NFL Mock Draft Picks 17-32
17. New England Patriots (From Oakland): OLB/DE Aldon Smith, Missouri-
The Patriots could look to go in a number of directions here, including DE (the 3-4 variety), RB, WR, OT, OG, but I think they address a major need and take a pass rusher with this pick. While the Patriots with so many additional picks are a prime candidate to trade up, if they stay here Smith would be an excellent pick for them. As impressive as their defense was, when they couldn’t pressure the quarterback they couldn’t stop their opponents. That has to change this year and Smith would be a great start.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin-
The Chargers draft strategy could be determined by free agency particularly if they lose one of their top receivers. If that is the case I could see them moving up to land a frontline wide out. If they retain their own talent, then OT, DE and OLB become their three biggest needs. While there are a few offensive tackle options, I think they grab J.J. Watt from Wisconsin with this pick. Watt is a 3-4 DE, who will help solidify both the Chargers pass rush and run defense.
19. New York Giants: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA-
Although a number of teams could target Ayers, I see him falling a little bit, since he is more of a 4-3 OLB, than a 3-4. Sure he rushes the passer, but guys like Smith and Miller do it better. Ayers plays better in coverage and diagnosing runs, making him a more ideal fit for a 4-3 team. The Giants desperately need to upgrade their back 7 (and could also look DT). He can be useful blitzing the quarterback, but can go out in coverage as well. He would be a big upgrade for the G-men, and should be able to start from day 1.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Nate Solder, Colorado-
The Buccaneers biggest need is defensive end, but unless they are comfortable playing Justin Houston their full time, there aren’t many quality options for them here. Guys like Bailey, Heyward, and Jordan are surefire picks as 3-4 ends, but don’t profile as well in the 4-3 (at least at end). The Buccaneers should look to address the position in free agency as well as later in the draft (unless they are looking to trade up), and look to acquire a starting OT in the first round. I know James Lee handled RT admirably this past season, but he was far from perfect, and he might not hold up for a full season. Tampa needs to address their offensive line, to keep their new found offense running on all cylinders, and Solder would be an excellent fit. He profiles at either tackle position, and should be a very good RT for the Bucs for the next 10 years.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: OLB/DE Justin Houston, Georgia-
The Chiefs might be desperate for a receiver, but there is no one on the board here worth taking. I realize that they have been drafting pretty steady on defense of late, but they do have their tight end, running back, and quarterback (at least they believe so) positions set. Offensive line looks pretty good assuming they resign their free agents (not big name stars so I see them coming back). Receiver is a big issue, but it will need to be addressed in free agency to find a real fix. I think the Chiefs will look to add another pass rusher to compliment Hali, and Houston is a great fit. While the Chiefs defense did a lot of things well this season they were really a one man show when it came to rushing the passer. If they can add a second threat it will strengthen the entire defense.
22. Indianapolis Colts: DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State-
The Colts have three main needs RB, OT, DT this offseason, and while and offensive tackle would also benefit the running game, I’m thinking that defensive tackle is the way the Colts go. Paea, gets a wide range of opinions and could be off the board earlier making him quite the steal for the Colts. I’m a big fan of Paea overall, but I see him falling to the 20’s in the draft, since he isn’t a big ‘stat’ guy. He doesn’t dominate in any one area, except being the hardest worker on the football field. I’m not sure if he is a true NT in a 3-4 front, but should be the anchor in a 4-3 line. He won’t get more than a handful of sacks each year, but he will push the line and occupy blockers. Given the fact that the Colts have great edge rushers, Paea makes a lot of sense playing next to them.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Derrek Sherrod, Mississippi State-
The Eagles have finally realized that Winston Justice just can’t be an effective offensive tackle, and will need to fix that problem area in the first round of this April’s draft. Corner back and defensive tackle will also be on their wish list, but I’m guessing offensive tackle is their top priority. Sherrod is a player I really like, but I don’t love. He offers the versatility to grow into a left tackle down the road, but as long as Michael Vick is the starting quarterback, RT is the prime position on the Eagles offensive line.
