There arenít as many holes to plug in Tennessee as you might expect but this choice will most likely come down to either a pass rusher or a cornerback. If available UCLA OLB Anthony Barr makes sense on a number of levels beyond just plain old-fashioned need. For instance, most donít realize that the Titans just hired a man named Lou Spanos to be their linebackers coach. Why is that significant? Because his previous gig was as the defensive coordinator at UCLA. Needless to say Tennessee probably has a better feel for Barr than any other team in the league. Also, the Titans new defensive coordinator is Ray Horton, who held the same job in Cleveland a year ago when the Browns chose Barkevious Mingo in the Top 10 overall. ďKeKeĒ and Barr are similar types of players in many regards. After beginning his college career on the offensive side of the ball Barr has been nothing short of a revelation since transitioning to defense as a junior. An incredible athlete with an outstanding blend of size and speed as well as top-notch intangibles, Barr terrorizes opponents as a blitzer off the edge and the scary part is heís just beginning to tap into his immense potential. Barr is still rough around the edges and will require some patience but that is to be expected considering his relative lack of experience and there is no denying he has all the raw tools to develop into an elite pass rusher. This would be an ideal situation for Barr as the Titans could bring him along slowly as a rookie while he soaks up knowledge from veterans like Shaun Phillips and Kamerion Wimbley. Tennessee could be in the market for a cover guy too though after losing Alterraun Verner in free agency so Oklahoma St. CB Justin Gilbert and
Michigan St. CB Darqueze Dennard will be in the mix as well. The nose tackle and running back positions must also be addressed but this is just too early for Florida St. DT Timmy Jernigan, Notre Dame DT Louis Nix and Ohio St. RB Carlos Hyde. There has been some speculation that this could be a landing spot for a top quarterback, particularly Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville or Derek Carr of Fresno St., but the Titans may be inclined to give Jake Locker one last chance to stay healthy and show what he's capable of before moving on.
Most will probably have Michigan OT Taylor Lewan, Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald or North Carolina TE Eric Ebron in this spot but I have a funny feeling the G-Men may go in a different direction. Those are all logical fits and good players that would address needs but there is always a surprise or two on Draft Day. Remember, nobody expected New York to select Justin Pugh in the first round a year ago. The Giants still have some question marks along the offensive line and Zack Martin of Notre Dame could legitimately be plugged in at tackle, guard or even center, which would give Tom Coughlin a lot of options and help them get the five best blockers on the field. Martin isnít an incredible physical specimen or even particularly dominant but heís a smart, steady, technically sound, battle-tested, four-year starter and may be one of the safest prospects in this entire draft at any position. That is why he may not even last this long when all is said and done and I wouldnít be surprised to see teams attempt to trade up to secure his services since he is the last of the top tier of offensive linemen. Ebron could be difficult to pass up though, especially since there isnít currently a starting caliber tight end on the roster. With that said there should be some intriguing options available at the position in round two, whether it be Troy Niklas of Notre Dame, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington or Jace Amaro of Texas Tech.
So why not Lewan? I just have a hunch Lewanís off-the-field issues will scare away the Giants and he probably wonít last this long anyway. Why not Donald? There is no doubt the Giants love to invest in defensive linemen, even when it isn't a major need. However, they also tend to lean toward prospects with size and athleticism in the trenches and Donald only checks one of those boxes. Don't rule out LSU WR Odell Beckham as a darkhorse since they let Hakeem Nick walk as a free agent.
ST. LOUIS RAMS: DARQUEZE DENNARD, CB, MICHIGAN ST.
No team has had as many premium draft picks the past few years as the Rams and as a result their roster is absolutely loaded with young talent on both sides of the ball. One area that has yet to be adequately addressed is safety, where the cupboard is still essentially bare, so Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama or Calvin Pryor of Louisville would seem to make a lot of sense. However, when was the last time they made a significant investment at the safety position? Itís just not an area they value and prioritize. They do step up to the plate when it comes to cornerbacks though, in both free agency and the draft, so that appears to be a more plausible scenario following a parting of ways with Cortland Finnegan. Michigan St. CB Darqueze Dennard is more than adequate when it comes to physical tools such as size, speed and athleticism but itís the little things such as technique, awareness and toughness that separates him from the competition. Dennard may not be overly flashy but he is one of the most aggressive, consistent, well-rounded cover guys you will find.
