2013 NFL Draft: Pros and Cons of Every Projected First-Round Draft Pick
Everybody typically focuses on the positives that each draft pick could bring to a team. However, that makes it easy to overlook the possible negatives that could arise from making the wrong choice, such as missing out on other talented prospects or picking a player who fails to develop.
This mock draft looks at the potential positives and negatives of each selection. I've done several mock drafts over the past few weeks, so I decided to change things up this week. The major change comes from the direction taken by the Kansas City Chiefs at the top of the draft.
No. 1: Kansas City Chiefs
Pick: Star Lotulelei, defensive lineman, Utah
Pros: Despite investing heavily on the defensive line the past few years, the Kansas City Chiefs need a difference-maker. The likes of Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey just haven't met expectations.
This is why Utah's Star Lotulelei should be in play for the No. 1 pick. He would give the Chiefs an explosive and potentially dominant playmaker along the defensive line. He has a rare combination of quickness, strength and tenacity.
Kansas City's defensive line would look pretty formidable with Lotulelei, Dontari Poe and Jackson in place.
Cons: The issue with this pick is that it doesn't address the Chiefs' overwhelming need at the quarterback position. Kansas City has little chance to improve unless it finds a way to bring in more talent at quarterback.
It would also be admitting failure if the Chiefs had to spend yet another first-round pick on a defensive lineman. Dorsey, Jackson and Poe all came off the board in the first round.
However, the major changes to the coaching staff and upper management should make it an easier pill to swallow.
No. 2: Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Jarvis Jones, outside linebacker, Georgia
Pros: The Jaguars' decision to hire Gus Bradley as head coach will bring philosophy changes. He ran a unique defense while with the Seattle Seahawks. That system featured a combination of 3-4 and 4-3 principles, as well as specific sub packages.
However, fixing the pass-rushing situation will be the team's focus no matter what system they plan on running. Georgia's Jarvis Jones is the most complete pass-rusher in this draft class. He effectively uses both power and speed rushes to generate pressure.
Adding Jones will give the Jaguars some versatility, as he's more than just a pass-rusher, having developed into a solid all-around linebacker. This versatility will fit nicely in Bradley's use of different packages.
Cons: Jacksonville needs to be a little concerned about Jones' injury history. However, I'm sure it will be do its homework if it ends up making Jones the No. 2 pick.
The Jaguars are another team with plenty of uncertainty at the quarterback position. Again, this pick won't solve that problem.
No. 3: Oakland Raiders
Pick: Damontre Moore, defensive end, Texas A&M
Pros: The Oakland Raiders defensive line has an interesting makeup. It features two nearly 300-pound defensive ends, Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy, who do a better job against the run than the pass. This duo had eight sacks this past season.
Texas A&M's Damontre Moore would represent an immediate upgrade in the Raiders pass rush. His addition would allow the Raiders to bump Houston inside to play more of a three-technique role. This would improve the pass rush from the edge and in the middle of the defense.
Cons: Heading in this direction would likely mean the Raiders will part ways with Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour. Both still have several years left in the league, but their bloated contracts are too much for the cap-strapped Raiders to handle.
Moving on from Kelly and Seymour would leave a big hole in the middle of the defense. Expecting someone like Houston to make a seamless transition to defensive tackle is a bit of a stretch. So, the Raiders would be essentially replacing proven players with unknowns.
No. 4: Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Luke Joeckel, offensive tackle, Texas A&M
Pros: The Philadelphia Eagles offensive line was the team's undoing this past season. This group allowed 48 sacks, the fifth-most in the NFL. Injuries played a role in this disappointing performance, but someone like Jason Peters has had injury issues for a few seasons.
This is why the Eagles need to pull the trigger on Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel if he's still available. Joeckel is an excellent athlete who excels at protecting the quarterback. His athleticism also gives him the ability to excel in a zone-blocking scheme.
Chip Kelly's system is a better fit for athletic offensive linemen like Joeckel.
