Here is the debut of the Monday Morning Draft - a column that delves into the past weekend's action from an NFL Draft perspective. As the season goes on, the draft picture and slotting will become more clear, but every Sunday will provide a few hints for next April.
As the season progresses, there will be a lot of turnover in the positioning of which team will land the No. 1 overall pick to have the first shot at Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Ater the Week 1 action, here are the top contenders at this time.
Their starting quarterback is Tarvaris Jackson. Their backup is Charlie Whitehurst. Clearly the quarterback of the future is not on this roster. Seattle was shutout in the first half by the San Francisco 49ers.
The quarterback position is the weakness of the Seahawks offense. They have some quality passing targets in Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and tight end Zach Miller. The offensive line has first-rounders from the last two drafts in Russell Okung and James Carpenter. They also start Max Unger (third season) and rookie John Moffitt at guard.
The quarterback position and a suspect defense could keep Seattle in the hunt for the first pick throughout the season, and right now they would have to be the favorite.
Kansas City Chiefs:
It is not abnormal in the modern NFL for a team to go from worst to first, and then back down again a year later. The Chiefs certainly showed that capacity with an awful performance in Week 1. Kansas City was dominated at home by the Buffalo Bills, and laying a 41-7 egg can have a lasting affect in the weeks to come. It was the largest season-opening loss in Kansas City history, and one of the worst home losses ever for the Chiefs.
Veteran quarterback Matt Cassel was clearly missing former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who left in the offseason to coach in college at Florida. Cassel will turn 30 just after the 2012 NFL Draft, so it would make sense to groom a young quarterback with a veteran playing into his 30s. Against Buffalo, Cassel completed 22-of-36 passes for 119 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Miami plays its first game of the season on Monday night against New England. Chad Henne is inconsistent and the Dolphins could find themselves as the worst team in the AFC East. New England and New York are Super Bowl contenders, and Buffalo just dismantled a playoff team from last year. With Henne at quarterback, a last-place finish is not out of the question, and if that happens, the Dolphins could be in the running for Luck.
Neck injuries are scary propositions, and who knows how and when Peyton Manning will return to the Colts? The team reportedly could opt out of the contract extension they gave Manning, and finding a future franchise quarterback could be a priority after the season. Obviously, the Colts are not the same team without Manning. Houston had no issues blowing them out, 34-7. Even if Manning misses the 2011 season and returns in 2012, the Colts could take Luck if they have the No. 1 pick. Manning will turn 36 before the 2012 NFL Draft, so Indianapolis could have Manning tutor Luck for a year or two before handing him the reigns. With how the Colts played against Houston, it is not out of the question for them to be in the running for the No. 1 overall pick.
One of the disappointing players in Week 1 was Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. He completed only 19-of-40 passes for 213 yards with touchdowns and one interception. The Browns lost at home, 27-17, to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that Cleveland should have won. If McCoy continues to struggle, the Browns could have a shot a the No. 1 overall pick; they have a lot of young players on both sides of the ball, so there could be a lot of growing pains this season. The Browns have only invested a third-round pick in McCoy, so if he plays bad enough for them to have the top pick, they probably wouldn't hesitate to draft Luck as their franchise signal-caller.
Let's Play Match-Maker:
This section will look at some of the top talent in college football and match those prospects up with teams that have a dire need at the position.
Cleveland Browns: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Browns lost to Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowksi on Sunday. Cleveland got some pass rush with linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who had two sacks, but the Browns could use an end to rush the passer. Coples (6-6, 285) is a prototype 4-3 defensive end. He would upgrade the Browns pass rush and run defense. Bengals running back Cedric Benson ran for 121 yards, so Cleveland needs to get stronger on the line of scrimmage. Coples had two sacks in the season opener, and while he didn't get a sack against Rutgers on Saturday, he did get some pressure. Right now, Coples looks like the best lineman in next year's draft class.
St. Louis Rams: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Rams needed help at cornerback before Ron Bartell went down with an injury against the Eagles. Kirkpatrick is one of the best corners in college football. He nearly forced two fumbles against Penn State on Saturday. The big and physical Kirkpatrick also would help the Rams' perimeter run defense. After LeSean McCoy ran for 122 yards on 15 carries, having some corners who help prevent long runs would be an asset for St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
This one might come as a surprise, but the Bucs' offense lacks explosion and speed. Mike Williams is a good receiver who can go up and make a big catch, but he is not a burner who will blow past defensive backs for long touchdown catches. In the preseason, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris admitted that Tampa Bay is not a big-play offense. While Blackmon is big and physical, he has game-changing speed to produce big plays. Last year, he produced 1,782 yards on 111 catches with 20 touchdowns. He has 14 straight games with at least 100 yards receiving. In the first two games of this season, Blackmon has totaled 272 yards on 20 catches with two touchdowns. Landing Blackmon to help stretch defenses would be a big help to Williams, quarterback Josh Freeman and running back LeGarrette Blount.
New York Giants: Jonathan Martin & David DeCastro, OT/G, Stanford
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning struggled in the preseason, and that carried over into the Giants' 28-14 loss to the Redskins. New York's offensive line struggled greatly allowing four sacks. Landing a tackle in Martin and a guard in DeCastro who can run and pass block would be a needed addition to the Giants offense. Martin and DeCastro have executed in a pro-style offense at Stanford and have protected what looks to be a future franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. Eli Manning was limited in how effective he could be for New York because of the lack of blocking he received up front.
Chicago Bears: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Even though the Bears had a big win over the Atlanta Falcons, they still had some struggles with edge rushers. Falcons defensive end John Abraham had two sacks, while defensive end Kroy Biermann had one sack. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry also had decent showing the Chicago offensive line, while Lawrence Sidbury also registered a sack. Reiff looks a legit starter at left tackle in the NFL. Pairing Reiff with Gabe Carimi could give the Bears two bookend left tackles to protect Jay Cutler.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
The matchup of Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd with the Jaguars will never happen unless Gene Smith isn't the general manager next April. Floyd has off-the-field concerns, and Smith is known to have a heavy bias toward good character players. Floyd is a dominant receiver who would look good in the Jags offense, but going with Sanu is more realistic. On Saturday, Sanu had 13 receptions for 119 yards with one touchdown against North Carolina.
The Titans don't have a star-studded secondary, but the Jags made them look good. Their leading receiver on Sunday was Mike Thomas with eight catches for 55 yards. Sanu is a good possession receiver who also can make plays downfield. Jacksonville's offense really needs a top-notch receiver to give it a better passing attack. They also could use a true primary receiver for rookie Blaine Gabbert. Since Floyd would be ruled out, Sanu is a good option to consider in the second round or perhaps at the end of the first round (via trade). That would allow the Jaguars to find a badly needed pass-rusher with their first pick.
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