Pre-Free Agency Mock Draft, Picks 25-32
Now that we’ve stretched this mock draft for maximum page views (or, in truthfully, because my ADD kept me from writing about more than eight picks at a time and I wanted to have something up for our readership), here is the end of the first round.
And away we go…
25. Seattle Seahawks – Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
This is one of those team-specific mocks more than it is a value-based mock. Not that I think Datone Jones is necessarily a reach (although I know little about him), but I’ve read several reports that the Seahawks have conducted multiple meetings with Jones and are strongly interested in him. This season proved a need to improve the pass rush, as it fell off strongly without Chris Clemons (and even though Bruce Irvin is a hugely talented edge rusher, he is still raw and a one-trick pony). It makes sense for the Seahawks to take Jones here.
26. Green Bay Packers – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
I really don’t know what to do with this pick. The Packers defense was badly exposed against the 49ers in the playoffs, but I don’t know where the most sound place to upgrade would be. They could go with an ILB like Alec Ogletree or Kevin Minter. They could take a safety like Matt Elam. If they feel they need help at 3-4 DE, Margus Hunt would make a lot of sense. Xavier Rhodes is still on the board, and he really shouldn’t have fallen this far considering his talent level.
The team also badly needs to solidify the running game, although I don’t know if they’d be willing to spend a first-round pick on Eddie Lacy or Giovanni Bernard to do so.
I copped out and reasoned that with Greg Jennings almost certainly gone in free agency and Jermichael Finley likely to be released, the team would be looking to patch up those losses in the passing game. Eifert is the kind of highly athletic specimen at the position that the Pack were hoping they had in Finley.
27. Houston Texans – Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
The Texans have their fair share of problems. The overall lack of depth is very disconcerting. They are good enough to beat bad teams but get consistently blown out by the elite teams of the league. They have ignored the #2 WR position for far too long, or have made half-ass attempts to patch it up with lower-round rookies.
The Texans really need the best player available at any position here. There isn’t a spot on the team that couldn’t use a little help or depth. That said, the lack of depth at ILB behind Brian Cushing became the most glaringly obvious as the team’s replacements for him also kept getting injured, so I believe the Texans will draft in a reactionary manner and choose someone to fill that spot. Ogletree seems to be the top player on the board at the position.
28. Denver Broncos – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.
I almost mocked Damontre Moore to the Broncos after hearing the rumors that the team was trying to get Elvis Dumervil to restructure his contract and was even considering releasing him outright. But since that hasn’t actually happened yet, I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach before I start changing my mock draft to reflect that information.
The team has quite a find at cornerback in Chris Harris, Jr., and Tony Carter makes a fine nickel back. But last year’s big free-agent signing, Tracy Porter, provided nothing, and Champ Bailey looked like he’d finally hit the end of his days as a productive cover cornerback by the end of the season. Rhodes could have gone much earlier in the round; he might even step in right away as a starter for this team.
The team could also go defensive line or WR. A safety to pair with Rahim Moore is not out of the question.
29. New England Patriots – Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
I’m sure the Patriots would have loved to take Tavon Austin here to replace Wes Welker, but here he is off the board before they can make that move. Short was a very good interior pass rusher at Purdue and seems like an ideal choice to pair with Vince Wilfork. The team finally has some emerging talent in the front seven; Short seems like a solid addition to that bunch.
The team could certainly go other directions – WR or secondary are both spots that could stand upgrades– but here I decided to go with the player I felt most likely to be a sure solid contributor.
30. Atlanta Falcons – Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Moore was talked about as a sure top-5 pick early in the draft process. His combine was pretty terrible, though, which put tons of doubt in talent evaluators’ minds about his ability to play at the next level. Still, I believe he can at least contribute enough to merit a draft pick, if not a high one. After all, he was able to put up strong numbers (12.5 sacks) against solid competition (eight of those sacks came in the eight conference games against SEC teams).
Atlanta needs pass rush badly– with the release of John Abraham, they have absolutely no one capable of getting to the quarterback (maybe Jonathan Babineaux on a good day, but he is starting to feel his age). Moore would immediately start in Abraham’s old position.
31. San Francisco 49ers – Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
San Francisco could go a number of directions with this pick, but again, I used a certain reactionary logic when making this pick: After seeing how profoundly the loss of Justin Smith affected the team’s defense (and with backup Ricky Jean-Francois likely gone in free agency), the team will probably be looking to groom another player who can fit that role long-term, as Smith is aging and a free agent after 2013 anyway.
Margus Hunt does not have a lot of football experience– he was a star track-and-field athlete in Estonia before enrolling at SMU– but June Jones saw something in him and convinced him to join the team. Initially a kick-blocker, Hunt’s sheer athleticism eventually won him a full-time spot at DE. He’s on the older side– 25– and not very experienced, but he was very productive in college and has insane measurables– he’s 6’8″, 277; ran a 4.6 40 at the combine, and did 38 bench reps of 225 pounds. He seems like a player that could swallow up blockers as well as rush the passer, in the same mold of Justin Smith. And with the #34 pick in their pocket as well, San Francisco can afford to grab him here and fill another need with their next selection.
32. Baltimore Ravens – Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
The Ravens are going to have a few holes to plug this offseason– Ray Lewis is retiring, Ed Reed is very likely gone, and now it seems Paul Kruger and Anquan Boldin will be, too. The Ravens could take a safety like Matt Elam or Jonathan Cyprien to replace Reed; they could take a receiver like Cordarrelle Patterson or DeAndre Hopkins; or they could take an edge rusher (although I’m not crazy about any of the value there at this point in the draft). I took the easy way out; since Kevin Minter has been mocked as a late first-rounder for some time now, I just plugged him in as the Ray Lewis heir apparent.
I may post a short round two mock later if I’m feeling up for it.