Oklahoma St. CB Justin Gilbert and Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller are alternatives at the position as well. If St. Louis doesnít address the offensive line with their first choice they could target a blocker here, although there is a strong chance both Michigan OT Taylor Lewan and Notre Dame OT / OG Zack Martin will both be gone. Perhaps in the Top 10. Even though the defensive line is one of the strengths of the team they could still use a guy such as Kony Ealy of Missouri, who can be utilized at both end and tackle and provide depth.
The Bears boasted one of the most productive offenses in the NFL despite playing their backup quarterback for half the season so there arenít many glaring needs on that side of the ball. The defense is another matter all together though. Of particular concern is their performance against the run, which was last in the league by a pretty significant margin. Fortunately Chicago could have their pick of any defensive tackle in this class to shore up the interior of that leaky defensive line. Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald may be undersized but he has proven himself every step of the way, capping off a very productive college career with an outstanding final campaign then blowing everyone away at both the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine. A fantastic athlete with terrific speed and quickness as well as top-notch instincts, Donald is extremely disruptive and actually plays bigger than you would expect. Considering his physical limitations the fact that Donald is even in the first round conversation is a real testament to his performance on the field. The most pressing concern in The Windy City is arguably safety, where they were historically bad last season. It goes without saying that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville
would be strong possibilities as well. Itís probably time to start thinking about adding a top young cornerback too because Peanut Tillman isnít getting any younger. Oklahoma St. CB Justin Gilbert would not only represent a huge upgrade on defense but he is also the premier return man in this class and could replace Devin Hester. Linebacker isnít the top priority for Da Bears but there are definitely some question marks at the position so Alabama ILB C.J. Mosley would have to at least get a look .
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: KYLE FULLER, CB, VIRGINIA TECH
One of the keys to the Steelers remaining consistently competitive for decades has been their ability to reload rather than rebuild. Pittsburgh will be tested again over the next couple of years as they attempt to reconstruct an aging defense. There are actually concerns on all three levels but the secondary and specifically cornerback may stand out above the rest since there isnít much to get excited about beyond Ike Taylor, who is now 34-years-old. Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller comes from an extremely athletic family, with his older brothers Vincent and Corey having played football for the Hokies and in the NFL as well. Meanwhile his younger brother Kendall is still in Blacksburg and is already regarded as one of the nationís top cover guys. VA Tech certainly knows what itís doing when it comes to DBs and Fuller will follow in the footsteps of guys like DeAngelo Hall, Eric Green, Jimmy Williams, Aaron Rouse, Brandon Flowers, Macho Harris, Kam Chancellor and Jayron Hosley. An aggressive, physical corner with ideal length and excellent intangibles, Fuller is one of the best all-around defensive backs in this class and itís hard to envision him escaping the Top 20-25. Michigan St. CB Darqueze Dennard would rank right up there with Fuller as the most plausible possibilities if available and if they are both gone Ohio St. CB Bradley Roby and perhaps even T.C.U. CB Jason Verrett could be darkhorses. The Steelers are also rumored to be extremely interested in L.S.U. WR Odell Beckham, which makes sense considering they have now lost both Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders to free agency in back to back years.
The inside linebacker spot alongside Lawrence Timmons is an area that probably needs to be addressed as well so watch out for Ryan Shazier of Ohio St. Reinforcements are also needed at defensive end so Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh and RaíShede Hageman of Minnesota would be ideal fits as a five technique in their odd front. Pittsburgh is always in the market for edge pass rushers so after parting ways with LaMarr Woodley donít be shocked if they seriously consider UCLA OLB Anthony Barr if he slides.
