Updated Feb. 9
17. Minnesota Vikings: Vernon Davis, TE Maryland – The Vikings could go in a number of directions with the 17th selection. If one of the top running backs falls into their laps, they will strongly consider them but if not, Davis would be a nice addition for new head coach Brad Childress. Davis is strong, fast and athletic. Jermaine Wiggins is a serviceable tight end, but Davis would be an upgrade and give the Vikings a huge target in the passing game, especially in the red zone. Davis led the ACC with 871 receiving yards as a junior – despite the fact Maryland struggled at the quarterback position – and he has the speed to get down the seem and make big plays like an Antonio Gates. The Vikings could go running back or defense but if an athlete like Davis were still around at 17, he would be a steal.
Other Possibilities: Running back, Gabe Watson, Ashton Youboty
18. Dallas Cowboys: Bobby Carpenter, LB Ohio State – Bill Parcells loves big, physical linebackers with versatility so he should be drooling over Carpenter. At 255 pounds, Carpenter has the size Parcells seeks in his linebackers and he can play both inside and outside in the 3-4 defense. Carpenter has tremendous speed for his size and is a tackling machine against the run. Dallas has built up their secondary and defensive line over the past couple of seasons and the linebackers are next, especially with Dat Nguyen expected to retire and former second round draft pick Bradie James not playing up to expectations as of yet. Dallas needs help on the offensive line and at safety but those problems will most likely be taken care of in free agency. Parcells has wanted a big linebacker in Dallas since he arrived and Carpenter has "Cowboys" written all over him. It doesn't hurt that his father, Rob, played for Parcells with the Giants in the early 80s, so It's probable the Cowboys have been following Carpenter closely the past couple of seasons. A.J. Hawk gets all the publicity but when you watch the Buckeyes defense, you see Carpenter around the ball almost as often as you see Hawk. There are probably some in the Patriots organization who hope this versatile linebacker slips to them.
Other Possibilities: Marcus McNeil, Ko Simpson, Santonio Holmes
19. San Diego Chargers: Santonio Holmes, WR Ohio State – Holmes is the prize of a weak receiver class this year and he would make a nice selection for the Chargers with pick 19. San Diego can go in a lot of different directions here but with Reche Caldwell being a free agent and Keenan McCardell a year older, receiver is a position they need to address – both now and for the future. While McCardell is still very productive, Holmes has the speed and explosiveness to be a nice compliment early in his career and emerge as a No. 1 receiver once McCardell retires. Holmes does drop some balls but he's a smooth route runner with a lot of upside. The Chargers secondary and linebackers are in need of an upgrade as well but to get a player with Holmes' ability will be tough to pass up in a draft that isn't deep at the receiver position.
Other Possibilities: DeMeco Ryans, Ko Simpson, Tye Hill
20. Kansas City Chiefs: Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Boston College – If Holmes is available and the Chiefs don't sign Terrell Owns or another big-name free agent at receiver, then they will probably go with the Ohio State wideout here. However, if Holmes is off the board, expect the Chiefs to continue adding new pieces to a defense that showed some improvement in 2005. Herm Edwards had John Abraham in New York and Kiwanuka is the same kind of player. Kiwi would team with Jared Allen to give the Chiefs two imposing pass rushers off the edge. The Chiefs had 29 sacks this season and Allen accounted for 11 of them, so the team needs someone else to step up and rush the passer. Kiwanuka's stock dropped after a poor Senior Bowl week but he has great pass rushing skills and could end up being a steal for the Chiefs if he lasts this long in the draft. Kansas City could also look at Gabe Watson or Brodrick Bunkley to add some size to the interior of their defensive line.
Other Possibilities: Santonio Holmes, Gabe Watson, Brodrick Bunkley
21. New England Patriots: Laurence Maroney, RB Minnesota – If a linebacker or defensive back are available that the Patriots really like, they could go in that direction but whether Corey Dillon returns to form or not in 2005, the running back position needs to be addressed. I have Maroney rated as one of the ten best players in this draft so getting him at 21 would be great value in my opinion. Maroney has game-breaking speed and great patience and vision in the hole. He's the fastest back in this draft and once Maroney gets into the open field, he's gone. How great would it be for Tom Brady to be able to hand the ball off to a back at his own 10-yard line who could take it the distance in a blink of an eye? Brady is entering the prime of his career and giving him a solid running game and more explosive weapons is going to make him even better. If Dillon comes back and plays well next year, the Patriots still need a viable backup to carry the load in case he gets hurt or they will be in the same boat they found themselves in this year. By drafting Maroney, the Patriots will be getting one of the most explosive offensive players in the draft and a future stud at running back. Now, team that with Brady and Deion Branch and tell me how scary that would be? Getting Maroney here would be downright stealing for the Pats.
