Here is the third edition of the Monday Morning Draft - a column that delves into the past weekend's action from a 2013 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.
There will be a lot of turnover as the season progresses in the positioning of which team will land the No. 1-overall pick to have the first shot at USC quarterback Matt Barkley. Here are the top contenders following the Week 3 action.
The Browns were dropped to 0-3 after losing to Buffalo. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden couldn't get Cleveland's offense moving with the Bills selling out to stop Trent Richardson on the ground. The Browns defense allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw three touchdown passes.
Previously Cleveland played close games in the other two contests, but were unable to get wins over the Eagles or Bengals.
The Browns have that intangible of a "loser instinct." They find ways to get a loss when victory is possible and therefore, remain the favorite for the No. 1 pick.
New Orleans Saints:
The Saints lost at home in overtime to the Chiefs and fall to 0-3. All offseason I thought New Orleans would have a bad year because of the Bountygate turmoil. Then I listened to the training camp propaganda that they were the same old Saints. Clearly that isn't the case. New Orleans' offense isn't what it used to be without head coach Sean Payton and the defense is ineffective.
To illustrate how off the Saints are, their three losses have come against teams with losing records. Washington, Carolina and Kansas City are all 1-2. It looks like it will be a long year in New Orleans.
The Jaguars stole a win from the Colts with a last-minute 80-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts. That one play accounted for over half of Gabbert's passing yards, but it was enough for Jacksonville to get its first win under new head coach Mike Mularkey.
The team didn't put up much of a fight last week as Houston cruised to a win. The Texans' defense suffocated the Jaguars and Houston's ground game controlled the ball.
Jacksonville doesn't have enough talent around Gabbert. The team's offensive line and receiving corps are overmatched. The Jaguars have a terrible secondary on the other side of the ball, too. They just doesn't have the talent on their roster to avoid a top-10 pick.
The Raiders pulled off a shocking win at home against Pittsburgh, and Oakland improved to 1-2. What made the upset even more shocking was taken in the context of last week when the Raiders was blown out by Miami. That was an embarrassingly bad performance as the Dolphins couldn't play competitive football against the Texans in the season opener. Oakland won the shootout over Pittsburgh thanks to three touchdown passes from Carson Palmer and a good game from Darren McFadden.
The Raiders should enjoy this win, but they still look likely to have a double-digit loss season.
The Colts lost to a bad Jaguars team in a winnable game at home. Indianapolis has an obviously young offense, but the team's defense is what lands it a spot in the bottom five of the league. Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 177 yards on 28 carries including a 59-yard touchdown jaunt. Gabbert's touchdown in the final minute was a horrible coverage breakdown.
The Colts are lacking a play-maker in their front seven, and their safeties remain a weakness, too. Indianapolis plays Green Bay next, but after that the Colts have an easy schedule. They should improve as the season progresses.
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.
Carolina Panthers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Panthers' offensive line wasn't up to the task of blocking the New York Giants, and this was the second time in three games that Carolina's offensive line had an ugly performance. The line struggled in Week 1 with Tampa Bay, but the Giants completely overwhelmed the Panthers' line on Thursday night. Carolina could use help at guard and tackle in the long term.
Matthews is a dominant blocker for the Aggies. Having him in front of the Panthers' stable of running backs would help fortify the team's ground game. He would also provide good protection for Cam Newton. Carolina could start Matthews out at right tackle and move Byron Bell to the inside.
Matthews could develop into a left tackle after some time in the league and replace Jordan Gross. The veteran will have to be replaced in the next year or two, and Matthews would be starting at left tackle at just about any other collegiate team in the country.
Detroit Lions: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
The Lions gave up a long, ugly touchdown to Titans tight end Jared Cook and that play epitomized Detroit's weak safety play. Cook got open and had one safety knock off another defender. The Lions have to find a safety to pair with the oft-injured Louis Delmas. Detroit could use a safety with the ability to play man on tight ends and defend the deep part of the field against receivers.
Jefferson had a superb game last Saturday against Kansas State with 14 tackles. He was one of the few Sooners players who performed up to his potential against the Wildcats. Jefferson has played four quarters in two games, but he had double-digit tackles in each outing. The Lions would upgrade their secondary by landing the junior.
Dallas Cowboys: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
The Cowboys' offensive line was destroyed by Tampa Bay. Right tackle Doug Free was dominated by Bucs defensive end Michael Bennett while the interior of the line was owned by Gerald McCoy. They each had multiple sacks with some violent hits on Tony Romo. It was surprising that he withstood the beating. Dallas must upgrade its line outside of left tackle Tyron Smith.
