Here is the eighth 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 8 action, here are the top contenders at this time.
It is starting to get ugly for the Colts, and they take the lead in the "Suck for Luck" standings. They fell behind by a lot and ended up losing 27-10 to the Titans. Last week, Indianapolis was blown out in a loss to the New Orleans Saints. 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 0-8 Colts could be headed to a season with 0-3 wins and a strong possibility for the No. 1 pick.
Miami was in first place in the "Suck for Luck" race, but fall to second place after playing the Giants tough. The Dolphins were winning the whole game but lost the lead midway through the fourth quarter, and are now 0-7 on the season. A week ago, Miami blew another lead as Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow made a second-half comeback to beat Miami 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.
St. Louis Rams:
The Rams shocked the Saints with 31-21 win on Sunday. St. Louis is now 1-6. 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. Bradford looks like he will be a good pro quarterback. Bradford and running back Steven Jackson should be enough to get the Rams enough wins to avoid the first-overall pick.
The Cardinals had a big lead and blew it against the Baltimore Ravens. Arizona is now 1-6 on the season. They played competitively against the Steelers a week ago, but lost. Arizona has lost to other bad teams in the Vikings and Seahawks. The Cardinals have some winnable games on the schedule against the Rams, Browns and Seahawks. Thus, they could easily stay behind the Colts and Dolphins in these race-for-the-bottom standings.
Arizona would have a tough decision to make if they did land the first pick. They paid a big price for Kevin Kolb, and that might force them to look at trading the pick for a huge haul of draft picks.
The Jaguars are 2-6 on the season after being dropped by the Houston Texans. Jacksonville had a Week 1 win over Tennessee, and a shocking upset of the Ravens last week.
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.
Baltimore Ravens: Nate Potter, OT, Boise State
Perhaps Baltimore should consider executing a trade like the Falcons made last year to go up and get Julio Jones. If the Ravens did that, they could target a tackle like Stanford's Jonathan Martin. Where Baltimore is likely to be picking it is going to be hard to find a franchise left tackle. The Ravens clearly need one, which was evident against the Cardinals on Sunday. Bryant McKinnie gave up a sack-fumble to O'Brien Schofield, and McKinnie gave no effort to recover the fumble.
Potter has been a superb pass protector for Kellen Moore. He is a better pass blocker than run blocker at this point. The 6-6-foot, 295-pounder looks like a second-round pick who the Ravens could target. Potter could use some development at the NFL level but he has the potential to possibly solve the Ravens issues at left tackle.
New York Giants: Matt Reynolds, OT, BYU
The Giants need some help at right tackle. The Dolphins were able to get pressure on Manning, and that limited New York's offense at times. Veteran Kareem McKenzie is 32, and he was really struggling with the Dolphins� outside linebackers. Reynolds (6-6, 325) is a solid pass protector who should be a good fit at right tackle. The Giants have avoided drafting an offensive lineman in the first round under Jerry Reese. They could land Reynolds on the second day of the draft, and he would be a good upgrade at right tackle.
New Orleans Saints: Sean Spence, LB, Miami
The Saints were shocked by the Rams on Sunday. St. Louis running back Steven Jackson had a dominant performance with 159 yards rushing on 25 carries with two touchdowns. He ran all over New Orleans, and the Saints front seven were dominated. The Saints need some help in their linebacking corps. Their outside linebackers haven't been anything special this season.
Landing a linebacker like Spence in the second round could help address the issue. He has sideline-to-sideline speed to run down ball carriers to go along with good instincts. Plus, Spence is always around the ball, and he is a good blitzer who would be a good fit for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Spence idolizes and tries to pattern his game after Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, a fellow Hurricane. Spence going to New Orleans would be a perfect match.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The Jaguars have to get some weapons for quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Against Houston, they were led in receiving by tight end Marcedes Lewis with four catches for 45 yards. Wide receiver Mike Thomas had three catches for 24 yards and was their most productive wide out against the Texans. Jeffery would give Gabbert a reliable receiver who could be a strong possession receiver. Jeffery (6-4, 220) has the size and speed to be a good chain mover for the Jaguars. He would be a needed red-zone weapon as well. Jeffery is underused at South Carolina because of terrible quarterback play, but he has the skill set to be a leading receiver in the NFL.