The Cowboys made the transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme last season and the early returns were disappointing to say the least. Not only did the defense take a huge step backwards but they actually finished dead-last in the league statistically. Granted injuries played a role in that steep decline but a lack of overall talent and quality depth was just as much to blame. That was especially true along the defensive line and itís absolutely imperative that Dallas bring in some reinforcements up front. Plural. Missouri DE Kony Ealy is the next in an impressive string of top defensive linemen produced by Mizzou, including Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Sheldon Richardson. The success those guys have found in the pros could work in Ealyís favor on Draft Day. Teammate Michael Sam was slightly more productive and got far more headlines but Ealy is actually a much better pro prospect due to his superior physical tools. A rangy athlete with a large frame who moves very well, Ealy excels at getting after the quarterback by utilizing both speed and power. While not yet a great run defender Ealy possesses all of the tools to eventually be a terrific two-way player and offers plenty of upside. Boise St. DE Demarcus Lawrence could be a darkhorse and if they want to add some help on the interior Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald and Florida St. DT Timmy Jernigan would be the most likely options. Dallas has also shown some interest in Anthony Barr of UCLA if he were to fall this far. This may wind up being no-manís land for the defensive linemen value-wise though so Dallas could probably
trade down five to ten spots and still be looking at a lot of the same options. Notre Dame OT / OG Zack Martin and Ohio St. OLB Ryan Shazier are in the mix too, although Martin will almost certainly be gone. There are still major issues at safety as well, which has been the case for many years. However, even though Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama or Calvin Pryor of Louisville would represent a major upgrade they just donít seem to prioritize that position. Finally, what would happen if Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel unexpectedly falls into Jerry Jonesí lap ? ! ?
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome is always ready to pounce if a top talent unexpectedly falls into his lap on Draft Day, which is why he is universally regarded as one of the best in the business. This would be another classic example. On the surface this might appear to be a luxury since the Ravens re-signed Dennis Pitta to a lucrative long-term contract and also added veteran Owen Daniels. However, looks can be deceiving. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak employs as many two tight end sets as anyone in the league and Daniels probably wonít be in the picture for very long. An outstanding athlete with excellent speed who can stretch the field vertically, North Carolina TE Eric Ebron is an extremely difficult matchup for opposing defenses and exactly the type of dynamic pass catching threat that teams are looking for these days. An argument can be made that Ebron is the only tight end in this class with a realistic shot at eventually becoming a true standout at the position and it might be a full round before another one comes off the board. Of course the most glaring hole on the roster is the one left at right tackle by Michael Oher when he bolted in free agency. Itís unlikely Zack Martin of Notre Dame will still be available at this point though and itís not like Newsome to reach for a Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama or Morgan Moses of Virginia so barring a trade up they may have to be patient and look for a blocker later on.
Baltimore could consider a wide receiver too since Steve Smith is merely a stop-gap solution and the options there would be Odell Beckham of L.S.U., Marqise Lee of USC, Brandin Cooks of Oregon St. and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida St. The Ravens could also be tempted to team either Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville S Calvin Pryor with last years first rounder Matt Elam and while it's not a pressing concern Alabama ILB CJ Mosley would at least have to be discussed from a pure value perspective if still available.
The Jets have parted ways with both Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromarite in the span of a little more than a year so cornerback might be their top priority. If either Michigan St. CB Darqueze Dennard or Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller are available they would probably get the nod since they are the type of physical cover guys that Rex Ryan prefers. Ohio St. CB Bradley Roby could even be a possibility. If the top corners are gone New York could turn their attention to wide receiver because even though they signed Eric Decker in free agency another pass catcher is needed to further upgrade that feeble passing attack. L.S.U. WR Odell Beckham is an explosive playmaker and one of the hottest names in this class heading into Draft Day so there is a very good chance heíll be off the board by this point. Perhaps even in the Top 10 overall. Beckham would make a ton of sense for the Jets though and while you shouldnít read too much into it the fact that they recently added the L.S.U. special teams coach to their staff probably doesnít hurt Beckhamís cause with the organization. A dynamic athlete with good size, great speed, superb hands and nice body control, Beckham can stretch the field vertically but is also capable of
creating after the catch and turning a short throw into a long gain. As an added bonus Beckham is also an excellent return man. If Beckham isnít available USC WR Marqise Lee and Oregon St. WR Brandin Cooks could be alternatives. North Carolina TE Eric Ebron will likely be off the board but would also qualify as the type of offensive weapon they are searching for. There are issues at safety too so Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville may be in the conversation as well.
