Oct 19, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt (7) celebrates after sacking USC Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 14-10. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
#11 – San Diego Chargers – Cyrus Kouandjio – OT – Alabama
Philip Rivers has regained his Pro Bowl form but problems remain with his protection up front. If the San Diego Chargers want to make one more run with Rivers at quarterback, that must be fixed fast. Cyrus Kouandjio, physically, might be the best tackle in the draft. His amazing blend of size, length and power offers the look of a future bookend left tackle. He already run blocks among the best and has developed into more than adequate pass protector at the age of 20. There are some technique issues to work out, but head coach Mike McCoy won’t worry about such things.
#12 – Miami Dolphins – Cameron Erving – OT – Florida State
There are really two options at this point but the Miami Dolphins, who desperately need protection for Ryan Tannehill, go with the better athlete. Cameron Erving shows the quickness and strength to handle any kind of pass rusher while also switching directions and blocking downhill with the kind of nastiness expected of starting tackles. There are issues to smooth out with his technique as he sometimes gets overaggressive, but the upside for his future is sky high.
#13 – New York Jets – Marqise Lee – WR – USC
Geno Smith is making it very challenging for the New York Jets to not consider taking another quarterback early. In the end the team decides to let him learn and give him more weapons to work with. Picking up Marqise Lee is a excellent way to go. He’s perhaps the best deep threat in the 2014 NFL draft but can do many more things. There is no fear in him going across the middle and he has demonstrated the ability to make tough catches and break tackles for longer gains. If the Jets needed a go-to guy, Lee can fill that void.
#14 – St. Louis Rams – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – CB – Oregon
Corteland Finnegan appears to be approaching the end of his solid career and the St. Louis Rams defense can’t afford to let his decline affect them too much. Their pass defense has not looked great at times this season and could use a boost. Oregon standout Ifo Ekpre-Olomu not only is one of the best corners in his class but ideally suited for the Rams defense. He has the explosive backpedal and closing burst to keep plays in front of him and then make moves on the ball. Playing physical, man-to-man football doesn’t bother him either though there are some size issues with his 5’11” frame.
#15 – Baltimore Ravens – Vic Beasley – DE – Clemson
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are over 30-years old, leaving the fate of the Baltimore Ravens pass rush on a short-term leash. Ozzie Newsome must think about preparing for the future. Vic Beasley plays defensive end for Clemson but his body type and athleticism pretty much hints his future lay as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the pros. He’s got excellent speed off the edge with the ability to convert it to power when turning inside to bull rush an offensive lineman. His explosion off the snap is also a major benefit. Whether he’s an every down guy is up for debate, but his impact would be felt immediately.
#16 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Stephon Tuitt – DE – Notre Dame
Improving the pass protection is important but the 2014 NFL draft is strong in offensive line. So the Pittsburgh Steelers take a calculated risk and instead go after one of the best defenders in the class. Stephon Tuitt is the prototypical five-technique defensive end. He has the size to set the edge and stop the run but maintains a degree of quickness and explosion that can create problems in the pass rush for offensive linemen. His versatility is the most impressive part of his game, and Dick LeBeau should take big advantage of it.
#17 – Tennessee Titans – Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
There is a strong quarterback feeling at this point but the Tennessee Titans aren’t willing to pull the trigger. Mike Munchak loves to go offensive line early and Taylor Lewan has taken a slight drop out of the top 15 despite being one of the top left tackles in the draft. He’s technically sound, experience, big, and powerful. Athletically he is not the best but his quickness and intelligence help him make up for any deficiencies. His nastiness is never in question and he loves to get downhill in run blocking. That is something the Titans want to do more of. Putting Lewan next to Andy Levitre is a great way to accomplish it.
#18 – Green Bay Packers – Jace Amaro – TE – Texas Tech
The injury to Jermichael Finley has left the Green Bay Packers in a quandary at tight end. There really isn’t any consistent playmaking talent left on the roster and there is no guarantee Finley will return as the player he was after spinal surgery. Letting that position slip is not an option for the Packers, so they seek out some insurance by claiming Texas Tech star Jace Amaro. Made in that typical hybrid style, the young man has the speed and athleticism to line up at multiple spots and get open. He has soft hands but maintains the strength to outfight defenders for the ball. On top of that, he runs with power, making him a threat after the catch.
#19 – Chicago Bears – Timmy Jernigan – DT – Florida State
Defensive tackle has to become top priority for the Chicago Bears. Plain and simple. They’ve lost their top three guys to injury this season and two of them are free agents in 2014. Timmy Jernigan is an outstanding choice. At the young age of 21 he has become arguably the best at his position in the country. His athleticism, quickness and strength have made him a terror against the run with an ability to rush the passer that gets better with each week. His 2.5 sacks against Idaho are a clear sign of that. Chicago will not regret having him in their front.
#20 – Dallas Cowboys – Ra’Shede Hageman – DT – Minnesota
Like the Bears, beefing up the defensive line is a major must for the Dallas Cowboys. Ra’Shede Hageman is the next option at tackle and some might say is the better one given his ridiculouis athleticism. However, there are maturity issues that could become a problem and he’s also not polished as a pass rusher. With that said, the Cowboys have an excellent defensive line coach in Rod Marinelli who would immediately take advantage of the many things Hageman can do, giving the Cowboys one of the critical pieces they will need to make the Monte Kiffin defense work properly.
#21 – Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Gilbert – CB – Oklahoma State
Chip Kelly seems to have the offense well in hand with the Philadelphia Eagles. Nick Foles is entrenched at quarterback. That means the needs shift to defense, particularly in the secondary where the Eagles have struggled all season. Cornerback Justin Gilbert is one of the hot names out there and with good reason. His blend of size and speed makes him an ideal press corner for Philadelphia’s 3-4 alignment. He plays well in coverage, against the run and doesn’t lack a nose for the football either. If the Eagles can get him and then improve their pass rush, things will really become interesting.