Cons: Selecting Joeckel would mean the Eagles must part ways with Peters, who has performed as an All-Pro when in the lineup. It's tough to replace a potential All-Pro player with a first-round pick when there are other needs on the roster.
No. 5: Detroit Lions
Pick: Dee Milliner, cornerback, Alabama
Pros: Alabama's Dee Milliner would fill a major need for the Detroit Lions. His combination of size and athleticism gives him the ability to match up against a wide range of targets. A cornerback with this type of versatility is a real asset for a defense.
Detroit's secondary performed better than expected. This group dealt with constant injury issues to an already average collection of players. Milliner's presence would immediately give the Lions secondary a player with huge upside.
Cons: Adding Milliner doesn't solve any of the team's leadership issues. It's tough for any rookie to come in and change the attitude of an entire group. However, this team must find a way to play with more discipline if it hopes to avoid a repeat of this past season.
No. 6: Cleveland Browns
Pick: Chance Warmack, guard, Alabama
Pros: Alabama's Chance Warmack is a dominant force along the interior of the offensive line. His explosiveness off the line of scrimmage allows him to consistently drive defenders off the ball. The running room he'll create will help Trent Richardson.
Warmack isn't just an excellent run-blocker. He also has the balance and foot speed to protect the quarterback. His strong lower half allows him to anchor and regain his balance after initial contact.
An offensive line featuring Warmack, Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz has the potential to be one of the top units in the league.
Cons: The guard position isn't valued nearly as much as the others in the league. Cleveland could address a more highly sought after position like defensive end with this pick. This pick also won't be one that generates a ton of excitement within the fanbase.
However, there's no doubt the Browns would fill a position of need with an elite prospect.
No. 7: Arizona Cardinals
Pick: Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia
Pros: West Virginia's Geno Smith would instantly become the most talented quarterback on the Arizona Cardinals roster.
Smith's poise and feel in the pocket is something he'll need to succeed in Arizona. This is because the Cardinals offensive line is among the worst in the league. Arizona needs a young quarterback who has strong character and the ability to deal with adversity. Smith has shown those qualities while at West Virginia.
This pick also gives new head coach Bruce Arians a young quarterback to develop. His hiring had a ton to do with his success with quarterbacks.
Cons: It's risky to use a high first-round pick on a quarterback when the offensive line is in such rough shape. We've seen players like David Carr never reach their full potential after being faced with constant pressure.
No. 8: Buffalo Bills
Pick: Dion Jordan, outside linebacker, Oregon
Pros: The addition of Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator means the Buffalo Bills will feature a hybrid defensive attack. Pettine's background features work with both 3-4 and 4-3 principles. Oregon's Dion Jordan would be the perfect fit as an outside linebacker/defensive end in Pettine's system.
Jordan has a combination of good length, a quick first step, fluid movements and a nonstop motor. He'd give the Bills someone capable of filling multiple roles, as he can do everything from rushing the passer to dropping into coverage.
Cons: Buffalo also has a few major needs on offense. They must find a young quarterback and another playmaker at wide receiver. Jordan will help the defense get more pressure on the quarterback, but he won't help the offense become a more explosive unit.
The risk with passing on a quarterback with this pick is that the Bills could miss out on "their guy." It may also force them to make a trade back into the first round to take a quarterback.
No. 9: New York Jets
Pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver, Tennessee
Pros:The New York Jets offense lacked an explosive element last season. This was a two-part problem, as both Mark Sanchez's struggles and lack of talent at wide receiver played a role. Because of Sanchez's big salary cap number, the Jets are likely stuck with him for another year.
This is why it makes sense to target someone like Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round. Patterson is an explosive athlete who excels at making big plays. A playmaker like Patterson will help increase the effectiveness of his quarterback.
Sanchez's career with the Jets is on thin ice, but adding Patterson could help Sanchez turn things around.
