17. Dallas Cowboys
Calvin Pryor is flying up draft boards. He even surpassed his fellow Louisville safety, Hakeem Smith. He can play both safety spots because he is a vicious hitter and great tackler, but athletic enough to make plays in center field. The Cowboys have struggled at safety for more than a few years now. Barry Church played alright as the Cowboys leading tackler this season, but undrafted rookie, Jeff Heath, is not the long term answer. Pryor hasn’t been tested much in coverage, but would fill the role of a powerful hitter in the backfield quickly and easily. The Cowboys could also look to pick CB Jason Verrett if they feel he is worth the #16 pick.
Previous Pick: DE Kony Ealy
18. New York Jets
Wide Receiver, USC
If the Jets believe Geno Smith is good enough to be groomed into their future QB, it’s time to start surrounding Geno Smith with real weapons. Marqise Lee was the best receiver in the draft heading into the season, so the Jets will be happy if he falls to them at #18. Lee is getting no love after having an average season with an average quarterback, multiple play callers, and a whole bunch of drama at USC. He is still a great route-runner and receiver, as seen in the Las Vegas Bowl.
19. Miami Dolphins
Offensive Tackle, Michigan
The Dolphins did nothing to replace Jake Long on the offensive line, and the offense has struggled because of it. The Dolphins will being in their next era of Michigan left tackles, Taylor Lewan. Lewan would bring a tenacity and competitiveness that was lacking on the front line this season. He has quick feet and bursts off the line. He is only falling this far because he needs to develop his technique a bit more to stand up to premier NFL pass rushers. He will improve the running lanes for the emerging Lamar Miller as well.
Previous Pick: OT Cyrus Kouandjio
20. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals whiffed on Antoine Cason, Jerraud Powers, and Javier Arenas in free agency last year. I have seen Verett mocked as high as #12. He looks like the best pure corner in the draft, but he lacks the size (5’10″, 176 lbs.) to be considered a top prospect. He plays like he is 6’3″, 230 lbs. though, throwing his body at the ball in run support and in coverage. The Cardinals have a good opportunity to create one of the best young secondaries in the NFL featuring Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Verrett.
Previous Pick: OT Cameron Erving (staying at Florida St.)
21. Green Bay Packers
Tight End, North Carolina
Jermichael Finley has stated he would like to return to the NFL next season. Whether or not the Packers decide to bring Finley back, they need a plan to replace him. Finley is coming off a career-threatening neck injury and has never really been able to put it together, even with all his talent. Adding Ebron creates a mismatch for almost any defender in the NFL. Ebron is fast, physical, and can make insane catches in contact. Eric Ebron would make life for Aaron Rodgers much easier in the open field and especially in the red zone. If CJ Mosely is still on the board, he is definitely still an option.
Previous Pick: MLB CJ Mosely
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Outside Linebacker, Ohio State
The Eagles need to add some explosion to their defense to match that offense. Ryan Shazier is very fast and instinctive, recording over 22 tackles for loss this season at Ohio State and 44.5 in his three year career. Shazier had 6 sacks this season and is a tackling machine that will bolster the veteran linebacking core of the Eagles. The Eagles could also target a corner here.
Previous Pick: OLB Vic Beasley (staying at Clemson)
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Inside Linebacker, Alabama
Inside linebacker is not an immediate need for the Chiefs, but with Mosely left on the board, they will get excellent value at pick #23. The Chiefs need to have a plan for when Derrick Johnson retires. Mosely would also just be a nice fit alongside Johnson for the next few years in the 3-4. CJ Mosely probably has the talent to be a top-15 pick. Mosely is an elite athlete coming from one of the best defenses in college football. Mosely should be able to make an immediate impact in the Packers’ rush defense, and has the athleticism and instincts to become great in pass defense.
Previous Pick: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Defensive End, Notre Dame
Michael Johnson is a free agent this year and Domata Peko will be a free agent (and 30 years old) after next year. Geno Atkins was also hurt the entire year and the defensive line was not nearly as effective without him. Adding some youth and athleticism will help. Stephon Tuitt has the athleticism and skill to play either DE or DT in the Bengals’ 4-3 defense, and would add some much needed versatility for their defense. Tuitt would be able to stick around the midwest and finish his degree at Notre Dame, a concern of HC Brian Kelly that almost held him out of this years draft.
Previous Pick: OLB Ryan Shazier
25. San Diego Chargers
Cornerback, Oklahoma St.
