Round 1 Cont.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Vaccaro FS/SS (Texas)
If the Steelers look for a safety early, they might be wise to target the talented Kenny Vaccaro (6’1″ 218 lbs.) as they begin the rebuilding process in their secondary. Vaccaro was the Longhorns’ leading tackler last year (104) and added 4.0 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, and made 2 interceptions as well. A two-and-a-half year starter at Texas (31 Starts, 50 Games), Vaccaro played both free and strong safety during his collegiate career, and is adept at helping with coverage in the slot in “Big Nickel” packages too.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack OG (Alabama)
If Chance Warmack falls all the way to Dallas at #18, I would have a hard time believing that the Cowboys’ brass would pass on him. Warmack (6’2″ 317 lbs.) started 40 games during his collegiate career with the Crimson Tide, and is a fantastic road-grading mauler with some nice pass-protection skills to boot. If Dallas’ brass are serious about upgrading their ground attack (2012: 21st in Total Rushing Yards 1,687), the selection of a run-blocking Guard like Warmack would be a great start.
19. New York Giants: Damontre Moore DE (Texas A&M)
A slip by Moore could benefit a team like New York who is in need of a defensive end to rotate with Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck. At 6’4″ 250 lbs., Moore led the Aggies last year in tackles (85), tackles for loss 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 the Draft, but the Giants will need to find ways to keep consistent pressure on “RGIII,” Tony Romo, and whichever athletic signal-caller is running Philadelphia’s Offense under Chip Kelly, six times per season.
20. Chicago Bears: Tyler Eifert TE (Notre Dame)
Both Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis are gone, so the Bears might consider taking a tight end on Day 1 or Day 2 of the Draft. Although Eifert’s 2012 stats were not particularly mind-blowing (50 catches, 685 yards, 4 touchdowns), anyone who watched him could see that Notre Dame’s 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.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: D.J. Fluker OT (Alabama)
While there is a slim chance that the Bengals could re-sign Andre Smith, if he does in fact leave, the team will need a new right tackle. Arguably the best right tackle prospect in this year’s class is Alabama’s D.J. Fluker, and the Bengals could definitely use the services of the 6’5″ 339 lb. powerful 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 Andy Dalton healthy is a high priority, and the addition of a massive yet athletic former Alabama star should help to do just that.
22. St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper OG/C (North Carolina)
Sam Bradford possesses all of the tools to be a good starting quarterback for the Rams. Unfortunately, Bradford has been protected by some porous offensive lines’ throughout his career and been sacked a total of 105 times over his first three seasons (42 games). If St. Louis wants Bradford to flourish, they would be wise to go offensive line early and often in this year’s Draft. The 6’2″ 311 lb. Cooper could instantly step in and challenge any of the guards who suited up for the Rams last year for a starting spot. Cooper was a 4-year starter with the Tar Heels (48 games), possesses tremendous agility for an offensive lineman, and I am sure that his presence would be a welcome sight to Bradford.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen WR (California)
The Vikings could decide to go for a defensive tackle at #23, but I believe that G.M Rick Spielman will try to find a Wide Receiver with the first of his two 1st Round picks. Allen enjoyed a terrific career with the Golden Bears (totaled 1,343 yards receiving during 2011, and 737 during 9 games last season). Allen is a threat to stretch an opposing 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: Desmond Trufant CB (Washington)
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, and an eventual replacement for Antoine Bethea at free safety if he leaves via free agency next year. Desmond Trufant (5’11” 190 lbs.) was a three-year starter for the Huskies and emerged as the program’s “shut-down” guy during his time in Seattle also. (4 interceptions and 23 passes defended over said span). Trufant has impressed scouts during The Senior Bowl practices, and could see his stock continue to soar over the coming weeks.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Sylvester Williams DT (North Carolina)
Minnesota should be in the market to find veteran Kevin Williams’ replacement, and they are lucky because this year’s Draft class is very deep at the defensive tackle position. A 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 tackles for loss, and 6.0 sacks. For a big guy, Williams possesses some deceptive speed and can contribute as a gap-shooting defensive tackle in addition to a gap-clogging one.
26. Green Bay Packers: Justin Hunter WR (Tennessee)
The Packers lost Donald Driver and Greg Jennings this offseason, and could stand to use another wide receiver to team with Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Hunter was primed for a breakout season in 2011 until a knee injury derailed him three games into the year. I guess the injury did not faze Hunter too much, because the 6’4″ 196 lb. pass-catcher recorded 73 catches for 1,083 yards and 9 Touchdowns in 2012. Hunter’s overall stock could rise in the coming weeks, especially after he ran a 4.44 40 Yard Dash at The Combine. Aaron Rodgers could use a field-stretching target to create room underneath for players like Randall Cobb, and Hunter might very well fit that bill.
27. Houston Texans: Alec Ogletree ILB (Georgia)
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 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks to go along with 6 passes defended and 1 interception. I should also add that the former Bulldog linebacker did all of this in 10 games, because 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..
28. Denver Broncos: Eddie Lacy RB (Alabama)
Denver is in “win now” mode with veteran Peyton Manning at the helm, and they should be interested in finding him as many weapons as possible to succeed. While Ronnie Hillman is a solid 3rd down back, the Broncos must find someone to take over the “every down” load for veterans Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno. The 5’11” 231 lb. bruiser stepped into the starring role in the Tide’s backfield last season and registered 204 carries, 1,322 yards, 17 touchdowns. While he is not the most adept pass-catcher, Lacy still added 22 catches, 189 yards, 2 touchdowns to his stat line in 2012 too.
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 tackles for loss (19.5) as the Bruins captured the Pac-12 South title.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Kawann Short DT (Purdue)
The Falcons will need to find a way to acquire a play-making defensive tackle, because their defense sorely needs one. Vance Walker, who led Falcon defensive tackles in sacks with 3.5 last year left for Oakland. In addition, 2009 1st Round pick Peria Jerry has been an absolute bust (48 career games, 2.0 sacks), and Jonathan Babineaux only registered 3.5 sacks last year. Both players I should add are set to hit the open market in 2014. The 6’3″ 299 lb. Short had a terrific year on an otherwise mediocre Boilermaker defense as he registered 42 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 6.0 sacks from the interior of the defensive line.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams NT (Alabama)
Although the 49ers are a young and emerging team, they nevertheless have some pressing issues to address in this month’s Draft. Ricky Jean-Francois and Isaac Sopoaga both left via Free Agency, and the 49ers could stand to use a future starter at the nose tackle position. Jesse Williams of Alabama at 6’3″ 320 lbs. (37 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.0 sack in 2012) could be just the space-eater that the 49ers could utilize as a 0-Technique, and even in a 5-Technique defensive end role on occasion.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Matt Elam SS (Florida)
With Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed no longer in Baltimore, the Ravens need to shore up their free and strong safety positions. 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. Elam (5’10” 208 lbs.) improved off of his solid sophomore season (78 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 2 interceptions), and racked up 76 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 4 interceptions as he helped lead Florida to a Sugar Bowl berth.