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Plenty of big names are off the board by the 17th pick, but historically this is where contenders become champions. Most teams in this range already have strong rosters, so who will they take to help tip their side over the edge and onto greatness? Here’s the second part of your definitive NFL Mock Draft:
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Barkevious Mingo (LB, LSU)
Mingo drops to the 17thÂ pick thanks to concerns over which position he will play in the NFL, as well as questions over whether or not he can bulk up enough in time for the season. This makes him the perfect fit the Steelers, who tend not to rush rookies into the starters roles, and will show the patience required to turn him into a premiere NFL pass rushers.
18. Dallas Cowboys â€“ Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
Dallas have shown a commitment to improving their secondary given the nature of the modern NFL, and Vaccaro is the best safety available in the draft. There is a real need at the position for the Cowboys, but do not be surprised if Jerry Jones goes elsewhere.
19. New York Giants â€“ Alec Ogletree (ILB, Georgia)
The inside linebacker position has been a weakness of the Giantsâ€™ defense for some time now, and Ogletree is used to playing the position in a 4-3 defense. New York could also potentially trade back a few places and still pick up Ogletree.
20. Chicago Bears â€“ Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington)
The Bearsâ€™ secondary was causing turnovers for fun at times last season, and adding a player of Trufantâ€™s caliber will only improve the unit.
21. Cincinnati Bengals â€“ D. J. Fluker (OT, Alabama)
Reportedly, Andre Smith is looking for big money, and it is looking likely that the Bengals will replace him with a fellow Alabama-alumnus in the form of Fluker, who can step in immediately and take over Smithâ€™s position at right tackle.
22. St Louis Rams â€“ Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
An unlikely pick for many, especially considering serviceable running backs can be found in the lower rounds, and that the Rams have three rookie running backs on their roster from last season, but they have let Steven Jackson go, and Lacy could be the workhorse back who directly replaces him, with the likes of Isaiah Pead being utilized more sparingly.
23. Minnesota Vikings â€“ Manti Teâ€™o (ILB, Notre Dame)
The linebacker has his fair share of critics, but his performances over the years at Notre Dame (barring the infamous game against Alabama) warrant him going in the first round. A much needed component to help improve Minnesotaâ€™s defense.
24. Indianapolis Colts â€“ Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
The Colts are a young and growing team, but they lack quality at the defensive tackle position. Williams has the ability to start in his first year, and could be just the nose tackle that Chuck Pagano is looking for.
25. Minnesota Vikings â€“ Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
Minnesota lost Percy Harvin this offseason, and if there is a player in this draft who can step in and fill his shoes, it is Austin. Not only is Austin an explosive receiver, but also offers versatility as a returner and occasional running back.
26. Green Bay Packers â€“ Montee Ball (RB, Wisconsin)
Running back has been a need for the Packers for some time now and Ball could be a very good fit for their pass-heavy offense. They could also afford to trade back a few places and accumulate an extra pick.
27. Houston Texans â€“ Keenan Allen (WR, California)
If the Texans want to progress deeper into the playoffs, they need another receiver to draw attention away from Andre Johnson. Allen has the speed and ability to form a good dual-threat with Johnson.
28. Denver Broncos â€“ Datone Jones (DL, UCLA)
Elvis Dumervilâ€™s infamous fax machine-related departure could push Denverâ€™s hand here. It will be interesting to see how effective Von Miller is without Dumervil, but a pick like Jones could help minimize the effects of losing Dumervil.
29. New England Patriots â€“ DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
Although replacing Wes Welker with Danny Amendola may offer the Patriots more long-term security at the position, there is a drop-off in talent. Picking up Hopkins, a solid short-to-intermediate route runner, could help Tom Brady acclimatize to losing his favorite safety blanket.
30. Atlanta Falcons â€“ Damontre Moore (DL, Texas A&M)
The Falcons are ageing in some key positions, and by letting John Abraham go, amongst others, they are taking strides towards getting younger, particularly on defense. Moore has great potential, but should also be a serviceable starter in his rookie year.
31. San Francisco 49ers â€“ Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
If any team is going to take a tight end in the first round, it will be San Francisco. The loss of Delanie Walker has significant connotations for the 49ers offense, and Eifert would be a good fit, providing an effective dual-threat with Vernon Davis.
32. Baltimore Ravens â€“ Eric Reid (S, LSU)
Baltimore may have signed Michael Huff, but the losses of both Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard means they are under-strength at safety. They may need to trade up a few places to ensure they can grab Reid, but his potential to make plays against both the pass and the run, and be an immediate starter in the NFL, should be enough to convince them he is worth trading up for.
Image credit: NFL.com