Other Possibilities: Bobby Carpenter, Ko Simpson, D'Qwell Jackson, Abdul Hodge
22. Denver Broncos: Nick Mangold, C Ohio State – The Broncos just re-signed center Tom Nalen but he's getting up there in age and the Broncos have a history of drafting linemen and getting them used to their system so they are ready to step in when called upon. That way the Denver running game doesn't miss a beat. Mangold is the top rated center in the draft and he would make a great understudy to Nalen. Mangold is technically sound and he plays with good leverage. He's used to playing in a zone blocking scheme, the same system the Broncos have run so successfully over the years. With two picks in the first round, the Broncos have the luxury of being able to draft for the future and getting Mangold – the best player at his position – would be a good selection for Denver. If the Broncos don't sign T.O., a receiver like Chad Jackson or Sinorice Moss would also make sense here.
Other Possibilities: Chad Jackson, Sinorice Moss, Ko Simpson
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus McNeil, OT Auburn – McNeil probably won't last this long but if he does, the Bucs will be ecstatic. McNeil is one of the top offensive tackles in the draft and that's an area the Bucs need a major upgrade in. Anthony Davis and Kenyatta Walker are currently the starting tackles in Tampa Bay and neither player is considered to be very strong. At 6'9 and 330 pounds, McNeil has the size and toughness to become a starting tackle for the Bucs as a rookie. McNeil isn't quite as polished as some of the other tackles in this draft but he's an athletic player with a lot of upside. If the Bucs don't address the offensive line, expect them to go after a young player on defense or receiver.
Other Possibilities: Chad Jackson, DeMeco Ryans
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Brodrick Bunkley, DT Florida State – There is no question the Bengals need to get bigger and stronger in the middle of their defensive line. They were pushed around against physical offensive lines like the Steelers and while their defense improved in 2005, they were still soft in the middle. The Bengals have already expressed interest in the 6'3, 290 pound Bunkley and he would be a great fit for their defense. Bunkley is a stout run-stuffer who doesn't get pushed around very often. His surge up the middle is exactly what the Cincinnati defense needs. The problem for the Bengals is Bunkley's stock is on the rise and if he's not around when they pick, the team could turn their focus to Michigan defensive tackle Gabe Watson or a defensive back.
Other Possibilities: Gabe Watson, Darnell Bing, Daniel Bullocks
25. New York Giants: Ashton Youboty, CB Ohio State – The Giants are a pretty easy team to predict. There is a very good chance they will go after a cornerback in the first round after their secondary struggled so badly in 2005. Will Allen is a free agent and William Peterson has health issues so the Giants need a corner who can come in and contribute right away. Youboty has a nice combination of size and speed. He shows a good break on the ball and other Ohio State cornerbacks have made an impression early on in their NFL career. Youboty may not be as complete a football player as some of those other Buckeye corners but he's good in coverage and he should help improve the Giants secondary instantly. In the Giants case it's not so much which position they'll draft, it's more of which defensive back do they like the best?
Other Possibilities: Tye Hill, Ko Simpson
26. Chicago Bears: Leonard Pope, TE Georgia – The Bears haven't had a tight end in what seems like forever and with this being a deep tight end class, expect the Bears to grab one in the first round. Pope is massive – 6'7 and 250 pounds – but he runs good routes and has soft hands. Pope excels as both a pass catcher and a run blocker and he would give Rex Grossman a big target in the red zone. The Bears could look at receiver with this pick as well but it will be difficult for them to pass on a talent like Pope at a position where they are very thin.
