2013 NFL Mock Draft: The Latest Expert Picks, Pre-Combine Edition

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2013

2013 NFL Mock Draft: The Latest Expert Picks, Pre-Combine Edition

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    Since I started covering the NFL draft in 2004, never before has the first round been more difficult to predict. 

    There is a severe lack of elite talent, making the top 10 difficult to sort out. But this is also one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, giving teams plenty of options late in Round 1. 

    For both of those reasons, mock drafts have provided us with a range of choices, with each player's slot differing by as many as 20 picks. 

    The following slideshow breaks down the mock drafts of ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and my own predictions

1. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Kiper: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

    McShay: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

    Miller: Joeckel

    My pick: Joeckel

    It's become clear that the Chiefs don't feel pressured to reach for a quarterback. In fact, Kiper recently said that a quarterback isn't even in the discussion

    Joeckel is clearly the consensus here. But as McShay mentions, if the Chiefs re-sign Branden Albert, that could influence their thinking. 

    It's also worth mentioning that a trade is possible. The Chiefs don't appear to love any one prospect and would presumably be open to moving down if a team wanted to move up for a prospect such as Geno Smith.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Kiper: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

    McShay: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State 

    Miller: Werner

    My pick: Werner

    Everyone's in agreement on the Jaguars' need for a pass-rusher, which should come as no surprise considering their NFL-worst 20 sacks in 2012. 

    Kiper elects to go with the more explosive Moore, who may have a more immediate impact on the Jacksonville's pass rush. 

    Werner, however, appears to be the more complete player and the safer pick. He reminds me of Chris Long, who has established himself as one of the most well-rounded linemen in the game in St. Louis.

3. Oakland Raiders

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    Kiper: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

    McShay: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

    Miller: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

    My pick: Smith

    As usual, the Raiders are one of the most difficult teams to project.

    Kiper's selection of Lotulelei makes sense considering the possible departures of free-agent tackles Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant.

    McShay's pick of Milliner fills an obvious need but may be a reach. It's tough to justify taking a cornerback in the top three with so many other glaring holes on both sides of the ball. 

    If the Raiders decide to keep Carson Palmer, they might be able to pass on Smith. But if he's cut loose in a money-saving effort, they may be forced to gamble on the rookie quarterback.

4. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Kiper: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

    McShay: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

    Miller: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

    My pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

    There's no consensus with this pick, which isn't a surprise considering the number of holes to fill in Philly. 

    Offensive line is an obvious need, which makes both Joeckel and Fisher strong possibilities. While left tackle Jason Peters is expected to return, he's 31 years old and coming off a season-ending Achilles injury. 

    The Eagles are also expected to shift to a 3-4 defense, which puts Lotulelei in play. He's strong enough to play nose tackle, but also athletic enough to play on the end.

5. Detroit Lions

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    Kiper: Jarvis Jones, DE, Georgia

    McShay: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

    Miller: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

    My pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

    Well, one thing is clear: The Lions need a pass-rusher.

    Veteran lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch has already been cut loose, and free agent Cliff Avril may be difficult to re-sign. To make matters worse, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young are also free agents, leaving Ronnell Lewis as their only end under contract. 

    Jordan, Moore and Mingo are all capable of stepping into an immediate starting role in Gunter Cunningham's defense. 

    Jones, however, is an odd choice. Even Kiper acknowledges that Jones isn't a pure 4-3 end and may not be a great fit for the Lions. 

6. Cleveland Browns

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    Kiper: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

    McShay: Barkevious Mingo, LB, LSU

    Miller: Mingo

    My pick: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia 

    With the Browns' recent announcement that they'll be switching to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, it makes sense that all four picks address the defensive front seven. 

    Both Jones, who played in the scheme at Georgia, and Mingo are prototypical 3-4 outside linebackers and would start immediately. 

    Werner is another odd choice by Kiper. He could potentially play standing up in in the 3-4, but he lacks the explosive athleticism to project as an impact pass-rusher in Horton's defense. 

7. Arizona Cardinals

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    Kiper: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

    McShay: Fisher

    Miller: Fisher

    My pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

    If he's on the board, Fisher is the obvious choice here. 

