Here is the sixth 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 6 action.
The Jaguars were off this week, but with Cleveland winning, Jacksonville moves up to being the first of the worst. The Jaguars fell to 1-4 last week 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. Jacksonville could definitely finish 1-15.
The Browns improved to 1-5 with a win over the Bengals. Cleveland scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 34-24 win. The Browns were aided by the return of Joe Haden and overcame an injury to Trent Richardson.
Cleveland previously played close games in two other contests, but were unable to get wins over the Eagles, Bengals or Bills. The Browns have that intangible of a "loser instinct." The team find ways to get a loss when victory is possible. Even with this win, it is a top candidate to land the No. 1 pick.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs were rolled by Tampa Bay, and quarterback Brady Quinn was incapable of making any plays against a defense that has allowed big plays. Kansas City is now 1-5 on the season.
The Chiefs actually have never had the lead in regulation this season. The only lead they had was when they beat the Saints in overtime. Kansas City has a bye next week.
Oakland played Atlanta tough and tied the game at 20 with 40 seconds remaining. The Falcons' Matt Bryant made a 55-yard field goal with only seconds left to beat the Raiders. Oakland falls to 1-4 on the season.
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 have some play-makers on offense, look likely to have a double-digit loss season.
New Orleans Saints:
New Orleans had a bye on Sunday. The Saints fought back last week 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 contend for the postseason. The Saints have the offensive fire power to possibly get on a roll and maybe salvage their season. They play at Tampa Bay next Sunday, but if New Orleans loses to the Bucs, the team pretty much has no chance of getting back into it.
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 England Patriots: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Patriots had a great running game a week ago against Denver. However, New England couldn't run the ball this week when taking on a better Seattle defense with a tough front seven. Running back Stevan Ridley had only 34 yards on 16 carries. Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead didn't have success either. The Patriots have a veteran offensive line that could use an infusion of talented youth.
Warmack would be a great addition to New England. He could be a "go-to" run blocker and would be able to learn from Logan Mankins while the veteran finishes out his career. Warmack was a road-grading run-blocker for Trent Richardson last year and has continued that trend this season for Alabama's stable of backs. Warmack is also a good pass-protector who would do his part to let Tom Brady have room to step up in the pocket. The Patriots would be fortunate to land him in the first round.
Tennessee Titans: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Titans pulled out a win over the Steelers, but Ben Roethlisberger threw for 363 yards on only 24 completions. Wide receiver Mike Wallace (2-94) torched Tennessee for an 82-yard touchdown, and the team was lucky Wallace didn't have a bigger day. The Titans are missing Cortland Finnegan and could use a weapon at cornerback.
Milliner (6-1, 182) is the best man-cover corner prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft class. He has excellent speed and agility to run with receivers downfield. Not only does Milliner do a tremendous job of not allowing separation, but he has plus ball skills, too. Milliner has 18 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes broken up this year. He is tied for first in the nation in total passes break-ups at 14 (combined interceptions and PBUs).
Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Dolphins' pedestrian receivers were a glaring weakness in Miami's win over St. Louis. Brian Hartline was held without a catch and Marlon Moore (3-46) led the Dolphins in receiving. Clearly, Miami needs a No. 1 receiver for Ryan Tannehill to work with.
Allen is the top receiver for the 2013 NFL Draft class. He is a perfect fit in an NFL West Coast offense like Miami's. Allen has totaled 52 receptions for 633 yards and five touchdowns this year. His 69-yard score showed why he is a great fit as a No. 1 receiver in a West Coast offense. Allen has the size to work the middle of the field with quick receptions that he can break for extra yards. Allen can play Z (flanker), X (split end) or slot receiver.
Philadelphia Eagles: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Eagles were hurt by Calvin Johnson on Sunday. They made stopping him their priority but still allowed him to total 135 yards on only six receptions. Philadelphia's cornerbacks have played inconsistent, and Dominique Roders-Cromartie is a free agent after this season. A cornerback with length like Rhodes who can take away big receivers would be a nice complement to Nnamdi Asomugha.
The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Rhodes held his own against Clemson's speed receivers this year, and shut down former Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd in the Seminoles' bowl win over the Irish last season. Rhodes can play both zone and man coverage and has the ability to get physical against receivers at the line of scrimmage. Rhodes has totaled 22 tackles, two interceptions and five passes broken up so far in 2012. He looks solid as a top-25 pick.
Indianapolis Colts: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Shonn Greene stinks, but the Colts made him look unstoppable on Sunday with 161 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns. Indianapolis has been gashed on the ground this season, and making Greene look good is the height of ineffectiveness. The Colts' defense really needs an impact player up front. Head coach Chuck Pagano installed the Baltimore Ravens' defense, and he needs a Haloti Ngata-type defender to make it work.
Lotulelei is similar to Ngata with his power and explosiveness. The Pac-12 offensive linemen have to double-team Lotulelei to prevent him wreaking havoc in the backfield and even that doesn't always work. He has the sheer power to toss linemen aside on plays when he doesn't fire by them off the snap. His get off is tremendous, too.
