Here is the fifth edition 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. After the Week 5 action, here are the top contenders at this time.
Miami had a bye this week, so they stay in first place in the "Suck for Luck" race. Last week, the Dolphins lost to the San Diego Chargers and fell to 0-4 on the season. The week previous, Miami lost a "playoff game" in the Suck for Luck derby to the Cleveland Browns. The Dolphins play in a tough division that should produce at least two playoff teams and a playoff contender. Miami finds ways to lose, and that matters in the Suck for Luck standings. The team also has been hit hard by injuries, and they simply don't have the depth to withstand losing the amount of starters who are missing time for Miami. It looks like a long season for the Dolphins. The players could easily quit on head coach Tony Sparano, who could get fired before the end of the season.
Indianapolis dropped a playoff game in the Suck for Luck tournament. The Colts lost to the Kansas City Chiefs to fall to 0-5 on the season. Previously, the Colts had played tight games with the Steelers, Browns and Buccaneer s. Right now, there is no certainty when Peyton Manning will return, but he could miss the entire season. Without him, the 0-5 Colts could be headed to a season with 1-3 wins and a strong possibility for the No. 1 pick.
St. Louis Rams:
The Rams are one of the more disappointing teams in the NFL with a record of 0-4. They've had a tough schedule with a lot of injuries that have decimated their talent. If the Rams land the first-overall pick, they would definitely look to trade down since they don't need Luck after taking quarterback Sam Bradford with the first selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. St. Louis is being carried by Bradford, who looks like he will be a good pro quarterback. Bradford should be enough to get the Rams a few wins and avoid the first-overall pick.
The Vikings finally put it all together and played a complete game. They opened up a 28-0 lead over the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter. The Minnesota defense held onto the lead this week, winning 34-10. In each of the first three games of the year, the team blew big leads. The Vikings play in a tough division and are clearly the worst team in that division. It wouldn't be surprising if they are swept by their division rivals as well as their conference matchup against the NFC South.
The problem for Minnesota is having spent a first-round pick on quarterback Christian Ponder last April. If the Vikings �earn� the first pick, they would have a tough decision to make. Luck is good enough that he is worth considering taking even though they just drafted a quarterback. Fortunately for Minnesota, they have Adrian Peterson and some other good players, so they could pull out a few wins. Considering they've been close to winning all four games this season, it wouldn't be surprising if worse teams pass them for first place in the Suck for Luck standings.
The Jaguars fell to 1-4 on the season with a 30-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Jacksonville had a Week 1 win over Tennessee, and since then, the Jaguars have played some ugly games.
In the 2012 NFL Draft there is little chance the team would take Andrew Luck, considering they drafted Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall pick last year. Instead, the Jaguars would probably look to trade down if they have the first pick.
Let's Play Matchmaker:
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.
Tennessee Titans: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
The Titans� offense is missing a receiving weapon since Kenny Britt is out with an injury. Tennessee has another young receiver with size in Damian Williams, but they need a receiver who is adept at creating separation to get open downfield. That is Broyles� specialty. He is a fast and outstanding route runner with good hands. Against Texas last Saturday, Broyles had nine receptions for 122 yards and one touchdown. For the season, he has caught 47 passes for 598 yards with seven touchdowns. Last year, Broyles caught 131 passes for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns. He would add a nice dimension to the Titans� offense.
Philadelphia Eagles: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
The Eagles� run defense and its tackling have been a serious weakness in 2011. Bills running back Fred Jackson ran for 111 yards on 26 carries and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Philadephia's defense needs an interior presence. Burfict definitely provides that with his physical play. Thus far, he has 29 tackles with five tackles for a loss, four sacks and one interception. Burfict makes some big plays at critical times, and also can be an intimidating presence. He would fill a needed void on the Eagles.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
The Buccaneers� run defense was gashed by 49ers running back Frank Gore. The linebackers also struggled in pass coverage on tight end Vernon Davis. Tampa Bay has Will (weakside) linebacker Geno Hayes in the last year of his contract, and his play is too inconsistent. David has been a leader on the Cornhuskers� defense and provided the big turnover that sparked their comeback win over Ohio State. His speed and pass-coverage abilities make him an ideal fit in the Buccaneers� defense, which he would upgrade significantly. Tampa Bay should target David in the second round.
