17 Pittsburgh Steelers – Barkevious Mingo OLB, LSU
The Steelers are another team that is in desperate need of a left tackle that will find the lack of top end talent frustrating. Instead, they can turn to helping an aging defense. Mingo is exactly the type of young, athletic, explosive talent that could help move Pittsburgh’s defense back up to their aggressive best, but he’s also very inconsistent, and the Steelers might not be willing to take that chance. However, if there is any team that can get consistent production out of him it’s the Steelers.
18 Dallas Cowboys – Jonathan Cooper, OG North Carolina
The Cowboys would love to get Cooper at this spot. He’s an athletic blocker that can pull and get to the second level with ease. The Cowboys line had a real problem opening up running lanes for DeMarco Murray and Cooper would be an immediate solution there. He can hold his own on the inside and could break open some big runs.
19. New York Giants – Datone Jones DE/DT, UCLA
The Giants always like to load up on their defensive line early; that’s even when their line is strong. This year has been a real down year for the Giants defense in terms of production in both the run and pass game. Jones is an athletic, physical pass-rusher who has room to get more consistent. The Giants can line him up in multiple places across the front, which just adds to his value.
20. Chicago Bears – DJ Fluker, OT Alabama
The Bears are another team that has continuously failed to address their offensive line issues. With Jay Culter, Matt Forte, and Brandon Marshall, they have the skill players who put together a dynamic offense. They just need to give them time to make plays. Fluker isn’t a sexy first round pick because right tackles tend to fall (see Cordy Glenn). However, the Bears absolutely need to make wholesale changes on the line and Fluker is a day one starter for them.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Alec Ogletree, LB Georgia
The Bengals could really use some help in their linebacker corps or take a pass-rushing talent like Montgomery. However, I think that Ogletree will be the selection here now that off-field concerns have caused his stock to fall a bit. He’s versatile and a sure tackler. He hits like a truck and has really improved his coverage ability. He could be a great addition to a Bengals linebacker corps that has many high-profile college players who have yet to really produce in the NFL.
22. St. Louis Rams – Desmond Trufant, CB Washington
Now the Rams can address their defensive secondary issues after helping their offensive line early on. Trufant had a very strong Senior Bowl week and proved that he has the competitive fire and skill to really make an impact at the next level. He can play physical but also has the speed to stick with most receivers on the outside. He would be a solid option next to Finnegan.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Keenan Allen, WR California
Christian Ponder has had a subpar sophomore season, but I think a lot of that has to do with his lack of receiving options. Percy Harvin was constantly hurt, and he’s not a number one wide receiver to begin with. Allen is a big receiver who can make plays downfield. I think he’ll separate himself from the pack once offseason workouts begin.
24. Indianapolis Colts – Johnathan Hankins, DT Ohio State
The Colts identity has really changed under Chuck Pagano, but he needs more talent on the defensive side of the ball to take their performance up a notch. Running a 3-4 scheme, they could take a big nose tackle prospect like John Jenkins, but I think they go with the more consistent Hankins. He doesn’t have the flash that Jenkins has, but he’s still a strong competitor and a space-eater on defense.
25. Minnesota Vikings (f. Seattle) – Damontre Moore, DE Texas A&M
The Vikings have tried for years to add a strong pass rush option off the edge through the draft. Eventually they relented and went with Jared Allen who has been a beast but isn’t getting any younger. Moore has seen his stock drop because his workouts weren’t as explosive as people were anticipating, but his game tape had people seeing a possible top-5 pick. At the end of the first round that’s a lot of value.
26. Green Bay Packers – Menelik Watson, OT Florida State
The Packers could go with a tight end here if they let Finely go, like many expect, or a wide receiver to replace the retired Driver and possibly departing Greg Jennings. However, I still think that they have some glaring holes on the offensive line. Watson is an athletic lineman who brings all kinds of upside. The Packers struck-out on big, lumbering lineman, like Bulaga, so Watson is worth a gamble. He could start out at right tackle, but certainly has the ability to move to the left side with some grooming.
