17. Dallas Cowboys – Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
Whether the Dallas Cowboys win or lose the coin flip for the 16th pick, it shouldn’t matter a whole lot. Dallas is not interested in a wide receiver at this juncture, and Baltimore should not be focusing on defensive backs in the first round. The Cowboys need help at all levels of their defense. The best defensive player available may be the route to go, and that would be Oklahoma State corner Justin Gilbert. Having three reliable cornerbacks should also not be looked at as a bad thing.
18. New York Jets – Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Florida State
It is no secret the New York Jets are in need of some offensive firepower. They drafted their quarterback last year. This year, they need to give him some more help. Kelvin Benjamin is a big-bodied wide-out who will give Geno Smith an option against one-on-one coverage. There wasn’t a player on the Jets roster this season who could go up and beat a defensive back to a ball in the air on a consistent basis.
19. Miami Dolphins – Antonio Richardson, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee
With perhaps the biggest story of the 2013 NFL season centered around the departure of two of Miami’s starting offensive linemen, there is a clear hole the Dolphins must address during the draft. Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson is probably the best tackle still on the board. If the Dolphins feel Cyril Richardson from Baylor is a better player, they may take the guard instead. Auburn’s Greg Robinson may also be an option at this point in the first round.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
For a team who missed the playoffs, the Arizona Cardinals have a lot to be pleased about. They have one of the top few defenses in the entire league, anchored by the best young cover corner in the NFL. They have good skill position players on offense. The only thing that should worry Cardinals fans, besides playing in the NFC West, is their quarterback situation. Carson Palmer is not a long-term answer at the position. It makes sense to draft a QB for the future as soon as possible, so he can take over while that defense is still elite.
21. Green Bay Packers – Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
With the unfortunate injury to Jermichael Finley, the Green Bay Packers are in need of a starting tight end for next season. While Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a premiere athlete at the position, Eric Ebron is probably the best tight end prospect in the draft. Trying to find the next Jimmy Graham is becoming as important as finding a Calvin Johnson in a league centered around matchup advantages.
22. San Diego Chargers – Trent Murphy, Outside Linebacker, Stanford
The Chargers defense is poor. While it is always fun to think of adding weapons to Philip Rivers’ arsenal, the defense is a higher priority. Trent Murphy is one of the best edge linebacker options available at this point in the draft. He lacks elite speed but makes up for it with his strength and instincts.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Stephon Tuitt, Defensive End, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt’s stock took a major hit this season. The Notre Dame defense was not as good as people expected, and Tuitt fell under the radar. But his loss is the Eagles’ gain. For a team that took the league by storm under new coach Chip Kelly, Philadelphia was not very good on the defensive side of the ball. If Tuitt is able to get back to what he was in 2012, he will be a huge asset to the Eagles.
24. Kansas City Chiefs – Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
With great size and strength, there is an argument to be made that Mike Evans was more responsible for the great production through the air by Johnny Manziel rather than the other way around. When Manziel threw up a pass, occasionally into double coverage, Evans went up and got it. He made a lot more big plays as a sophomore than during his freshman year (yards per catch over 20 as opposed to 13.5 the year before). Kansas City is in need of a big-play wide receiver. With the decline and possible departure of Dwayne Bowe, and the underneath/west coast nature of the offense in general, there wasn’t much downfield for quarterback Alex Smith to look for. That would change with Evans in uniform.
25. Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Shazier, Outside Linebacker, Ohio State
The Cincinnati Bengals did pretty well for themselves this season considering who they were playing without. Their top two defenders, corner Leon Hall and tackle Geno Atkins, were lost for the season. Other than Vontaze Burfict, the linebacking corps was also lacking. Ryan Shazier would help to solve that. The linebacker out of Ohio State has great sideline-to-sideline range and can play in coverage. He is a bit on the smallish side and needs to add strength to his frame, but Shazier is one of the better linebackers who isn’t strictly an edge rusher.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Ind) – Zach Mettenberger, Quarterback, LSU
Missing out on the top two QBs near the front end of round one, Cleveland may decide to dip its toe in that water with its inherited pick from Indianapolis. Zach Mettenberger had a very nice season at LSU. He was overshadowed by the likes of Manziel and A.J. McCarron in his conference, but Mettenberger put up big numbers and has NFL size behind center.
27. New Orleans Saints – Loucheiz Purifoy, Cornerback, Florida
Entering the season, Loucheiz Purifoy was the Gators’ best defensive back. Although his teammate Marcus Roberson played his way into first round consideration too, Purifoy is still the more talented prospect. He possesses good size and speed and should hold up well in man coverage. That would be a much-needed addition to the Saints defense.
28. New England Patriots – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
The safety position has not been highly thought of in draft circles for some time now. Teams felt they could fill the spot with talent from later in the draft. That feeling may be changing slightly with the recent additions to the league. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the only safety really deserving of a first round grade this year though. His brief suspension during the season notwithstanding, Clinton-Dix had a fine final campaign and would bring depth to a depleted Patriots secondary.
29. Carolina Panthers – Marcus Roberson, Cornerback, Florida
If the New Orleans Saints decide to pass on Marcus Roberson in favor of his teammate, Carolina may pounce on the other Gator corner when the time comes. Roberson really propelled his name up draft boards this season and has some potential in the return game as well. He would be a nice addition to an already formidable defense.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Louis Nix III, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
If Louis Nix had entered the NFL draft in 2013, after Notre Dame’s trip to the National Championship, he would have been selected much higher than this. Nevertheless, falling to late in the first round may end up being a boon if a team like the 49ers select him. Fitting inside on the defensive line, with such an elite group of linebackers backing him, Nix may live up to that old draft projection yet. He certainly has the talents.
31. Denver Broncos – Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
Yet another offensive tackle being considered for the first round, Auburn’s Greg Robinson would help fill depth on the Broncos offensive line. When Ryan Clady went down with a season-ending injury, it forced players into the starting lineup who were not ready. Denver may have needs on the defensive side, where they really struggled at times this season. But no place on the team is more important than that offensive line, especially with Peyton Manning behind center and entering his age 38 season.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Paul Richardson, Wide Receiver, Colorado
There are a couple of wide receivers that may go in this area, including Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt, but the Seattle Seahawks may be looking for that Percy Harvin substitute if Harvin never materializes for them. Paul Richardson is a speedy wide receiver who can fill that void. Seattle would really benefit from selecting a receiver even if they believe in Harvin’s full recovery though. They were a team who was lacking on the offensive end all year long, which put a lot of pressure on Russell Wilson to make plays with his feet.
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