Here is the fifth 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.
By Charlie Campbell.
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Blow For Barkley/Stink for Smith:
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 5 action.
The Browns were dropped to 0-5 by the New York Giants. Cleveland built an early lead, but New York came roaring back to win 41-27. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden played well against Baltimore a week ago, but dropped passes killed what could've been a big night. Running back Trent Richardson has played well for Cleveland.
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.
The Jaguars fell to 1-4 as the Bears had an easy road win in Jacksonville. The Jaguars couldn't establish a consistent passing or rushing offense against Chicago. It was 3-3 at halftime, but the Bears dominated the final two quarters to blow out Jacksonville 41-3.
The Jaguars lone win came when they stole a game from the Colts with a last-minute 80-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts.
Jacksonville (1-4) doesn't have enough talent at quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver to be competitive this season. 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.
Oakland was off this week. The Raiders pulled off a shocking win at home against Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, but got rolled by Denver to fall to 1-3 on the season. Oakland was also blown out by Miami.
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. The Raiders look likely to have a double-digit loss season.
New Orleans Saints:
The Saints fought back to notch their first win of the season and improve to 1-4. 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 unreliable.
However, every year some teams get hot in the second half to make a playoff push. The Saints have the offensive fire power to possibly get on a roll and maybe salvage their season.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs were dropped by Baltimore 9-6, and quarterback Matt Cassel went down with a concussion. Kansas City is now 1-4 on the season with its one win coming against New Orleans.
The Chiefs defense finally showed up this season by holding the Ravens offense under 10 points. The Kansas City defense had allowed 40, 35, 24 and 37 points in the previous weeks. The Chiefs have some talent to work with, but they are so limited at quarterback that it looks like it will be a long season.
Kansas City travels to Tampa Bay next week with the Bucs coming off a bye. After that the Cheifs are off, so they could easily enter their bye at 1-5.
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.
Cincinnati Bengals: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
The Bengals have a terrible ground game. Bernard Scott (5-40) led them in rushing, but had 29 yards come on one carry. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (9-14) was completely ineffective and ran with zero confidence. Cincinnati botched the running back position last offseason, and the team clearly needs a difference-maker at running back to help cover up for Andy Dalton's limitations.
Lattimore is the top back in college football and would be a great fit in Jay Gruden's offense. The power back would command eight men in the box and open up the deep part of the field for wide receiver A.J. Green. Lattimore is still not 100 percent this year, but is averaging 4.7 yards per carry with 549 yards and nine touchdowns. He also has 18 receptions for 133 yards. Lattimore would make a huge difference for the Bengals' offense.
Green Bay Packers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Reggie Wayne and Andrew Luck lit up the Packers' secondary with Wayne totaling 212 yards on 13 receptions. The safety position has been a weakness for Green Bay ever since Nick Collins went out of the lineup. That is one of the few needs on the Packers' roster, but is having a big impact on a weekly basis.
Vaccaro had an impressive game against West Virginia's point machine. He held up well against the Mountaineers' speed receivers and made a number of impressive open-field tackles. Vaccaro totaled 11 tackles on Saturday. He has 33 tackles, two interceptions and two passes broken up so far this season. Vaccaro is a quick, instinctive, tough defender who would fit well in Dom Capers' defense.
Miami Dolphins: Dallas Thomas, G, Tennessee
The Dolphins have some good young offensive linemen with left tackle Jake Long, center Mike Pouncey and right tackle Jonathan Martin. Miami needs some guards to finish off the line to protect Ryan Tannehill. John Jerry is misfit for the team's new blocking scheme, and Richie Incognito could be upgraded. The Bengals defensive tackles were beating Jerry regularly on Sunday.
Thomas is a good athlete who has played tackle and guard for the Volunteers. He would be a good fit in the Dolphins' zone-blocking scheme with his athleticism. Miami would get an improved pass protection for Tannehill with Thomas instead of Incognito or Jerry. The Dolphins could target Thomas with one of their second-rounders.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Jaguars' offense was ineffective against Chicago. The Bears had only two field goals in the third quarter when Blaine Gabbert threw an interception that was returned 36-yards by Charles Tillman for a touchdown. After that, the blowout commenced. Jacksonville knows that Gabbert isn't good enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Smith has been a dominant force in college football in 2012. He is displaying supreme accuracy and play-making ability on a weekly basis. Smith has completed 81.4 percent of his passes this year for 1,996 yards with 24 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He would be a good fit in the Jaguars' West Coast offense and would be a great quarterback to work with Justin Blackmon.