Cons: Despite all his raw talent, Patterson will need time to reach his full potential. This past season was his only experience against the top level of college competition. Over the past few drafts, we've seen similar prospects like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Ted Ginn, Jr. fail to live up to expectations.
No. 10: Tennessee Titans
Pick: Bjoern Werner, defensive end, Florida State
Pros: The Tennessee Titans gave Kamerion Wimbley a big-money contract this past offseason, and he failed to live up to expectations. His struggles makes upgrading the pass rush a priority for the Titans.
Florida State's Bjoern Werner features the skills needed to immediately increase the consistency of the Titans pass rush. He's an instinctive player who knows when to employ a power or speed rush. His ability to dip his shoulder and flatten out around the edge gives him a strong go-to move.
Not only will adding Werner help in the pass-rushing department, it will also allow the Titans to shed a big-money contract.
Cons: The issue is that Werner is very similar to Wimbley in that he's a little undersized and his motor can run hot and cold. Moving from Werner to Wimbley would be more about age, upside and money than ability.
No. 11: San Diego Chargers
Pick: Eric Fisher, offensive tackle, Central Michigan
Pros: Central Michigan's Eric Fisher is one of the fastest rising prospects in the 2013 draft. His ability to both protect the quarterback and open running lanes makes him a well-rounded player. He'd provide the San Diego Chargers with some stability at the left tackle position.
San Diego can't head into next season relying on Jared Gaither to remain healthy. His long history of injuries makes him too unreliable to count on to protect Philip Rivers.
The Chargers need to figure out how to get Rivers playing at a high level again. Fixing the problems along the offensive line is the first step in that process.
Cons: Because of his strong performance so far at the Senior Bowl, there's a good chance Fisher won't available when the Chargers pick. San Diego's need to upgrade the left tackle position could put it in a desperate situation.
It's entirely possible that the Chargers look to move up in the draft to insure they land either Fisher or Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel. This is a negative because it'll cost the franchise future draft picks.
No. 12: Miami Dolphins
Pick: Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end, BYU
Pros: The Miami Dolphins must find someone to help draw attention away from Cameron Wake. It's amazing to see him remain productive despite constantly facing double-teams. His ability to generate pressure would only increase with someone like BYU's Ezekiel Ansah on the opposite side.
Ansah is a well-rounded prospect who can rush the passer and hold up against the run. He's still developing as a player, but has the raw athleticism to make an immediate impact.
This pick is also important to the future of the franchise, as Wake is 30 years old and on the downside of his career. Ansah would represent a long-term replacement and help ease the workload on Wake.
Cons: Adding Ansah creates a bit of an issue for former first-round pick Jared Odrick. Miami continues to use him as a defensive end even though he's a better fit as a 3-technique defensive tackle. This pick would make that move a real possibility.
However, the Dolphins already have two talented defensive tackles in Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. It'd be tough for Odrick to find consistent playing time.
Another issue is that Miami needs to find a playmaking wide receiver this offseason. Pulling the trigger on Ansah means this will have to be addressed in the later rounds.
No. 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Johnthan Banks, cornerback, Mississippi State
Pros: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are slowly starting to resemble the makeup of Greg Schiano, their hard-nosed head coach.
Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks will only increase the physical play of the Buccaneers defense. He is an aggressive player who just has a feel for the game.
His long arms and toughness allow him to cover a wide range of offensive weapons. It also helps him break up pass attempts, jam a receiver at the line and attack the ball at its highest point.
Tampa Bay needs a hard-nosed player like Banks to help them forget about Eric Wright's struggles.
Cons: Addressing the need in the secondary doesn't solve the inconsistent play of quarterback Josh Freeman. Tampa Bay won't be able to take the next step until it finds a way to help Freeman stabilize his production.
The Buccaneers also need to address a less-than-stellar pass rush. However, they're still tied to young players like Michael Bennett, DaQuan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn to provide that rush.
