Here is the ninth 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 could 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 9 action, here are the top contenders at this time.
The Colts maintain the lead in the "Suck for Luck" standings after losing at home to the Falcons. Previously, Indianapolis had played tight games with the Steelers, Browns and Buccaneers. The Colts were blown out by the Saints in an embarrassing loss. Right now, there is no certainty when Peyton Manning will return, but it looks like he will miss the entire season. Without him, the 0-9 Colts could be headed to a season with 0-3 wins and a strong possibility for the No. 1 pick.
The Miami Dolphins finally put it all together and routed the Kansas City Chiefs 31-3 on Sunday. They are now 1-7 on the season. After playing well but losing many games, the Miami finally was able to play a complete game on Sunday. Last week, the Dolphins played the Giants tough, and Miami was winning the whole game, but lost the lead midway through the fourth quarter. A few weeks ago, the Dolphins blew another lead as Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow made a second-half comeback to beat Miami at home.
Previously, the Dolphins have stayed "strong" in the Suck for Luck derby, having lost ("won?") "playoff games" to the Cleveland Browns and the Broncos. Miami has an added advantage in the race for the bottom in that they play in a tough division which should produce at least two playoff teams and a playoff contender. The Colts are in much weaker division, and that could help the Dolphins make a move for the first pick.
Miami finds ways to lose, and that matters in the Suck for Luck standings, thus they stay in second place. 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 St. Louis Rams fell to 1-7 after their overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals. A week ago, the Rams shocked the Saints with a 31-21 win. St. Louis has a tough schedule and 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.
Arizona needed a win badly and came through with an overtime win over St. Louis. Rookie Patrick Peterson returned a punt 99 yards in overtime for the winning score. Last week, the Cardinals had a big lead and blew it against the Baltimore Ravens. Arizona is now 2-6 on the season. They played competitively against the Steelers but lost. The Cardinals have lost to other bad teams in the Vikings and Seahawks. Arizona has some more winnable games on the schedule against the Browns and Seahawks. Thus, they could easily stay �behind� the Colts and Dolphins in the race-for-the-bottom standings.
The Cardinals would have a tough decision to make if they did land the first pick. The club 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. Getting their second win of the season will make it hard for Arizona to finish with less wins than the Colts, Dolphins or Rams.
Jacksonville was off this week. The Jaguars are 2-6 on the season. Jacksonville had a Week 1 win over Tennessee, and a shocking upset of the Ravens a few weeks ago. Otherwise 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 team 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.
Indianapolis Colts: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Colts defense hasn't been the same since injuries derailed the career of Bob Sanders. The former Defensive Player of the Year is on injured reserve for San Diego, and Indianapolis� defense is missing a player who can bring a presence to the back end as their safety. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones torched the Colts on Sunday. He had three receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
Barron would definitely bring that as he has superb instincts and makes big plays. Barron is a physical, tough run defender who can dish out some big hits downfield. He is excellent in run support and does a good job of covering tight ends and running backs on passing routes. Against LSU, Barron had an interception and big tackle on a short third down to force a punt. For the season, he has 44 tackles with four tackles for a loss, two interceptions and five passes broken up. The Colts could look to get him at the top of the second round.
New Orleans Saints: Barrett Jones, OT, Alabama
New Orleans would have to trade up a lot to land Jones, but he would be a good pickup for the team. Jones is an excellent run blocker who would help bring some consistency to the Saints� ability to run the ball. New Orleans sent a lot of extra help to left tackle Jermon Bushrod against rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Jones is a strong pass blocker who didn't need help against LSU's pack of speed rushers. He was a fabulous run blocker for current Saints� running back Mark Ingram. If New Orleans landed Jones, they could move Bushrod to right tackle.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
The Buccaneers� run defense has been one of the worst in the NFL since Monte Kiffin left after the 2008 season. That glaring weakness was once again exploited on Sunday, this time by the Saints. Tampa Bay needs a new Will (weakside) linebacker and have yet to adequately replace Derrick Brooks. Trevathan is a machine who is fifth in the nation in tackles. Thus far in 2011, he has 111 tackles with eight tackles for a loss and four interceptions this season. Trevathan would bring the Buccaneers a bigger and faster presence at Will linebacker.