Jones is the best interior linemen in college football, and he would be an immediate upgrade for the Cowboys. Dallas could start Jones at guard or center in order to immediately improve its line. The Cowboys' 2012 season could be sunk by the weakness of their offensive line.
Washington Redskins: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Redskins have to upgrade their defensive backs, and it will be harder for them to address that hole without a first-round pick. Washington is fortunate this is a strong safety draft, so the team could find a good one in the second round. Vaccaro would be a nice value on the second day.
Vaccaro has 17 tackles and one interception this season. He has good size to defend the run and the speed to cover a lot of ground in the deep part of the field. If the Redskins could land Vaccaro, he would be a quick upgrade to their deep middle.
Denver Broncos: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Broncos signed Tracy Porter to a one-year prove it contract, and his performance against Houston was proof that Denver should think of him as a single-season stopgap. Porter was burned for long touchdowns by Andre Johnson and Eric Decker on Sunday. The Broncos need cornerback help especially when you factor in the age of Champ Bailey.
Milliner is one of the best man-cover corners in college football and would fit Denver's defense well. He could give the Broncos' pass-rushers an extra second to chase down the quarterback via his ability to prevent separation guarding wide outs. Milliner has 10 tackles, five passes broken up and an interception this year. There will be a lot of teams that target him next April, and Denver would be fortunate to land him.
Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Colts' defense needs a difference-maker on the defensive line. Chuck Pagano needs a lineman like Haloti Ngata to make his system work. Hankins is a real presence against the run and the pass. Hankins has registered an astounding 20 tackles in the past two games, with an even 10 stops in each game.
Hankins would fit a 3-4 defense well with his versatility. He could play nose tackle or end in a 3-4. Hankins has totaled 25 tackles and a sack through four games this season. He would fill a huge void for a disruptive defender on the line scrimmage.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Steelers have an aging secondary that could use a young play-maker. Carson Palmer threw three touchdown passes, and Pittsburgh's defense allowed Oakland to score the final 13 points for a comeback win.
Banks would be a good defender in the Steelers' scheme. He is big, physical and can take the ball away. The senior has 15 career interceptions and has the ability to take advantage of a pass rush to produce turnovers. Banks has totaled 15 tackles and three interceptions through four games this year. He would make a lot of sense as Pittsburgh's first-round pick.
Team Draft Report:
In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2013 NFL Draft.
It is pretty safe to say at this point that Carolina is still deep in the rebuilding process and is not ready to challenge for the postseason. The Panthers are 1-2 and have showed that they have a plethora of needs on their roster.
Carolina's offensive line is a massive weakness. Its run blocking has left a lot to be desired and quarterback Cam Newton has had way too much pressure; guard Geoff Hangartner needs to be replaced. The Panthers could use an upgrade over right tackle Byron Bell and left tackle Jordan Gross is on the wrong side of 30. The team need to put find some young offensive tackles to protect Cam Newton over the long term.
The interior of the defensive line needs work, too. Carolina has to get a tackle who can cause some disruption and occupy blockers to free up the Panthers edge-rushers and linebackers. The team could also uses help in the defensive backfield.
Carolina will be without its third-round pick following the trade for defensive end Frank Alexander, and that hurts the team's efforts to rebuild. The Panthers have a lot of needs and not a lot of picks. It may best if they trade down in the first round to get another second-day pick in order to develop more resources to fill their needs.
New York Jets:
The Jets were lucky to beat the Dolphins in overtime, and that victory came despite the inept quarterback play of Mark Sanchez. The fourth-year signal-caller continues to prove that he is not starter caliber in the NFL. He was 21-of-45 for 306 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against Miami. Despite his shoddy play the last two weeks, the Jets have not used their offensive package with Tim Tebow. That indicates that New York's coaching staff dosn't believe in Tebow as a point-producer.
Considering that Sanchez stinks, and the coaches aren't turning to Tebow, the Jets have to consider finding a new starting quarterback next offseason. Sanchez is not making improvements or elevating his game even though he is in his fourth season. Sanchez constantly makes bad decisions and struggles to produce points. New York looks like it will be picking in the middle of the first round, and the team will have to consider signal-caller prospects like Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and West Virginia's Geno Smith.
The Jets have other glaring needs like right tackle, outside linebacker, safety and running back. New York needs some serious talent upgrades on both sides of the ball. It all starts at quarterback, so solving that issue takes priority. Right now, the extension for Sanchez and the trade for Tebow look like poor usage of resources.