Here is the 15th 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.
By Charlie Campbell.
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Suck For Luck:
Here are the standings for the race for the No. 1 overall pick to have the first shot at Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Indianapolis avoided a winless season with a 27-13 win over the Titans on Sunday. It looked like the Colts had locked up first place in the "Suck for Luck" standings until this win over Tennessee. This year, Indianapolis has played tight games with the Patriots, Steelers, Browns and Buccaneers.
While the Colts are the heavy favorite to select first, it is possible they won't land the No. 1 pick. Indianapolis plays a banged up Houston team next week, and even if the Colts drop that game, they could get their second win of the season in their season finale against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
The Vikings lost to the Saints 42-20, and are now 2-12 on the season. Throughout 2011, Minnesota has lost a lot of games late. The Vikings have a shot at getting a win before the end of the year. Minnesota has a winnable game against Washington, and with Chicago reeling, the Vikings could be in that game as well. Minnesota could finish 2-14 or 3-13 this season. The Vikings are pretty much a lock for a top-five pick next April, and if Indianapolis wins again, Minnesota could land the first-overall pick.
St. Louis Rams:
St. Louis fell to 2-12 on the season after losing by a touchdown to Cincinnati. The Rams had a one-point win over the Browns, and also shocked the Saints with a 31-21 in the middle of the fall. St. Louis has had a tough schedule to go along with a lot of injuries which have decimated their talent. The Rams are on their way to a top-five pick in the 2012 NFL Draft
The Rams plays the Steelers and the 49ers to end the season, so if the Colts and Vikings get wins, St. Louis has a shot at getting the first-overall pick.
The Browns fell to 4-10 on the season after losing to the Cardinals in overtime. A few weeks ago, Baltimore running back Ray Rice ran for over 200 yards against Cleveland. It has been an ugly year for the Browns. They lost to the Rams with narrow wins over the Jaguars, Seahawks and Dolphins. All three of those games could have been losses.
Cleveland is unlikely to win another game this year. They go to Baltimore before finishing the season at home against Pittsburgh. That spells 4-12.
The Jaguars were blown out 41-14 by Atlanta. It could have been even worse as the Falcons were completely dominant. A few days earlier, Jacksonville destroyed Tampa Bay 41-14. The Jaguars scored 41 unanswered points and forced seven turnovers after falling behind early.
In most games, the Jacksonville offense is painful to watch. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been awful, but he also doesn't have any quality wide receivers to help him. The Titans and the Colts are the Jaguars remaining opponents, so it is possible that Jacksonville could finish the season anywhere between 4-12 and 6-10.
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.
Dallas Cowboys: Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State
The Cowboys have seen offensive tackle Doug Free struggle late in the season. Dallas signed him to a lucrative extension, and probably should look hard at the secondary with their early picks.
A shoulder injury knocked Datko out for the 2011 season after playing four games. If he doesn't land a medical redshirt and enters the 2012 draft, Dallas could land this potential long-term left tackle in the third round.
The senior had some excellent seasons as a pass protector entering 2011. If Datko can stay healthy, he has the potential to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. Datko has a high ceiling and the Cowboys could bring him along gradually to replace Free.
Atlanta Falcons: Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor
The Falcons could use a young power running back to groom while veteran Michael Turner plays out another couple of seasons. Ganaway (6-0, 240) is a powerful downhill runner like Turner. Ganaway has some quickness to hit the hole before it closes and gets yards after contact. He is a bell cow back who would fit the Falcons offense well.
This season, Ganaway has averaged 5.9 yards per carry with 1,347 yards rushing with 16 touchdowns. Atlanta could look to get him in the third or fourth round.
Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
The Packers? pass rush was definitely a weak point against the Chiefs. Kansas City quarterback Kyle Orton had too much time to throw the ball against the Green Bay secondary, and the Chiefs did not allow a sack in the game.
The Packers have to find another edge rusher opposite Clay Matthews. Perry (6-3, 250) has the speed and athleticism to be a good fit in a 3-4 defense. He finished the 2011 season on a tear with 5.5 sacks in the last four games. For the season, Perry totaled 54 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He should be a candidate for Green Bay's first-round pick.
Kansas City Chiefs: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
The Chiefs could use a running back to replace aging veteran Thomas Jones. Next year, Jamaal Charles will be coming off an injury, and Kansas City could use a back who can pace their offense.
Martin has been that player for Boise State the past two years. He ran for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, and has gained 1,148 yards rushing with 15 scores this season. Martin (5-9, 208) is compactly built and moves the chains for the Broncos. He should be a mid-rounder for Kansas City.
