NFL mock draft: Rnd. 2, V. 3

Needs are nabbed in the second round of our NFL mock draft with plenty of talent remaining, but the Vikings select at a position of strength.

OVERVIEW: Following the first night of the draft, teams reassess their needs vs. the talent available and, more times the not, need becomes the value as opposed to taking the best athlete remaining. That’s how it turns out in many of our or projected second-round picks.

1. Cleveland – Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State. The Browns used their first-round pick to land a quarterback of the future. Now they start the process of getting him weapons to work with.

2. Tennessee – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson. The Titans signed Pittsburgh backup Antwon Blake in free agency, but more help is needed. Once Jason McCourty went down last season, the Titans were exposed, so more depth is needed.

3. Dallas – Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State. The Cowboys have been facing the mortality of Tony Romo for some time and the time has come to start grooming a replacement.

4. San Diego – Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana. If the Chargers didn’t go O-line in the first round, they need to here because Philip Rivers can’t continue to take the beating he did in 2015.

5. Baltimore – Jaylon Smith, OLB, Notre Dame. Somebody is going to roll the dice on greatness with Smith, who suffered a devastating knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 1. If he recovers 100 percent, this will be a steal, but the medical reports will determine if he goes this high.

6. San Francisco – Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor. The 49ers suffered losses on the D-line that were never addressed last year or in free agency. If they’re going to compete, beefing up the D-line is a must.

7. Jacksonville – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss. The Jags signed Malik Jackson is free agency to help the end position and we have them taking Myles Jack in the first round. Nkemdiche has some off-field red flags, but he is a risk/reward pick that could make the Jags dangerous in 2016.

8. Tampa Bay – Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State. The Bucs double down on trying to improve their woeful secondary because with the firepower the other QBs in the division bring, having a strong secondary is a must.

9. New York Giants – Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. The Giants may be in the running for Ezekiel Elliott in the first round, but the revolving door of three or four running backs needs to stop. Henry is the bell cow to accomplish that.

10. Chicago – Karl Joseph, West Virginia. John Fox continues to reshape the defense in his image and getting a strong safety that can fill a void in both the pass and run game is a priority Joseph can fill.

11. Miami – Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. The Dolphins replaced Brent Grimes with Byron Maxwell, but this group was brutal in 2015 and an infusion of young talent in necessary here or the money spent on the D-line will be wasted.

12. Tennessee (from Los Angeles via Philadelphia) – Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma. Marcus Mariota needs weapons at his disposal and Shepard can be a speed receiver to build around with 2015 second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham. Getting a player who can keep defenses honest when they’re pounding DeMarco Murray could be critical to the offense.

13. Oakland – Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn. The Raiders have made some big moves on defense (Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and our projection of Reggie Ragland in the first round). Now they draft a replacement for 32-year-old Donald Penn, who is nearing the end of the line.

PROPOSED TRADE: 14. San Francisco (from Tennessee via Los Angeles) – Artie Burns, CB, Miami. The Niners could use an athletic cornerback to push current starters Trumaine Brock, Dontae Johnson and Kenneth Acker – none of whom are true shutdown corners. Burns could compete for a starting job almost immediately.

15. Detroit – Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State. The Lions have struggled at linebacker for years and did nothing to address it in free agency, so Correa will get the opportunity early to make an impact even if he may be a bit of a reach.

16. New Orleans – Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford. The Saints may use all their other draft picks on defense, but unless Drew Brees can get better protection the Saints will struggle to get back to the playoffs any time soon.

17. Indianapolis – Deion Jones, OLB, LSU. The linebacker group was a weakness of the team in 2015 and all that has changed is that three of them have gone and none have been replaced, making this a front-burner need.

18. Buffalo – Joshua Perry, OLB, Ohio State. The Bills’ linebackers were weak in 2015 and they didn’t add any veterans in free agency, making this pick a must to help them compete at a higher level.

19. Atlanta – Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas. The entire Falcons offense took a backward step when Tony Gonzalez retired. Henry is the best offensive threat among this year’s tight end class and will provide an immediate upgrade.

20. New York Jets – Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA. Having Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson gives the Jets a formidable front line. Clark is versatile, can start as a platoon player and eventually work his way into the starting lineup.

21. Houston – Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford. Houston’s defense has been good enough to get the Texans back-to-back 9-7 records with a suspect offense. Having taken a wide receiver in the first round, Bill O’Brien gets a downfield tight end to diversify the offense.

22. Washington – Keanu Neal, S, Florida. Safety was identified as a need early on the process, and after cutting Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson they hope the combination of Neal and free agent David Bruton will fill that void.

23. Minnesota – Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech. The Vikings are always looking for players who can make an impact and Butler is one of those players. He didn’t face elite competition but was as impressive as any defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. With some coaching up from Mike Zimmer and his staff, Butler could be an impact rotational player much in the same way Danielle Hunter was last year. If you’re not familiar with him, watch some highlight tape on him. His weaknesses are all correctable by solid coaching and technique, and he could be a budding star ready to step in earlier than later if the Vikings have any injuries up front.

24. Cincinnati – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama. Kelly is the best center in the draft and the Bengals find a player they can realistically expect to hold down the position for the next decade. Russell Bodine is pedestrian and can easily be replaced.

25. Seattle – Vadal Alexander, G, LSU. The Seahawks lost starters Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy in free agency, but the elite tackles in this year’s class are gone. Alexander is an elite guard who could step in immediately for Sweezy to help protect Russell Wilson better than he was last year.

26. Green Bay – Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Missouri. Mike McCarthy wants to move Clay Matthews back to the outside full-time. Drafting an instinctive inside tackling machine goes a long way to getting that accomplished.

27. Pittsburgh – Su'a Cravens, S, USC. The Steelers don’t spend heavily in free agency, so the clean-up of a woeful secondary is getting done through the draft. The last time they took a safety from USC, it worked out pretty well for them.

28. Kansas City – Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida. The Chiefs need some help up front and Bullard is a versatile player who lined up everywhere on the line and can be plugged in wherever the need arises.

29. New England – Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama. Aside from Malcolm Butler, the Patriots’ cornerbacks are a hot mess and need improving if New England is to keep its stranglehold atop the AFC East.

30. New England (from Arizona) – Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State. Few people come to the draft with as many intangibles as Miller and nobody knows how to utilize players in specialized roles better than Bill Belichick.

31. Carolina – Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU. The Panthers were exposed by the Mike & Mike tackle tandem (Oher and Remmers) in the Super Bowl and will need to upgrade the position.

32. Denver – Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State. The Broncos saw Peyton Manning retire and Brock Osweiler leave in free agency. If they sign Colin Kaepernick, this pick may go in the direction of fellow Nittany Lion DE Ryan Nassib, but John Elway needs a quarterback to develop quickly because Mark Sanchez isn’t the answer.



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