17. Pittsburgh Steelers
.OT, Central Michigan
I flip-flopped a few times here, and I almost went with NT Jesse Williams and pass rusher Barkevious Mingo before finally settling on Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher. The Steelers have always needed an offensive tackle, and Fisher is a solid one who is finally starting to gain some steam.
18. Dallas Cowboys
The second best interior offensive lineman in the league, Jonathan Cooper would be a solid upgrade for the Dallas Cowboys and was an excellent player for the North Carolina Tar Heels in college. The Cowboys offensive line has been awful, especially on the insider. Cooper would be a nice upgrade in pass protection for this team.
19. New York Giants
With Osi Umenyiora set to departure the New York Giants after spending a while wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks for the Giants franchise, the focus now turns to adding another pass rusher in the draft. Barkevious Mingo can be an elite player in the NFL and has plenty of upside, so I can definitely see the Giants taking a flier on him.
20. Chicago Bears
.LB, Notre Dame
Wow, I really held off on selecting Manti Te’o. I feel like the Chicago Bears need to try and replace the leadership lost by Brian Urlacher when he retires (it won’t be this year though) by getting another high leadership guy at middle linebacker to replace Urlacher. Manti Te’o is just that player, and I think this works out perfectly for the Bears. I doubt Te’o lasts this long, but this mock draft is more of a “where they should go” than a “where they will go” thing.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t afraid to take talented players with baggage in the draft, and they showed this when they got a steal of a deal by picking up now elite pass rusher Carlos Dunlap a few years ago. Could you imagine a defensive line featuring Jenkins plugging up holes on the inside with the incredible pass rushing force that is Geno Atkins next to him? And then Dunlap on the outside? Yeah, Jenkins seems like a solid pick here, but they could also go after a DE like Sam Montgomery or Ezekiel Ansah of BYU.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
The St. Louis Rams could use some help at offensive tackle, but I already had them upgrading the interior earlier by selecting Alabama’s star Chance Warmack. The Rams are also in desperate need of an upgrade at the safety position, and Kenny Vaccaro is the best safety in this draft class. He is excellent in coverage, and that’s not easy to find in draft-eligible safeties these days. Safety becomes a premium position, and I could even see Vaccaro getting picked higher than 22nd.
23. Minnesota Vikings
I think the Minnesota Vikings will take a receiver here, and it’s either going to be Robert Woods or Tavon Austin. I am going to put Woods here, because the Austin pick depends on the future of Percy Harvin with the Vikings. For now, I am going to assume that Harvin stays and the Vikes won’t be drafting his “clone”. Woods fits Bill Musgrave’s offense perfectly, because he runs a lot of great short and intermediate routes and is an incredible possession receiver. He would hook up perfectly with Christian Ponder, who also makes his game on short and intermediate plays in the passing game.
24. Baltimore Ravens
And Alec Ogeltree comes off the board. The Baltimore Ravens need to find a future replacement for Ray Lewis, and the ultra-talented Georgia inside linebacker can be that guy. Ogeltree has declared for the NFL Draft after much consideration, and he is an excellent run defender whose exaggerated comparison is Daryl Washington of the Arizona Cardinals. Man, is this guy one intimidating linebacker.
25. Indianapolis Colts
A polished leader who could one day bring back memories of the great Jeff Saturday in Indianapolis, Barrett Jones is a natural fit for the Colts here in the late first round. Jones can play at either center or guard, and he is an excellent leader who is NFL-ready at this point in time. The Colts could also take Jesse Williams here, but the fit for Jones is too good to pass up on.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Reports are swirling that DeAndre Hopkins is set to declare for the NFL Draft, and the Seattle Seahawks could greatly benefit from selecting the elite Clemson Tigers playmaker. Terrance Williams of Baylor would also be a nice choice here, because Russell Wilson needs a big-play receiver to help stretch the field vertically. Wilson is best on short and intermediate routes (his current receivers are as well), but Hopkins can also succeed on those routes while also getting a high amount of yards after the catch with his elite playmaking ability. The Seahawks current receivers are among the league’s worst in YAC.
27. Green Bay Packers
It’s time for me to pull BYU Cougars star pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah off the board and give him to the Green Bay Packers. Defenses can key in on Clay Matthews too easily, because he has absolutely no help on the other side of the 3-4 OLB chart. 3-4 edge rushers work best in pairs, and the pair of Ansah and Matthews could potentially be one of the best in the NFL. Ansah is an underrated prospect who isn’t quite there yet in terms of overall development, but he has immense upside to him and would be a great fit for Green Bay.
28. Houston Texans
.WR, West Virginia
Nose tackle Jesse Williams would be a nice help for the Houston Texans defensive line, but the Texans are already rich enough on the front seven. What they need is another wide receiver to help out Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Kevin Walter is hated on a little bit too much and is actually a quality possession receiver and tough blocker, but the Texans need a big-play receiver if they want to have a passing attack that can keep up with the likes of the New England Patriots. Austin is the perfect, sprightly playmaker for this offense that would add a whole new dimension to an already great team.
29. San Francisco 49ers
Since I am not sure about the future of underrated Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson, I am going to play it safe and go with Matt Elam here instead. Elam is a leader, playmaker, and aggressive run-stopper who also has good instincts and can play well as a high safety in coverage. Elam brings a lot to the table, and the 49ers could use more depth at the safety position with Dashon Goldson’s future. Donte Whitner also has his flaws. On a side note, Elam can really lay the wood. Check out some of his hard-hitting highlights on YouTube.
30. New England Patriots
I almost always have the Patriots selecting Tavon Austin, but I took him off the board a couple of spots earlier to the Houston Texans. The Patriots also need a defensive tackle, and the best two available for the Pats here are Jesse Williams and Sylvester Williams. But which Williams? Jesse is the better player and brings a hard-nosed, physical edge against the run that would make the Pats even more formidable against the run. Sylvester, on the other hand, has Geno Atkins upside as a very good interior pass rusher who can get quick penetration. In the end, I took Jesse Williams in the best available approach. In addition to his power, Jesse Williams is also explosive and can make an impact as a pass rusher. His athleticism would pair up well with Vince Wilfork in the middle. The Patriots biggest position of need is probably DT, and either of these two players would be a big help and form a tough duo with Wilfork. On a side note, Sylvester Williams can also more than hold his own in run defense.
31. Denver Broncos
Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson would be a nice pick here, and I could also see the Denver Broncos picking up LSU’s inside linebacker Kevin Minter. But in the end, defensive tackle is just too big of a need for the Broncos for me to overlook here. With Jesse Williams off the board thanks to the New England Patriots, Sylvester Williams is the next best thing. Derek Wolfe was an excellent pick by John Elway and Co., and Williams would give them another good interior pass rushers. His run defense is also above-average, and that would make for a nice combination with veteran Kevin Vickerson. DT is almost always a need for Denver, and S and ILB are secondary needs. I absolutely love Jefferson, so I could also definitely see the Broncos drafting him. But, as with the 49ers pick, I’m not sure enough about his future draft status.
32. Atlanta Falcons
TE Tyler Eifert would also be an excellent pick here, and you can’t go wrong with DE/OLB Alex Okafor either. I agree the most with the Okafor/Montgomery logic, because John Abraham isn’t getting younger even if he’s still effective, and the Falcons could use another pass rusher on the opposite side of him. Sam Montgomery, more importantly, is the best player of three of them (barely over Eifert), and I chose him in the toss up between Montgomery and Eifert.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.