Denver Broncos: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Broncos' linebackers were overmatched against the Patriots in the ground game and through the air. Wide receiver Wes Welker dominated the middle of the field early on, and New England's rushing attack took over the game to finish off Denver with 250 yards on the ground.
Te'o is the top senior linebacker in the nation and is having a fantastic season. He has 48 tackles and three interceptions through five games this season. Te'o has been a force for the Fighting Irish in stuffing runs and defending the middle of the field through the air. He has leadership skills and a presence that would mesh well in Denver.
Atlanta Falcons: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
The Falcons are 5-0 after a tough road win at Washington. Even though Atlanta's defense is much improved, the team could still use an improved run defense on the interior of tits defensive line and some inside pass rush. Redskins running back Alfred Morris ran for 115 yards on 18 carries against the Falcons. Finding some young pass-rushers is critical with John Abraham nearing the end of a great career.
Williams (6-3, 305) has been enjoying a strong senior season with 16 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and five sacks. He has good speed off the snap to fire into his gap and collapse the pocket. Williams also has the burst to get penetration into the backfield to disrupt rushing attacks, especially zone schemes. The senior can be a little streaky, but he could be an upgrade for the Falcons if they select him in the first or second round of the draft.
Buffalo Bills: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Bills are in desperate need of a franchise signal-caller. Ryan Fitzpatrick has illustrated that the past two weeks against New England and San Francisco. He was incapable of producing yards or points against the 49ers' defense, and was a turnover machine against New England last week. Buffalo has to find a quarterback to compete for the postseason.
Barkley has had a bit of a rough senior season, but he had a nice bounce-back performance this week against Utah with 303 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 23-of-30 passes. Barkley has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,308 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions this year. He could be the answer for the Bills.
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 Cardinals sustained their first loss of the season because their terrible offensive line failed them yet again. Quarterback Kevin Kolb was used and abused by the Rams' defense. He was sacked eight times as the Arizona offensive line was completely overmatched. The Cardinals have to make some bold moves this offseason to fix their weak blocking unit.
It was very common to mock Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff to Arizona before the 2012 NFL Draft. The Cardinals decided to go with a No. 2 wide receiver instead of a potential starting left tackle. That decision looks questionable, at least in the short term.
Reiff is currently sitting behind an established veteran, but he's better then D'Anthony Batiste, who is Arizona's current starting left tackle. The Cardinals will have Levi Brown coming back from injury, but finding an upgrade over him would be a good boost to the offense.
Depending on how Kolb plays the rest of this season, the team also will need a new starting quarterback. He has not proven to be the long-term starter and could easily choke down the stretch.
If Arizona is picking in the late teens or early 20s, it should sell out to acquire an elite player at either position with a veteran free agent addition at the other spot to take advantage of Larry Fitzgerald in his prime.
Adding an offensive tackle and a quarterback are critical. Finding some other offensive linemen for the inside of the line would be a good move as well. The Cardinals have a promising defense, but until they fix their line and quarterback, they won't make it back to the Super Bowl.
New England blew out Denver in the postseason last January, ending the storybook year for then Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Denver shipped him out for Peyton Manning, and while the Broncos' offense produced more points this time, the defense was still overmatched going against the Patriots.
Denver has a number of obvious needs on the defensive side of the ball. The team has to improve their cornerbacks. Champ Bailey won't play forever, and Trace Porter only signed a 1-year contract. The Broncos could find an upgrade over Porter anyway. Some corners with man-coverage ability would make Denver's pass rush even more dangerous with an extra second of quarterbacks holding onto the ball.
The Broncos could use a defensive tackle for the defensive line, too. The Patriots moved the ball on the ground, going up the middle and on stretch runs. A big-bodied stuffer like Georgia's John Jenkins, or a penetrating tackle like Purdue's Kawann Short would make sense. Either one would be a good value for Denver in the first round.
The Broncos could also use a middle linebacker. It looks like Nate Irving may be a busted pick as he isn't seeing the field or having an impact for Denver. Finding an inside presence who can shut down the run and patrol the middle of the field in pass coverage would be a welcome addition. Notre Dame's Manti Te'o would make sense as a potential first-rounder. If the Broncos look to the second day, they could consider Alabama's Nico Johnson, North Carolina's Kevin Reddick or Stanford's Shayne Skov.
Denver has made a habit out of fourth-quarter rallies that have come up short this season. The team needs to build up its defense next April so the defense can stop digging the offense holes to climb out of.
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