Tennessee Titans: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
The Titans ran for only 66 yards against the Colts on Sunday. Chris Johnson was held to 55 yards on 15 carries, but he had one carry of 35 yards. Tennessee could use a better blocking presence on the inside of their offensive line. Zeitler is a road grader who has been Wisconsin's go-to lineman to run behind this season. He is powerful and mobile. Adding Zeitler would greatly improve the Titans run blocking up front.
Tennessee should consider him with their second-round pick.
Denver Broncos: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
The Broncos allowed Chad Ochocinco to get his first touchdown of the season. Tom Brady and the New England tight ends torched Denver. The Broncos had a bad game from a coverage standpoint, and the Patriots were running free through the secondary all game.
Minnifield (6-0, 185) is a quick and physical man corner who can match up well with receivers who have size and speed. This season, he has had tight coverage and teams have avoided throwing his direction. The senior has recorded eight pass breakups with three interceptions.
In 2010, Minnifield had six picks with four passes defensed. He looks like a pick in the second half of the first round.
Buffalo Bills: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Bills allowed Dolphins running back Reggie Bush to run for a career best 203 yards on 25 carries. All season, Buffalo has had a vulnerable run defense and terrible pass rush.
The Bills could look to add Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw with their first-round pick, and after that, they should consider trading up back into the first round to land Hightower. He is a tough in-the-box run stuffer.
This season, Hightower totaled 81 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, one interception and three sacks. He is a hard-nosed defender who would greatly improve the Buffalo run defense.
Minnesota Vikings: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
The Vikings? secondary got torched on Sunday as Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Minnesota has a lot of needs, but addressing the secondary will have to be done in the draft or in free agency.
Hayward could be an option for Minnesota. He is an underrated prospect who has recorded five interceptions, 54 tackles and nine passes broken up as a senior. Hayward had six interceptions in 2010. The Vikings could land this quality corner prospect on the second-day of the draft.
Team Draft Report:
In this section we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2012 NFL Draft.
At this point rather than trying to find a replacement for Tim Tebow, Broncos shot caller John Elway should make it a priority to find some weapons for Tebow next April. While Elway has been reluctant to embrace him as the franchise quarterback, Tebow has been a winner and the catalyst for Denver to make a run at winning the AFC West.
Tebow is improving as a passer, and presents matchup problems for defenses with his dual-threat nature. If the Broncos can give him more to work with, there is no reason why the team shouldn't be able to be a playoff threat for years to come.
Denver will have to find a good running back to pair with Tebow. Veteran Willis McGahee has played well this season, but he is not a long-term starter. There could be some good running backs available on the second day of the 2012 draft, and that would be quality value for the Broncos.
Another position that could use an upgrade is tight end. Daniel Fells is a quality tight end, but Denver lacks a real receiving threat. The Broncos could try and land Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen. He would be a big boost to their offense.
Tebow worked extremely well with the tight ends at Florida, and Denver?s rushing offense demands a lot of attention from the linebackers and safeties. That leaves defenses vulnerable to passes down the seam and a tight end like Allen would be a perfect to exploit the way defenses are playing the Broncos. Denver would have to trade up in the second round to land Allen.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos could use a tackle who is tough against the run and has the ability to collapse the pocket. If Penn State's Devon Still makes it to Denver?s first-round pick, it would be hard to pass on him. The Broncos also need help at cornerback with Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman nearing the end of their careers.
With wide out Eddie Royal entering free agency after the season, Denver could use some more help at wide receiver. Rather than spending another pick on a signal caller, the Broncos really should address other needs to build around their quarterback.
After losing on Sunday, Chicago looks like its postseason hopes are over. The Bears? season was killed by injuries to starting quarterback Jay Cutler and starting running back Matt Forte. With Atlanta and Detroit playing quality football, it will be tough for Chicago to wrestle a wild card spot away from those two teams over the next two weeks. Entering the offseason, the Bears are packed with question marks.
The Chicago offensive line will need to be addressed despite drafting offensive tackles with the team?s last two first-round picks. The Bears could use more linemen to upgrade their pass protection. Just as importantly, Chicago needs upgrades at wide receiver. Roy Williams has been a waste, and the Bears still in need of a No. 1 receiver.
Another concern for Chicago is the age of their defense. Defensive end Julius Peppers (31), middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (33), linebacker Lance Briggs (31), cornerback Charles Tillman (30) and defensive end Israel Idonije (31) are all getting older. Thus, the Bears will have to look at some youth for the front seven.
Fortunately for Chicago, the team has two third-rounders to help fill some needs. The Bears will have to make some calculated decisions. The offense needs some immediate help while the defense needs long-term pieces. Chicago's Super Bowl window with this defense is closing in the next year or two, so they could go for one heavy offensive draft in hopes of getting that unit up to the task of supporting their defense.
After that, the Bears will have to go heavy on defense in the coming years. It will be an interesting to watch what moves the organization makes this offseason to attempt to adequately reload for 2012.
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