Here is the seventh 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 9 action.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Kansas City lost on the road to reeling San Diego team on Thursday night. The Chiefs haven't played competitive football in weeks. Quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel have been ineffective this season, so the prospects of Kansas City getting on a roll are zero. The Chiefs are now 1-7 on the season.
Shockingly, Kansas City actually has never had the lead in regulation this season. The only lead the Chiefs had was when they beat the Saints in overtime. Kansas City has been tied or trailed in every minute of regulation play.
The Jaguars played the Packers better than expected last week, but got rolled by the Lions this week. Jacksonville falls to 1-7 on the season, and could easily be 0-8. The team's lone win came when it stole a game from Indianapoliss with a last-minute 80-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts in busted coverage.
The Jaguars don't have enough talent at quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver to be competitive this season. The team has a terrible secondary on the other side of the ball, too. Jacksonville just doesn't have the skill on its roster to avoid a top-10 pick. The Jaguars could definitely finish No. 1-15.
The Browns fell to 2-7 at the hands of rival Baltimore. Cleveland pulled out a 7-6 win over the Chargers the week before.
Cleveland previously played close games in other contests, but was unable to get wins over the Eagles, Bengals or Bills. The Browns are still a candidate to land the No. 1 pick.
The Panthers improved to 2-6 after getting a road win over Washington. Carolina had a nice team efforts offensively and defensively to beat the Redskins.
Carolina was up 19-7 in the fourth quarter last week before Chicago came storming back to win 23-22. The Bears have been on a roll, so even in that loss the Panthers showed signs of progress.
Carolina still has winnable games against Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Kansas City and Oakland on its schedule. The Panthers could be headed to a 4-12 season.
The Raiders fell to 3-5 after losing at home to Tampa Bay. Two of their wins came against the Chiefs and Jaguars, so that is nothing to brag about. More impressive than those wins was when Oakland played Atlanta tough on the road 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.
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 if there is one available that they like.
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.
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. The Ravens had issues with Trent Richardson on Sunday, and he could be a big problem for years to come.
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. Te'o has totaled 87 tackles, four passes broken up and five interceptions this year. He is a three-down play-maker who would be a great replacement for Lewis.
Washington Redskins: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
The Redskins' secondary continues to be a liability. Washington had bad secondary play in its loss to Carolina, allowing Steve Smith to nab his first touchdown of the season. The Redskins have struggled on the back end all year, and they clearly need an upgrade in talent.
Vaccaro is a rangy, instinctive presence for the Longhorns. He covers a lot of ground in pass coverage while being a good defender in the ground game. Vaccaro has totaled 63 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and two forced fumbles so far in 2012. Washington would be fortunate to land him on the second day of the draft.
Miami Dolphins: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Dolphins enjoyed another impressive game from rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but once again he could have used a true No. 1 receiver to help him produce more points. Brian Hartline is a quality starter, but Miami needs a true difference-maker to produce some big plays for its quarterback.
Hunter has 56 receptions for 838 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He is gradually regaining his speed and explosiveness following the knee injury he sustained last year. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound wide out has the physical skill set to be a No. 1 receiver when he gets all the way back.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Jaguars have an inept secondary, and most of their cornerbacks are free agents after this season. Calvin Johnson (7-129) erupted for a big day on Sunday, and Jacksonville didn't have a corner capable of defending him.
The Jaguars have so many needs, and their first-round pick will probably have to go for a quarterback. Trufant could be a nice value at the top of Round 2. He has 29 tackles and an interception this season, but he has held up well in man coverage. Jacksonville would have a nice upgrade with Trufant.
Cincinnati Bengals: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
The Bengals lost to Peyton Manning on Sunday and a lack of a pass rush was a big reason why. Manning threw 35 passes and wasn't sacked once by the Bengals. Defensive end Michael Johnson is a free agent after this season, so Cincinnati could easily be in the market for an end in the first round.