The Chargers are in desperate need of help and youth in the secondary, and Gilbert is possibly the best CB prospect in the draft. He is a physical ballhawk on the outside and would add plenty of athleticism to improve the Chargers’ secondary. Gilbert has great size at 6’0″ 200 lbs. and has the speed to bring it to the house every time he touches the ball. He has returned 5 kickoffs for touchdowns in his career at Oregon State and led the Big 12 with 6 interceptions in 2013. He must work on his technique to avoid getting burned by NFL receivers.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
Offensive Guard, Notre Dame
The Browns picked up their hopeful franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles, earlier in the draft. Now, they need to keep him clean and give him enough time to build a rapport with Josh Gordon. Martin played LT at Notre Dame, but does not have great size or speed to continue playing LT in the NFL so he will likely move inside. The Browns already have a premier left tackle in Joe Thomas and a premier center in Alex Mack, so adding Martin could give Bortles the best blindside protection in the NFL. Martin is strong, fast, and able to block on the move. The Browns may also want to snag another receiver here to give Bortles even more weapons.
27. New Orleans Saints
Offensive Tackle, Alabama
New Orleans didn’t allow a bunch of sacks this season, but when Brees isn’t kept upright, this offense completely stalls. The Saints still need to replace Carl Nicks and Jermon Bushrod on the left side. Kouandjio is the third Alabama player coming off the board, and is the best offensive line prospect left. Cyrus Kouandjio is a physical specimen for a lineman who gets off the line quickly and establishes running lanes early. He still has work to do in passing protection, but he has shown improvement. He is an animal in the running game, and he will improve the running lanes for Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram as well.
Previous Pick: OT Taylor Lewan
28. Carolina Panthers
Wide Receiver, Fresno State
The Panthers have needed another wide receiver for a long, long time. Steve Smith can still get it done, but not for much longer. Davante Adams has the speed to stretch a defense. Adams could easily go in the top-15, however like Derek Carr, most of his tape is against lesser competition, which could cause him to be drafted later than expected. The Panthers will take a chance on him if it means it will help the development of Cam Newton and improve the slow, 29th ranked passing offense.
29. New England Patriots
Offensive Guard, Stanford
The Patriots are in dire need of a receiver, but unfortunately, none of the top receiver options are available at #29. Protecting Tom Brady is the next biggest need. Logan Mankins got burned a few times in the AFC Championship, but he doesn’t need to be immediately upgraded (even though he is already 31). Dan Connoly, however, definitely needs to be. Yankey is stout and powerful. He is good at pulling quickly and getting downfield. Imagine if LeGarrette Blount didn’t even make contact with a defender until he was 3-4 yards past the line of scrimmage and had a blocker that could get to the second level. We could actually witness the Patriots officially become a power running team because that would be a very potent combination.
Previous Pick: NT Louis Nix
30. San Francisco 49ers
Odell Beckham Jr.
Wide Receiver, LSU
The 49ers have a good receiving core with Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. But, the 49ers have been knocking at the door of a Super Bowl championship for 3 years now, and ‘good’ isn’t good enough anymore. Boldin is 33 and Crabtree just cannot put it together for a full season. He has only eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving once in his 5-year career and was never a burner anyway. Beckham has great top-line speed but even better acceleration. He is dangerous with the ball and has home run ability. He is best at stretching the field and going deep, which would be a huge asset for Colin Kaepernick as he develops his passing game to match the explosiveness of his running ability.
Previous Pick: CB Marcus Roberson
31. Denver Broncos
If the Broncos had a better secondary, they would easily be the best team in the NFL. Instead, they had the 27th ranked passing defense, allowing 254.4 passing YPG. Champ Bailey is 35 years old and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent after the season. The Broncos need to add some youth into that secondary. Roberson is strong enough to press against bigger receivers and quick enough to keep smaller, faster receivers from getting any separation. He also has quick closing speed to bait quarterbacks into throwing his way. Roberson had a rough senior year, only playing in 7 games. But, he has shown the dedication to getting better and the talent to become a starter in the NFL. He finished at Florida with 17 pass breakups and 3 interceptions.
Previous Pick: CB Jason Verrett
32. Seattle Seahawks
Tight End, Washington
I still can’t bring myself to change this pick because it would just fit so nicely. With five receivers off the board already, the Seahawks will have to look at other positions to find help for Russell Wilson. Seferian-Jenkins will stick around in Seattle to give Wilson a legit red zone threat and add some consistency to the offense. Sidney Rice isn’t dependable and Percy Harvin can barely crack the field, but Wilson still looked promising. Jenkins is a huge target for Wilson and would add another dimension to the offense that ranks 2nd in rushing but only 24th in passing.
Thanks for checking out my Version 3.0 2014 NFL Mock Draft. I will be updating it each week until the NFL Draft on May 8th.