32. Philadelphia Eagles: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Selection in Mock Draft 2.0: Chukwuma Okorafor – Western Michigan
Philadelphia has a host of linebackers (Dannell Ellerbe, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode) set for free agency. Additionally, Jordan Hicks is set to return from a ruptured Achilles — the most treacherous injury for any professional athlete. There’s no telling how Hicks will perform this year. Even if he does come back ‘healthy’, he may never regain the form he once had.
Jefferson looks the part. His 4.52 speed shows up on tape — as the Texas native is a rangy sideline-to-sideline linebacker. Though he’s not the most instinctive player, Jefferson can be effective when put into situations where he can react and attack rather than read the play. His athletic tools are special. In short, he’s worth the risk at this point in the draft for the Super Bowl champions.
31. New England Patriots: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Selection in Mock Draft 2.0: Derwin James – Florida State
Following their Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the main topic of discussion during New England pressers involved the absence of Malcolm Butler in the game. With Butler inking a deal with the Tennessee Titans, the Patriots need some secondary help.
Jackson possesses the best ball skills of any defensive back in the draft, finishing his last season at Iowa with 27 defended passes and eight interceptions. He’s an opportunist that makes calculated gambles that typically pay off.
The only knock on Jackson? A lack of experience. He’s only made 14 career starts. However, the stats he put up when he did play cannot be overlooked.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Selection in Mock Draft 2.0: Billy Price – Ohio State
Minnesota relied upon 39-year-old Terence Newman to defend shifty receivers in the slot. Though he did perform at an exceptionally high clip, there’s no guarantee that he’ll return this year. With that in mind, Minnesota will nab the top talent remaining on the board at this spot in the draft. Alexander is a pure athlete — evidenced by his 4.38 time in the 40 at the combine.
He’s got solid size and length for the position. Duly, Alexander utilizes short-area quickness to jump routes as well as sticking to receivers during one’s route-tree movements. His instincts for the position are also quite good. Alexander looks like the type of player to thrive in nickel situations — with the ultimate upside of developing into a starter down the line.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Selection in Mock Draft 2.0: Anthony Miller – Memphis
The Jaguars have entrusted Blake Bortles with the proverbial keys to the car by inking the former third overall pick to a multi-year deal this summer. Their next point of emphasis should be acquiring as many weapons as possible for their inconsistent quarterback.
The team chose not to franchise tag wide receiver Allen Robinson, making the Penn State product a free agent. With Robinson now a member of the Chicago Bears, the Jaguars receiving corps is among the least accomplished in the league.
Any of the available receivers (Sutton, Kirk, Washington) would be fine here, but a talented tight end can be a floundering quarterback’s best friend. Gesicki is an anomaly at his position. The 6’5″ tight end ran a 4.54 40-yard dash, did 22 reps in the bench press, and recorded a 41.5-inch vertical leap.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
Selection in Mock Draft 2.0: Ronnie Harrison – Alabama
In recent years, Pittsburgh has lacked the bite that the vaunted ‘Steel Curtain’ was known for. Harrison represents a player reminiscent of the golden age. At 6’3”, 214 pounds, he’s huge for the safety spot. One might think of Harrison as a lumbering type – though he’s a legitimate athlete both in coverage and in the run game.
His large stature could even allow for Harrison to operate as a hybrid outside linebacker/safety in certain packages. There’s tremendous value in Harrison being able to function in multiple schematic deviations – particularly with the recent expansion of spread principles into NFL offenses. With the news that Mike Mitchell has been released, Harrison appears to be a sound replacement.
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