Denver Broncos: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Broncos need cornerback help. Champ Bailey is still playing well, but he won't play forever. Andre' Goodman is 33, and he had a bad coverage lapse but that led to a 41-yard touchdown for the Lions. Claiborne is a dynamic playmaker. He is a very good cover corner who has good ball skills. Claiborne is adept at making tough catches and contorting his body to get in position to break up passes. Plus, he plays well in zone and is a fabulous man corner. Claiborne and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick are neck-and-neck to be the top cornerbacks in the 2011 draft class. Either one would be a good fit in Denver.
Cleveland Browns: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
The Browns� offense needs a quarterback who can consistently move the ball through the air and work the ball downfield. Quarterback Colt McCoy is showing thus far that he really isn't up to the task. Last year as the Rams offensive coordinator, Browns head coach Pat Shurmur had success with a pocket-passing quarterback who was an Oklahoma product in Sam Bradford. Current Sooners quarterback Landry Jones could fit Shurmur's offense well. Jones is having a massive junior season. He has completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,094 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The big-armed Jones could lead a powerful aerial attack for Cleveland.
Cincinnati Bengals: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Every week this could be a good match, and the Bengals showed that again when they were led on the ground by Bernard Scott. He totaled only 77 yards on 20 carries. They clearly need a running back to pair with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. There would be no better choice than Richardson. Thus far in 2011, he has run for 989 yards and 17 touchdowns. Richardson is a franchise bell-cow running back who combines ideal size with good speed. He is the complete package who beats defenders by running through them, running by them and shaking them with moves and cuts. The Bengals would probably have to trade up to get Richardson in the first round, but they have the resources to do it.
Washington Redskins: Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina
The Redskins could use a No. 1 wide receiver for the long-term. Outside of tight end Fred Davis, the Redskins couldn't find a dependable passing weapon against Buffalo. They spent a few late-round picks on receivers last year after getting Leonard Hankerson in the third round, so they've made an effort to build the receiving corps from the bottom up. Santana Moss won't play forever, and Jabar Gaffney is a journeyman. General manager Bruce Allen has an inclination to draft receivers highly as well. Jones is an underrated receiver who has good speed with big size. Thus far in 2011, he has 54 receptions for 841 yards and eight touchdowns. The Redskins could potentially get Jones in the second round and address their defense or quarterback position in round one.
This week's scouting report comes from Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn. He had some interesting comments about some of the draft prospects at Iowa.
Clayborn spoke with WalterFootball.com about his former Iowa teammates including: left tackle Riley Reiff, wide receiver Marvin McNutt, cornerback Shaun Prater and cornerback Micah Hyde.
The questions and comments from WalterFootball.com appear in italics. Clayborn's quotes follow.
A few days before the draft, and then again right after the draft, you spoke to me about how Riley Reiff prepared you for the NFL. Now that you've gone against some left tackles in regular season games, how does Riley compare?
"He is a great left tackle. He knows what guys are going to try and do to him. He's strong. He just knows how to play. He's a football player. "
Would you say that his pass blocking or run blocking is further ahead as he enters the NFL?
"I think he can do both equally well. That's what they teach us to do at Iowa is [sic] to be balanced and not be focused on one thing."
You've already played some quality left tackles to start your career. Do you think he can stay at left tackle or do you think he should move to the right side?
"That's up to the scouts, but I think he is definitely good enough to play at this level. That's for sure."
I've been real impressed with Prater and Hyde this season. How are those guys on the practice field?
"They are really athletic. They are also really smart. When they get their shot they're going to be good."
It looks to me that they play more zone than man. Has that been the case the past few years?
"We did a lot of zone, a lot of bend but don't break. Those guys are real athletic and they can play man if they have to."
Another guy I like a lot is McNutt. He seems very underrated. I think he if played on a passing team more people would notice him.
"Whatever team gets McNutt is going to be getting a star in the making. He's athletic. He can catch, and he really grasps the position. He'll be really good."