    Left tackle Levi Brown missed the entire season with a triceps injury, and right tackle Bobby Massie led the league in sacks allowed. 

    The Cardinals desperately need to improve their offensive line and should probably do so before bringing in a young quarterback.

    If Fisher is off the board, as he is in my mock draft, Lane Johnson would likely be the backup plan. 

8. Buffalo Bills

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    Kiper: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

    McShay: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

    Miller: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

    My pick: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse

    The Bills need to find a franchise quarterback, which led McShay and myself to match them up with a signal-caller. But if general manager Buddy Nix isn't enamored with any of the quarterbacks in this class, he won't reach to fill that need. 

    Ogletree would fit the Bills' need for an inside linebacker, replacing Kelvin Sheppard, but eight overall may be a slight reach. 

    Cordarrelle Patterson has established himself as the consensus top available receiver this year and would be a great complement to Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham. 

    For more on my selection of Nassib, check out a recent article I posted here

9. New York Jets

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    Kiper: Dion Jordan, LB, Oregon

    McShay: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

    Miller: Ezekiel Ansah, LB, BYU

    My pick: Jordan

    The Jets are another team in the market for a pass-rusher, and they clearly have multiple options. 

    Jordan may be the best all-around athlete of the group. While he has the skills to get to the quarterback, he is also quick enough to drop into coverage. He may remind Rex Ryan of Adalius Thomas, who he coached in Baltimore. 

    Jones would also make sense, especially due to his experience in the 3-4 defense at Georgia. 

    Ansah is a high-risk, high-reward prospect. While he is an elite athlete, he's relatively inexperienced and lacks the array of pass-rush moves to project as an instant-impact pass-rusher. 

10. Tennessee Titans

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    Kiper: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

    McShay: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

    Miller: Warmack

    My pick: Warmack

    A near-unanimous selection of Warmack here shows just how much the Titans need to upgrade the run blocking for Chis Johnson.

    It also demonstrates how high the expectations are for Warmack. He could become the first guard selected in the top 10 since the Saints took Chris Naeole in 1997.

    Kiper's selection of Mingo would be a luxury pick for the Titans. Pairing him with Derrick Morgan could give the Titans an elite player at defensive end, but it isn't among their most glaring needs. 

11. San Diego Chargers

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    Kiper: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

    McShay: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

    Miller: Johnson

    My pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

    The Chargers have glaring holes along the offensive line. And it will only get worse if left tackle Jared Gaither is released as expected

    McShay and Miller's selection of Johnson might make the most sense here, assuming he's on the board. Johnson is an elite athlete and one of the few prospects in this class projected as impact left tackles.

    Cooper might be considered a reach, but starting guards Tyronne Green and Louis Vazquez are both unrestricted free agents. 

    In my mock draft, the top four offensive linemen are already off the board, necessitating the choice of Milliner. Veteran cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer are free agents, making a corner a reasonable alternative to an offensive lineman. 

12. Miami Dolphins

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    Kiper: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

    McShay: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

    Miller: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

    My pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

    The Dolphins need to find a No. 1 receiver for Ryan Tannehill, which makes the Cordarrelle Patterson selection a logical choice. 

    In Miller's mock draft, Patterson is off the board, prompting him to address the Dolphins' defensive line issues rather than reach for Keenan Allen or Tavon Austin. 

    Kenny Vaccaro has established himself as the top safety in this year's class and would be an upgrade over Chris Clemons at free safety. 

    In my mock draft, Lotulelei falls down the board due to team needs and lands in Miami. Once Lotulelei drops out of the top four, no one between picks five and 11 has an obvious need for interior line help, which could cause a free-fall. 

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Kiper: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

    McShay: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

    Miller: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

    My pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

    The only consensus here is that the Buccaneers need help on defense. 

    Miller's selection of Milliner is an obvious choice if he's on the board. E.J. Biggers is an unrestricted free agent, and the overpaid and under-performing Eric Wright is expected to be released

    Either Te'o or Ogletree would provide the Bucs with an upgrade over Mason Foster at inside linebacker. 

    The Bucs' interest in a defensive end such as Moore depends on how they view 2011 second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers, who has played well in a reserve role the past two seasons. 