No. 14: Carolina Panthers
Pick: Sylvester Williams, defensive tackle, North Carolina
Pros: North Carolina's Sylvester Williams proved throughout his college career that he's an extremely disruptive player. He consistently makes plays behind the line of scrimmage because of his quickness off the ball and ability to push the pocket.
The Carolina Panthers need an inside force like Williams to help the defense become a more impactful unit. It'll also help linebacker Luke Kuechly continue to make plays from sideline to sideline, as Williams does a great job occupying blockers.
Cons: For Williams to reach his full potential, he needs a stable and consistent coaching presence. This could be a problem in Carolina, as Ron Rivera was nearly fired this past offseason.
Williams has the raw physical tools needed to be dominant. However, his technique needs to be tightened up to ensure he reaches that full potential.
No. 15: New Orleans Saints
Pick: Barkevious Mingo, defensive end, LSU
Pros: The New Orleans Saints offense is still one of the most productive units in the league. However, it'll be tough for the Saints to contend for another Super Bowl unless they fix the defense. The biggest issue facing this defense is the a lack of a pass rush.
LSU's Barkevious Mingo has the explosive first step and suddenness needed to generate pressure off the edge. He'd be an excellent fit opposite Cameron Jordan, who's more of a power rusher and run stopper.
Steve Spagnuolo has proven to be a successful defensive coach, but his system works best when it generates pressure from the front four. Mingo is just the guy to fill that role.
Cons: Mingo's inconsistent production at LSU is cause for concern. Most of his issues come because of his raw pass-rush moves and lack of size. He'll need to spend time in the weight room and add to his arsenal of pass-rush moves.
This pick is more about upside than anything else, and that can backfire on a team.
No. 16: St. Louis Rams
Pick: Keenan Allen, wide receiver, California
Pros: The St. Louis Rams must find a wide receiver capable of developing into a true No. 1. It'll also help if that player brings some size to the position.
California's Keenan Allen features the skills needed to fill that role. He's a bigger target who plays a physical brand of football.
Allen does a good job using his body to box out defenders while attacking the ball at its highest point. His addition will give Sam Bradford a target who's capable of winning one-on-one situations.
The Rams have a few younger wide receivers like Brian Quick and Chris Givens, but neither possesses the potential of Allen.
Cons: While adding Allen will increase the talent at wide receiver, he still needs time to develop. The Cardinals' need for a playmaking wide receiver is more immediate.
It's also important to note that the Rams have real issues along the offensive line. Allen and Bradford will struggle to make plays down the field if the pass protection isn't improved.
No. 17: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick: Jesse Williams, defensive lineman, Alabama
Pros: Alabama's Jesse Williams is a versatile defender capable of playing all three spots along the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line. That type of versatility is a real asset for a defense that needs an infusion of young talent.
Williams would eventually replace Casey Hampton. Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense needs a nose tackle capable of occupying blockers. Because of his thick lower half and strong anchor, Williams is a perfect candidate to fill that role.
Cons: The Steelers have plenty of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, and they'll struggle to address all the needs with their allotment of picks. This is why it might make sense for Pittsburgh to consider moving down the draft and adding extra picks.
Williams has the potential to be a real good player, but this draft features several second- or third-round prospects capable of making an immediate impact.
No. 18: Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Sheldon Richardson, defensive lineman, Missouri
Pros: The Dallas Cowboys' decision to bring in Monte Kiffin means the defense is looking at a major adjustment. This move is a real head-scratcher, as the Cowboys roster doesn't fit the mold of Kiffin's 4-3, cover-two system.
One of the most important spots in this defense is a disruptive (3-technique) defensive tackle. As this article on dallascowboys.com points out, there's no real good options to fill that role on the roster. This is why making a push for someone like Missouri's Sheldon Richardson makes sense.
Richardson boasts a quick first step, violent hands and the closing burst to penetrate the pocket. He'd be an ideal candidate to give the Cowboys an inside presence along the defensive line.
