NIT-NATI Mock Draft 2013

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24.  Indianapolis Colts – Datone Jones, DE, UCLAMost Colts fans won’t be surprised with this pick.  Datone Jones has been on Indianapolis’s radar since early March.  What makes Jones so intriguing isn’t his numbers – 148 tackles, including 12.5 sacks, 36.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles in three years as a starter for the Bruins – but rather his versatility.  Last season, Jones lined up at both left and right defensive end, even stepping in as a nose on certain formations.  In an interview at the Combine, Jones said that he wanted to be a guy who can “play every down,” and not be a situational defensive end.  Uniquely fitted for a 3-4 defense, the Colts shouldn’t waste a lot of time debating filling this voided position on their roster.

25.  Minnesota Vikings – Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame.   Remember that before the non-existent girlfriend, Manti Te’o was one of the top candidates for this year’s Heisman?  Don’t worry, Minnesota didn’t forget.  Will he have difficulties in a NFL locker room; who can say?  Does his film show incredible talent; yes, it does.  An instinctive athlete who surgically dissects plays, Te’o’s ability read play-action and keep his assignments puts him in position to make tackles and interceptions at critical pressure situations.  While Arthur Brown may have comparable numbers and could easily be the pick here, Te’o had his senior campaign against huge opponents in what seemed like big game after big game, which may make his numbers more weighted in the eyes of NFL teams.  Like Desmond Trufant, Te’o is a perfect fit for this Vikings’ defense; a squad that has found excellent talent in Notre Dame players in the past few years.  Minnesota fans will hate this pick… until his performance begins to speak for itself.

26.  Green Bay Packers – Eddie Lacy, RB, AlabamaHaving a quarterback like Aaron Rogers is certainly a reason for a team to take risks at the running back position, and Green Bay undoubtedly has for the past two seasons.  However, with a serviceable wide out able to be had as late as the third round and the next available safety being a reach at this point, snagging the top running back in this year’s Draft should sew up the position for few seasons to come.  Eddie Lacy did have some concerns in work outs, but he’s one of the only ‘bell-cow backs’ that is likely to hold up with Pack’s ‘hard-yards’ style of running.  Sure the Packers could look for a wide receiver or a safety here, but it’s a deep draft and both positions are depleted at this point; why not take top level talent.  Despite hopefuls thinking that Lacy will make it out of the first round, it’s doubtful he’ll fall much further than Denver at 28 if Green Bay was to pass on him here.

Jul 23, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Kansas State Wildcats linebacker Arthur Brown speaks to reporters during Big 12 Media Day at the Westin Galleria. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

27.  Houston Texans – Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas StateLots of Draftniks are mocking a wide receiver here, but unless Cordarelle Patterson or Tavon Austin are still on the board it probably won’t be the case.  Why spend a pick on a Robert Woods or Justin Hunt when very comparable value will be there in the next round, if not those very players themselves?  A long shot for this pick is Notre Dame tight end, Tyler Eifert as the Texans typically keep four active tight ends on the roster and currently retain only the services of two developmental players at that position.  Eifert definitely could become that additional receiver threat, but Houston has done very well developing later round tight ends, of which there are more than a few this year.  More important to note is that despite fan fervor Connor Baldwin won’t be back next season after signing with the Eagles.  Also the Texans have four of their inner linebackers still hanging as free agents.  Brooks Reed is coming back from injury, and Brian Cushing isn’t expected to be recovered from his ACL surgery until Week 1 against the Chargers.  Interior defensive and the general state of uncertainty surrounding the Texans’ linebacker corps is the elephant in the room for Head Coach Gary Kubiak, and Aurthur Brown might be just what they need if they are to avoid being cut apart from the inside out like the New York Giants were defensively last season.