14. Carolina Panthers

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    Kiper: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

    McShay: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

    Miller: Jarvis Jones, DE, Georgia

    My pick: Richardson

    Journeymen Ron Edwards and Dwan Edwards made up the Panthers' interior defensive line in 2012, and significant changes are likely coming. 

    Richardson and Floyd are both strong possibilities, and other defensive tackles such as Johnathan Hankins and Jesse Williams should be mentioned as well. 

    Jones would be an upgrade over James Anderson at strong-side linebacker, but may not be high on the Panthers' wish list considering their other needs. 

15. New Orleans Saints

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    Kiper: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

    McShay: Ezekiel Ansah, LB, BYU

    Miller: Dion Jordan, LB, Oregon

    My pick: Floyd

    As the Saints transition to a 3-4 defense, their offseason will be all about defense. As a result, each of these picks is logical. 

    Floyd has the skills of a prototypical 3-4 end and would be a perfect replacement for Sedrick Ellis if the free agent signs elsewhere. 

    Ansah and Jordan both have the skills to be a pass-rushing linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. 

    If Will Smith is cut loose as expected, the Saints' need for a linebacker increases and may push them in toward Ansah or Jordan.

16. St. Louis Rams

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    Kiper: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

    McShay: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

    Miller: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

    My pick: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

    Well, we've pretty much covered the Rams' needs with this selection. 

    Johnson and Cooper would both address the Rams' struggling offensive line. If either are on the board, it would be tough to see the Rams passing up the the opportunity to improve the protection for Sam Bradford

    Patterson is also a logical choice given the limited weapons around Bradford. And if Danny Amendola signs elsewhere, this becomes even more likely. 

    Vaccaro also fills a need in the Rams secondary. However, given the urgency to improve the talent on offense, he may be an unlikely selection at No. 16.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kiper: Ezekiel Ansah, LB, BYU

    McShay: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

    Miller: Sheldon Richardson, DE, Missouri

    My pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

    The Steelers are a tough team to predict, as evidenced by the wide range of selections here. 

    Kiper's pick of Ansah may fill the most immediate need. Veteran linebacker James Harrison is a candidate to be released, which would open up a potential hole at outside linebacker. 

    Hankins could compete for the starting nose tackle position, opened up by the likely departure of veteran Casey Hampton. However, Steve McLendon played well in a reserve role this past season, and the Steelers selected Alameda Ta'amu in the fourth round in 2012. 

    Richardson feels like an odd choice considering Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward are all under contract for 2013. Unless someone is cut loose this offseason, Richardson may be a luxury pick Pittsburgh can't afford. 

    Patterson would fill the gap left by Mike Wallace's departure if he's allowed to sign elsewhere. He would also provide Ben Roethlisberger with the tall receiver he's been requesting for a number of years. 

18. Dallas Cowboys

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    Kiper: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

    McShay: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

    Miller: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

    My pick: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

    Kiper choosing Warmack may be the dream scenario for the Cowboys, but Warmack is already off the board in the other three scenarios. 

    Richardson and Moore would be logical selections if they're still available. The Cowboys are transitioning to a 4-3 defense and need to improve the depth on the defensive line. 

    Tyler Wilson, or any other quarterback, is the wild card here. Tony Romo appears to still be in the plans, at least for now, but the possibility that Jerry Jones will insist on bringing in some competition can't be ruled out.

19. New York Giants

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    Kiper: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

    McShay: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

    Miller: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

    My pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

    Olgetree and Brown both address the Giants' most glaring need at inside linebacker. Manti Te'o would be another possibility if they chose to go that direction. 

    Ertz is a potential replacement for free agent Martellus Bennett. However, Bennett has expressed an interest in returning, and Tom Coughlin has always preferred tight ends who can block, which is not one of Ertz's strong suits. 

    The plausibility of Fluker as an option depends on how the Giants handle free agency. Offensive linemen Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe and Sean Locklear are all unrestricted free agents.

20. Chicago Bears

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    Kiper: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

    McShay: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

    Miller: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

    My pick: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

    The Bears' most obvious need is the offensive line, so the selections of Fluker and Cooper make the most sense if they're still on the board. 