Cons: Dallas needs to do a good job researching Richardson's character, as he has had some off-the-field issues, according to nbcsports.com. His play on the field also shows some stretches where he gives less than 100 percent effort. These two concerns typically keep a prospect from reaching his full potential.
No. 19: New York Giants
Pick: Manti Te'o, linebacker, Notre Dame
Pros: Despite the recent fake girlfriend controversy and his struggles in the national championship game, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o is still a very talented football player. His combination of size, quickness and instincts give him the ability to make plays from sideline to sideline.
The New York Giants have survived the play of Chase Blackburn, but his upside is very limited. Te'o would provide them with a long-term solution at middle linebacker. It would also make the position more of an asset than the status quo.
Cons: Making this pick will bring a lot of media attention, as this fake-girlfriend situation isn't something that will quickly be swept under the rug. Te'o will continue to face questions about this for years to come. It's also important to consider the impact this will have in the locker room.
So much of Te'o's value is his ability to lead his team on the field. It might be tough for NFL players to follow a guy dealing with such an embarrassing situation.
No. 20: Chicago Bears
Pick: Lane Johnson, offensive tackle, Oklahoma
Pros: The J'Marcus Webb experiment has run its course, and the Chicago Bears need to bring in someone else to play left tackle. Oklahoma's Lane Johnson has the balance, quickness and change-of-direction ability to represent an upgrade over Webb.
He's a much more balanced player than most realize, as his nastiness as a run-blocker helps him open lanes for the back. However, his pass-blocking skills will draw the attention of the Bears.
Chicago should be the most aggressive team targeting offensive line help this offseason.
Cons: The teams that have the most success in the draft typically take a best-player-available approach. However, the Bears don't have the luxury of employing that strategy. Their needs along the offensive line are too pressing to look in a different direction.
Of course, Chicago could address this problem in free agency. This would give it more flexibility on draft day.
No. 21: Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: Khaseem Greene, linebacker, Rutgers
Pros: Rutgers' Khaseem Greene is an explosive athlete who has a knack for finding the football. His combination of quickness and tenacity helps him make plays from sideline to sideline. Greene doesn't just register a high number of tackles, he also looks to create turnovers and deliver powerful hits.
With the pending free agency of Rey Maualuga, the Cincinnati Bengals could be in the market for a linebacker. Greene's ability to play either inside or outside will give the Bengals the option of going in several directions.
The most likely scenario includes shifting Vontaze Burfict inside and inserting Greene in Burfict's spot.
Cons: Moving on from Maualuga means that the Bengals are putting a lot of faith in Burfict. This is a risky decision because Burfict has a history of making poor decisions. It'd be tough for the Bengals to feel comfortable with Burfict as the leader of the defense, as he's only one mistake away from missing time.
However, this is why the Greene pick makes so much sense. If Burfict happens to make a mistake, Greene could fill his shoes.
No. 22: St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Pick: Tony Jefferson, safety, Oklahoma
Pros: The St. Louis Rams defense is on the verge of becoming one of the better groups in the NFL. It features a talented defensive line, playmaking middle linebacker and two game-changing cornerbacks. Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson would fill one of the defense's remaining needs.
Jefferson is a multi-talented safety capable of supporting the run, protecting the deep part of the field and even playing man coverage. His good closing speed and ball skills also make him a threat to create turnovers.
A ball-hawking safety like Jefferson could change the dynamic of this unit.
Cons: The Rams have a few holes along the offensive line that need to be addressed. Selecting Jefferson means that St. Louis is passing on one of the top offensive linemen remaining. In this case, North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper would be someone it leaves on the board.
Cooper would represent a major upgrade at the guard position as someone who both opens running lanes and protects the quarterback.
