11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB UCLA
The Titans need a safety and were not a threat on the first day of free agency when four of them signed elsewhere. They also need a hybrid edge player to shine in new defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 4-3 / 3-4 scheme. Barr only produced 15 reps of 225 pounds at the combine and while his strength may be in question, what you simply cannot overlook is the ceiling Barr possesses, as well as his versatility. It is well documented he began his career as a running back and then exploded in 2012 in his first season on the defensive side of the ball. He backed it up with another great year in 2013, including 65 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles, earning him the Lott IMPACT Trophy. According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Barr’s burst and bend around the corner, make him an immediate threat as 3-4 rush linebacker or potential conversion to defensive end in the 4-3. In other words, perfect for Horton and the Titans. Besides, Tennessee is going to need someone chasing down Andrew Luck, and Johnny Manziel. Johnny football you say—It is likely that either the Texans or Jaguars land the duel threat QB with two of the top three picks in the draft.
12. NY Giants: Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina
The NY Giants need help in the secondary and addressed the need by signing Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and adding backups Walter Thurmond and safety Quentin Demps. After losing Joseph Linval and Justin Tuck, they could use some help on the d-line and rushing the passer. With only 34 sacks in 2013, the G-Men were a mere flash of what they were when sacking the QB on their way to winning two of the last six Super Bowls. They also addressed their linebacking corps when they re-signed Jon Beason and plucked Jameel McClain away from the Ravens. They also signed G Geoff Schwartz from Kansas City, which will help a running game that finished 29th in the NFL. They could still use a tackle for the future but with Taylor Lewan off the board, the Giants won’t reach to grab the second tier of tackles such as Cyrus Kouandjio. They can add a playmaker for Eli Manning and TE Eric Ebron could be just what the Giants offense needs. With Brandon Myers now in Tampa Bay, the Giants have only Larry Donnell to play the position and he has just three career receptions. The former Tar Heel makes perfect sense. Ebron caught 40 passes for 625 yards and four touchdowns in a breakout 2012 season, setting school records for a tight end in both categories. He earned second-team All-ACC honors and caught at least two passes in all 11 games. This past season he raised the bar establishing school records for single-season receptions (62), single-season receiving yards (973), career receptions (112) and career receiving yards (1,805) at the position. Ebron has the ability to create big yardage after the catch, which would fit in nicely with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s plans. Ebron compares to the 49ers Vernon Davis—bot are freaky athletic specimens that play move like wide receivers, but have the size and length of tight ends to create mismatches in coverage.
*previous pick Taylor Lewan
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans WR Texas A&M
With 12 plus million dollars of cap space entering free agency, the Rams did not seem overly concerned with trying to get safety help, which many experts say they must have. I have them addressing the OL with their first pick. They still may be able to grab a safety at No.26 but this pick will be about getting the offense. Enter the big-bodied Mike Evans, who will be quite the compliment to the Rams speedy receiving corps. Evans is deceptively fast himself (just ask Alabama) and with 147 receptions, 2,427 yards and 17 TD’s in two seasons, dominated SEC defenses during his brief stay at Texas A&M. At 6-5 and 231 pounds, Evans possesses great size and after watching his workouts at the combine, a great deal of surprising athleticism to match. I would not be surprised if the Rams traded back again. There are a few teams that may want to ensure they fulfill dire needs.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald: DT Pittsburgh
The Bears were horrific at stopping the run last season. Ranked dead last in the NFL, Chicago allowed 400 more yards on the ground than did the second worst rushing defense, the Atlanta Falcons. No player has improved his stock more since the end of the season through the scouting process than Aaron Donald. He was a standout all week at the Senior Bowl and he absolutely killed at the combine. He ran an amazing 4.66- 40 yard dash and was a top performer in a lot of tasks. He’s shorter than prototype size, but he has long arms, a powerful upper body and creates a lot of big plays with his anticipation and quickness. Both he and FSU’s Timmy Jernigan dominated the ACC this past season and both are good fits as a 3-technique player but Donald is a much better finisher as a pass-rusher, according to NFL talent evaluators such as Todd McShay of ESPN and Rob Rang of CBS Sports.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State
As the revolving door that is NFL free agency continues to spin, so does the needs of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As usual, the list of players leaving is far longer than the arrivals. The Steelers did address one need when they signed safety Mike Mitchell from the Carolina Panthers. No need to worry, they are still plenty of needs in the Steele City. After a few less than stellar overall drafts and the usual holes free agency leaves in Pittsburgh, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has a ton of positional holes to fill. A primary issue is at cornerback, where William Gay was the only pass defender to log an opponent passer rating under 88.1 — Ike Taylor, who had the most passing snaps of any Steelers’ cornerback, allowed a 110.6 passer rating and six touchdowns with no picks. Gilbert was a 2013 Second Team All-American, First Team All-Big 12 and a Jim Thorpe Finalist while finishing the year tied for third in the FBS with seven interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns. Gilbert is the top rated Cornerback on many draft boards. At 6 feet, 202 pounds, Gilbert has good size and plenty of speed. He was clocked in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.38 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine.