Cleveland Browns: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Browns were dominated on the ground by the Houston Texans. Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate both went for over 100 yards, and three different Texans ran the ball in for scores. Cleveland needs an outside linebacker who can snuff out the run and fortify their front seven. Kuechly (6-3, 337) might be even better as a Will (weakside) linebacker in the NFL since he won't have to take on as many blocks as the middle linebacker. For the season, Kuechly has 150 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss and two interceptions. He led college football in tackles last year and is highly likely to do that again this year. Cleveland could land Kuechly with one of their first-rounders.
New York Giants: Ryan Miller, G, Colorado
The Giants� offensive line had its hands full with the Patriots� defensive line. Quarterback Eli Manning was hit often and did not have consistent time to throw the ball. New England has had issues rushing the passer this season, so that should cause New York a lot of concern considering the holding penalties and other problems they had in pass protection. Miller would be a good fit in New York�s offensive scheme. He is a tough run blocker who can push open holes while also getting to blocks on the second level. The athletic Miller (6-8, 310) is very quick and a natural pass blocker. The Giants have not drafted an offensive lineman in the first round under general manager Jerry Reese. They could get a good pick up in Miller in the second round.
New England Patriots: Robert Lester, S, Alabama
The Patriots have had a vulnerable pass defense this season and it was exploited again on Sunday. They could really use a safety who can match up on tight ends and defend the deep part of the field. Giants tight end Jake Ballard made some huge catches to lead New York�s comeback win. Lester can cover tight ends down the middle seam, and he does a good job of not letting offensive players get behind him to make plays downfield. Lester had an interception in the game against LSU and three tackles. For the season, he has 25 tackles with two interceptions and three passes broken up. Lester had eight interceptions last year. He is an intelligent free safety who also is a quality tackler. New England could look to add Lester in the second round.
San Diego Chargers: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Chargers need cornerback help. They joined the list of teams that have been torched by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers� aerial attack, but giving up pass plays have been an issue for San Diego this season. Cornerback Antoine Cason has had issues this season, and cornerback Quentin Jammer is on the wrong side of 30. San Diego could use a young corner with man coverage skills to pair with Marcus Gilchrist. Jenkins was a fabulous man cover corner at Florida. He did very well in his games against A.J. Green and Alshon Jeffery. Jenkins could go to the Chargers late in the first round.
Green Bay Packers: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
The Packers� secondary has also allowed some big games this season. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had four touchdown passes, with three going to Vincent Jackson. Green Bay could use an injection of youth for their cornerbacks. Minnifield would be a great fit for the Packers. He is a strong man corner who also is a good run defender. This season, Minnifield has 37 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and six passes broken up. He has good cover skills and that causes teams to throw away from his receivers.
This week's scouting report comes from Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. He had some interesting comments about some of the draft prospects at Oklahoma.
McCoy spoke with WalterFootball.com about his former Oklahoma teammates: defensive end Frank Alexander and linebacker Travis Lewis.
The questions and comments from WalterFootball.com appear in italics. McCoy's quotes follow.
Alexander is having a great season. He really has become a force this year.
"He wants to be great so bad. I don't think it showed early on, but he is a prototype rush end. He's 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6; 250 or 260. He can run. He gives you everything you want and is a good rush end. One thing I would talk to Frank about is to never be satisfied. It isn't going to be easy to get to where you want to be, but you have work at it and work at it, but you'll get there."
With his motor and the way he plays for four quarters, it looks like he has taken your words to heart.
"He has relentless effort. He wants it so bad. He really does."
He had excellent games against Florida State and Texas. What kind of scheme do you think would be a good fit for him?
"He should be a 4-3 end. He could play a 3-4, that is kind of what they are doing now, but he'd be a better 4-3 end."
Travis Lewis played behind you for two years and he really seemed to take advantage of the disruption that you caused, so you can tell from that he is a smart player?
"Yeah, but I won't take credit for anything. Travis Lewis is a great player. He is a ballhawk. He knows how to spot the ball, and that is what he excels at."
He's been in a 4-3, do you think he could play inside in a 3-4?
"No he's a 4-3 guy. He is a Will, and he's a big Will. He's pretty fast. He could be a Sam. He could be all over, but definitely an outside linebacker."