24. New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama-
The Saints could look to address their front seven or even their offensive line (especially if they lose any key free agents), but I think they will look to add a running back here. Pierre Thomas looks to be on his way out the door, and unless Reggie Bush moves the decimal point over to the left one place on his $11.8 million salary, he will be joining him. Chris Ivory looked good this past season, but he had nagging injuries all year, and Lisfranc fracture that required surgery this offseason. He might be healthy by training camp, but probably won’t be 100%, so New Orleans needs to find a better option. Ingram would be a good safe choice for the Saints, one that would ensure their running back woes didn’t lead to their downfall this season.
25. Seattle Seahawks: DE/DT Cameron Jordan, California-
The Seahawks couldn’t do much in the way of pressure against a fairly weak Chicago Bears offensive line in the Playoffs. Outside of Chris Clemons, the Seahawks only could generate a pass rush and penetration with situational pass rushers and blitzes. Jordan would be a good fit for Seattle as he can be a good right end on early downs, and kick inside on passing downs. Jordan will offer some help rushing the passer on 1st and 2nd down, and be an effective run stopper as well. QB, OL, and CB are also areas of concern, but I think they are addressed later.
26. Baltimore Ravens: CB Brandon Harris, Miami-
The Ravens have one of the elite defenses in the league, but their corner back play is still average at best. Harris is a promising young corner, who has the skills to develop into a number one corner. Until then the Ravens will be quite happy with him being number two, and a big upgrade.
27. Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame-
I know, I know Tony Gonzalez is coming back, but this is likely his final year coming up and they need to add weapons for Matt Ryan. There isn’t a receiver worth taking here (making the Falcons a prime player to move up or back to take one), and most of the best defensive ends are off the board. I’m sure the Falcons can find a way to utilize both Gonzalez and Rudolph next season in a way that will make them both effective. It would be a bold pick, but a smart pick for the Falcons if they stay at this spot.
28. New England Patriots: DE Allen Bailey, Miami-
The Patriots could go in a number of directions with this pick, but Bailey is a good fit for their defense. He profiles well at getting to the quarterback from his DE spot making him a nice fit for their needs. With two front 7 defenders, New England could spend the rest of their choices fixing the offense.
*29-32 yet to be determined
29. New York Jets: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State-
The Jets are likely to lose Shaun Ellis to free agency this offseason leaving a major void along their defensive line. I think this has to be New York’s top priority come draft time, and they should be quite pleased with Heyward. While some question his motor, he seems to read the snap count very well for a college player and a solid assortment of moves. The Jets will be quite pleased with Heyward going forward and he should help keep their defense near the top.
30. Chicago Bears: OT DeMarcus Love, Arkansas-
I think this is a pretty big overdraft for Love as he is more of a 45-55 player (i.e. middle of the 2nd round), but the Bears are desperate, and offensive tackles have been known to be overdrafted. Unless they find a couple linemen in free agency the Bears need to address this position with their first pick. Love is a good project, one that should start at RT and move over to LT, but he isn’t a complete player. There is a fair risk of him ending up being a bust. While the Bears have some other needs they pale into comparison to their offensive line need. Although they were successful this season with that unit, I wouldn’t bet on it happening twice.
31. Green Bay Packers: DE Corey Liuget, Illinois-
The Packers will need to keep adding talent to their 3-4 defense, and look to have a big hole at one of the defensive end spots. Liuget, could profile as a DT in a 4-3, but should be the perfect fit for the Packers at defensive end. He had a monster year and shows a good bit of penetration for a guy of his size. Green Bay should be quite happy with what he becomes, and he would give them the elite D-line they are looking for.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: G/C Mike Pouncey, Florida-
Sure it is a bit of a feel good story, but Mike Pouncey is deserving of hearing his name called in the first round. Now I don’t think he is as refined as his All-Pro brother Maurkice, but he has that potential. Mike fits better as a guard than a center, which is where the Steelers biggest need lies. He should step into their right guard spot and team up with his brother to form a great interior line. If Willie Colon can come back from injury the Steelers offensive line will go from a weakness to one of their strengths. Pouncey could get taken earlier, but I think it is a foregone conclusion that he won’t get past the Steelers first round pick.