The Dolphins failure to adequately address their offensive line last offseason despite ample resources and opportunities led to a myriad of headaches and may ultimately have cost former general manager Jeff Ireland his job. Even though they signed Branden Albert to a big deal in free agency there are still major issues up front and Miami is probably in the market for at least two, if not three, more blockers. The situation was / is that dire. Unfortunately it appears highly unlikely Notre Dame OT / OG Zack Martin will last this long and while they have also been linked to Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Virginia OT Morgan Moses and Tennessee OT JaíWuan James all might be reaches at this point. While being unable to address the offensive line with this choice would surely be disappointing having Alabama LB C.J. Mosley as a Plan B would make it a whole lot more palatable. Especially when you consider that they are so concerned about the middle linebacker position that the idea of moving Koa Misi inside has been kicked around. That is a role he is ill-equipped to play and a transition he is reportedly reluctant to make. This pick would make all of that a moot point. Although slightly undersized Mosley is a great athlete with top intangibles and the ability to make an impact in every facet of the game, whether it be against the run, in coverage or as a blitzer. Mosley could project either inside or outside depending on the scheme but in Miami he would man the middle and finally solve the issues there once and for all.
Mosley probably checks in higher than this on a majority of draft boards around the league and he could conceivably be selected as early as the Top 10 overall. However, linebackers that arenít dynamic pass rushers do have a tendency to get undervalued on Draft Day and that combined with size and some health / durability concerns could lead to Mosley sliding just a bit further than expected. Ohio St. LB Ryan Shazier could be a potential alternative if Mosley is gone and do not rule out Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a darkhorse.
After addressing their most glaring need at left tackle by signing free agent Jared Veldheer the Cardinals are now able to look elsewhere with this choice. Arizona will likely focus on the defensive side of the ball and Louisville S Calvin Pryor could be the final piece for what is shaping up to be a very talented secondary. Throughout most of the process Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama was widely considered to be the top safety prospect in this class but Pryor has emerged as a legitimate contender for that honor. In fact it may just come down to whether a team is looking for a free safety (Clinton-Dix) or a strong safety (Pryor). Big, aggressive, extremely physical, hard-hitting and instinctive, Pryor is a force in the box versus the run but has also flashed some playmaking ability in coverage despite just average playing speed. This would be a perfect fit for both player and team as Pryor would be an ideal compliment to Tyrann Mathieu. After Pryor and Clinton-Dix there is a significant drop-off at the position so donít be surprised if a number of teams attempt to maneuver to ensure they get one of those top two. Even though Arizona was sixth in the league in terms of sack production last season that statistic is a little misleading. After all their top pass rusher was John Abraham, who is 36-years-old. With that being the case Kony Ealy of Missouri, Dee Ford of Auburn and Demarcus Lawrence of Boise St. could be in the mix as well. There has even been speculation that Ohio St. OLB Ryan Shazier could be a legitimate possibility.
It probably wouldnít hurt to add another blocker either and they could consider Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio or Virginia OT Morgan Moses. Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt and Minnesota DE RaíShede Hageman might be options as an eventual successor to Darnell Dockett too. Itís also high time to start thinking about a long-term solution at quarterback since Carson Palmer is now 34-years-old so they could be tempted by Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville or Derek Carr of Fresno St and have been linked to A.J. McCarron of Alabama.
The Packers didnít do a very good job of stopping either the run or pass last season, finishing near the very bottom of the league in both categories. Needless to say there are some issues to address on that side of the ball. Green Bay could realistically use reinforcements on all three levels of their defense but if Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is still available this would probably be an easy decision. The Crimson Tide have been producing first round defensive backs on a yearly basis as of late and the guy they call "Ha Ha" will extend that streak. There has been a growing sentiment for Calvin Pryor of Louisville but for teams in search of a free safety Clinton-Dix is the cream of the crop. A terrific athlete with a prototypical blend of size and speed, Clinton-Dix covers a lot of ground in coverage but also isnít afraid to come up and support the run. With safeties figuring more and more prominently in game plans around the league these days donít be surprised if both Clinton-Dix and Pryor are hot commodities on Draft Day. If those safeties are gone the Packers could turn their attention to linebacker, where either C.J. Mosley of Alabama or Ryan Shazier of Ohio St. would represent an upgrade on the inside. Or they could add another big, athletic, versatile defensive linemen to the mix in the form of
Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame or RaíShede Hageman of Minnesota. A replacement is needed for Jermichael Finley at tight end as well but Eric Ebron of North Carolina will almost certainly be off the board by this point and then there is a pretty significant drop-off at the position. Donít rule out a receiver such as Marqise Lee of USC, Brandin Cooks of Oregon St. or even Cody Latimer of Indiana either because even though it isnít their top priority they lost Greg Jennings and James Jones in free agency the past couple of offseasons.
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