17. Dallas Cowboys – Kony Ealy – DE – Missouri
Just plug in the highest rated player who fits in the Cowboys front seven in this slot. Ealy is still somewhat raw, but has the tools to develop into an elite pass-rusher. By playing opposite DeMarcus Ware, Ealy would have an opportunity to learn from one of the best, while also taking some off the attention off Ware.
18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham Jr. – WR – LSU
The Jets need to give Geno Smith another weapon, but they also have to make sure it’s someone who can contribute immediately. Beckham may lack the upside of a guy like Kelvin Benjamin, but he has the skills to help Smith immediately.
19. Miami Dolphins – Allen Robinson – WR – Penn State
The Dolphins are lacking a possession receiver to line up on the outside, something which Ryan Tannehill desperately needs to take his game to the next level. This may be a bit early for Robinson based on most boards, but his skill set perfectly fits what the Dolphins need. If Eric Ebron were to fall, he would also be an obvious choice here.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Blake Bortles – QB – UCF
The Cardinals can compete with Carson Palmer in the short term, but he’s 34 and they have to consider finding his replacement if the opportunity presents itself. Bortles has been hyped up as a top-10 prospects – and it’s possible someone will gamble on him there – but his physical upside is limited and he’s more likely to slip to the late 1st or 2nd.
21. Green Bay Packers – Louis Nix – DT – Notre Dame
Nearly the entire Packers defensive line is set to hit the free agent market this offseason, which means changes are coming. If they’re unable to re-sign B.J. Raji or Ryan Pickett, adding a player like Nix becomes a top priority. Nix has the ability to start immediately at nose tackle.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State
DeMeco Ryans is coming off a rough year and is a potential cap casualty this offseason, which would open up a hole in the Eagles defense. Chip Kelly has always appreciated speed on defense, which should make Shazier an intriguing prospect to him. Shazier is slightly undersized, but has sideline-to-sideline speed and can be an asset in coverage.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Brandin Cooks – WR – Oregon State
Don’t be fooled by Chiefs offensive explosions in a few games this year, this team needs a ton of work. Brandin Crooks is an explosive playmaker who could potentially emerge as Alex Smith’s No. 1 target as a rookie. He won’t be the answer to all the problems, but he’s an upgrade over their current situation.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Dee Ford – DE – Auburn
This selection won’t be necessary if the Bengals re-sign Michael Johnson, but that will require a significant financial investment. Ford wouldn’t perfectly replace Johnson because he’s somewhat one dimensional, but he would give the Bengals a legitimate pass-rush threat to pair with Carlos Dunlap.
25. San Diego Chargers – Justin Gilbert – CB – Oklahoma State
The Chargers secondary was a mess this season and it’d tough to even guess whose job may be safe for 2014. Changes are definitely coming and the draft will probably bring at least one new starter to the secondary. The Chargers should seriously consider trading up for one of the top prospects such as Gilbert or Dennard if they won’t make a significant signing in free agency.
26. Cleveland Browns – Carlos Hyde – RB – Ohio State
(from IND) There isn’t a quarterback worth taking at this spot in the draft, so the Browns take the next best option for upgrading their offense. With an improved rushing attack, the Browns could plug in a veteran quarterback to work with Gordon and Cameron and suddenly their offense could be a legitimate threat in the AFC.
27. New Orleans Saints – Calvin Pryor – S – Louisville
The Saints secondary was better than expected this season, but there are still holes. And with Malcolm Jenkins set to hit the free agent market, a gaping hole may be about to open up at free safety. There’s a very realistic chance that Pryor will be off the board here, but he would be tough to pass up if he lasts this long.
28. Carolina Panthers - Jason Verrett – CB – TCU
Re-signing Captain Munnerlyn should be a priority for the Panthers, but even if he bolts as a free agent their secondary is still an issue. Verrett is probably a notch below Gilbert and Dennard, but has a strong case to be the third cornerback off the board. Others such as Marcus Roberson and Lamarcus Joyner could also be options.
29. New England Patriots – Timmy Jernigan – DT – Florida State
The Patriots patchwork defensive line was surprisingly effective for most of the season, but interior line was a consistent disappointment. Jernigan is extremely raw and inconsistent, but his natural talent ranks among the top prospects in this class. The Patriots aren’t afraid to gamble on guys like Jernigan and bring them along slowly.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Aaron Donald – DT – Pittsburgh
This would be somewhat of a luxury pick for the 49ers who need to improve the depth on the defensive line. Donald likely wouldn’t start as a rookie but he could be groomed as a replacement for Justin Smith and give the 49ers some flexibility when the rest of their defensive line becomes free agents within the next two years.
31. Denver Broncos - Kyle Fuller – CB – Virginia Tech
Champ Bailey won’t be around much longer and Rodgers-Cromartie has also discussed retirement. Even if both return in 2014, the Broncos secondary needs the added depth and youth. Fuller isn’t one of the most talked about prospects, but he’s polished and capable of helping a contender like the Broncos immediately.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Ra’Shede Hageman – DT – Minnesota
The depth in the Seahawks front seven was the strength of their defense this season, but Michael Bennett, Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald are all free agents. It will be tough for the Seahawks to re-sign all three, which could force them to turn to the draft for a cheap, young replacement like Hageman.