17. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Matthews, WR Vanderbilt
This draft is loaded with talent at wide receiver. The Baltimore Ravens aren’t complaining and they have a choice on their spoils at number 17 overall. Even though they recently signed Steve Smith, Smith is 35 years old and receiver is still a need. With so many viable receivers available at this point I think they go that route. Many mock drafts have Marqise Lee going to the Ravens here, but I think Matthews is the hidden gem no NFL teams want to talk about. Most people have Matthews going somewhere in the early-mid second round but he is way too talented for that to happen. While Baltimore is an organization that normally goes with best player available I really think they will make a surprise pick when taking a receiver here and go with who I think is the best available receiver. Like I said earlier, most mock drafts are nothing like the real thing, and I think Matthews will be one of those cases where someone is picked higher than most people predict.
18. New York Jets – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Jets have recently added Wide Receiver Eric Decker who I guess they think can be their number one receiver. Regardless they still need to give Geno Smith some more weapons. If the Jets truly believe Decker can be a number one receiver they should go with Cooks here. Cooks adds a home run threat at wide receiver and would be a great potential number two/slot receiver. Marqise Lee and the other highly regarded receivers are also an option here.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zach Martin, G, Notre Dame
After signing Brandon Albert I don’t see them bringing in another tackle in Taylor Lewan. The Dolphins still have issues in the interior line but Martin could fix that. While some people view Martin as a tackle, he could play guard as well which is what I think the Dolphins will draft him to do. The Dolphins addressed many other needs in free agency by bringing in safety Louis Delmas, defensive tackles Earl Mitchell and Randy Starks, and cornerback Brent Grimes. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they went with a running back like Carlos Hyde, Tre Mason, or Bishop Sankey here.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
In the NFC west, bringing along depth to the defense is always a positive. Signing Jared Veldheer rules out the option that they take the falling Lewan. Van Noy is a versatile linebacker who is a solid pass rusher, run stopper and has the ability to drop back into coverage. Van Noy should be a good, safe addition to anyone who picks him up.
21. Green Bay Packers – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan State
The Packers could use help at offensive tackle as they experienced so many injuries last season. Most people have the Packers taking a defensive player here but the Packers tend to take best player available, which would be Lewan. In this case it also happens to fill a need. I wanted to give the Packers Louis Nix III but the re-signing of BJ Raji makes it seem likely they will not go with the top rated nose tackle. Pass rusher and safety are also options here.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
I don’t see the Eagles passing on Louis Nix III if he is available. A nose tackle is one of the hardest positions to find in the NFL. Philadelphia’s transition to a 34 defense was for the most part successful but a true nose tackle could really help bring them to another level. If Nix isn’t here I wouldn’t be surprised if they add Calvin Pryor. Bringing Malcolm Jenkins along will sure up one of the safety positions but they still could use another. Pryor would make the safety position a strength for the Eagles rather than the glaring weakness it was last season.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Kansas City has seen a lot of losses so far in free agency but a big need is still at wide receiver. Odell Beckham gives the Chiefs a deep threat and some depth at a position of weakness. They could go many different directions with this pick but a receiver across from Bowe is a must add this offseason for the Chiefs. Might as well bring in another LSU product to help sure up the receiving corp.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
With Michael Johnson and James Harrison out, Cincinnati will need to upgrade their front seven. Kony Ealy is one of the best players available and fills that need. There are a few different routes they could go when upgrading their front seven with Ra’shede Hageman, Scott Crichton, or the falling Timmy Jernigan, all still available. I feel Ealy is the most talented out of the four.
25. San Diego Chargers – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Chargers have big needs at defensive line. While they would love for Nix to fall to them to sure up the nose tackle position they would be fine if Jernigan fell to them. Jernigan’s best fit is as a 43 defensive tackle but could play 34 defensive end for the Chargers. If they were set on taking a nose tackle here, they could reach for Ra’shede Hageman but Jernigan is too talented for them to let fall any further. San Diego could also go cornerback here with Jason Verrett and Kyle Fuller still on the board.
26. Cleveland Browns – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Browns need some help at wide receiver across from Josh Gordon. Marqise Lee brings plenty of upside to an offense that is lacking to say the least. Cleveland addressed so many needs so far in free agency but still need some help at receiver. They have many different receivers they could choose from but with Lee still available, they may choose to go this route. Some people have the Browns taking a running back here, but since they pick again just 9 picks later, they should have plenty of options to choose a running back there. Cleveland may fall in love with someone like Carlos Hyde and pick him here if they don’t think the man they want will be available at pick number 35.
27. New Orleans Saints – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
New Orleans has already addressed their secondary by picking up Jairus Byrd in free agency but cornerback is still an issue. No team can have enough corners. The Saints learned that the hard way last season when injuries plagued their secondary. While Kennan Lewis is a sure starter on one side, Patrick Robinson is still a question for the Saints after a season ending injury forced Corey White into the starting role. Depth at the cornerback position is a huge need for the Saints, making Verrett and Kyle Fuller likely options at number 27. This pick could also be used on a pass rusher or wide receiver but with Victor Butler expected to return, the value here remains with the cornerbacks. Many people want the Saints to get an offensive tackle early but nobody after Zach Martin is worth taking in the first round in my opinion. Regardless, if the Saints get Verrett or Fuller here, they fill a huge need while taking one of the best players available.
28. Carolina Panthers – Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
With Lafell, Smith, and Ginn Jr. gone, try to name one receiver currently on the Panthers roster. Even if you are a die-hard Panther fan who knows every member on the practice squad there is no question that the Panthers need receiver help. The receivers currently under contract by the Panthers have a combined 0 receptions for Carolina last season. Even with cornerback being a huge need, I don’t see the Panthers picking anyone but a receiver here.
29. New England Patriots – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Belichick has a few different options. He could go best player available and pick someone like Ra’shede Hageman, or he could help Tom Brady out a little bit by giving him a big weapon. The Patriots had a very weak wide receiver group last season so I think Belichick will go with a receiver who has tons of upside. By selecting the mammoth of a wide receiver Brady will have a big target to throw the ball too. This would be an ideal scenario for Benjamin as it would be a perfect spot to develop as a receiver under one of the best quarterbacks to play the game.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
You can never have enough cornerbacks. Kyle Fuller fills a need for the 49ers at and they are also getting one of the best players available. It’s funny how the successful teams usually tend to have a draft strategy that involves picking the best player available. Ironically enough this would take the last of the top tier corner backs off the board forcing Seattle to go elsewhere with their decision two picks later.
31. Denver Broncos – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Neither of these two safeties have the athleticism that some of the safeties coming out of previous drafts have had. It is rumored that these safeties could fall and I would not be surprised if it happens. Even though Pryor doesn’t have blazing speed, he fits a huge need with a Denver team who has done everything they can this offseason to improve their defense. Other options could be a receiver if Denver feels the need to replace Decker with their first round selection. With Pryor still on the board though, I don’t see that happening.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
With the receiver position already not a strength in Seattle and Golden Tate on his way to Detroit I think Seattle will use this pick to upgrade their receiving corp. When holding the last pick of the first round you can’t be too picky, but they should have their choice of some very talented players, especially at receiver. If one of the top four corners are available here, that would be another likely option with Brandon Browner headed to New England.