*previous pick: Eric Ebron
16. Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT Florida State
The Cowboys defense was ranked last in the NFL last in 2013 and from the defensive front seven to the deepest part of the secondary, massive upgrades are needed. Not being able to convince DeMarcus Ware to restructure his contract leading to his release certainly does not help. It is safe to say, or maybe not, knowing Jerry and his boys, the Cowboys should almost certainly be using most of their eight picks in this draft on defensive players. The smart play is to trade back and accumulate more picks. Dallas could also use a little help on the O-line but have hit on their past two first-round picks on the offensive line in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, this after not previously drafting one in the first round in the Jones era. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli hopes Dallas adds pieces to its front seven this offseason and the departure of Ware will force the Cowboys to grant him his wish instead of hard-hitting safety. FSU’s Timmy Jernigan would be a nice start. Jernigan has a powerful frame that makes him well suited to handling interior duties in the 4-3 or 3-4 alignment and has a huge ceiling. He is a good value as 3-technique DT for Dallas and after last year, the “Boys” need all of the help and value they can get.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, RT Notre Dame
The Ravens are quietly filling holes in free agency and doing so by continuing to get good value. Just in the past few days, Baltimore signed safety Darian Stewart from the Rams and on Sunday, signed center Jermey Zuttah from Tampa Bay. Zuttah lacks consistency but he’s an upgrade over Geno Gradkowski. That leaves right tackle as the big hole on the line and Notre Dame’s Zack Martin fills it quite nicely. With the exception of WR Steve Smith, the irony in this offseason for the Ravens is that after going 8-8 and missing the playoffs one year after winning the Super Bowl, Ozzie Newsome and company seem content on re-signing their own players, after watching last offseason, as no less than nine starting contributors form the champion team signed elsewhere. The Ravens feel former Panther Steve Smith is a piece not an answer and have to know that they need the big bodied WR Newsome promised Ravens fans this offseason. What they need more is help on the O-line. Center and right tackle being the biggest areas of concern. Usually at this point of the draft it would be best player available for Baltimore but help that is not a luxury this year. According to Pro Football focus, the Ravens finished 2013 with the fourth worst O-Line in the NFL. Re-signing Eugene Monroe at the price they got him for was a real value and the duo should help drastically cut down on the 48 sacks QB Joe Flacco suffered last season, which was the second most of any starting signal caller in the league. Many feel Martin’s squareish frame and 32 1/4-inch arms will earn him a projection inside to guard but his versatility gives the Ravens more options than does a Cyrus Kouandjio, who may be another Michael Oher. Regardless of where he lines up, Martin plays with the controlled aggression—-controlling opponents with excellent strength. Martin was the best player on the field in Mobile according to many NFL scouts and is the type of player in terms of versatility the Ravens love to have on their roster.
18. NY Jets: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The addition of Eric Decker does not mean the Jets are done at the WR position. In fact, signing Michael Vick to battle Geno Smith tells me the Jets will be looking to add playmakers. The Jets were one of only three teams not pass for 3,000 yards last season and not all of the blame for that horrendous stat in today’s NFL belongs to QB Geno Smith. To say his options were limited during his rookie season would be understating the issue by more than a little. What the addition of Decker does do is remove the need for the big-bodied WR such as a Marquis Lee. Although having two big wideouts with the way defensive backs are getting bigger and faster isn’t a bad idea, the Jets should look for a playmaker with speed. Luckily for them, this draft has a few at the position and with a 4.33 40-yard dash time, no WR was faster at the combine than Brandin Cooks at the NFL Combine. In fact, Cooks won 100k from Adidas for being the fastest player wearing a pair of the company’s shoes. The former Beaver and 2013 Biletnikoff winner, as the nation’s top receiver, also showed surprising strength with 17 reps on the weight bench. With Decker and Cooks plus Stephen Hill & Jeremy Kerley, the Jets could be well on their way to being a playoff team—that is if Vick has one more magical year in him or Smith can take a step forward. Finishing 8-8 with the offense the Jets put on the field last season has to be one of the most underrated accomplishments of the 2013 season.
19. Miami Dolphins: CJ Mosley, LB Alabama
Despite signing Branden Albert, the Dolphins still need an offensive tackle and could trade back to get a good one but the ones left aren’t worth taking here. They also signed guard Shelly Smith, which will help the Dolphins poor rushing attack. The Dolphins have taken a few hits in free agency on defense and could use some help stopping the run. Mosley was a three-year starter at Alabama and virtually be a coach on the field. His athleticism, range and quickness makes him a three-down linebacker, and his size (6-foot-2, 234 pounds) hints he’s a good fit for any scheme. Mosley is constantly around the ball, which explains the back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons he produced at Alabama. He’d immediate push for a starting spot, allowing the Dolphins to move Dannell Ellerbe to weakside linebacker. Mosley lacks the bulk scouts want in a pass rusher, but his awareness in coverage is special. Mosley has undergone multiple surgeries (knee, shoulder) over his career and could be the latest Alabama player to receive medical red flags from some evaluators. Look for the Dolphins to address their anemic offense in rounds two and three.
*previous pick: Cyrus Kouandjio
20. Arizona Cardinals: Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S Alabama
The Cardinals have filled some draft needs in free agency. They signed OT Jared Veldheeer and CB Antonio Cromartie. Safety is also a need and getting Clinton-Dix at No.20 could be value of the first round. Clinton-Dix possesses the fluidity, instincts and ball-skills (seven interceptions in 19 career starts) to be the draft’s best coverage safety. However, he is not without red-flags. He tends to shine in spurts and lacks some consistency rather than take over certain passing situations, as he could be capable of. He did not have a great combine and it is also worth noting that since Nick Saban took over at Alabama in 207, seven DB’s have been selected, four in the first two rounds. Only Dre Kirkpatrick has experienced much success. With that said, the Cardinals have Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie at the corners, and eventually, a healthy Tyrann Matthieu to pair with Clinton Dix. It may not be what division rival Seattle is putting on the field at the moment but it’s a hell of a start.
*Previous pick: Darqueze Dennard