NFL Mock Draft – Round 3

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81. Dolphins: DT Ego Ferguson, LSU (6’2, 309) – The Dolphins switch focus to the other side of the line as they will probably need a DT unless they can bring back both of their DT free agents (Starks, Soliai) before the draft. Ferguson is a great athlete and has tons of potential, but wasn’t as dominant as expected in college. He didn’t start until his junior year and while he excelled at stopping the run, Ferguson only had 1 sack in his three years at LSU. He has good quickness and sheds blockers well, so it’s possible the pass rush will develop eventually.

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82. Bears: MLB Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut (6’3, 236) – Smallwood’s HC at UConn, Paul Pasqualoni, is the Bears new D-line coach and they could reconnect if Smallwood is still available at this point of the 3rd round. Smallwood was very productive in college (118 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 4 sacks in 2013), has good range in run defense, is an instinctive blitzer with good closing speed, and is fast and fluid enough to cover tight ends and running backs. He is a well rounded MLB prospect and would probably go a round higher if he had played in the SEC.

83. Browns: G Cyril Richardson, Baylor (6’5, 348) – Was exposed a bit at the Senior Bowl as a straight ahead blocker only. He really struggled when asked to move laterally, but has the strength, size, and athleticism to eventually become a force inside.

84. Cardinals: QB AJ McCarron, Alabama (6’3, 214) – Carson Palmer only has a few mediocre years left at most, so the Cardinals need to start succession planning. McCarron doesn’t have flashy skills, but is winner with only 4 losses in his college career. He skipped the Senior Bowl so his arm strength is still a bit of a mystery, but it doesn’t look that great on tape. McCarron is a solid decision maker, with adequate mobility, and good size. To me he profiles as a back-up, game manager type but some team will fall in love with his intangibles and draft him a few rounds too early.

85. Packers: TE CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa (6’6, 262) – The Pack get a replacement for free agent TE Jermichael Finley. Fiedorowicz isn’t as flashy as Finley, but his hands are way more reliable and he is an excellent blocker. Fiedorowicz wasn’t utilized as a receiver much in college but he showed surprising speed and agility at the Senior Bowl and could contribute as both a receiver and blocker right away.

86. Eagles: WR Paul Richardson, Colorado (6’1, 172) – Fast, explosive receiver who bounced back from an ACL injury in 2012 with a strong 2013 campaign (83, 1,343, 100). Richardson is a crisp route-runner with reliable hands. The primary knock on Richardson is that he’s only 172 pounds and might not be durable enough to be an every down WR. DeSean Jackson is only 175 pounds and he has done alright for the Eagles.

87. Chiefs:  TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame (6’6, 270) – The Chiefs got sub-par play from their tight ends (McGrath, Fasano) last year and should be looking for an upgrade. Niklas has great size for the position which he uses well as a punishing blocker. Niklas switched to TE from the defensive side of the ball just two years ago and is understandably still developing his route-running skills. He has shown good hands and better than expected speed. His floor is a solid blocking TE who can be a safety valve receiver, but has the potential to become a weapon in the passing game down the road.

88. Bengals: LB Telvin Smith, Florida St (6’3, 218) – If he were 20 pounds heavier he might be a first round pick. Smith was one of the most impressive LBs I’ve watched in this class. He has elite speed and excellent instincts. In the Senior Bowl, Smith snuffed out 3 screen plays by himself. At FSU he was constantly around the ball and didn’t miss many tackles. Smith is solid in coverage and a violent blitzer. Teams are going to be wary of drafting a 218 pound linebacker and some will look to move him to safety. Wherever he ends up, Smith is a heck of a football player and will be an asset on special teams.