Here is the fourth 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 or West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Here are the top contenders following the Week 4 action.
The Browns were dropped to 0-4 after playing tough but losing to Baltimore. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden played well and got Cleveland's offense moving. Dropped passes killed what could've been a big night for Weeden. Running back Trent Richardson played well also.
The Browns previously played close games in two other contests, but were unable to get wins over the Eagles, Bengals or Bills.
Cleveland has that intangible of a "loser instinct." The team 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 on the road to the Packers by one point and fell to 0-4. 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 is missing suspended head coach Sean Payton and the defense is consistently ineffective. It looks like it will be a long year for the Saints.
The Raiders pulled off a shocking win at home against Pittsburgh last week, but got rolled by Denver this week on on the road. Oakland fell to 1-3 on the season. The Raiders had a Monday Night long-snapper fiasco against the Chargers earlier in the year and were also blown out by the Dolphins.
The previous regime traded for Carson Palmer and drafted Terrelle Pryor. New general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen won't hesitate to start their rebuilding process with a franchise quarterback. Oakland looks likely to have a double-digit loss season.
The Jaguars fell to 1-3 as the Bengals had an easy road win in Jacksonville. The Jaguars' offense was completely ineffective at protecting Blaine Gabbert, who was sacked six times. Jacksonville couldn't establish a consistent passing or rushing offense against Cincinnati.
The Jaguars stole a win from the Colts last week with a last-minute 80-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to Cecil Shorts. That one play accounted for over half of Gabbert's passing yards.
Jacksonville doesn't have enough talent around its signal-caller, while 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 Colts had a bye on Sunday. They lost a week ago 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 as well. 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.
New York Jets: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The Jets wide receivers were completely ineffective against San Francisco. Santonio Holmes was injured, but wasn't making plays before he was hurt. Chaz Schilens led New York in receiving with three receptions for 45 yards. If the Jets stick with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, they have to upgrade the receiving corps to try and salvage Sanchez's career.
Hopkins has been on tear in 2012. The junior has totaled 42 catches for 604 yards and six touchdowns through five games. He had 72 receptions for 978 yards and five scores last year. Hopkins has the speed to stretch defenses vertically and is capable of ripping off a long gain on any short reception. He would be a nice complement on the other side to a big receiver like Stephen Hill if New York decides to move on from Santonio Holmes.
New England Patriots: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Patriots' interior offensive line struggled in the first half against the Bills dynamic tackle tandem of Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams. The duo pressured Brady and recorded multiple sacks. New England was playing without Logan Mankins, but the Patriots need more talent in front of their franchise quarterback. Plus, Mankins is no spring chicken, so New England could use some talented youth.
Warmack is the top draft-eligible guard, so the Patriots would be fortunate to land him in the 20s. Warmack is a road-grader as a run-blocker who blasts open holes on a constant basis. He is a good pass-protector with the upside to be as good a pass-blocker as a run-blocker. With good coaching, Warmack could be a perennial Pro Bowler at guard.
Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Matt Cassel's ineptness allowed the Chargers to jump out to a massive lead on the Chiefs. San Diego cruised to a 37-20 win over Kansas City. Cassel finished 24-of-42 for 251 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He clearly needs to be replaced after this season.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Smith has a good arm, great mobility, good field vision and intelligence. He had one of the most prolific games in college football history last Saturday against Baylor, completing 45-of-51 for 656 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. Smith has completed 83 percent of his passes this season for 1,728 yards, 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Panthers were gashed up the middle by washed up Falcons running back Michael Turner. He totaled 103 yards on only 13 carries plus three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. Carolina's interior defensive line continues to be a huge liability.
Hankins is one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in college football. He led the way for the Buckeyes to hold Spartans running back Le'Veon Bell to only 45 yards on 17 carries. Hankins has 28 tackles and a sack this year. He has had more pass rush than the numbers indicate. Hankins (6-3, 322) is very good at crashing the pocket. The Panthers' defense would be immediately upgraded with Hankins.
New Orleans Saints: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Saints recorded zero sacks of Aaron Rodgers even though he dropped back to pass over 40 times. Rodgers also had all day to throw on numerous passes. New Orleans clearly has to improve its pass rush, which has been a weakness dating back to last year.
Werner is one of the best pass-rushers in college football. He has remained productive despite frequent double-teams. Werner has totaled 17 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, three passes batted and a forced fumble so far in 2012. He is fast, physical and relentless. The juniot would be a good fit in Steve Spagnuolo's defense.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Jaguars are weak at cornerback and that was exposed by Cincinnati Bengals wide out A.J. Green. He hauled in six receptions for 117 yards and one touchdown. Jacksonville's secondary has been a weakness throughout the year. Finding some quality cornerbacks is a must this offseason.
