Here is the 19th 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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Let's Play Matchmaker:
This section will look at some of the top talent in college football and match those prospects up with the losing teams from the divisional round.
New Orleans Saints: Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska
The Saints' linebackers were shaky throughout 2011, and the 49ers abused them on Saturday with tight end Vernon Davis. The big tight end caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including a 49-yarder and the game-winning score from 14 yards out. New Orleans linebackers had no answer for Davis while running back Frank Gore averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Drafting a linebacker who can help defend tight ends and stop the run would be a good addition for the Saints' defense.
David is excellent at covering tight ends in routes downfield. He has special speed and agility to blanket them in and out of breaks. Nebraska often had David cover tight ends one-on-one, and he excelled at not allowing separation. In the ground game, David is a tackling machine who recorded 133 tackles in 2011 and 152 tackles as a junior. He also produces game-changing splash plays. As a senior, David had 12 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. The Saints could target him in the second round.
Denver Broncos: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
The interior of the Broncos' defensive line was completely ineffective against the Patriots. Tom Brady saw little pressure up the middle and was able to step up in the pocket when he needed. Adding a playmaker on the inside of Denver's line would make edge rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller even more effective. A presence to push straight ahead would take away the room to step up and avoid Dumervil or Miller.
Still would be the best option in the 2012 draft to fill that role for the Broncos. In 2011, he totaled 55 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Still was a load at the line of scrimmage who beat offensive linemen with power and speed. Denver may have to trade up in the first round to land him.
Houston Texans: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
The Texans played the Ravens tough, and were just a little bit of offense away from defeating Baltimore. Outside of Andre Johnson, no Houston receiver had more than two receptions. The Texans could use another receiver to take advantage of defenses bringing safeties up to defend the run and double-team Johnson. This year, he turns 31, so adding a young receiver would be a good idea.
In order for Houston to land Sanu, the team would have to use its first-round pick on him. In 2011, he caught 115 passes for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Sanu has a special combination of speed and size. He has reliable hands with excellent body control. Sanu is a tough receiver who picks up good yards after the catch. He would be a nice fit in the Texans offense and an ideal complement to Johnson.
Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
The Packers were torched by Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and one of the biggest reasons was Green Bay's lack of pass rush. In the fourth quarter, Manning had a clean jersey as he rifled the ball down the field and into openings in the Packers secondary. Green Bay needs help at safety and corner, but the lack of pass rush has been a killer all season. Finding an edge rusher with the team's first-round pick could be a necessity in the offseason.
In 2011, Perry was a pass-rushing force for the Trojans. The redshirt junior recorded 9.5 sacks with 13 tackles for a loss. Perry has a nice repertoire of pass-rushing moves with the athleticism to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. He also is a quality run defender with 54 tackles on the season. In his freshman and sophomore season, Perry totaled 12 sacks. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder could be an immediate upgrade to the Packers' pass rush.
Let's Play Coaching Matchmaker:
This section will look at some of the available head coaching and coordinator positions and who could be a good fit for a given position.
St. Louis Rams: Brian Schottenheimer
New head coach Jeff Fisher will have a critical hire to make at offensive coordinator. The Rams need a coordinator who can develop franchise quarterback Sam Bradford. A coach who has a lot of experience in protecting a young quarterback is Schottenheimer. For years, he has had to guard Mark Sanchez from himself. While Schottenheimer didn't set the league on fire, he got enough out of Sanchez to make some post-season runs. Bradford would execute the offense better than Sanchez, and Schottenheimer would bring a solid ground scheme for running back Steven Jackson.
Kansas City Chiefs: Hue Jackson
Kansas City needs to find an offensive coordinator who can handle a murky quarterback situation. The Chiefs will have veteran Matt Cassel returning next season, and allegedly would like to re-sign Kyle Orton. In Oakland, the Raiders improved with Jackson from where they were previously. Jason Campbell and Carson Palmer weren't All-Pro quarterbacks by any means, but the Raiders had more success under Jackson than before he arrived. Jackson knows the division's defenses well from coaching in Oakland, so that would give him a schematic head start over other coordinator candidates. Jackson will be highly motivated to get Kansas City's offense humming after getting fired by Oakland.
Oakland Raiders: Joe Philbin
The Packers' offensive coordinator Philbin is a veteran coach who has helped scheme one of the top scoring machines in the NFL. The Green Bay offensive system would looks good in Oakland with its stable of running backs and receivers. Darren McFadden, Darius Heyward-Bey, Michael Bush and Denarius Moore would all benefit from playing in that system. Philbin would have some veteran quarterbacks to work with, and would be a good coach to develop Terrelle Pryor. Philbin is ready to be a head coach.
Miami Dolphins: Todd Bowles
With Fisher in St. Louis, Miami is probably better off going with Bowles. Mike Zimmer could be a good choice, but he may not be an improvement over Bowles, who is extremely popular in the locker room. The Dolphins responded to him when he was made the head coach to finish out the season. Bowles is a young, promising coach who has already earned the respect of the of his veterans. If Miami is looking for a young Don Shula, Bowles would be closer to that than the older Zimmer. Making a decision on a head coach soon would be in the best interest of the Dolphins as other teams with new coaches have a head start on landing the top coordinator candidates.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Zimmer
Like Miami, the longer Tampa Bay takes to hire a head coach the greater the odds of the teams missing out on top assistant coaches. Zimmer is ready to be a head coach. He has done an excellent job as the defensive coordinator with Cincinnati, and has gotten young defenders to play well quickly. That skill set is a dire need for the Buccaneers as their defense features a lot of high-draft picks, but remains one of the worst units in the NFL. Zimmer has been around the coaching community long enough to know some good offensive coordinator candidates to help rectify Josh Freeman. Zimmer is a disciplinarian, and that stringency is needed in Tampa Bay's locker room.
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