    Te'o is a possible replacement for Brian Urlacher. However, one of Urlacher's greatest strengths, his coverage ability, is Te'o's biggest weakness. It would not be a smooth transition for the Bears defense. 

    Ertz would give the Bears a significant upgrade at tight end and provide Jay Cutler with at least one reliable target not named Brandon Marshall

21. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Kiper: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

    McShay: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

    Miller: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

    My pick: Vaccaro

    If the Bengals view Lacy as a legitimate top-20 prospect, McShay's selection might make the most sense. The Bengals need a feature back, and Lacy could be that guy in their offense. 

    Vaccaro may be the most likely option based on need and value. He's already off the board in both McShay and Miller's mock drafts, but would fill the Bengals' glaring need at safety if he fell to them. 

    Ogletree could help the Bengals replace Rey Maualuga, who will likely be allowed to walk as a free agent. With Vontaze Burfict likely moving to middle linebacker, Ogletree would be plugged in on the weak side.

22. St. Louis Rams

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    Kiper: Keenan Allen, WR, California

    McShay: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

    Miller: Dallas Thomas, OT/OG, Tennessee

    My pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

    Hopkins and Allen are the most obvious picks for the Rams. They need to find another weapon for Bradford, and both players have the ability to contribute immediately. 

    Thomas would definitely be considered a reach with the 22nd pick, but it's hard to argue with the need. The Rams could potentially plug him in at right tackle.

    Williams is a confusing selection by McShay. The Rams could use an upgrade over Kendall Langford, but they have much bigger concerns. Spending a first-round pick on a defensive tackle in consecutive years would be difficult to justify. 

23. Minnesota Vikings

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    Kiper: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

    McShay: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut

    Miller: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

    My pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California

    The two defensive tackles both make sense for the Vikings' aging defensive line. Adding either prospect would resurrect a  "Williams Wall" in Minnesota, and both would be nice complements to Kevin Williams. 

    Allen fills the Vikings' glaring hole at receiver—a hole that will grow even larger if Percy Harvin is traded. 

    Wreh-Wilson would be a reach in the first round and doesn't address one of the Vikings' most glaring needs. Antoine Winfield is getting up there in age, but he's still among the game's most reliable corners. And recent draft picks Chris Cook and Josh Robinson have provided quality depth at the position. 

24. Indianapolis Colts

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    Kiper: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

    McShay: Banks

    Miller: Alex Okafor, LB, Texas

    My pick: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

    Just about any defensive selection can be justified for the Colts. 

    Banks would help solidify a secondary that struggled in 2012 and may have to replace injury-prone free agent Jerraud Powers, who has landed on the IR in each of the past three seasons. 

    Okafor and Jones would be excellent additions to the hybrid defensive scheme Chuck Pagano is attempting to build. Okafor would play the role of a hybrid end/linebacker, while Jones would be a hybrid end/tackle. 

25. Seattle Seahawks

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    Kiper: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

    McShay: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU

    Miller: Montgomery

    My pick: Hankins

    Veteran nose tackle Alan Branch is an unrestricted free agent, and his departure would open up a significant gap in the defensive line.

    Hankins is a similar big-bodied tackle with impressive athleticism who could step in immediately. 

    In theory, picking Montgomery makes sense based on Red Bryant's limited impact as a pass-rusher. However, Pete Carroll likes having the former tackle lined up at end to stop the run. 

    Given the addition of Bruce Irvin in the 2012 first round and the fact that both Bryant and Chris Clemons are under contract for 2013, Montgomery would appear to be a long shot for the Seahawks.

26. Green Bay Packers

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    Kiper: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

    McShay: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia

    Miller: Keenan Allen, WR, California

    My pick: Lacy

    Cedric Benson is a free agent and unlikely to be re-signed, and it's difficult to imagine the Packers entering the 2013 season with DuJuan Harris and James Starks as their featured duo at running back. 

    The first round may be a slight reach for Lacy, but it fills a glaring need and could be justified by the fact that he would make an immediate impact for a championship-caliber team.

    Choosing Allen likely hinges on the future of free agent Greg Jennings. If he departs, the Packers would need to find a replacement to pair with Jordy Nelson on the outside, with Randall Cobb remaining in the slot.