Lotulelei is still raw with plenty of upside to develop in the NFL. He's totaled 24 tackles, six tackles for a loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles this season. Lotulelei could play nose tackle or defensive end in a NFL 3-4 defense.
Kansas City Chiefs: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
The Chiefs' safeties were abused by Tampa Bay for deep plays downfield. Kansas City will stick with Eric Berry and hope that he can rebound in 2013 after an ugly 2012 to this point, but the team should look for an upgrade over Kendrick Lewis. The Chiefs could use an enforcer in the back end of their defense who can clean up receivers running deep. McDonald would be a good player to fill that role.
McDonald has 45 tackles, an interception and three tackles for a loss this year. He has been laying the wood for USC in the ground game and on receivers. If Berry rebounds, Kansas City could have a nice safety duo with him and McDonald.
Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Ravens' defense needs a young difference-maker to replace Ray Lewis. Baltimore's defense just hasn't looked the same this year, and the team's stop unit needs a bigger presence in the middle of the defense.
Te'o has been phenomenal for the Fighting Irish this season. He has been a force defending the run and an asset in pass defense in the middle of the field. He's totaled 59 tackles with three passes broken up and three interceptions. Te'o is a three-down play-maker who would be a great replacement for Lewis.
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 Raiders have a big hole to climb out of for Reggie McKenzie and new coach Dennis Allen. The Oakland roster is short on talent and has some age. While the team's management has a big task in front of it, at least Raiders fans can be confident that they have an improved front office and talent evaluation to restore the franchise.
Oakland is without its second-round pick because of the Carson Palmer trade, but finally the Raiders have a first-round pick in the draft. They have a good running back in Darren McFadden and some young receiving talent, but otherwise have to upgrade their base of talent.
Oakland needs to improve its talent on the defensive line. If the Raiders can add a defensive end, they could move Lamarr Houston to the inside to replace/rotate with veterans Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. Oakland entered the game with Atlanta with only three sacks on the season, so the team has to upgrade its pass rush.
If the Raiders has any free agency dollars, they could target a defensive end like Tampa Bay's Michael Bennett or Cincinnati's Michael Johnson. Either one would be a nice upgrade for Oakland. That would allow the team to potentially use its first-round pick on a tackle like Star Lotulelei or Johnathan Hankins.
If the Raiders have a top-10 pick, they'll have to look at a quarterback, but with a veteran like Carson Palmer, they don't have to force it. Oakland can wait a year if it isn't in love with a signal-caller. The Raiders need to upgrade their talent base across the team, so if the best player available is a cornerback, offensive lineman or defensive tackle, the team should take them. Once Oakland improves its talent base across the roster, the franchise can start addressing specific positions in the years to come.
The Falcons are 6-0 and have found ways to pull out hard-fought wins. What was impressive about Atlanta's victory over Oakland was the way the team overcame a three-interception day from Matt Ryan. In past years, the Falcons didn't have the ability to win if Ryan didn't play well. They still have a lot of long-term needs, too - even though they have the best record in the NFL.
Atlanta obviously has to add players at some of the skill positions on offense. Michael Turner is on his last legs, and the offense needs a new back to take the pressure off of Ryan. Tight end Tony Gonzalez seems to be ageless, but unless the Falcons can convince him to come back for another season, their offense is going to need a new tight end. Just any tight end won't do either; Atlanta's scheme requires a legitimate passing threat. A player like Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert would make sense for the team's first-round pick. He would be a good blocker in the Falcons' rushing attack and a true three-down tight end.
Atlanta also has to consider a left tackle to protect Ryan. Sam Baker has rebounded to a degree in 2012, but he's entering free agency, and the Falcons could attempt to land an upgrade. That will be tough as they'll be picking in the 20s and possibly early 30s. Generally, first round left tackles are long gone at that point. Atlanta could upgrade its other line spots in the mid-rounds and in free agency.
Defensively, the Falcons have to upgrade their pass-rushers. Outside of John Abraham, Atlanta doesn't have a defender who can consistently pressure the quarterback. The Falcons could use pass-rushing help on the edge as well as at defensive tackle. Texas defensive end Alex Okafor would be a good choice at the end of the first round. If Atlanta somehow has a shot at Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short, he would be a steal.
The Falcons could make a postseason run this year, but they will have a number of needs to address next offseason.
I can not disagree anymore on Walts opinion on the Raiders moving to LV. The Raiders have one of the best fan bases in the league and the fans will travel and stay loyal. Being in CA you really see all this. Aside from the Raiders fans already in LV and the ones they will make swarms of fans will travel fro Socal. Chances are a @#$@ load of raider fans will already be partying there that weekend. The team is winning too so theres no way the fans in Oakland won't go to games theres last couple of years.
Interesting route here Walt. I'm curious as of late how teams will draft offense here. You're nailing it with defense. However, RBs have been going higher all of a sudden with success. And the QB class seems to be picking up as well. Kizer and Watson are flying of draft boards and Trubisky is leaving a sour taste for many now. Nevertheless, teams will reach. But who will be the first?