Cleveland Browns: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
Browns fans would probably be thrilled to bring in the son of Browns great Frank Minnifield, a pro bowl corner in the 1980s. Chase Minnifield is a good cover corner, and the Tennessee Titans showed that the Browns need a cornerback to pair with young, star cornerback Joe Haden. Titans tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Nate Washington had big games for Tennessee. Minnifield has teams throwing away from him this year after recording six interceptions last year. Still, he produced a good game on Saturday with his first pick of the year, four tackles, .5 sacks and a pass broken up. Adding Minnifield (6-0, 185) would be a strong compliment to Haden, and they could potentially get Minnifield in the second round.
Miami Dolphins: Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State
Miami has two killer weaknesses on their offensive line: left guard Richie Incognito and right tackle Marc Columbo. Both players allow consistent pressure on the quarterback, and at this point in their careers, should be nothing more than backups. Columbo was beat by Chargers outside linebacker Larry English for a sack, and Columbo has been terrible all season long for Miami. Datko looks like a late first round or possible second-round pick. He is strong and athletic. Datko (6-6, 321) could stay at left tackle in the NFL while having the size and power to play on the right side. Having him on the other side of left tackle Jake Long could make for a dynamite tackle tandem in Miami that would provide them with two excellent pass blockers and hard-nosed run blockers.
Seattle Seahaws: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
The Seahawks had no answer for Falcons receiver Julio Jones on Sunday. Seattle plays in a division with Larry Fitzgerald, so they definitely need to find some cornerbacks after this season. If the Seahawks can land a cornerback like Hayward at the top of the second round, that would be a good value. He is off to a fabulous start in his senior season with four interceptions in four games. Hayward had six interceptions last year and has proven to be a magnet for the football early in 2011. The 5-foot-11, 188-pounder played well against a big, fast receiver in South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery last week. Getting a cornerback who can battle and limit a receiver with size and speed is direly needed by Seattle.
Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Chiefs� offensive tackles allowed a lot of heat on Matt Cassel from Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. They combined for six hits and two sacks. Kansas City could use some offensive line help, and Kalil is projected to be the top offensive lineman in next year's draft. The 6-foot-7, 295-pounder is a powerful run blocker, while also being a lock-down pass protector on the edge. He looks like a franchise left tackle. If the Chiefs land Kalil, that would upgrade their line at two spots because they could move Brandon Albert to guard or right tackle.
Carolina Panthers: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Panthers have needed cornerback help throughout the season, and until they upgrade their pass defense, they are going to struggle in games against division rival New Orleans. Quarterback Drew Brees threw for 359 yards while tight end Jimmy Graham had 129 yards on eight receptions. Jenkins is a fabulous cover corner who could potentially be had at the top of the second round. That would allow the Panthers to acquire a long-term receiver for Cam Newton in the first round. Cornerback is a critical need on the Panthers� roster.
Arizona Cardinals: Donta' Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Cardinals� run defense was destroyed by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. He ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns. Arizona's linebackers haven't been the same since they lost Karlos Dansby. They badly wanted Von Miller a year ago, so the desire to find a stud linebacker is there. Hightower is a tough, hard-nosed run stuffer. He is very adept at taking on blocks, shedding the blocker and making a tackle. The Cardinals are without their second-round pick because of their trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Arizona could look at making a move up from the top of the third round to ensure they get Hightower in the second round.
This week's scouting report comes from Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Drake Nevis. He had some interesting comments about some of the draft prospects at LSU.
Nevis spoke with WalterFootball.com about his former LSU teammates including: cornerback Morris Claiborne and offensive tackle Alex Hurst.
The questions and comments from WalterFootball.com appear in italics. Nevis' quotes follow.
Talk about Morris Claiborne and the kind of guy he is away from football field.
"Mo was always a hard worker. He'd say quite a few words but he always came in and got the job done. He's fun to be around. He's serious about his approach, and he's a good person."
He looks like he has the ability to be a man or zone corner in the NFL. How does that fit with how they use him at LSU?
"Yeah he can fit anything because he is an athlete. Whatever they call him to do, he'll do his best to get the job done. "
Teams avoided Patrick Peterson last year and Claiborne seemed to hold up real well.
"He knew from day one that he had to cover his side of the field. It was up to him to hold his own, and he certainly did it."
Hurst has been impressive this season. How was battling him in practice?
"Oh man he is physical with good feet and good technique. He is fundamentally sound. There are a lot of first-rounders but Hurst is an underrated guy that plays as tough as they do."