2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.1: Adjusting for Marcus Mariota’s decision to return to school
23. Dallas Cowboys: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
For the Cowboys, who have not gotten what they hoped they would from Bruce Carter this season, this pick might feel like a steal. Shazier is undersized compared to the prototypical 4-3 OLB, but he gets to the football over and over again.
24. Cleveland Browns — via Indianapolis: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Swapped in a QB at the Browns’ top-10 pick, so the earlier choice of Tajh Boyd here is now null and void. Instead, the Browns address their need for another WR to work with Josh Gordon. Lee has not had a terrific last season at USC, but he remains a big-play threat.
25. Cincinnati Bengals: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
In paying Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, the Bengals all but assured that DE Michael Johnson would leave via free agency this summer. And in drafting Beasley, they would uncover a cheaper and possibly as-productive replacement.
26. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The 49ers have been searching for corner help since the offseason, which explains moves to add Nnamdi Asomugha (later waived) and Eric Wright. Verrett does not have top-end size at the position, but he’s demonstrated shutdown abilities throughout his career.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
A wholly underrated player who has produced all season despite being one of the few viable options on Penn State’s offense. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he can play a physical game and go up to get the football. He’s also proven himself adept at turning short passes into big gains, either via play call or by making defenders miss. That would work well with Alex Smith’s capabilities.
28. New England Patriots: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Hageman plays smaller than his 300-pound frame would indicate, but it’s that size that would up his value for a New England team that lost Vince Wilfork and then traded for Isaac Sopoaga this season. The Patriots covet guys who can both anchor and press into the backfield from the DT spot, and Hageman has those traits.
29. Carolina Panthers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vandy
Not nearly enough attention has been paid yet to the second tier of receivers in this class — guys like Matthews, Jared Abbrederis, Tevin Reese or Jeremy Gallon who are destined to be productive pros. Matthews may not burn a lot of defenses deep, but he’s an ultra-reliable receiver at all areas of the field. He could complement Steve Smith now, then take over for him down the line.
30. New Orleans Saints: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Considered really going for broke with someone like Oregon RB DeAnthony Thomas here — he’d be the eventual replacement for Darren Sproles, who has one year left on his contract and has battled injuries in 2013. But the line, particularly in relation to RT Zach Strief, needs a boost. Richardson, though a tad raw, does his best work as a pass-blocker — no small note, given Drew Brees’ presence in New Orleans.
31. Denver Broncos: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Champ Bailey and Quentin Jammer in the CB rotation, the Broncos could stand to get younger there. There is not much of a gap, if any, between the four CBs already taken and Gilbert. He’s a well-built corner who does not hesitate to fly up in run support.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The rich get richer. Amaro’s in the midst of a huge year with the Red Raiders (98 catches for 1,240 yards), and he would absolutely devastate defenses up the seams in Seattle’s efficient offense. Zach Miller has done a serviceable job as Seattle’s tight end, but Amaro would represent a step up at that position.