No. 23: Minnesota Vikings
Pick: DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver, Clemson
Pros: Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins has the playmaking ability to increase the explosiveness of the Minnesota Vikings offense. This group was way too dependent on Adrian Peterson and must find a way to become more balanced.
Hopkins' willingness to attack the ball at its highest point and use his body to box out defenders gives him the ability to win one-on-one matchups. Minnesota needs this type of player because Percy Harvin commands so much attention.
Cons: Christian Ponder didn't have the season the Vikings were expecting. His inability to attack the deep part of the field was a major issue. The problem wasn't solely about being unable to hit his mark, as Ponder showed an unwillingness to take chances.
Adding a playmaker like Hopkins will give Ponder more weapons, but he needs to feel confident enough to take those shots down the field.
No. 24: Indianapolis Colts
Pick: Jonathan Cooper, guard, North Carolina
Pros: Obviously, the Indianapolis Colts' most valued asset is Andrew Luck. They must do everything to ensure he's protected. This is why they need to consider overlooking needs at other spots to improve the offensive line.
North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper is someone who'll keep the pressure out of Luck's face, as well as give the running game more bite. Strong pass protection isn't the only way to protect a quarterback. The presence of a running game could have just as powerful an effect.
Cons: Going in this direction does nothing to help a defense with several needs. Indianapolis could use upgrades along the defensive line, in the linebacking corps and in the secondary. These needs will make it tough for the Colts to target an offensive player in the first round.
No. 25: Seattle Seahawks
Pick: Tyler Eifert, tight end, Notre Dame
Pros: Despite an unbelievable season by Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks still have a major need for offensive playmakers. They could afford to add talent at wide receiver and tight end. This dual need means the Seahawks have some options.
Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert would represent a healthier and more explosive alternative to Zach Miller. Eifert is a real difference-maker in the passing game. He's capable of attacking the seam, working the underneath routes and splitting outside.
The way Notre Dame used him in the national championship game shows Eifert's versatility. He has a chance to be a security blanket for Wilson.
Cons: This situation only causes one concern, and that's what Seattle will do with the oft-injured Miller. Cutting ties would required ownership's willingness to forget about the big-money contract Miller signed a few years ago.
No. 26: Green Bay Packers
Pick: Arthur Brown, linebacker, Kansas State
Pros: The way the Green Bay Packers defense was destroyed by the speed of Colin Kaepernick shows the unit has some issues. They aren't limited to one spot on the roster, but the middle linebacker position stands out as a concern.
Kansas State's Arthur Brown would give the Packers someone way more explosive than A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. Brown's combination of elite closing speed and instincts will allow him to chase down even the NFL's fastest players.
Cons: Green Bay must address the problems along the offensive line. The team can't go through another season allowing Aaron Rodgers to be hit as often as he was his past year.
This could make someone like Tennessee's Dallas Thomas an option at this spot. However, it would mean the Packers would have to make a pick based more on need than value.
No. 27: Houston Texans
Pick: Tavon Austin, wide receiver, West Virginia
Pros: Matt Schaub has received a lot of criticism for his performance against the New England Patriots. However, some of his struggles can be blamed on the lack of talent at wide receiver. Houston spent most of the season surviving because of Arian Foster and some big plays by Andre Johnson.
It's tough for any quarterback to keep up with Tom Brady when he lacks the proper weapons. West Virginia's Tavon Austin has big-play ability that is capable of changing the outcome of a game. Schaub could simply hit Austin on a wide receiver screen and put points on the board.
Cons: Austin's lack of size could be a problem in the NFL. The Houston Texans will need to be creative to get the most out of his talents. Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison are two bright offensive minds, but not everyone can effectively use a player like Austin.
It'd be a shame to see his ability wasted on a poor game plan.
No. 28: Denver Broncos
Pick: Johnathan Hankins, defensive tackle, Ohio State
Pros: The Denver Broncos got a solid performance this year from Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan. However, both are more than 30 years old and provide little upside. Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins would represent a younger, more talented option.