Rhodes has been playing rock-solid football this year. He performed very well against Clemson and its elite receivers. Rhodes (6-2, 217) has totaled 14 tackles, five passes broken up and an interception so far in 2012. He has the size to matchup on big receivers and the quickness to run with them downfield. Rhodes looks like a lock to be a first-round pick right now.
Cleveland Browns: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Entering the game against Baltimore, the Browns' secondary was allowing opponents to complete nearly 70 percent of passes without suspended cornerback Joe Haden; with him it was just under 52 percent. Cleveland needs a cornerback to pair with Haden in the long term.
Trufant is a good man corner who does not allow separation. He doesn't intercept a lot of passes, but quarterbacks rarely throw against him because the receivers aren't open. Trufant is strong and can force incompletions with his strength. Last year in the video game-like scoring of the Alamo Bowl, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III tore apart Washington's secondary, but stayed away from Trufant.
Trufant had a great game last Thursday night versus Stanford. He was left alone on an island in man coverage all night and registered two pass breakups on deep passes. Trufant also outplayed a 6-foot-8 tight end on a jump ball to snatch an interception late in the fourth quarter to save the Huskies' upset win over the Cardinal.
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.
The Ravens are an aging team that could undergo a change in identity over the next few seasons. Baltimore has been all about its defense for years with superstars like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. Lewis and Reed are coming towards the end of their Hall of Fame careers, while Suggs is aging and is out for this season with a knee injury.
The Ravens has really been missing Suggs and are struggling to get to the quarterback without him. They are blitzing more in order to get pass pressure, but need other rushers to step up. Second-rounder Courtney Upshaw could be a long-term piece, but the team is going to have to start finding some young playmakers to replace Lewis and Reed.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o would be a nice replacement for Lewis, and Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson would be a good selection as an understudy to Reed. Baltimore would have to use its first-round pick for either of those players.
The new identity of the Ravens could come from a high-scoring offense. Quarterback Joe Flacco is playing great football in his fifth season. Running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Torrey Smith have many more good years ahead. Baltimore may need to address its offensive line. If Michael Oher struggles at left tackle and Kelechi Osemele can't lock down right tackle, the Ravens would have to move Oher back to the right side and Osemele to guard.
Baltimore's front office is one of the best in football, and it has set the Ravens up to be an annual Super Bowl contender. With the right moves to reload their defense, they could win another Lombardi with Flacco under center.
The Lions entered the season as one of the young up-and-coming teams in the NFL. They've gotten off to a disappointing 1-3 start after they lost at home to the surprising Vikings. Even though Detroit has some young superstars on its roster, the team has a lot of needs and that is one reason why it has disappointed in the first month of the season.
The Lions clearly need help in their secondary. A new safety to start next to Louis Delmas is one of their primary needs. They also have to get some cornerback help.
There are more issues on the defense. Detroit may have to replace defensive end Cliff Avril, although he is having a disappointing season in a walk year. The team needs to improve the production out of its defensive ends and using its first-rounder on an end or a defensive back seems the most likely positions. The Lions have some veteran linebackers and could consider a young play-maker, if one is available.
Offensively, Detroit needs to upgrade the interior of its offensive line. The Lions allowed Vikings defensive tackle Letroy Guion to record a multi-sack game on Sunday, so that illustrates how weak the inside of the line is. A new center and guard would provide better pass protection for Matthew Stafford along with better run blocking. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus is a free agent, and if he leaves Detroit will have to find a new right tackle as well.
The Lions have the base for a perennial playoff contender with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh. The 1-3 start on the other hand indicates that Detroit clearly needs to build up its roster around them.
I'm sure it's because your "NFL Matches" section is just the usual copy/pasta from other scouting report articles, but I literally spit out my drink reading you suggest Mixon as a fit for the Ravens. Zero chance that happens lol.
Here we are 4 days away from the big draft. Last year at this time the big trades were done. I`m a Fantasy Football junkie so I love the draft. Had a few thoughts on the top 6 players from 2016 ,was cool how they actually panned out so I thought I`d do it again this year. Went with 15 players this year showing the depth of this years draft..
Most intriguing ?? Watson-Trubisky-Mahomes-Webb & Kizer... Once again , just like last year, the QB position has the most questions and interest.
Safest picks? Garrett-Thomas-Adams-Barnett & McCaffrey all look NFL ready.
Most athletic? Peppers-Samuel-Melifonwu-Ross... GARRETT
Just wow on how deep this draft class is. Best in decades.