Moore has been the most consistent pass-rusher in college football this season. He has 11.5 sacks, 69 tackles and 19 tackles for a loss. Moore has recorded sacks in all but one game this season. He has some innate pass-rushing ability with 8.5 sacks as a sophomore and 5.5 sacks as a freshman. The Bengals' pass rush would be immediately upgraded with Moore.
Tennessee Titans: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Tennessee allowed the Bears to put up 51 points, with Brandon Marshall catching nine passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns. Andrew Luck carved up the Titans' secondary the previous week. The seconday is clearly becoming a crushing weakness for Tennessee.
Banks (6-2, 185) would be a good weapon for the Titans. He has serious ball skills and is a physical defender. Banks has 45 tackles, four interceptions and five passes broken up this season. He has 16 career interceptions over four seasons and will enter the NFL with a lot of experience after playing four years in the SEC.
Oakland Raiders: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Raiders' secondary is weak and had no answer for Vincent Jackson, among others, on Sunday. Surprisingly, Oakland hasn't been burned by letting Nnamdi Asomugha and Stanford Routt leave in free agency as both of those veterans have been disappointments. Still, the corners the team has replaced them with are nothing to write home about. The Raiders needs some talent at corner since they are in In the same division as Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.
Milliner is having a strong junior season and has shown the ability to be a man-cover corner. He has tremendous ball skills with 13 passes broken up and two interceptions this season. Milliner is a physical defender who will contribute in run defense. He has 34 tackles in 2012. Oakland's chances of defending those quarterbacks would be a lot better if the team lands Milliner.
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 Colts have a very bright future with quarterback Andrew Luck. He showed on Sunday that he is a tremendous play-maker who has the ability to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Indianapolis also has some young talent at its skill positions, so rebuilding the defense is the most critical need.
The Colts could use a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball. Even if rookie defensive tackle Josh Chapman turns out, the team needs a difference-maker in the mold of Haloti Ngata on its defensive front. Head coach Chuck Pagano had that in Baltimore, and he will need a linemen who can cause havoc off the snap for his system.
Indianapolis will eventually need to find some young edge-rushers for the front seven as Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney aren't getting any younger. However, this need is behind upgrading the defensive line and secondary.
The Colts really have to upgrade their cornerbacks and safeties. Vontae Davis could turn into a nice acquisition in time, but Indianapolis needs help with a second and third corner for the nickel package. The team's safeties are nothing special, so finding a combination of free agents and draft picks to upgrade the secondary would be a good idea.
Indianapolis could use some improvements along its offensive line, too. Anthony Castonzo needs to get more consistent, but the team could use improved talent elsewhere along the line.
First and foremost, general manager Ryan Grigson needs to make a concerted effort to build talent on defense so the Colts have the ability to quickly get the ball back into Luck's hands.
The Texans have been the class of the AFC this year and not only have they been the conference's best team, but have also played the most consistent football. Houston has a talented roster with good depth behind its starters. The team has very few long-term needs.
One of those few needs is at wide receiver. Andre Johnson is still playing at a very high level, but he's 31 and won't play forever. Nagging injuries have hurt him in recent years, but he has been healthy and productive this season. Johnson won't play forever so the Texans would be wise to target a future No. 1 receiver with their first-round pick next April.
Elsewhere on offense, Houston could use another tight end to pair with Owen Daniels. The offense really missed him while he was injured last year. Given the Texans' zone-blocking system, they don't need tight ends with power-blocking potential and that could allow them to find a good receiver who has slipped lower because of blocking weakness.
Houston has an awesome defensive front seven that has play-making youth entering their prime years. The team may want to bolster its depth in the secondary. Safety Glover Quin is entering free agency and he could be pricey to re-sign.
While those are the Texans' needs, it wouldn't be surprising if Houston general manager Rick Smith neglects them. Sources have told WalterFootball that the Texans feel good about their young backups, so they are strongly inclined toward selecting the best player available throughout the 2013 NFL Draft. With a roster like Houston's, that strategy makes a lot of sense.