Hankins does a great job occupying blockers and stuffing the run. He uses his massive size, strong anchor and raw strength to plug the middle of the field. Hankins also shows flashes of the quickness needed to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Cons: Hankins' less-than-ideal motor is a concern. From time to time, he'll disappear and fail to make impact plays. This isn't the type of characteristic that makes teams feel comfortable about a player.
Based on pure talent, Hankins is a top-15 pick. However, his inconsistent motor makes him a candidate to underperform.
No. 29: New England Patriots
Pick: Kenny Vaccaro, safety, Texas
Pros: The back end of the New England Patriots secondary surrendered several key plays in the team's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Two of those plays went for touchdowns to Anquan Boldin. A lot of the problems are at safety.
Adding a player like Texas' Kenny Vaccaro would allow New England to move Devin McCourty to his more natural cornerback spot.
Vaccaro has the skills to play the safety position. He's instinctive, aggressive against the run and has the range to cover sideline to sideline. His value is increased because of his ability to also drop down in the slot and play man coverage.
Cons: The Patriots would have a tough decision to make if they added a safety in the early part of this draft. McCourty is a former first-round pick and was moved to safety because of his struggles at cornerback. Replacing him with someone like Vaccaro would likely force McCourty into a part-time role.
No. 30: Atlanta Falcons
Pick: Alex Okafor, defensive end, Texas
Pros: In the Atlanta Falcons' loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the defense struggled to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. All season, they relied on John Abraham to get after the quarterback, but he was slowed by an injured ankle in the NFC Championship Game.
Texas' Alex Okafor has shown throughout his college career that he boasts the skills needed to rush the passer. He does a good job firing out of his stance and quickly gaining inside hand placement. That placement is made effective because of his violent hands and ability to keep his pads low.
Okafor could approach the double-digit sack mark as a rookie.
Cons: Teams will be a little concerned by Okafor's lack of production this past season. He struggled getting the same type of jump off the ball when asked to rush from a two-point stance. This issue limits his versatility.
There's talk about a possible switch to a 3-4 defense in Atlanta. This wouldn't be an ideal situation for Okafor and would likely result in the Falcons going in a different direction. Bleacher Report's Scott Carasik breaks down what this change might entail for Atlanta.
No. 31: Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Kevin Minter, linebacker, LSU
Pros: Ray Lewis has been the identity of the Baltimore Ravens defense for the past 15 years. His decision to retire after the season leaves a major hole in the middle of the defense.
While nobody will be able to replace Lewis, LSU's Kevin Minter features a lot of the same characteristics.
Minter isn't an elite athlete, but makes plays all over the field because of his instincts and use of angles. He's also does a great job using his hands and anchor to make plays at the point of attack.
Of all the linebackers in this draft class, Minter does the best job meeting the blocker in the hole.
Cons: Whoever is asked to step in and replace Ray Lewis will deal with a ton of pressure. It's tough to put that on a rookie who's already dealing with the normal pressures that come with the transition to the NFL. Minter shows good poise and strong leadership, but that's still a lot to expect from a rookie linebacker.
No. 32: San Francisco 49ers
Pick: Xavier Rhodes, cornerback, Florida State
Pros: Florida State's Xavier Rhodes' size and physical play would've helped the San Francisco 49ers against the Atlanta Falcons. San Francisco's secondary had issues dealing with bigger receivers like Julio Jones and Roddy White.
This is something the 49ers must address as the number of bigger receivers in the NFL continues to increase.
Because of his size and toughness, it's also possible that Rhodes could move to safety. This could be important because Dashon Goldson is an impending free agent.
Cons: If the 49ers decide to address the secondary early in this draft, it means they'll miss out on one of the talented defensive linemen. This a minor issue because San Francisco needs to consider finding a long-term replacement for the aging Justin Smith.
While he doesn't get a ton of national attention, Smith is arguably the most important part of the 49ers defense.
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