Here is the seventh 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 7 action, here are the top contenders at this time.
Miami stays in first place in the "Suck for Luck" race after falling to 0-6 on the season. Miami blew another lead as the Broncos as Denver quarterback Tim Tebow made a second-half comeback to beat the Dolphins at home. So far, Miami has stayed "strong" in the Suck for Luck derby, having lost ("won?") "playoff games" to the Cleveland Browns and now to the Broncos. The Dolphins have an added advantage in the race for the bottom in that they play in a tough division that should produce at least two playoff teams and a playoff contender.
Beyond that, Miami finds ways to lose, and that matters in the Suck for Luck standings. 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 was blown out in a loss to the New Orleans Saints to fall to 0-7 on the season. Previously, the Colts had played tight games with the Steelers, Browns and Buccaneers. Right now, there is no certainty when Peyton Manning will return, but he could miss the entire season. Without him, the 0-7 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 0-6. They've had a tough schedule with a lot of injuries which 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. All St. Louis has is 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 Jaguars are 1-5 on the season and are likely to fall to 1-6 later tonight when they host the Ravens. 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.
The Vikings were dropped by the Packers to fall to 1-6 on the season. In each of the first three games of the year, the team blew big leads, and that played out again as Green Bay was down in the first half before taking over the game in the second half. 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. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder is starting, and that could lead to more losses as he takes his lumps at the NFL level.
The problem for Minnesota having the first-overall pick is they spent a first-rounder on Ponder last April. Fortunately for Minnesota, they have Adrian Peterson and some other good players, so they could pull out a few more wins. Considering they've been close to winning four of their losses this season, it wouldn't be surprising if worse teams stay in front of them in the Suck for Luck standings.
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.
Chicago Bears: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
When the the Bears weren't running the ball, Chicago's offensive tackles were playing on their heels. Buccaneers defensive ends Adrian Clayborn, Michael Bennett and Da'Quan Bowers were getting consistent pressure on Jay Cutler. Chicago could really use an offensive tackle to pair with Gabe Carimi. Reiff could be available in the range where the Bears could be picking. He is athletic, strong and experienced. Reiff would be a good lineman for Mike Tice to work with, and Reiff could form a good book end with Carimi. Each player could have the ability to play on either side, and that could allow Chicago to find the most effective manner to deploy their linemen.
Tennessee Titans: Sean Spence, LB, Miami
The Titans badly need a linebacker who can matchup against a quality ball carrier. Texans running back Arian Foster torched the Titans defense on the ground and as a receiver. Spence had a fabulous game against Georgia Tech this weekend. He was all over the field with 10 tackles and a tackle for a loss. Spence (6-0, 225) has fabulous sideline-to-sideline speed that allows him to defend perimeter runs and receivers out of the backfield. That is a critical need for the Titans, and they could land Spence on the second day of the draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M
Tampa Bay lost running back/fullback Earnest Graham to a significant knee injury against the Bears. With LeGarrette Blount already out, the Buccaneers have basically no running game. It has become apparent this season that Tampa Bay's offense needs a smaller, change-of-pace back to pair with Blount. Gray has run for 646 yards (4.8) and seven touchdowns this season with 16 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown. Last year, he ran for 1,133 yards and 12 touchdowns. Gray (5-10, 200) would fit the Buccaneers� offense well, and Tampa Bay could land him on the second day of the draft, so they can address their cornerback or linebacker positions earlier.
Seattle Seahawks: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Seahawks lost 6-3 to the Browns on Saturday. That is strikingly bad. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst completed only 12-of-30 passes for 97 yards and one interception. Seattle clearly needs a franchise quarterback. Pete Carroll would be thrilled to get back his final college quarterback. The junior signal caller played an excellent game against Notre Dame last Saturday in leading his Trojans to a road win. Barkley has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,006 yards with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions thus far in 2011. Seattle has won enough that other teams have a better shot at getting Andrew Luck. Barkley would be a nice consolation prize for Seattle.
Arizona Cardinals: Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
The Cardinals are still missing Anquan Boldin. Superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald needs help on the other side from him, and has stated that he misses Boldin greatly. Arizona could stay in state and look to the second day of the draft to hopefully have a shot at Criner, although he is playing well and may not make it to the Cardinals third-round pick. Criner destroyed UCLA this week with 10 receptions for 101 yards and three touchdowns. He is big receiver with some speed. Criner would be a good possession receiver to exploit teams devoting extra attention to Fitzgerald. For the season, Criner has 36 receptions for 441 yards and six touchdowns.
Green Bay Packers: Vinny Curry, OLB, Marshall
The Packers� pass defense has had some issues this year dating back to the preseason. The Vikings got a big game by Michael Jenkins against Green Bay on Sunday. One way to help their secondary would be to add another pass rusher on the other side from Clay Matthews. Curry would be a perfect fit in a 3-4 defense. He has excellent speed off the edge and chases down quarterbacks in an instant. Curry is a mismatch for a lot of offensive tackles, and requires extra attention.
Thus far in 2011, Curry has 45 tackles with 17 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. Last year, he had 12 sacks with 94 tackles and 18 tackles for a loss. Curry could be an option for Green Bay in round two.
Minnesota Vikings: Ryan Miller, G, Colorado
The Vikings need some interior line help. Minnesota has offensive-line issues at left tackle as well. They could look to upgrade their line early and often in the 2012 draft. Getting Miller in the third round would be a good value. He would provide an excellent run blocker for Adrian Peterson, and would improve their pass protection. Landing Miller in the third round would allow them to get a franchise left tackle with their first pick, and address another need, like a wide receiver in the second round.
This week's scouting report comes from New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram. He had some interesting comments about some of the draft prospects at Alabama.
Ingram spoke with WalterFootball.com about his former Alabama teammates including: running back Trent Richardson, offensive tackle Barrett Jones and center William Vlachos.
The questions and comments from WalterFootball.com appear in italics. Ingram's quotes follow.
Trent is having a great season and picking up where you left off. You know him well off the field and have seen him develop into a dominant running back.
"He is a special player. What separates him this year is he's become a better student of the game. He knows a lot about blitz protection, what the line is doing, how to press the hole, putting defenders on the blockers. He's always had that ability to run through people, make people miss, run away from guys, that's all God-given talent. What's separated himself this [sic] is he's a better student of the game. That's the difference. "
You had Barrett Jones blocking for you at guard. Now he is at left tackle. Do you think that left tackle is a good fit for him in the NFL?
"Barrett is a smart guy. He can adjust to wherever you want to put him. He'll pick up schemes, and he'll know the different positions quick [sic]. He has great physical ability as well, so wherever he plays I think he'll be a great fit and put two-and-two together."
William Vlachos had a lot of success blocking for you and now he is keeping it going for Trent.
"He's been blocking well for us since he got there. Vlachos has blocked for three 1,000-yard rushers. Glenn [Coffee] ran for 1,000. I ran for 1,000 and now Trent is about to run for 1,000. Any time you have blocked for three 1,000-yard rushers that says a lot about him."
Which of the defensive guys stood out to you as guys who can come into the NFL and have success?
"Really, the whole defense. All 11 guys I think will have the opportunity to play at the next level. It is very rare that you find 11 guys like that; all 11 guys are NFL players on a college defense. That says a lot about Coach Saban and how he recruits and coaches those guys up. They go out there and make plays. "
I'm sure they were tough to go against in practice.
"It was a headache going against them in the spring, especially in the one-on-ones. They're great."