Other Possibilities: Dominique Byrd, Chad Jackson, Sinorice Moss
27. Carolina Panthers: Gabe Watson, DT Michigan – The Panthers are one of those teams that could go in a lot of different directions, depending on which players are available when they select. Carolina could use help at running back, receiver, tight end and offensive tackle. However, if Watson is available this late in the draft, they could very well select the big nose tackle. Brenston Buckner is getting older and Kris Jenkins has been injured the past two years. Without Jenkins in the lineup, the Panthers struggled to stop the run, especially late in the season. Watson saw his draft stock skyrocket at The Senior Bowl. He was known as a lazy player at Michigan but when he's motivated, Watson has top-ten talent. He's one of those boom or bust players but with little depth at defensive tackle, the Panthers could be the team that takes a chance on Watson and hopes he pans out.
Other Possibilities: Dominique Byrd, Chad Jackson
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tye Hill, CB Clemson – The Jaguars have two primary needs: defensive back and a pass rushing defensive end. With no top defensive ends expected to be available here, look for Jacksonville to address the cornerback position. After a strong week at The Senior Bowl, Hill has now moved himself into position to be drafted in the first round. Hill showed tremendous speed and the ability to break on the ball in Mobile and some scouts thought he was the best cornerback prospect at the game. Rasheen Mathis is set at one corner but Jacksonville needs an upgrade over Kenny Wright on the other side. Hill would be able to play in Jacksonville's nickel package as a rookie and possibly push Wright for the starting job. Unless there is a defensive end the Jags really like on the board at 28, expect them to go defensive back.
Other Possibilities: Ashton Youboty, Antonio Cromartie
29. Denver Broncos: Ko Simpson, S South Carolina – With John Lynch getting older, the Broncos need some youth at the safety position. Simpson's draft stock is on the rise so he may be gone by the time Denver picks but if they are able to land the athletic safety from South Carolina, the Broncos will have a heck of a player on their hands. Simpson is a ball hawking safety who made a lot of plays for the Gamecocks, despite only playing two years of college football. He's raw but Simpson's best days are ahead of him and learning from Lynch will certainly help his development. It's hard to say where the Broncos will go with this pick because this is their second of two selections in the first round but there should be some solid safeties still available at this point for them to choose from.
Other Possibilities: Darnell Bing, Daniel Bullocks
30. Indianapolis Colts: DeMeco Ryans, OLB Alabama – If the Colts lose Edgerrin James in free agency, they could trade up and try to grab one of the top running backs but if they don't, they will probably look defense with this pick. Outside linebacker David Thornton is an unrestricted free agent while Gary Brackett and Cato June are both restricted free agents and there is little depth behind them. Ryans is a little on the small side but he's quick and athletic and Tony Dungy doesn't mind his linebackers being small as long as they can run. Ryans made plays all over the field for the Crimson Tide defense this year and he sheds blockers well for his size. If the Colts are going to keep spending all of their money on the offensive side of the ball, they need to keep drafting young defensive players as well. The athletic Ryans would be a welcomed addition to the improving Indianapolis defense.
Other Possibilities: Trading Up, Ernie Simms
31. Seattle Seahawks: Chad Jackson, WR Florida – With Joe Jurevicious being a free agent and the Seahawks already thin at receiver, Jackson would be a smart choice this late in the draft. Jackson actually has the physical ability to be a tremendous NFL receiver and he could wind up being the steal of this year's draft. His numbers dipped a bit this season as the Gators were learning a new offensive system but some believe that if Jackson had played under Steve Spurrier, he would be a top ten draft pick. Jackson is a big-play threat who not only has outstanding straight-line speed but he's very quick out of his breaks and catches everything thrown his way. With this being a weak receiver draft, Jackson's stock could go up if he runs well at the combine but if he's still around when the Seahawks select, they should be interested. If the Seahawks look elsewhere, linebacker and safety are two positions where the team is looking to add depth.
Other Possibilities: Darnell Bing, Sinorice Moss, Thomas Howard
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Sinorice Moss, WR Miami – With Antwaan Randle El likely leaving the Steel City, Pittsburgh will be looking for an explosive receiver to replace him. If it's explosion you want, look no further than Moss. Most scouts at The Senior Bowl believed he was the fastest player on either roster. He had a great week of practice and followed that up by catching a touchdown in the game. Moss' blazing speed will be a nice compliment to Hines Ward and he can also take over Randle El's job of returning kicks. The Steelers are always looking to bolster their offensive line so if they don't go with Moss, they could select USC guard Taitusi Lutui or Georgia's Max Jean-Gilles – both of whom would be quality selections this late in the draft.
Other Possibilities: Taitusi Lutui, Max Jean-Gilles, Chad Jackson