27. Houston Texans – Manti Te’o ILB Notre Dame
For years I’ve been saying that the Texans could use a slot receiver to help take some pressure off of Andre Johnson. However, they don’t appear willing to take one in the first round. So Te’o is the next best thing. He’s an instinctual linebacker and the kind of solid presence that allows playmakers to take chances off the edge, knowing that the middle is under control. After watching the Patriots running game carve up Houston, this may be the smartest pick they can make. It’s also a low pressure situation for Te’o to find himself in.
28. Denver Broncos – Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame
Peyton Manning has completely changed the Broncos offense, but everybody knows that he loves having a tight end to throw to. Jacob Tamme and Joel Dressen were fine this year, but not good enough to be true assets. Eifert is a well-rounded player who can give Manning a security blanket underneath while also helping in the running game.
29. New England Patriots – Kawann Short, DT Purdue
The Patriots acquired Talib, but their pass defense still needs some work. Matt Elam is a possibility here, as is a slot receiver like Tavon Austin, if Welker departs. However, Wilfork is aging, and the Patriots also don’t have anybody next to him to get any interior pressure. Short had a strong Senior Bowl and put himself squarely in first round consideration.
30. Atlanta Falcons – Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama
The Falcons don’t get a lot of pressure off the edge and could use a player like Cornellius Carradine or a replacement for Tony Gonzalez, should he choose to retire. However, I think at this spot, the upside of Lacy trumps the possibility of adding Ertz or Carradine. The Falcons let Turner go, but The Quizz Show simply cannot handle an NFL workload on his own. Lacy can come in and be the thumper in the timeshare. He has an impressive skillset and will immediately take some pressure off of Matt Ryan.
31. San Francisco 49ers – Matt Elam, S Florida
The 49ers have a strong defense, but every team that builds a strong defense always loads up early in the draft. If the 49ers don’t re-sign Goldson, they are going to have a massive hole at safety, especially after being torched by Flacco. Elam showed incredible athleticism in Mobile and is a strong selection here.
32. Baltimore Ravens – Kevin Minter, ILB LSU
This pick could also be one of a number of talented receivers because I don’t see the Ravens bringing back Boldin. As it stands, I think the Ravens will be too tempted by Minter’s skills to pass on him. With Ray Lewis retiring and the defense aging, a guy like Minter could immediately insert himself into the lineup and prevent the Ravens from having to overhaul the defensive side of the ball.
Rest of the Bills Draft
2. Ryan Nassib, QB Syracuse
I still think this pick should be EJ Manuel because his upside trumps that of almost any other quarterback in the draft. However, the Bills and Nassib connection has been stated to death and makes some sense. He’s a smart quarterback that could easily compare to Andy Dalton at the next level. He may never be able to carry a team on his back, but he can be a game manager who has occasional big games.
3. Jon Bostic, ILB Florida
On tape, Bostic is an aggressive, downhill inside linebacker. He comes up to the line with the attention of knocking ballcarriers out. That’s the type of player that Bills fans love to see. With a solid workout in Mobile and a strong 40 time, Bostic proved to people that he’s more than just a thumper. He has good sideline-to-sideline skills and would be a fit in multiple fronts of the Bills hybrid defense.
4. Dwayne Gratz, CB UConn
At 5’11” 200 pounds, Gratz has good speed for an outside corner in the NFL. He’s 4.47 40 showed speed that many didn’t know he possessed. Put that alongside his strong run support and his impressive overall athleticism (38” vertical) and Gratz is a corner that has the potential to win a starting spot on the outside.
5. Ty Powell, OLB Harding
If the Bills go to a hybrid style of defense, their going to need some more pass-rushers off the outside. Powell could be a strong sleeper in that regard. He’s played a number of positions all over the football field, which makes him a well-rounded prospect. He’s shown impressive athletic ability in workouts and more ability in coverage and against the run than people immediately assumed.
6. Denard Robinson, ATH Michigan
I hear a lot of talk about Denard being a 6th round pick because he has no real position. If he’s there in the sixth round, the Bills need to grab him. He may have no clear cut position right now, but he has un-matched play-making ability. When he has the ball in space there are few people that are as elusive. Whether he becomes a RB or WR, he’s worth the year or two to coach him up based on the upside that he could provide with the ball in his hands. For a 6th round pick there is not much more you can ask for.