QB, West Virginia
This team is not as bad as it has looked this season. Priority number one once the year ends will be cleaning house. Priority number two, however, will be finally bringing in a quarterback who can throw the ball. Geno Smith has done more with less than Matt Barkley. West Virginia has struggled in recent weeks, sure, but Smith is still a 74 percent passer who has only thrown two picks through 10 weeks.
Blaine Gabbert is bad, but he isn’t the worst thing about this team. Moreover, Matt Barkley isn’t a big enough upgrade over him to justify the pick. Jarvis Jones is arguably the most impactful defensive player in the SEC this season, and he would be a perfect fit for a Jaguars team that puts no pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
DT, Ohio State
The Panthers defense should be a lot better than it is right now. Part of the blame for that goes to Ron Rivera, obviously, but part of it is also just a byproduct of the front seven lacking that one key piece. Johnathan Hankins is that piece. Great athlete. Can play both the run and the pass. Just a great all-around player who will make life easier for everyone currently on this unit.
Alabama’s defense has taken a lot of shine away from LSU this year, so you haven’t heard as much about Sam Montgomery as you probably figured you would before the season began. That said, he has quietly put together a very nice campaign. He’s great against the run. He recorded two sacks in what was probably this team’s biggest game before this weekend. And, most importantly, he has actually outshined Barkevious Mingo up to this point – the player everyone initially said was worthy of a No. 1 overall pick in this draft.
ILB, Notre Dame
The Bills have offensive holes, but you need to be able to stop teams in the AFC East. That is the recipe for success. Management obviously understood this last summer, and they need to carry on with that attitude now. Manti Te’o is the leader of Notre Dame’s fierce defense this year and a possible Heisman candidate. He’d be a great fit here. (This is admittedly higher than he should go, but I anticipate Buffalo will be picking a bit lower anyway. So it should all work out.)
DE, Florida State
With Chris Johnson returning to form (for now), there is no offensive position that is as important to address as the holes this squad has on defense. Bjoern Werner has had a monster 2012 campaign, and has been the heart and soul of a better-than-expected, top-five defensive attack.
This team has been bad on a lot of fronts this season, but the defense, in particular, has been embarrassing. Star Lotulelei has good speed, strong hands and knows how to make room. He will be a welcome addition to a New Orleans defensive unit for whom every little bit would help.