    Jenkins seems an odd choice, unless veteran Ryan Pickett is released this offseason. The Packers are already running a 3-4 defense with two nose tackles, forcing either Pickett or B.J. Raji to line up out of position at end.

27. Houston Texans

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    Kiper: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech

    McShay: Keenan Allen, WR, California

    Miller: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

    My pick: Ezekiel Ansah, LB, BYU

    A wide receiver would be a luxury pick for the Texans, but it's justifiable for a team on the verge of championship contention. 

    All three receivers listed here would make for a nice complement to veteran Andre Johnson. Allen likely offers the most upside, but he is already off the board in the three other mock drafts. 

    Ansah would also fill an immediate for a pass-rusher, especially with Connor Barwin hitting the free-agent market. 

    Barwin, Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed all ranked among the least efficient pass-rushers among outside linebackers in 2012. 

28. Denver Broncos

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    Kiper: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

    McShay: Short

    Miller: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

    My pick: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

    Short would fill arguably the most glaring need in Denver. Veteran tackles Kevin Vickerson, Justin Bannan and Ty Warren are all free agents, which may force the Broncos to bring in two new starting interior linemen for 2013. 

    Banks is more of a luxury pick, but could be the long-term replacement for Champ Bailey. 

    Minter could be plugged in as an immediate starter at inside linebacker, where 37-year-old free agent Keith Brooking played in 2012.

29. New England Patriots

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    Kiper: Matt Elam, S, Florida

    McShay: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

    Miller: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

    My pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

    Given the talent on the board and their needs, defensive back is the most likely selection for the Patriots at No. 29. 

    However, Kiper's pick of Matt Elam is a strange one. Devin McCourty was moved to free safety this year, and the Patriots selected strong safety Tavon Wilson in the second round in 2012. Additionally, veteran Steve Gregory is still under contract for 2013, giving the Patriots impressive depth at the position. 

    Both Trufant and Rhodes would make more sense, filling their glaring need for a starting cornerback.

    Cooper would also be a strong addition to the Patriots offensive line, but the hype has been building for him this offseason, and he may no longer be on the board this late in Round 1.

30. Atlanta Falcons

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    Kiper: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

    McShay: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

    Miller: Ertz

    My pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

    Assuming Tony Gonzalez follows through with his retirement plans, selecting either Eifert or Ertz would make sense. 

    Given the Falcons' tendency to use Gonzalez equally as a receiver and a blocker, however, the more well-rounded Eifert would be a better option. 

    The Falcons may also choose to address their secondary, especially if they part ways with the expensive and under-performing Dunta Robinson. 

31. San Francisco 49ers

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    Kiper: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia

    McShay: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

    Miller: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

    My pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

    It's difficult to make a prediction for a team with so few holes to fill. 

    Jenkins is a prototypical nose tackle and would fit perfectly in the center of the 49ers' 3-4 defense. 

    McShay's selection of Justin Hunter is somewhat confusing. The 49ers invested a first-round pick in A.J. Jenkins in 2012, who barely saw the field this past season. Like Jenkins, Hunter is viewed as a talented prospect, but definitely a project. 

    Austin would have more of an immediate impact and could play a Percy Harvin-like role in Jim Harbaugh's offense. 

    Hunt is another project, but could potentially be a perfect fit at defensive end in their defensive scheme. 

32. Baltimore Ravens

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    Kiper: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

    McShay: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

    Miller: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

    My pick: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

    The Ravens need to replace Ray Lewis, but they can't plug in just any inside linebacker. 

    Both Minter and Brown would fit perfectly, due to their coverage ability. As demonstrated by Vernon Davis' dominant performance in the Super Bowl, the Ravens lack a linebacker capable of matching up with the game's elite tight ends. 

    For that reason, Te'o would only be a marginal upgrade over the Ravens' internal replacement options for Lewis. Te'o is too stiff to be relied upon in coverage. 

    Williams is an interesting option due to the fact that he could pair with Terrence Cody to give the Ravens an elite rotation at nose tackle. However, it seems like a luxury pick that they may not be able to afford given their other needs.