9. New York Jets Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Jets head coach Rex Ryan has to have a good draft and a successful 2013 campaign or he may be on the way out and selecting Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is the first step in upgrading his defense. While Ryan has stated how high he is on LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, Lotulelei makes more sense for the dysfunctional franchise. His heart condition is a thing of the past and may have been enough to scare general managers from selecting him in the top five. However, Lotulelei, while raw, has explosiveness and strength off the football to demand double teams in the NFL. While getting after the passer isn’t one of his strengths, Lotulelei could free up lanes for his teammates.
10. Tennessee Titans Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
One of the more talented guards and offensive lineman to enter the NFL Draft in quite some time, Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack is a massive man that fits right in with what the Tennessee Titans are looking to do on offense. Warmack is a mauling, wide-bodied guard that possesses the athletic ability to get to the next level, which will be necessary with running back Chris Johnson and mobile quarterback Jake Locker now at the helm. Warmack’s ceiling is probably No. 7 to the Cardinals and his floor is No. 19 with the New York Giants and could go anywhere in between those picks simply because he and other top-guard prospect Jonathan Cooper, of North Carolina, play the guard position and share marginal differences in their abilities. Warmack is the superior run blocker and with the Titans being a team that doesn’t like to light it up through the air, it makes sense for Tennessee to snag the bare belly guard.
11. San Diego Chargers Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo will probably never have a true position in the NFL unless he finds a way to pack on more pounds to his frame. He will never be great against the run. However, this is a pass rusher that possesses similar skills to that of Oregon’s Dion Jordan and could fit into the 3-4 pass rushing scheme of the San Diego Chargers. Losing outside linebacker Shaun Phillips to free agency makes it likely to see the Chargers go defense at this spot, although offensive line is another glaring need as the team needs to protect Phillip Rivers.
12. Miami Dolphins Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Miami is a team that could go several different directions. They could look to trade up or down to bolster an offensive line that has seen Jake Long depart. They could look to the defensive tackle spot as a need for the future more than a need now. However, Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes makes the most sense at this selection. Rhodes is a bigger, physical corner that can fill the void left by Sean Smith this offseason. The Dolphins have a history of taking chances with defensive backs in the past with Vontae Davis, now a member of the Colts. The Dolphins were willing to take risks with wide receiver Mike Wallace and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe in free agency. They could do the same with the physically gifted Rhodes.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
If the Buccaneers snag Darrelle Revis without giving up their first-round pick, this is the direction they will go. Head coach Greg Schiano knows his team’s pass defense was awful and that the only way to improve the back end of the defense is to keep adding depth at the safety and cornerback positions. Trufant is a physical corner that is extremely aggressive when the ball is in the air. He was a four-year starter at Washington and played both in the nickel and outside corner positions. A versatile player is just what the Buccaneers need to help salvage what was a disappointing 2012 season.
14. Carolina Panthers Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Carolina is going to look on the defensive side of the ball for this pick. They have to. Defensive line could be a position of need, but so is safety. Kenny Vaccaro has been climbing up a lot of boards and rightfully so. Vaccaro has the size needed for an NFL safety and the versatility to roam in the secondary and make big plays. A physical player that can help the back end of the Panthers defense that saw Haruki Nakamura fail miserably in the secondary.
15. New Orleans Saints Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The Saints are moving to a 3-4 defense and there might not be a more talented outside linebacker in the draft than Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. While his 4.90 40 disappointed, watch the tape and the instincts make people forget that dismal time instantly. Jones has the ability to rush the passer and plays a lot bigger than his frame would suggest in the run game. Injuries have plagued his career and are definitely a cause for concern as he heads into the NFL. However, his instincts and ability to find the ball carrier are second to none in this draft class.
16. St. Louis Rams Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Quite possibly the most explosive player in the draft that has a ceiling as high as No.8 to the Bills and his floor at this selection. West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin lacks the size to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. However, there might not be a more talented guy coming out of the slot in this draft class. The comparisons to Percy Harvin are unfair because Harvin is much larger in stature. Austin is a different kind of player. While he has seen time as a slot receiver, a receiver on the outside and a return specialist, what really garners a lot of attention is his ability to cut in the open field. Austin is only 174 pounds, but he is always moving forward, even when making sharp cuts down the field. Not your prototypical “north-south” runner in space, but was able to display that in a spread offense system at West Virginia. The Rams haven’t had a playmaker with his skill set come along since Az-Zahir Hakim back when “The Greatest Show on Turf” existed. Sam Bradford would welcome the opportunity to bring in any offensive help, especially after seeing his only reliable teammate in running back Stephen Jackson depart for Atlanta.
Picks 17-32 will be released Saturday after WNST’s Weekend Warriors ends at noon.