrific year on an otherwise mediocre Boilermaker Defense as he registered 42 Tackles, 14.5 TFL’s, and 6.0 Sacks from the interior of the Defensive Line. The addition of a player like Short would allow Seattle’s Defensive Ends to be even more lethal as pass-rushers, and Short to take advantage of mismatches inside when guys like Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons require double-teams.
26. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Eifert TE (Notre Dame)
Jermichael Finley is set to become a UFA in 2014, and has apparently had a stormy relationship with his All-Pro signal-caller Aaron Rodgers. The Packers could be in the market for a new Tight End soon, and what better way to please Rodgers than to replace his sometimes butter-fingered target in Finely, with one of college football’s best players at the position like Tyler Eifert. Although Eifert’s 2012 stats were not particularly mind-blowing (50 Catches, 685 Yards, 4 TD’s), anyone who watched him could see that his Quarterback situation was less-than helpful. Furthermore, Eifert has a tremendous amount of athleticism for such a big-bodied pass-catcher (6’5″ 250 lbs.), and showed a large amount of improvement as a blocker last year too.
27. Houston Texans: Arthur Brown ILB/OLB (Kansas State)
Houston’s Defense was never quite the same after Brian Cushing went down with an injury. Now with Bradie James set to hit the Free Agent market, the Texans would be wise to consider an Inside Linebacker early in the 2013 Draft. Brown measured in at a stout 6′ 241 lbs., and concerns about his overall weight are likely put to rest now. Since he transferred from the University of Miami (FL) to Kansas State two years ago, Arthur has emerged as one of the best players in the Big XII as he recorded 101 and 100 Tackles during his Junior and Senior campaigns to go along with 16.0 combined TFL’s, and 3 Interceptions.
28. Denver Broncos: Sylvester Williams DT (North Carolina)
While their Secondary was absolutely atrocious against the Ravens, Denver’s Defense could stand to use a space-eating Defensive Tackle who can occupy blockers, eat space, and make the occasional play. If the Broncos can give 2nd year man Derek Wolfe more chances to rush the passer from the interior, less attention can be paid to Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller on the outside. A former Junior College transfer, the massive Williams (6’3″ 313 lbs.) was a two-year starter with the Tar Heels, and finished last season with 42 Tackles, 13.5 TFL’s, and 6.0 Sacks. For a big guy, Williams possesses some deceptive speed and can contribute as a gap-shooting Tackle in addition to a gap-clogging one.
29. New England Patriots: Datone Jones DE (UCLA)
The Patriots’ leading Sack man from last year was Rob Ninkovich. The Defensive End finished with 8.0 on the entire year, and he will reach UFA status in 2014. If New England wants to get better on Defense they had better find a way to collapse the pocket from the outside, especially if they wish to return to more Super Bowls while Tom Brady is still in town. A three-year starter with the Bruins, Jones (6’4″ 283 lbs.) registered career highs in Tackles (62), Sacks (6.5), and TFL’s (19.5) as the Bruins captured the Pac-12 South title.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Eddie Lacy RB (Alabama)
On the season, the Falcons averaged a measly 3.7 Yards Per Carry (29th overall), and only 87.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (29th overall). With Michael Turner already released, and Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling being a complimentary Backs, Matt Ryan could sure use a 20+ Carries per game Running Back to help with the 4 Minute Offense and in the Red Zone. The 5’11” 231 lb. bruiser stepped into the starring role in the Tide’s Backfield last season and logged 204 Carries, 1,322 Yards, 17 TD’s and even put up 22 Catches, 189 Yards, 2 TD’s to his stat line as Alabama won the National Championship.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Matt Elam SS (Florida)
Dashon Goldson is set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent this March and Donte Whiter is set to reach UFA status in 2014. The former Gator is a big-hitter who is not only speedy, but can line up in a number of different areas on the Defensive side of the ball. The Strong Safety (5’10” 208 lbs.) improved off of his solid Sophomore season (78 Tackles, 11.0 TFL’s, 2.0 Sacks, 2 Interceptions), and racked up 76 Tackles, 11.0 TFL’s, 2.0 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, and 4 Interceptions as he helped lead the Gators’ Defense to a Sugar Bowl berth.
32. Baltimore Ravens: DeAndre Hopkins WR (Clemson)
Anquan Boldin will be entering his 11th season in 2013, and the Ravens could stand to use another young play-maker on the Offensive side of the ball. If Baltimore wants their “money’s worth” out of Joe Flacco, then they had better find another talented target for him to throw to as he enters his prime like DeAndre Hopkins (6’1″ 214 lbs.). Although he shared the WR spotlight with his teammate Sammy Watkins, all Hopkins did at Clemson was produce during his three-year stint there. After an incredibly productive Sophomore season which saw him catch 72 passes for 978 Yards and 5 TD’s, Hopkins improved to the tune of 82 Catches for 1,405 Yards and 9 TD’s this past year.